Shiva’s Playground

This is the council tree and fire where Kids5B was conceived.

This is the council tree and fire where Kids5B was conceived.

Kids5B has been a combination of triumph and sorrow, cooperation and strife, union and division, creation and now… destruction. Pais was on the sidelines from the very beginning, and yet I must preface this with the admission that I do not know all the facts.

It all started one sunday when I joined Sacha on his then-barren sim “Alton Icarus” that he had the Lindens join with another couple of sims. When I TP’ed in to join him and found there others in a conversation about how the Lindens were excluding “kids” from their 5th anniversary event, “SL5B”. It was fun to see all the ideas flying around in an excited conversation. I decided we needed a council tree and a fire for our pow-wow and rezzed them there. I remember logging out with the conversation going and logging in hours later and it was still going – people coming and going but the ideas taking shape: Sacha was providing the use of his sim, we would do our own build independant of SL5B and call it Kids5B.

As the days passed, people organized, designed, planned, donated and worked. As things progressed Dusan offered his Remedy II sim for use during the event. We were astounded how fast the Lindens got it moved to adjoin Alton Icarus, then later when a rollback was needed, how it was done just minutes after the request. We had a feeling that some of the Lindens had become favorably interested in what we were doing. Why not? Our cause was a noble one – we had been unjustly excluded – and “the kids community’s” response was dignified and positive.

I put “kids community” in quotes because I don’t know if there really is such a thing. Oh sure, there are a lot of us that call our avatars kids and associate with others that do as well. There are various groups and organizations, but nothing collects all of us in any formalized way. “Kids community” is a notional concept at best.

The fact that an excellent two sims worth of build were created by a lot of people in a short time attest to a lot of cooperation. However, there was also a lot of friction among people and groups from the “kids community”. While some people had done significant things in the past, such as clubs, sims, groups, previous SL exhibits; and others were jumping in to try to help with the current effort, I saw what I thought were inexplicable explosions between individuals and/or groups.  I have worked or participated in a number of group efforts in all sorts of projects and jobs, so I know a certain amount of friction and conflict is normal, but the kinds of things I see here seem more volitile and incomprehensible. I guess this is the aspect of our interactions in SL that I want to try to frame and describe in this blog.

I have seen a number of interpersonal conflicts in SL. Some I have seen from a distance in places like Kids5B, some among friends and neighbors, and one last spring that literally ripped up what had been my happy virtual home. One of the common themes I see is that in SL there is no scale to emotion. What might be a minor disagreement in a RL, face-to-face setting can become a thermonuclear explosion in an SL setting. This is not really new… it is similar to the kinds of superlative furor of interaction we see elsewhere on the internet… newsgroups, chat groups, blogs, and so forth are rife with it. There is plenty theories why – the comparative anonymous aspect to the internet; and the mixing of cultures, ages, education; and other personality components.

Kids5B was adrift after the celebrations were over. It was being used, but not much. Sacha and Dusan were being generous by allowing the builds to remain, while ideas were being suggested for changes. Rai was trying to build momentum and brought forth a lot of suggestions. Dusan wanted to vet these with the “kids community”. (Again with that ambiguous term.) Another observation I have is “kids community” is an idea but we have no formal means to be included or excluded. Communication can take place in groups, but that is spotty at best. I, for one, recently purged a lot of kids groups simply because I got tired of too many notices for dances or other regular events that I didn’t have time to attend. Communication is also spotty because we are global and time zones separate us. Blogs and other web forums, so far, do not yet provide any comprehensive unity, identity, or collaborative exchange.

We also seem to have a tendency to gossip, or at least talk among ourselves and make assumptions about what others are thinking and doing. Then when we do talk to others, with mode of communication being chat most of the time, I think it hinders us from either covering topics well, or getting a good read on each other’s meaning.

All these things combine to create some of the negative experiences in SL. Take a look at what Rai had to say on his experience with Kids5B recently. It is a poignant a brave public self-reflection. It also provides a dissection of the kind of escalation of emotion that can deteriorate our best efforts to work collectively in SL.

As it turned out, this led to an inability to reach any agreement on how to move forward. From what I can figure out the issue broke down so far that in the end nothing was to be saved. When Remedy II was taken out of the equation, Sacha decided that the Icarus sim’s Kids5B build, being so linked to Remedy II, should also go.

I put together this video today. I had gone to check to see of the “Kulture Kids” meeting place was still on the Remedy II sim of Kids5B and found the terrain gone, as well as a lot of buildings and other things. What things remained were just floating. I collected some video, then found some video I made months ago when the build was being finished. The current state looks like the devastation of a hurricane. My video is crude, but it combines some views of the sim in its happy state with a views of its destruction in progress. The music was composed and performed by a friend of mine after the breakup of a long relationship. I can hear his pain and remorse, remembering their wonderful days building a life. It seemed to fit.

Kids5B was a success, but not without a lot of friction and strife. The builds were a great source of pride to those that made it happen and to many of the rest of us that watched, and the next challenge was finding a path to transform it and bring new creativity and activity. That fell through in miscommunication, confusion, and mistrust. I don’t blame any particular person. I cherish the friendship I have with each of them. We all share in this, and we can choose to make the best of this or not.

So it is on the frontier of our interaction in vitural worlds. This is not really about Kids5B, or “kids community”, but rather humans trying to live in a world of imagination together. It is my hope that we can learn from this. We can build on our joys and triumphs, and learn to avoid unneeded strife and sorrow.


4 responses to “Shiva’s Playground

  1. Very well written. As one of the initiators of Kids5B I sometimes asked myself “Is it really worth all the drama and fighting?”. For myself I decided that the answer to that question is “yes”.

    You observed very well the status of the “kids community”, and also the reasons for the things that happened. Having many people working together isn’t easy already when they all sit in the same office – it is much harder in a place like SL.

    I think we all learned something from it. And – some might see this as a hollow phrase -: in each end is the beginning of something new.


  2. Thanks for the comment, Danny. I think you are right, it is worth the effort to keep trying. SL is a place where people are interacting in ways that are fairly new to us, not only because we are virtual representations of ourselves interacting with others that are not necessarily in our RL social circles, but also because it is a world where our creativity and imaginations are the critical resource.

    I wanted this blog to outline some of our collective weaknesses in how we have used this world to attempt to build something collectively. I didn’t want to place any blame on any person, because we are all a part of this. I hoped by shining a light on it, we could perhaps learn how to do better next time.

    And perhaps I should have spent a little more time talking about the next time, because there a number of new things people are working on that have great potential to take us to a new level of accomplishment by pooling our resources, creativity, and efforts.

  3. Good blog, Pais. A lot of different thoughts and issues. The successes of Kids5B – in gaining respect from LL and the outside world, in bringing much-needed new blood into our community*, and providing a venue for creative spirits to work together – far outshine the various clashes both in June and in recent weeks.

    ( * I will allow myself to use this word without quotation marks. Pais, I take your point, but I’m not sure that communities are always so well-defined in RL either. )

    On the issue of “interpersonal conflicts” in our SL community, I have sometimes asked myself two questions: How similar or different is this to RL? How much of it is consciously or unconsciously overdramatized (our favorite word: “drama”) in SL to fulfill whatever emotional or entertainment needs we have? And let’s face it, we all come into SL with varied needs which are sometimes complex.

    Well, I think there *are* a few notable differences from RL which may lead to more frequent or intense clashes in SL: First, we are a very diverse group: in socio-economic background, RL age, geographic culture, educational level, etc. Our SL community brings together a very diverse group of people who prolly wouldn’t have much contact in everyday RL. Second, the anonymity and “safety” of SL reduces inhibitions, and this may sometimes let us release negative emotions which we would restrain in RL. The id wins over the superego. Third, SL puts us in situations which many of us are not so familiar with, like working on collaborative projects, assuming leadership, or dealing with new kinds of confrontations. (And of course, not everyone speaks English as their first language, so there is also the issue of simple misunderstandings. Those of us from mono-language cultures may not have much RL experience with this.)

    Freud would have loved to watch SL.

  4. Excellent points, Ruslan. Well said. I agree.

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