This past weekend I attended the annual Second Life Community Convention for the very first time, and for me it was a major transition in my real and virtual existence. The event was full of profound moments, both personal and general. I saw, I listened, I met, I learned, I transformed and I belonged.
For you who have not had the opportunity to experience this event, you have missed something, something terribly important, something that is or could be part of your virtual existence: a true, deep and honest sense of belonging. We all belong to our virtual communities, and we truly feel part of them. But there is a higher level that we cannot experience through normal virtual channels. At SLCC the atomic reality channels were opened to their fullest extent.
The collision of reality and virtual existence was constant, and for me began the moment I nervously stepped forward to the registration desk and was confronted with the baffling question, “and what is your name?” I honestly paused for several moments while questions flew through my neural circuitry. “Exactly who am I right now?” “What name should I say?” “What should my persona be?”
I awkwardly wrote my avatar name on the name badge, and at that very moment I became ArminasX.
Confidently, I strode down the conference halls, with an unfamiliar swagger eerily similar to my AO. But my graphics system displayed humans, and I saw no avatars. Name badges, when intermittently readable, were of no assistance as they spelled out avatars unfamiliar to me. No name recognition, no face recognition. Nothing. No one.
A prearranged meeting with avatar Bevan Whitfield triggered it all. We met in the lobby, and she directed me to a patio table where avatars were sitting, just as they do in virtual reality. I stood by the table and said, “Hi. I am ArminasX.” They introduced themselves and transformed from anonymous atomics into friendly avatars, even if I had never met them in-world. Discussions of all topics ensued and did not cease until the final moments of the convention. And those discussions were invariably momentous, memorable, astonishing and truly surprising.
You see, our virtual world is composed of things people built. Every single item, object and texture in every parcel on every sim was made by someone. Someone creative, and some who are very creative. Those creative people were the attendees.
Without a single exception, each and every person I spoke with was amazing. They ALL were doing something spectacular, interesting, gigantic, familiar or incredible. It was greatly humbling to look around during the keynote session and realize that these hundreds of brilliantly creative individuals were only the scant few who were able to attend, and that many times that number remain out there, out there in virtual reality continuing to build our new world.
As the weekend progressed, moments of amazement accumulated. Here are a few of my personal moments:
new short film has been seen on CNN and was invited to enter the prestigious Cambridge Film Festival. And then learning that my Sunflower particle effect was used in that very film. LifeFactory has a sticker on her laptop of the Sunflower scene.
- Meeting Heidi Ballinger, the woman from Denmark who is changing her legal name to her avatar name (Ballinger). Why? Because her online presence in multiple services is so pervasive that no one actually refers to her by her real name anymore.
- Meeting podcasters Daphne Abernathy and Crap Mariner and seeing the faces behind the voices I have heard so many times. It is eerie to be so familiar with someone you’ve never seen.
- Meeting the Metanomics crew, including mastermind Professor Beyers Sellers, Bevan Whitfield and others, with whom I often found myself hanging with until extremely late hours.
- Having dinner with Nonny Writer, another machinima producer.
Kerria Seabrooke, Chosen Few and the rest of the machinima gang who did the CSI TV episode and many other famous and groundbreaking machinima shorts. These guys cracked open the largest frigging blue-and-red-neon-adorned, satellite-speakered two-inch-thick laptop ever seen in the hotel lobby at 3AM and showed us their work. They love their work so much they live it 24 hours a day and were even vid-capturing our lobby party non-stop.
- Being told that Nonny Writer was nominated for an Academy Award. And realizing that I had dinner with her the previous evening.
- Being in the room during an epic but very subtle confrontation between the OpenSim team and Linden Lab regarding the future of asset transfer between the Second Life grid and independent OpenSim servers. Discussions with those in the know afterwards described it as a “defining moment” in the history of the 3D Internet. The future course of events is now set in motion, and I was there when it happened.
- Meeting Philip Rosedale/Linden in person. The man exudes charisma beyond all measurement. I explained to him that I am “one of the bloggers”. He replied: “Oh oh.”
- Learning how many people have heard of my work, my store and my blog. “Electric Pixels? That’s a great brand!” one person said.
- Crashing a suite party put on by Honda to demonstrate a new AI system under development, and encountering numerous friendly Lindens. No, Torley was not there, but every Linden I met was extremely friendly. The highlight, however, took place on the suite’s balcony where a certain individual was revealed to the world.
- Hanging in the SLCC suite party with around 100 other avatars. It was great fun, full of an amazing variety of individuals. Until the police were called at 4:30AM. Scenes of people racing down halls, stairways and elevators …
- Realizing that many attendees actually never slept during the event. Many people “budgeted” only a few hours or a single short sleep to maximize their interaction time. “I slept on Friday”. And then realizing that I was one of them.
- Liveplurking the Philip Rosedale and Mark Kingdon keynote address. As the speech began, I plurked that I was watching, but then realized I could provide live updates by adding responses as interesting statements were made. To my astonishment, discussions and feedback occurred in the plurk while the speech was still in progress! It was a bit busy for me to do this entirely via iPhone, but I got it done. I was told later that Second Life IMs were flying around directing people to observe the plurk Right Now and that perhaps hundreds of people were reading it live, seeing the words of Philip and Mark as they were spoken. You can see the entire plurk here. And if you have not yet signed up for Plurk, do so here at my page. In fact, I ended up plurking quite a bit during the event throughout my timeline.
- Spending 20 minutes chatting alone on a balcony with a very sharp lady about issues and solutions for SL. And then realizing it was Robin Harper/Linden.
- Meeting The Internationals. I guess I am one too, but because of that I felt an extra bit of affinity to those from far away, like Mariis Mills from Denmark, and Dr. Yesha Sivan (Dera Kit in SL) from Israel who are now good friends in all dimensions.
- Meeting amazing builders, organizers and artists like Sami Tabla of SL Exchange, virtual financier IntLibber Brautigan, builder Angelle Marquette, organizer Coughran Mayo, musician Cylindrian Rutabaga, Luskwood founder Eltee Statosky, Holdeck inventor Loki Clifton, DJ and SLCC organizer Nexeus Fatale, developer Peter Newell, broadcaster Starr Sonic, virtual magician Tuna Oddfellow and his beautiful assistant Shava Suntzu, Dancing Ink Productions’ Eureka Dejavu and Schmilsson Nilsson and many others.
- Meeting educators like Kendall Vantelli and JS Vavoom who are using the virtual world to make the real world a far better place.
- Networking throughout the event via SMS, Flickr and Plurk to coordinate activities. It was a common sight to see laptops uploading pictures during sessions, tweeting or plurking. The vortex of electronic communication made my visit very smooth indeed.
- Meeting the famous Stroker Serpentine, mastermind of the SexGen series of “personal animations” and associated gear. Stroker put on a rather unusual offsite party, in which all manner of unusual activities took place, astonishing outfits were worn and door prizes that were totally unsuitable for carrying across the border home were awarded.
- Meeting master builder and artist Eshi Otawara, whose tragic tale is surpassed only by her courage, artistry, humbleness and sense of humor. I spent many hours with Eshi and she is a true friend that I am very glad to have. And she gives a killer massage, too!