The Impossible Touch

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Second Life Community Convention of 2009 has now concluded, and I’ve returned back to my normal existence, if it can be described as normal. My sluggish posting habits mean the details of the convention have already been reported elsewhere, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about anyway. Instead I want to describe the feelings and emotions that so strongly permeate SLCC.

Certainly there were some issues, but aside from the intermittent WiFi, cardboardish box lunches and the terribly confusing session schedule, my experience was identical to 2008; magic things happened constantly that made me and everyone else smile.

Some of those smiling moments can be seen in my photostream and others, but there were many, and here are some of them:
  • That profoundly special moment when you first lay eyes on a stranger, someone whose face is completely new, never seen before; whereupon you suddenly realize it is the atomic version of a very dear friend you’ve spent many hours with in-world. Handshakes, hugs commence, and frequently screaming, too. But mostly hugs, and very long and intense ones at that.
  • Chatting with the talented and the successful, be they well known like Anshe Chung, Hamlet Au, Beyers Sellers or those I’d not heard of previously like Zinnia Zauber or Elizabeth Zeno. And how could I forget a memorable midnight dinner with Paisley Beebe and Yxes Delacroix!
  • Meeting the amazing Ms. Bettina Tizzy, who reluctantly attended SLCC for the first time only after massive arm-twisting. But during the event she came to realize how powerful and important it is to be physically with other avatars and bravely admitted so in front of the crowd. I think this event won’t be the last time we will see her.
  • At the musician’s ball, when Mariis Mills leaned over, and with wide blue eyes, she whispered into my ear, “Armi, I have only a small blog. But my blogroll has your blog in it. And his (points at Dusan Writer sitting beside me) and hers (points at Bettina on the other side of the table) and his (points at Crap Mariner beside Bettina) and his (points at Hamlet Au standing nearby)”. Although Mariis didn’t mention them, Anshe Chung and Metanomics’ Beyers Sellers also sat at our table, with Paisley Beebe standing near. It was awesomely surreal.
  • The amazing talent that exuded through every pore of the convention, be it Cylindrian Rutabaga singing in the lobby, Eshi Otawara whipping up Swan sketches in seconds, Jopsy Pendragon flying miniature virtual Sopwith Camels, Filthy Fluno continuously arting for hours, Ina Centaur’s brilliant observations, Persephone Phoenix describing Slam Poetry at 4AM or Dirk McKeenan composing lyrics on a napkin at a street cafe. How talented? Those talents were not limited to their normal skills - who knew Eshi and Beyers were tremendous singers?
  • Attending the astonishing Virtual Relationships session, attended by the most varied combination of people I’d seen in any of the sessions. The courageous presenter, Pamala Clift, deftly drove through a series of highly embarrassing topics that would challenge even the most seasoned public speakers, while audience members told tales of woe that shook everyone.
  • The laughter that accompanied everyone, everywhere (although especially near Bevan Whitfield and Sloan Skjellerup for some reason). I didn’t really notice until a gang of us were waiting for a table in the lobby of a very posh Italian restaurant, where we laughed, sat on each other, fell down, giggled and talked loudly of matters incomprehensible to non-SL’rs. I observed nearby staid restaurant patrons staring at our strangely dressed hysterical party and realized the strength of the emotions carried with us, as if a bubble of fun and fraternity surrounded us.
  • Talented though everyone was, no one can know everything. The spirit of the community meant that help was being dished out in every direction by everyone. Tips, demonstrations, fixes and instructions flowed constantly. In fact, during Hamlet’s SL Blogging Panel session, on which I participated, we helped questioners with some difficult blogging situations. Helping makes me smile, too.
  • The ebb and flow of people in the hotel lobby represented the respiration of the convention. Whether at high noon or 4AM, the lobby always had a group of avatars discussing, pondering, playing and especially laughing. As I left the hotel on the last day, the lobby was empty, confirming that the convention had truly concluded.
  • The mixed reality Musician’s Ball, where a live video/audio feed was piped in-world to Molaskey’s Pub for home-based avatars to enjoy. The in-world participants could see us; we could see the in-world avatars. And their local chat too.
But something strange happened. Many people present in the auditorium could not take their eyes off the local chat as it was displayed on the big screen. I stared too. Why, I asked myself, would we do that? It was as if we atomics wanted to reach out to those in-world.

And that’s when it really hit me; what this thing is really all about. Why emotions run so incredibly strong.

It’s about touching.
We spend time in-world with others, working, helping and interacting. So much time that for many of us, we become terribly close. But there’s a barrier, that being distance. Sure, we can “see” the other avatars, but we can’t smell them. We can’t see their body language, and sometimes we can’t even hear them. And we certainly can’t touch them.

But when the avatar is standing right in front of you, bridging that impossibly wide digital gap is as easy as reaching out with your hands. And so we did it, over and over again. We did it with handshakes, arm touches, kisses and especially hugs. Men and women, women and women and even men and men. Hugs so long and tight they were the most intense experience. The touch, always the touch, as if it would never occur again.

For a brief moment the impossible touch became possible in real life, and I’ll cherish that forever. 


Unknown said...

Great post Armi! I really enjoyed it. *hug*

Vic Bury said...

Nice recap of the SLCC09 and the "personal touch" of the event.

Anonymous said...

You rite gud, dude. An you ain't bad lookin', neether. ;-)

(I'm not at all surprised at all the touchy-feely. The lack of it does encroach on in-world interactions now and then. I'm sure it stores up somewhere in the brain and all comes rushing out at once when given the opportunity.)

Coughran said...

Hanging out with you ain't half bad either, Armi!

R. said...

I touched a lot of cable cars.


Chestnut Rau said...

I really wish I was able to go. Next year the SLCC is where??

ArminasX said...

Well, this year's location was not determined until only a few months before the event! Hopefully will be selected a lot earlier in 2010.

Dirk said...

Wonderfully done, Armi. The hugs have it.

HALEY said...

beautiful post! still crying people who didn't get to the convention. Armi gave us a feeling of what it was like thank you!

Moggs Oceanlane said...

This is why I love your posts, plurks and talking to you about your SLCC experiences, you are all about the people, the community... and... "stuff". Thank you again.

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