Archive for March, 2009

You may be aware of the world-wide trend of Earth Hour, where people turn things “off” to help save the planet from global warming. You may not be aware of the counter-movement though – of the passionate and growing number of people celebrating what has become known as “Edison Hour” (named after the inventor of the light-bulb).

We are people coming from a range of beliefs that unite us in turning lights on instead of off: Some of us don’t accept that carbon emissions by human activity is causing global warming, since the science doesn’t back it and alternative explanations are backed by consistently more accurate evidence. Some of us just think it’s idiocy to turn off your lights then use candles and flame instead when what you’re supposedly fighting is CO2 emissions.

But more importantly and over-archingly, we are united by our love for humanity, technology and progress. We don’t celebrate the darkness embraced and encouraged by Earth Hour. I can’t put it better than this:

“I mean just that: darkness. As in devoid of of knowledge, reason, and production. The entire environmentalist movement is anti-man, condemning him for his productivity and success in this world. The movement has taken the genius and life enhancing invention of the light bulb, and warped it into a sin. Attempts like Earth Hour aim to halt man’s progress and send him back into the dark ages, all for the sake of “saving” the environment.”

It is technology and progress and the amazing inventive spirit of mankind that gives us our brightest future, no matter what comes our way. Celebrate this sense of life, this passion for humanity. And next year when someone asks you what you’re doing for Earth Hour, stop and think before saying you too will go back to the dark ages, instead take a stand for Edison and for mankind, and turn them on baby, turn them all on as high as they will go!

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Today I came across a notice of an upcoming discussion (for April 27th 2009 – note there’s some confusion about the date which I have asked them to clarify) that will be held both in the real world and Second Life, about democracy in virtual worlds. You can find all those details here.

It proposes to deal with the following questions:

What is the responsibility of the owners of virtual worlds? What if these virtual worlds are created primarily by the users/residents?

Which initiatives exist regarding democratic institutions in virtual worlds and what about in-world courts and litigation?

This is a truly fascinating topic to me – both from a legal and philosophical perspective. It is a far-reaching issue that you will hopefully also find interesting and relevant to your Second Lives. I’m not going to get into a discussion of it in this post, but I wanted to at least post the above link to get you thinking about the topic too, and make you aware of the seminar’s existence 🙂

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I’ve mentioned before in my blog, the copyright law that was meant to come into force in my home country, and the relevance it had for international copyright protection efforts. Just as a brief reminder – the law was supposedly going to make it harder for people to breach copyright, but in the process it went against some fundamental justice principles (like innocent til proven guilty) and made parties like ISPs effectively responsible for something they shouldn’t have been responsible for. The “black-out” campaign bought international attention to the issue and the consequences it might have for the future of copyright law and internet use.

So I am pleased to be able to provide this link to the latest news that the offending section has been removed. I will watch what replaces it and continue putting up any relevant and interesting updates.

Thank you to everyone who supported the black-out campaign 🙂

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I’ve found that when people create alts, an interesting thing happens: It seems to intensify their personality. When I’ve met people in their alt form they’re usually acting more intensely – more in your face, or more nice, or more cruel, or more honest, or even more funny. In turn, I also find that my reaction and first impressions of the alt reveals various truths about the original account holder. Let me explain with a few examples because I find this an interesting point and will be basing some further conclusions on it. In each of these examples I had no idea when I met the alt that they were an alt.

Friend #1 created an alt who I thought acted somewhat superior and exclusive, I had to be careful what I said and did around her, but when I acted the way she wanted I got plenty of reward from it and she made me feel special. Once I found out who she really was I realised that this matched what other people had been trying to tell me about her original account and how she made them feel. I realised that there was a lot of truth in it and I just happened to be in her inner-circle, and that sometimes I did have to do certain things to stay there.

Friend #2 created an alt who I thought was very funny, intelligent and intriguing. I instantly liked him and wanted to spend time with him. In fact, he created many alts and every single time I met them I thought “wow, you’re awesome!”. This realisation helped me appreciate my original friendship with them again – it had fallen by the way-side and I re-realised why I enjoyed their company so much.

Friend #3 created an alt who was cheeky and reserved. The alt had an intense precense in the room and people seemed to gravitate to him. He was impossible to ignore, even when he was silent o.O. When I found out who he really was I realised this was a side of his personality I had only dimly been aware of, but that it had always been there. We became closer friends over time, and I came to see that it was indeed a major truth of who he was.

And let’s end with a baddy: Supposed-friend #4 created an alt who came directly up to me and tried to push me out the pub (Three Lions). They attacked me verbally and physically, but were unable to express themselves clearly or convincingly. They got banned by a friend of mine at the time. When I figured out who they were I also realised they were an intensified version of the nasty judgmental and blind aspect of her personality which I had been aware of but hadn’t seen in full unbridled bloom until then.

So here’s the thing, every alt I am aware of encountering has revealed or reminded me of some truth of the original account holder. More often than not it has in turn changed my reaction to the original account holder, with the new realisations in mind. But this also tells us something about alts: A lot of people use alts to escape themselves / “play” someone else who they’d rather be. It appears though that the fundamental personality still comes through and is perhaps ultimately inescapable. No matter how much we try to hide ourselves, our words and our actions – even in a virtual world – reveals things we may not even be aware of ourselves. I realised a while ago that Second Life is not really an escape – if you’re miserable in real life that comes through too. So it’s not surprising that creating alts to escape the original account isn’t particularly successful either.

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AloneOne of the most intense and recurring experiences in my time in Second Life, has been talking to suicidal people. In particular, trying to talk suicidal people out of killing themselves. I have decided to write this post about suicide and Second Life, for three reasons: The first is I want the people who use Second Life to find someone to talk to about being suicidal, to know that they are not alone; many others do the same and it can be quite effective. There are dangers involved in using Second Life in this way as well and I’ll mention some of those. The second reason for this post is to let the people in Second Life who help these suicidal people, know that they are not alone either – to offer a little support to those kind souls. The third reason is to discourage the nastiness that some suicidal people come across in Second Life.

When I was at my university there was a national controversy over whether our student magazine should have run the article they did on suicide, which outlined all the ways to do it and revealed the truth behind what it would be like to attempt to and to die those ways. There was a huge debate that helped me establish my own views on the topic. One of my views that came from it is that you should talk about suicide openly in society, another is the realisation that is is rarely the professionals who have to deal with the problem at first – it’s often your average friend or family member trying to step up. This post I’m writing is with those things in mind.

So let’s start with the first reason I have for writing this post – to speak to those who use Second Life to find someone to talk to about being suicidal. The attraction in using Second Life in this way is the anonymity – “genuinely” suicidal people will often not tell those closest to them in real life that they want to kill themselves. This is in part because they don’t want to be stopped. They also don’t want people in their real lives to think they are nuts or emos, in case the need to off themselves passes. Talking to someone in Second Life is a way to reach out for help, for understanding, without confronting those extra complications. Plus, it’s free.

A major problem though with using Second Life to do this is that you don’t know some vitally important things about who you are talking to – unless perhaps when you go to the specific Second Life groups set up for suicidal people. Most suicidal people don’t seem to want to talk to these professionals, at least not at first – that seems to come after they have spoken to someone who has talked them round to acknowledging that they need that level of professional help. So the front line is your average Joe who you met and only know through Second Life. Here’s the thing – you don’t know what level of training, understanding or experience that average Joe has, you don’t even know for sure if they are adults. You also risk talking to someone who gets their jollies out of calling you an emo and telling you to just do it then. Yes, these people do exist and I will be talking about them later in this post as well.

So use Second Life for this purpose if you must – reaching out is good – but please try to do it with someone who you know well enough to not worry about them being underage (and therefore not able to nor should they be dealing with responsibility for your life), and also to know enough about them that they will not make you feel worse.

For the people who are the helpers – the listeners to these cries for help, you are not alone either. It is emotionally and mentally draining to feel that level of responsibility for someone else’s life. I know, I used to spend hours day after day helping numerous people. But I felt I had to do it and I did to the best of my abilities. Remember that it says a lot about you that these people feel they can talk to you openly about something so personal and essential. Keep in mind that there are those professional suicide help groups around – both in Second Life and real life, and that they can help you to cope with the level of care you are giving these people and they might be able to give you new strategies if you’re feeling overwhelmed and worried about your success. Don’t forget to use your own support network to keep you going.

At least three times I have had a Second Life friend tell me they already had or were right about to do something that would end their lives. The one I know who definitely tried something was talking to me on Second Life as she tried to retain consciousness. I did what you must be ready to do sometimes, even though they don’t want you to: I did everything I could to bring real life in to save her – I wanted to call her (this was pre-SL-voice) and tried to find someone who lived anywhere near her in real life. If someone is telling you they have done something already, you act like it’s real even if you have some doubt that it is. And that point very unfortunately brings me to a story about the sort of people who give suicide “a bad name”: The deliberate faker, and how you should deal with these people.

One person I dealt with openly admitted after I had “talked him out of killing himself”, that he wasn’t really suicidal, he just wanted me to talk to him. He was a stalker I had been trying to avoid. I was so mad at him for putting me through that level of worry and manipulating me like that, that that was the last time we ever spoke (well, as far as I’m aware anyway since he was a fan of alts). It is people like that who make so many people dismissive of suicidal threats and treat suicidal people like attention-seekers. So I want to – need to – talk to this point.

Take every threat of suicide as a real one. Let me explain why. Yes a lot of people use the threat of suicide to get attention, but if they need that attention – if they’re got to the point that the feel they have to lie about their intentions to kill themselves just so someone hears and cares for them – then give that to them. Answer the cry for help, don’t call them an emo and walk away. And if you’re not willing to help them then find someone who is. The other reason for this approach is because you can never be sure if they are “faking” or not, and though you would not be responsible for their deaths if they did kill themselves, you would feel like you were anyway – and no one needs that over their heads. Also remember the “half-hearted” attempts at suicide are always serious – not just because they are calling for help in a very loud voice, but also because they could go that accidental step too far and actually achieve what they were only “playing” with.

At the same time, if you are one of those people inclined to use the threat of suicide to get extra attention, stop using that method. Please. It causes extensive alarm and shifts the focus from dealing with the long-term problem to just trying to stop you doing your supposed current plan of action. Try instead to talk about your problems and issues with your friends and loved ones – you’d be surprised how much people actually do care very much whether you live or die. I care and I don’t even know you – I’m one of those crazy people who don’t believe in the death penalty even for mass murdering psychopaths, so nothing you’ve done could ever make me think you’re better off dead.

I need to end by saying I am not a trained expert. I have a lot of experience talking to suicidal people, and like most people I have had suicidal thoughts at times in my life, and it is only that level of understanding that I draw on when I try to help people. The reason people know they can talk to me, and the reason they (hopefully always) leave happier after they’ve talked to me than beforehand, is because I do genuinely care and want to understand. I am not the only one either – I’m a typical human being and there are thousands of people like me in Second Life who want you to stay alive in real life. So use Second Life for this if you feel it’s the only safe place you can do so, but do try to seek professional help too.

Thankies 🙂

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Perhaps you already like bunnies who dance to trance music, perhaps you’ve just never thought about it before. Isn’t it about time you found out..? Torley Linden brings you, “We’re Going To Rock Civilization“.

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Another special art thing I want to share. It’s a long list of photos but they are very clever, some of them are simply magical. Enjoy 🙂

Kudos again go to Stoo for showing me this link 🙂

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