Twelve Points of Relevance by Eleanor Medier
Entrepreneurs, artists, and presenters use Second Life® as both a creative tool and as an income stream. Business pioneers reveal the important connection between the real and the created. What is relevant to the real world as a whole? What impact does SL have? [Please see parallel article in-world for other opinions.] How do your experiences relate to those expressed here? If you have not been a resident of a virtual world, what does it provide? Essentially, whether SL or another grid, the technology unites contributors into a world platform to:
1. Form a learning infrastructure. A resident can improve knowledge through many opportunities in SL, free. As an education platform to present instructions, classes, and forums, anyone’s skills can be enhanced and new approaches practiced. Learning languages is easy. Those who wish to have a vision of the world, and endless places to explore, are never disappointed. Those wishing to expand knowledge will always be inspired, as this dynamic world changes faster than the real one.
“Goals may stay constant, but methods must always evolve. I have rebuilt OMG! several times—enough to understand the necessity for managing continual change. Fashion businesses especially need to always redefine. I build the collection in layers. I focus on good, tight products—to be what I want them to be— and to feel right about the results. Marketing is the hardest aspect of business due to weeding out what will work. At the end of the day, success is in getting people’s attention.” —Kaddan Yue, OMG! Inc. Fashion
“For those starting out in business, understand the market and attributes of your products. Compare your product to similar products on the market. Where does yours stand and as a user will you buy it just by looking at it? Think like a customer. Don’t start big, focus on one or two things that are really good! If that works, build from there.” —Machess Lemton, entrepreneur
2. Incubate ideas. If a concept works in SL, it will work in RL. Each requires adjustment, but parallels can always be drawn. Any real life experience or skills brought into SL will give an advantage, and find orginal ways to apply. Otherwise, the even playing field allows new entrants into paths never explored. The virtual world is an environment where new ideas can be evolved risk-free from real and major economic investments. However, the investment of time is equivalent. There are the same cycles of project development in-world as there are in the out world.
“Experience comes from trial and error, losing money, and investing time. Just like in real life, meet people that you can learn from and who will inspire you. Of course, during the journey, there are people where things don’t work out. But in the end, even those people mean a lot, as I learned from them what doesn’t work for me and what to avoid next time. Take time to learn, and meet interesting people. Don’t give up when one thing fails. Keep your head up and try something else until you find the right combination. Be good to everyone, and karma will reward you with success.” —Katya Dirval, WRE, real estate
“You can’t know in advance what will make a good business. Offer quality things. If you do your research, and you like what you provide, others will too. Be innovative and find early adopters. If your friends like what you do, the business will grow with time. In a technology-based business, innovation is the most important thing. New competitors take customers.” —Kurz Socke, Mobile Grid Client
3. Set up parallel career. The road not traveled never fails to inspire a creative thinker. Every pursuit requires hard choices because it is easy to get distracted, and there are always options, fork-in-the-road decisions, and doubts later as to outcomes. SL gives the opportunity of trying out directions not explored in real life. For some, the pursuit of an art form or of a discipline not tried in real life captivates. For others, the virtual world enhances what is done in real life into a new form. Perhaps the most satisfied have both.
“My real life background is in systems analysis. My main SL skill is in systems design and visualization, if you think about a sim and club as a kind of system. I have always been a lover of music and made mix tapes for years, so being a DJ and club owner is an extension of that, with real time feedback on how people react.” —Jaco Fitzpatrick, Crossroads
“The people and programs that are successful here exploit its unique features. It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced it. Outsiders often think it’s a game, but if they talk to some of the disabled people about the next show— The Freedom Project— I think they’ll better understand. Taking entries until February, this unique show is in partnership with several real life organizations that deal with those having chronic illness or disabilities. This show is a creative opportunity for those people to tell the story of how SL has helped them to overcome their real life obstacles.” —FreeWee Ling, curator, 3D Art Challenges, University of Western Australia
4. Transfer from inside to out. To discover the experiments that pay off, and bring this knowledge into real practice, can make achievements significant. Accomplishments only met in-world have a fragility, especially when linked to one application. But more importantly, they thwart their own potential by staying just in the virtual context. Ideas that begin in the metasphere, like immersive art, may never make the leap in form, but the knowledge it takes to build and present does carry over. Audiences are real, even if their manifestation looks likes like cartoon characters on a screen. The international nature of this exchange affects everyone. The down-side, however, is if the virtual world is so much better than the real one, it becomes its own distraction.
“After a few days of DJ’ing, I was surprised by the feedback. The encouragement made me try being a blues DJ in my real life too. AND THAT WORKS PERFECTLY! By learning how to entertain in SL, I can now do it in real life.” —Chriscloud Loon, Crossing Culture
“When people lose faith in something or confidence in real life about job, skills, or relationships, SL has a chance to bring those back—to start again. It’s not a secret that 99% of SL residents are, one way or another, unhappy with real life. I can’t recall anyone I know that is fully satisfied with their lives. Bottom line is loneliness. It seems that those who find completeness in real life, leave SL entirely. Think about it logically. Why would someone sit at the computer playing Barbie games with pixel people if he/she had the same with real people?” —Uzo Dayafter (Arkad Baxton)
5. Use information hub. The virtual world is an overwhelming place of endless pursuits—there are many more choices to make than real life because everything possible from real life can be recreated (other than taste or smell) plus possibilities unique to its unreality where gravity and expense are inconsequential. Plus, the internet has opened up all knowledge to anyone with access technically. Granted that the residents of SL are above the norm of humanity in education and technological sophistication, the Show and Tell nature is addicting for both presenters and partakers. It is a wonderland for those who love to be entertained, and really, who doesn’t? This is equally balanced by the serious side of its impact invidivually and reach globally.
“I’m not so sure artists get that close to people in real life situations, or maybe it’s just me. Some people are a bit more guarded. But I’ve learned that I’m worth it. This is my life; I deserve to invest in myself; I deserve to be proud of my accomplishments; I deserve to be kind to myself; I’m a good person. I love people and I give all that I’ve got. I can’t ask more of myself than that.” —TerryLynn Melody, musician
“The society online is much more challenging for interpersonal communication than the real life avenues available to us. We can’t really look each other in the eye. However, to find someone knowledgeable to share interests, to reach out to the talents of others, and to get feedback for ideas and behavior—these are unparalleled. Sharing goals is one of the world’s uniting forces. Disagreeing about those goals, and how others act, needs a peaceful environment of negotiation. This is an opportunity to achieve that.” —Ann Slanders, advice columnist
6. Expand reality. At minimum, any virtual adventure will discover an enhanced sense of self. An avatar is really a self-portrait, Even in behavior. Every decision made in a world with few consequences for actions, results in an increasing focus of the virtual mirror. Further, it takes the visitor to other places, times, settings, and even challenges to perception and opinions. As a huge international melting pot, what comes to the surface is both personally and culturally defining.
“Be true to yourself, but always remember: you do not know what the other person in SL is suffering or struggling with. You don’t really know who they are. Don’t give away more than you feel comfortable losing. Don’t expect anything in return. Most of all just be happy, share your gift, be grateful for what is returned to you, with much love and MORE MUSIC!” —TerryLynn Melody, musician
“Though I can do some things in SL that I cannot do in real life, such as fly or teleport, SL really has no more freedom. Freedom is a real feeling, not virtual. Creative freedom matters to me— building fantasy worlds, trying new things. Freedom is more than having enough food, driving a good car, making vacations 2-3 times a year. These activities make people slaves of their own necessities. I think about a better life than having all this—a freedom of the soul. Freedom is when you are sure about your FEELING GOOD time, and you know that it is yours. The beauty of this freedom is to share with others, and to see their happiness. You get back enough that you can go with the next train, getting the power to never stop.” —Chriscloud Loon, Crossing Culture
7. Push boundaries. As SL is a melting pot of cultures and motivations. It is also a place of unlimited, so far, possibilities. Although fragile due to technology, it is brilliant in communicative and creative power. Those who question, yet provide, are the ones to define the blend forms. Leaders emerge through their pioneering spirits, curiosity, and fortitude. They identify potential. Even if their pursuits are not for professional gain, every resident in a virtual world explores for enjoyment. Whether participating in role play, attending classes, racing horses, performing original music, partying with friends, building mansions, presenting fashion shows, or sailing on the open sea, the goal is always to make the time there as rewarding as possible. That means every endeavor is under pressure to continually improve.
“My two worlds are similar, but not the same. I have a tech background in real life—engineering—so I know computers and programming more than business. SL enhances my experiences—uses my scripting and “interpersonal’ skills. My strengths help, but mostly freedom in the SL world helps build business. However, SL business does mirrors real life work in development time. Gaining customer confidence, earning a reputation, building a brand image—all need growth. Plus the challenges are always limited by the size and scale of the world SL market. Because SL moves fast, we have to keep up. Still, the possibilities are only limited by imagination!” —Machess Lemton, entrepreneur
“I think virtual performing offers more opportunity for promotion and more opportunity for intimacy with fans. Maybe real life performances in smaller settings offer the same opportunity but I am not convinced of that since many of the shows I have seen lack self promotion.” —Throughthesewalls Moody (Tara Lopes), Music Not Politics
8. Reach the world. Every single happy resident in a virtual world will say that the friends made from all over the world is the single biggest advantage of participating. Even though there is drama, vulnera- bility, duplicity, even crime, what overshadows any disadvantage is the communication with people from anywhere. It makes the world a much smaller, more accessible, as it increases tolerances, awarenesses, and influences. At any event of a dozen or more avatars, a comparison of origins proves that a few will be American and the rest sprinkled from throughout the world.
“Doing business in SL affords me the opportunity to work with people from all around the world. As the internet and real life business grows to be more global, people become more accepting of cultural differences. We are dealing with a global marketplace more than we were ten years ago. This makes for an easier time in SL. One of the biggest things to learn is how to navigate business in different cultures. SL readjusts the idea of flexibility and forces adaptations to some new ways of thinking outside of the box. I roll with the challenging time zones and try to be flexible for meetings. If you want to speak with someone in the European morning, but you are from the US, you have to get up early, or stay up, until 3 am.” —Brandy (Kalli Birman)
“Music bridges cultural barriers. The international form now brings different kinds of Blues, more uptempo. Blues is a widening genre. Mainstream radios don’t care about it, but its still alive. Fogbound helps this cultural fusion. Often the traffic goes over fifty people; it means they like the Blues.” —Yanik Lytton, Fogbound Blues
9. Gain social support. Like molecules that form organisms, when people come together, they cluster into identities larger than themselves. Residents both seek those who are similar to themselves as well as from different places—a search for universality, even a confirmation on what values and preferences are most prevalent. So communities of interest become powerful sources of sharing and sponsorship. Those who can build large fan bases or large audiences from these communities will underscore accomplishments by achieving maximum visibility.
“In real life, I have been forced into early retirement due to ill health. Like so many, I have a great many friends in SL, and find it a great place for music—a life long love. My real life budget allows me to have a small chunk of SL, Bagdad Café being part of it. This gives Laya and I a freedom that other club owners don’t always have because we don’t have to focus our energies on chasing tier fees. Instead, this allows us to open our doors to novice acts and new DJ’s, providing them a place where they can comfortably hone their skills, work up from a smaller audience, as well as allow us to develop and build friendships among ourselves. Its a great place to be, not chasing the dollar. I would class Laya and I as business partners— she does all the work, I just play the Blues.” —Van Hoffnung, Bagdad Café on Route 66
“The members of the United Sailing Sims share a clear common purpose, which keeps us together, even though we have plenty of fights. We resolve our differences because we are mature adults. For a community to last a long time, principles and goals must both align and be consistent. We value what we do together, so we are willing to work together to get it. We all want a beautiful and peaceful estate to enjoy which requires a lot of rules. But the culture of SL is very much ‘Do things your own way.’ We restrain that here. Many love it, and say how beautiful it is… but then don’t wish to follow the rules to keep it beautiful. Those people should not live here.” —Sudane Erato, New England Estates, Blake Sea
10. Take advantage by converging platforms. The unparalleled interactive nature of the virtual world means it is like a stage, or a hub, bringing together supporting media. Facebook is a powerful social structure, symbiotic through groups and networks. Youtube is the presenter’s mecca and bloggers dominate the opinion-sharing-express. How these various platforms work together gives participants a greater range of stability and connection. How each is used strategically becomes the new focus of preoccupation and endless experimentation.
“One of the biggest things to learn is how to navigate business in different cultures. SL readjusts the idea of flexibility and forces adaptations to some new ways of thinking outside of the box. Performers should do as much, or more, marketing for their shows, as the venues do. Most new venue owners don’t have a built-in crowd to offer a performer. So, going to the shows available now, bringing friends, and tipping is the best way to show support.” —Brandy (Kalli Birman)
“Never before have fans been able to reach out and touch (click in our case) performers. Never has the relationship between performer and fan been so intense. Performers can now get feedback directly and instantly from fans rather than ‘suits’ (managers, promoters and labels) until now!” —Throughthesewalls Moody (Tara Lopes), Music Not Politics
11. Dream fulfillment. For those who can turn their second lives into their first, the passion to do so is reinforced by SL’s strengths. There is no shortage for investing hard work, and the efforts to build a reputation, establish a loyal market, and create sustainable processes. These pursuits take the ambitious from amateur to professional. There are more people wishing to earn a virtual living than actually do. Weathering the development, calling upon persistence, and enduring the various phases of growth are not for the faint of heart, or those wishing for immediate payoffs. Even overnight successes take careful strategic preparation.
“SL is very different from my real life—and it has now become my full time job. I have never thought about managing musicians or being a photographer outside of the virtual world. I do use my skills from years as a real life business manager, which I needed to leave for health reasons. Although I could not live off of what I make in SL, at least I do not use any real life money anymore. SL has given me the opportunity to have a new career. Sparkie is high maintenance—always in the best clothes, shoes, hair, and I love buying stuff for my SL home that I redo often. With a home tier and venue tier too, SL bills exist.” —Sparkie Cyberstar
“Dividing time between real life and SL is relatively easy for me now. In real life, I no longer have the printing company, but a job that is all phone and computer work for an independent insurance agency. And I sent the grandson whom I have raised off to college this semester, so I have just myself and my dog to cope with. I have dual computers so I can handle SL and real life each day, and remain in SL for my evenings. With a calming of the SL schedules, I am back into model work, which may be a great segue into fashion design perhaps down the road.” —Stevie Cooperstone, entrepreneur
12. Awaken creativity. The more creativity inspires hard work, the more sustaining will be the effort. Because risk is lower in the virtual world, investment financially small, it is much easier to start a business, create a product, or experiment with performing. There has to be an editing, or a weeding out of the abundance. For every artist exhibiting, product selling, publication read, or club attended, there are dozens that are flash-in-the pans— more so virtually than in reality where the physical complications are a barrier to entry and test commitment. Sifting through those just trying out and those wishing to sustain takes a sifting. The old-timers earn status and prestige of longevity—moreso here than in reality where the freshness of the inexperienced may be more rewarded.
“I like to try to make things myself— to know how they work and see if they can work better for me. Like most engineers, I have an insatiable desire to improve. When I get something to be more useful to me, I package it, and it then becomes my product. SL is the world of creation!” —Machess Lemton, entrepreneur
“SL has a sense of community that sometimes is lacking in real life. It also unites people internationally. Further, it is a great outlet for creating. I was surprised and delighted at how creative I can actually be. I never thought of myself as creative before.” —Galilla Sinatra, entrepreneur
The virtual world offers a more fertile learning experience than business graduate school. Almost like an apprentice program, mentors and experts can be found from anywhere to fit the ready student. There is no question that virtual worlds will find their place as a vehicle to continue to enhance understanding and sharing. As people learn more skills and gain a greater range of feedback, finding both relevance and perspective will increase cultural growth. If progress is building on strengths, supplementing weaknesses, and using sustainable resources, there is no better world than the virtual one.
—Eleanor Medier, Sim Street Journal #6
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© 2014 by Eleanor Medier, Sim Street Journal. Articles cannot be reprinted without permission.