Lately, there has been a lot of commentary published related to the recent release of an updated Terms of Service (ToS) by Linden Research, Inc. (“Linden Lab” or “LL“). This is understandable, as LL has not been very forthcoming in explanation (although they have shared more information at New World Notes by Wagner James Au, at least). This has gotten us to thinking, as it has most everyone – especially many of those whose creative works make our world(s) increasingly beautiful and habitable. The fact that there are many such virtual worlds is not surprising. Some come and go quickly, but others have more staying power. Aeon and I have presence in three at the moment, but do not see them in competition with one another – at least, not yet. We’re exploring and having a grand time of it when we have the time.
Bryn Oh, one of the premier artists in SL (and RL, for that matter) has written a post at her outstanding blog that has opened another chapter in the conversation about this ToS situation and what it may mean for everyone. I so appreciate her work – which is of the highest calibre – and her blog, which has always brought information of interest and enlightenment to our world(s). I thank her for sharing her perspective on the recent TOS issues, for I truly value what she has to say, trusting her awareness and instincts. She has served honourably with the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) for some time now, bringing other artists to VR worlds and creating exceptional art on her own and in collaboration with other talented artists. This is a service to everyone and to the future. We have followed her work since coming in-world in 2009 and we’ve enjoyed it all. Such intellectually enriching, emotionally touching work is something to treasure, and Bryn Oh offers that – and more – routinely in this vibrant community.
In SL, I am a fledgling artist, learning to use in-world tools to express myself. In RL, I write and work in mosaics; I also explore what I call “Words and Pictures,” the same title I am using for my in-world efforts with the camera and pen. It is an exciting time for me, for now that I have begun, I can’t stop.
Ce Soir Arts – our arts venue here in SL – is a joy to us, and we have learned much about artistic expression in virtual worlds since opening in 2012. We’ve been exploring other such platforms sporadically, but now have presence in three – and plan to explore more over the coming winter. This is not to say we will leave SL; on the contrary, we have plans to stay here and enjoy all it has to offer. However, our focus is shifting towards more theatrical expressions, as we are both educators and our students are enhanced by exploring the virtual plane. While we actually create little in the way of items ourselves, we deeply appreciate the glorious work of others. Indeed, our sims are filled with beautiful pieces created by some of the most talented content creators in SL, and we enjoy gathering them and organizing them into (what we think are) interesting environments or sets and backdrops. Come to Ce Soir Arts, for example, and click on anything to see its creator – then take an excursion to their shoppe or MarketPlace location for more!
Actually, we were a bit taken aback by the recent ToS update, as well. However, family members and colleagues who have joined us here (especially those who work in law and related fields) have told us not to worry quite so much about the language. While it is unfortunate that people from “the Lab” are not responsive enough to our queries (by coming out in an obvious way with a clear statement about the ToS and/or revising the language – and a revision of the ToS would be the wiser and more thoughtful course), it seems to us that Vanessa Blaylock (in her response to Bryn‘s post) has the most accurate depiction of the problem: the surprising rate of technological development and (dare I say it?) our (we denizens of the virtual world) brilliant use of what LL initially created is truly the root of the problem: it has all gone so quickly that as we’re rewiring our brains (lickety-split!), our more practical, cognitive capacity to take it all in and manage it is not keeping pace (just yet). Outstanding work on the brain is ongoing and information is ubiquitous – and fascinating! Be sure to click on the embedded links in this article by Frances Bea at Digital Trends. Researchers at universities and other scientifically sound entities are doing phenomenal work on this important topic (check this article about Gary Small‘s work at Today at UCLA). There is more, so do some research on your own as well. After all, if just the Internet is changing our brains, just think what the impact of these immersive spaces might be. Of course, the brain – and all of life – is constantly changing and developing. (This makes me think of the seasons…but that’s for another post!) After all, I’m just one person (well, with Aeon, that makes two of us). Neither Aeon nor I is an expert in anything having to do with contracts or licenses (other than the ones we’ve signed in RL – and only with the best legal guidance possible), so we’re learning; remember that as you read our post. Thank you!
Creative work – and the work of anyone in digital space – belongs to the creator; it lives in the heart, mind, soul, spirit – even as it has been created at the computer keyboard. How we are going to ensure that it belongs to each one in a practical sense requires that we bridge the gap that yet exists between the virtual and the real. This is eminently possible. We are just presently unsure how to accomplish it, and our language reflects that truth. Soon, however, our cognitive capacities will catch up, and such concerns will fade. (Yes, I really do believe that.)
Perhaps, one day, this gap between the virtual and the actual will no longer exist as our dual worlds become seamlessly connected. Until then, everything (pretty much) is in play – including our language as we attempt to mine this incredible idea (VR/virtual worlds and our lives in them). Ideas are notoriously unmanageable. This is where artists of all kinds come into the picture, for expressing the idea(s) is the first step (or the next one) toward understanding. The fact that different artists find different expressions from different perspectives allows us to go deeply into the idea and to see its inner connections and even its multitudinous ramifications. It is this clear view that is both complex and elegantly simple at the same time: it is the gift of true art.
I thank Bryn and her fellows for so wonderfully leading the way with their work and questions. Questions are ever so wonderful, for without them answers can be so empty. My beret is off to LL and others who ventured into the digital chasm to make all this possible (even these stunning concerns). Indeed, my beret is off to all artists and creators who make these worlds so habitable and new. I cannot wait to see what they come up with next on this journey!
So, what are YOU up to? Do let us know, especially if a space like Ce Soir Arts might give you expression. We’re open to ideas…