Brothers, Sisters — SLiblings?

by Alphaville Herald on 15/06/06 at 2:36 pm

by Fiend Ludwig

The family that plays SL together…

Within my first few days as a Second Life resident I met Ama Ree at the New Citizens’ Plaza. After correcting my initially embarrassing faux pas of addressing her by her group title, she suggested I visit her brother, as he was involved in some projects she thought I might find interesting.

My first thought was, “Does she mean her real brother, or is this another SL thing I do not yet understand?” In any case, I teleported to the landmark she gave me and was met by Rubiayat Shatner, proprietor of the New Media Center [<-- SLurl] in SL’s Dowden sim. “Ama Ree told me I should drop by for a visit,” I said.

“Ahh, my sister” he replied.

Ama Ree

It struck me as interesting that these real-life siblings (for indeed they were) shared Second Life, but at the time not especially significant. However, as I explored in-world and started reading the forums, blogs, and media coverage of Second Life, I realized that emphasis was usually placed on one of the following topics: commerce and capitalism, sex, complaining about Linden Lab, building, scripting, or clothes. These are, of course, all very important in SL, but I became increasingly interested in the personal and social interactions of Second Life residents; the idea that far-flung families could use Second Life to remain connected by sharing virtual space came to fascinate me.

In the meantime, I had also learned that Ree had another brother in SL, Jaarlen Bjornson. Is SL a good place for families to keep in touch? I met the siblings at a café to discuss this and more for this story, the second installment of First Person : Second Life.

Jaarlen Bjornson

Separated by three thousand miles in real life, I wondered if the three siblings talked more in Second Life than they did using more traditional methods such as the telephone or email. “We have chatted [online] more frequently than anything else for years now. None of us especially like the phone.” says Ree. Bjornson adds, “This [Second Life] is an interesting way for us to interact in a different way.” Shatner agrees, “This is a better social space for us. We can ‘see’ each other and share experiences. This really is friendlier.”

Rubiayat Shatner

Of course, unlike most SL residents, Ree, Shatner and Bjornson know what the others look like in real life, so I asked whether they “see” the avatar or the real person when they interact in Second Life. “Both”, says Shatner. “The real person, it’s funny that they look so much like the selves I imagine them to be,” says Ree. “It’s hard to eliminate the mental images I have of my sibs,” says Bjornson, “but the avatar lets us explore a bit.”

Do the siblings’ experiences in SL trickle down (or up) to other family members? “Well, Mom is a potential” Shatner responds. “And that nephew of ours, he’d be on it like white on rice,” adds Ree. When I asked whether SL could become a good place for more extended family gatherings, an interesting conversation broke out.

Bjornson: I like the idea of having family reunions here.

Ree: New traditions, surely.

Shatner: Well, I see more walled communities where it can happen. SL is the Wild West.

Bjornson: In between the [real life] visits like the one we have planned for later this month, we do get together here [in SL] and I see that as a definite possibility for other families that are scattered to the winds.

Ree: Ditto that. There’s already Teen SL. I’m not sure what the difference is, but maybe there could be spots/logins for Family SL.

Shatner: Family SL would for me be like Heaven. Or Thanksgiving. Puppies, sunsets, and flowers, Aunt Millie and a table full of food.

Bjornson: Sounding a bit sappy. Sardonic?

Shatner: A little, but I always got bored on Thanksgiving

Bjornson: I like to eat, but that’s another tangent. Not sure if the sustainable populace will age well. That’s my only concern. I see waves of new people joining and waves of older members leaving. No permanence with which to create a ‘real’ community.

Ree: SL can get boring fast, without networking or an in-rush of stimulation/ideas.

Bjornson: Need new ideas, but also need people to feel committed enough to this community to contribute in a meaningful way.

Shatner: Heaven, Thanksgiving, puppies. How are those for ideas?

Ree: LOL

Fiend Ludwig: How about a picture for Mom?

Ree: This is going to be like bad traffic. Hope you guys have your health insurance cards handy. I would like to be flanked by my two scary brothers…

Shatner: Monkey in the middle…

Bjornson: Now she decides to complain!

Ree: I tell you what, since I’m the sissy little girl, I’m going to stand and you boys may feel free to arrange yourselves around me…

Shatner: We should use the <bickering> </bickering> tags…


Ahh, just like home.

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