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SLCC 20011 – Thoughts on why virtual community gatherings should be, ummmm, virtual

I have been talking to some friends in Second Life about the upcoming SLCC (Second Life Community Conference).

For those of you that don’t know what that is, some really late announcements have gone out for a gathering in California next month that purports to be a gathering of SL community. These annual conferences have been happening since 2005, all of them have been in the United States and most in California. This year’s website frankly calls it the “Official United States Gathering” but the name Second Life Community Conference implies a greater, global, reach.

In 2006 when I first joined SL there seemed to be a spirit of making events in the SL of equal or greater focus but in recent years the F2F gathering has stolen focus. Inworld events have been more about streaming in content happening in the RL context. In an international virtual world community I find this counter-intuitive. Other virtual world events manage to reflect inclusivity more, eg: VWBPE (Virtual Worlds:Best Practices in Education) but most serve only a sectoral interest.

After 5 years of waiting for the community conference to grow up and embrace the international community that SL really is , I’ve become a bit intemperate and frustrated I guess. Why do I feel that the focus of a virtual world community conference should be in… virtual reality? (bear with me, I know it seems like a no-brainer).

  • we are an international community,
  • we tout the value of virtual spaces,
  • there is a global recession,
  • this year Linden Lab cancelled discounted tier for educators and non-profits leaving those valued participants short of cash
  • Second Life was founded on a somewhat Utopian ideal about bringing people together internationally in an affordable and inclusive way
  • we tout the environmental superiority of meeting in virtual spaces

All these (and many more reasons that I have likely missed) seem to me to indicate that the main annual meeting of the SL community should be virtual with regional livespace events ocuring as people choose and can afford to attend, augmenting and feeding into the international virtual gathering. I have no doubt that livespace meetings are wonderful bonding experiences for those that live near the event or who are privileged enough to be able to afford air-travel in these times. That is not the majority of Second Life residents.

It’s too late to change things this year but each year it has been the same story of late news to the community and all the key decisions made. Yes there will be inworld events but organizers admit they will not be the focus. “Jump in and help”, we are told.

I felt two ways about the suggestion from an organizer that in order to be entitled to have a voice in the future direction of SLCC, I become a worker bee at an event whose focus I feel is wrong-headed. Volunteerism is about choice. What are my choices or the choices of people who cannot be a part of the live gathering?

Are there just two unpalatable choices here: support SLCC or walk away & shut up?

Is there a third choice? Yes, let’s talk about putting our efforts into another vision. How about throwing our own grassroots party in SL instead of gluing ourselves to media screens to watch the cool (rich) kids talk to each other. We can show our displeasure by saying “we just aren’t interested in what you are saying to each other at an event you have effectively shut us out of”. But even better we can develop a better vision of a community gathering based on the grass-roots organizing that SL is best for. I have been speaking to some of my colleagues involved with groups who are particularly shut out due to distance and economics, such as the disabled and First Nations people.

Who else is out there that might like to join this conversation?


  • Laetizia Coronet
    Posted July 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Well, there's Pooley, and many other empty venues in SL you can simply claim for an event.
    You can count on me to participate in the odd timeframe of European work hours (ie. non-weekend daytime CET). Specialities: languages, SL gender bending, and even keeping order if need be.

  • Fleep Tuque
    Posted July 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I've engaged in this conversation with you many times, on multiple fora, respectfully and sincerely. I would encourage your readers to have a look at the SLED thread to get the other side of the story, too.

    I'm not sure why you feel supporting SLCC is "unpalatable" and I must take umbrage at the suggestion that anyone involved with SLCC told you to walk away or shut up. Rather, we invited you to join us to help make the in-world focused part of SLCC better serve the community.

    If folks gave even a portion of the time spent complaining about what SLCC doesn't do for them trying to actually make it better instead, I think that would be far better for the community than sowing seeds of rancor.

    The offer still stands.

  • Kate Miranda
    Posted July 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks Laetizia, I'm going to send around a notecard today to the people who have said that they are interested in an alternate grass-roots event!

  • Kate Miranda
    Posted July 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Fleep, I'm not asking you to engage in defending your event. I am asking others who are not able to attend SLCC, have never been able to attend whether this F2F meeting in the USA reflects what they envisage as a meeting of the Second Life community.

    However, I can turn your thoughts around another way. If the SLCC organizers had listened to these dissenting voices that have been there for years and brought them to the table, maybe there would be a different shape to the event this year. Now all the decisions are made and you can't expect people who haven't been part of those decisions to necessarily support them, nor can you expect them to participate or volunteer their time. You selected the constituency that you regarded as important to the success of your venture. There's another constituency out there that weren't listened too and I'm sorry if you find it annoying that we don't like the plan. You have never been an enemy of mine and I don't see you as one now. We just have a different idea about Second Life community.

    I am sincere, I hope you all have a great party in California. I am going to spend my volunteer time in Second Life doing what I always do, helping make great events happen at Music Island to support the very international community of musicians and arts lovers that gather there weekly and participating in the Cedar Island open-learning community.

  • Cliff
    Posted July 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I fully support what Kate is saying, a conference which is held in California is meaningless to those of us in Europe and elsewhere in the world. If SLCC is intended to be inclusive of all members of the SL community it would be far better rotating its event around the globe. Not to do so appears to me, as an outsider,to be clique-ish and parochial and to be representative only of the privileged few who either live in California, or who can afford both the airfare and the time to travel there.

    Aelthing Aeon

  • Anonymous
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    If you want a DJ for any parties, let me know! Something I can't do in RL but do in SL! (Brielle Coronet)

  • sitearm
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Um… who said SLCC is not virtual? The presentations are all being webcast live to SL or to your favorite Internet browser. The presentation recordings are then posted to watch again, or at another time that better suits your convenience.

    Have a party with your friends, and watch and discuss the 30+ presentations covering all areas of SL Resident interest.

    Linden Lab is sending staffers to talk about Second Life (Rodvick), Destination Guide (Brett), Commerce, Social (Viale), and Mesh. SL Residents are coming to talk about Creativity, Technology, Commerce, and Community.

    Their fees cover your webcasts and recordings. Thank them!

  • Kate Miranda
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Sitearm, I said the FOCUS is on a F2F event.

    I'm aware and have aknowledged that one can watch some of the action on a screen in SL ("watch the cool rich kids party") but equal or in some case any opportunities to actually be a presenter or performer are not there.

    So, no, I'm NOT going to have a party and watch you guys and invite my friends. The fees people pay to attend pay for their hotel costs and their conference costs and their access to Linden movers and shakers. It has nothing to do with the rest of us, so no thanks are coming your way.

    Gee I'd like to meet the Lindens shaping our world too, but I can't afford the trip, living a continent away. A lot of people are in the same position, so even if someone gave me a grant to attend tomorrow, I wouldn't go. But I'm sure that the Lindens will get the opinions of Americans and richer residents at the California based USA SLCC event. Will they get the input of the average resident? Frankly I'm really disappointed that they have chosen to attend en masse but then it is in their backyard, they'll certainly hear many thoughts and opinions worth hearing (just because you are an American or rich doesn't necessarily mean you can't raise valid points about the SL community) and I hope that they will also get out to more representative inworld events.

    My area of interest and where I can speak from experience is that of music. The musicians that perform weekly at Music Island are from all over the globe. They often know nothing about SLCC and SLCC attenders know nothing of their music. Several of those that are aware of SLCC have spoken bitterly to me about feeling excluded. That's a shame for all. This Sunday at Music Island, we will hear an internationally renowned Italian pianist, Alessandro Marangoni. In order to get him on the SLCC musicians showcase, you'd need a plane ticket and an artistic fee in the thousands of real dollars, but he's live in SL… why?… because it's fun for him, he has fans in SL, and it doesn't cost him anything more than a couple of hours of his time. It is this kind of thing that is the cool thing about SL music and the music community.

    As I have said elsewhere in 2009 when I first learned about the existence of the Music Stream, the only scheduled music performances was to be a live conference 24 hour musical showcase streamed into SL via media stream. Therefore no musician unable to fly to california was able to perform and be part of SLCC. I fought to get one event on the schedule in 2009 from a classical duo on the east coast. In 2010 the information on the music stream made it totally clear that only live events would be part of SLCC that year.

    Anyway, I REALLY don't want to bash your gathering. I want to talk about alternative positive visions. It's REALLY late to propose anything different for this year. Cotton has mentioned that IMAGINE Peacefest in November has an inworld focus but includes local and regional real world events. This puts the direction of attention the right way. People gather in their living rooms around the world to focus on an international, global celebration of peace in the virtual world.

    Do you understand the difference? One draws people into the virtual world rather than focusing the attention of virtual world residents on an elite, US real world gathering.

  • Lightsight
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 1:26 am

    ;D<3 misses my good friend Kate… Love your ideas within virtually constructive criticisms! I am laughing with you again can you hear me as I ;play my guitars?

  • Kate Miranda
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 1:37 am

    Hey Lightsight! I was just thinking the other day that it's been awhile since I have seen you inworld. I guess we've just been on different schedules.

  • Doug Danforth
    Posted August 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm


    Your comments about "cool rich kids" seem a bit disingenuous. I would suspect that much of the world would consider your SL concert with Alessandro Marangoni to be little more than a "cool rich kids party".

    People who are concerned with where their next meal will come from or whether they will be attacked in a refugee camp would find a virtual concert utterly ridiculous. There will always be groups who are excluded because all events are exclusive to varying degrees.

    I have attended well over 50 conferences during my career and nothing can replace the benefits of meeting people face to face. SLCC is (and has always been) designed to do just that.

    Changing its focus to be yet another virtual conference would be a mistake in my opinion.

    Doug Danforth
    SL:DrDoug Pennell

  • Kate Miranda
    Posted August 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    The vitriol that this debate has engendered has not changed my mind one iota about SLCC. It has succeeded in making me question whether my idea of the SL community is in error and whether I wish to spend my volunteer hours there. I am saddened by your comments, Doug

  • Kate Miranda
    Posted August 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Further thoughts after wiping away the tears.

    "nothing can replace the benefits of meeting people face to face" is a strange sentiment for a virtual world advocate to espouse.

    I actually think that a virtual concert might lift the spirits of some people in refugee camps as it has lifted the spirits of many who have attended. Music Island has always been about making music accessible in every way.

    There are always arguments putting down the arts as "frills" in a world where people are starving and warfare tears nations apart. My mind turns to Pablo Casals finishing his concert in Barcelona as the forces of Franco attacked the city before fleeing across the mountains. Casals fed the spirit of Catalunya in the best way he knew.

    As the old labour song puts it, "We toil for our daily bread, the soul needs roses too".

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