An updated version of this article is now available here.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of opinion on Rigged Mesh, and the efforts of Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz, formerly Qarl Linden) to address the fundamental deficiencies of it with the Parametric Deformer project.
That’s been covered elsewhere in great detail and I don’t think I can add much to the debate directly on that although will provide some links at the end.
However, it has got me thinking about what Second Life means to me, what I view as important and how I interact with other people.
Some of the people I meet want to know all about my real life, about how I look or where I live, or how old I am, or any number of other things. And I tell them that, quite apart from privacy, I simply don’t see things like that as having any relevance to my Second Life. And, further, I don’t particularly want them to volunteer anything about themselves either. I’m simply not interested in their “skinvelope” (or, as I have heard others refer to it, their “meatsack” or “meat rider”, which I confess aren’t phrases I’m particularly enamoured with) and want to get to know the real person, unencumbered by the trappings of real life. Some of these people have got quite defensive about my attitude and asked how I can know the real person when I say I don’t want to know the real life person. Some have even called me crazy. Well, allow me to explain what I mean.
I think the key phrase for me is “unencumbered by the trappings of real life”, and by that I mean free from any prejudices of race, height, weight, physical beauty (or lack of), age, gender, or any number of other things that colour our perception of the other person whether consciously or subconsciously. For me, there is a purity in keeping things SL-only. Some may call that Immersionism but I prefer to see it as accepting the other person as how they choose to present themselves. So what if the beautiful woman in front of me in her 20’s with impeccable fashion sense is actually a 45 year-old mum of four whose tits headed south round about child two and whose clothes in real life are more Matalan than Milan? Or, for that matter, a 24 stone, 58 year-old trucker named Barry with a beer belly in a different postal zone?
If they utterly convince me in SL and stay in character then that’s good enough for me. Likewise I’m under no illusion that a Furry friend is actually an anthropomorphic animal in real life. And I’m sure that if an Artificially Intelligent robot able to pass the Turing Test had been invented then I’d probably have heard about it.
The point is that Second Life is meant to be a place where we can cast off the roll of the dice that made us what we are physically in RL and roll them again in SL. And in SL you can use loaded dice and choose how you want to be. And I think that people should respect that and not try to undo it by dragging RL into things.
Now, I’m not saying that discussing your RL isn’t allowed – the kind of music you like, the books, films and art you like, the jokes you tell, the quips you make, what you think and say – they are all part of you as a person and they are shared between RL and SL. But what I’m trying to convey is a separation between the personality that is “you” and the physical container for it.
If you think about this, it’s not such an unreasonable supposition. If you look around SL you will very rarely see a person in a wheelchair, or someone walking with the aid of a stick, or bed-ridden. Why would someone choose to limit themselves in SL when it gives them opportunities to enjoy things in SL that are denied to them in real life? I’d venture to suggest that there is simply no need to carry over that attribute of their real life body into SL unless, for whatever reason or agenda, they chose to do so. And, somewhat controversially, I’d say the same for someone’s physical gender; I have several transgender friends in SL who I consider to be totally female despite the roll of the dice they got in real life.
The trouble is that even Linden Lab seem to have lost sight of this (see my article “Second Life increasingly a misnomer?”) and the whole concept of Rigged Mesh and Standard Sizes compounds this further, with clothing designers dictating which of a limited number of shapes are compatible with their mesh clothing. The clear sub-text being ‘conform or become a member of the fashion-denied underclass’. That’s why I think Qarl’s Parametric Deformer is so important as it returns us to the Status Quo where Second Life is an expression of how we want to be, how we choose to present ourselves to others.
Sadly, as many far better bloggers than I have already pointed out, my attitude is becoming increasingly quaint and old-fashioned in the modern age of Facebook and a joined-up internet “experience”. I think that’s a great shame.
Rigged Mesh and the Parametric Deformer:
http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Mesh/Mesh-Clothing-Do-you-design-for-STANDARD-AVIE-or-STANDARD-SIZING/m-p/1490579/highlight/true#M13539 (Max Graf’s reply to that, which is really worth reading)