Saturday, March 14, 2009

I can't hold back and I can't hold on

Someone had entirely too much fun merging Daft Punk and Snow White's dwarves.

Also, why Stephen Fry is wonderful. More to the point, it's relevant, very relevant, to the discussion we're currently in:

This is an early thing I said about the internet at the time things like AOL were still huge. I said it's Milton Keynes, that's the problem with it. It's got all these nice, safe cycle paths and child-friendly parks and all the rest of it.

But the internet is a city and, like any great city, it has monumental libraries and theatres and museums and places in which you can learn and pick up information and there are facilities for you that are astounding - specialised museums, not just general ones.

But there are also slums and there are red light districts and there are really sleazy areas where you wouldn't want your children wandering alone.

And you say, "But how do I know which shops are selling good gear in the city and how do I know which are bad? How do I know which streets are safe and how do I know which aren't?" Well you find out.

What you don't need is a huge authority or a series of identity cards and police escorts to take you round the city because you can't be trusted to do it yourself or for your children to do it.

And I think people must understand that about the internet - it is a new city, it's a virtual city and there will be parts of it of course that they dislike, but you don't pull down London because it's got a red light district.

Which is, I think, the main point I want to make in all of this. If people don't want to experience adult activities--with that stentorian "that's wrong and awful and you should be ashamed of yourself" meaning--then they need to form their own enclaves, and hold in them--the rest of the grid shouldn't have to change just because of a small group of shrill idiots.

Back to the forums:

I'm not seeing that a move is required - only control. As a university professor at a public university, I find that some students are very negative about SL because of the adult content. They do not want me to require them to go where they might accidentally encounter places they would not go in RL or on the internet. In addition, my university's attorney has given me numerous cautions and, if any of my students should complain to administration, I will have to abandon SL as a teaching strategy. It has proven to be a very good teaching tool and I would hate to do that. This would give me a way to prevent that from happening. (Clowey Greenwood)

And I don't agree. Why? Follow:

Sandii Tesla is an exceptionally bright (and before anyone looks, entirely fictional) 20-year-old student at MIT. She's perhaps the merest bit socially awkward, so she likes talking with her friends and maybe going to a few dances, but she gets very nervous when she walks into a strip club and sees naked avatars dancing on poles. She doesn't think she should have to see such things, she's using Second Life to further her education.

First off: she's not wrong. In all honesty, she's not--you shouldn't have to see things you don't want to see on the grid. But what's a fairer way to deal with it? Clowey's way, the Lindens' way, would remove everything behind barriered walls, cripple search, cause extreme damage to the economy of the game--which is already suffering, and has been for more than two years--and all to "protect" people like Miss Sandii?

No. She's not wrong, but no. Because the better way to protect people is for them to police their own content.

Look. Think of libraries. Libraries are there to preserve information, all the information that's deemed important to save. This means in some cases, information is going to be archived and preserved which the librarians feel is in the public interest--the whole public--to preserve.

Are they going to preserve books which certain people think would be better burned? Sure. Are there going to be protests over those books? Sure. Are those books then censored and dragged out of the libraries and set on fire? No.

As Fry said, but applying it to the grid, SL is a wide and varied place. There are magnificent vistas, amazing structures, art galleries, learning institutions...there are clothing shops that feel so solid and so real you can nearly smell the wood, see your face in the glass you walk by. There are eateries and representations of RL places that perfectly mimic what exists in the real--or doesn't exist, for instance, in the case of New Orleans in SL.

There are places to read, libraries, dance halls, parks, manicured lawns, sports fields, mountain ranges, deep seas, underwater colonies, space stations. If you can dream it, you can be it, at least on the grid.

And with that come the darker dreams, places where we run for our lives from the terror in the dark; haunted houses that make us cry out and hide; murder mysteries where we are the victims, or worse, the murderers; and more. Bloodstained halls where screams have soaked into the stone; places where flesh is stretched, shivering, fearing the next blow; sims where the warning signs of stay on the path are meant literally, for if you're subject to force/capture...or worse.

There are SL date-rape drugs. There are escorts who specialize in brutality and snuff. There are machines that purport to hypnotize, to make us less inhibited, more programmable gynoids for the pleasure of whomever has our call codes. There are distant shadowed places on the grid where I don't feel safe going, where the pleasures found would not be survived in another world.

Do I want to be in those places? No. Does the average person--I forebear using "normal"--want to be there? No. Does that mean I, or anyone, should have the power to ban completely those who want those pleasures to experience?

But here's the very real rub, in no uncertain terms: because the Lindens are self-policing, in a sense, because it's their systems.

It's that difference again. Server. Place.

From the forums again:

Then why not approach it from the opposite direction - give those who want to avoid it, a clearly defined and enforced space where they CAN, rather than trying to sweep up the current grid piecemeal. More efficient use of resources to make a new PG rated space for open development than to try to round up and move the existing content creators. Making people move locations is disruptive and based on the feedback I'm seeing in the forum, people are considering it punitive - it's not what your intent is in the implementation, but rather, how it is being received by your targets (see also: typical corporate sexual harassment guidelines, for example - it's not whether you intended harm by telling an off-color joke, it's how that joke impacted the person hearing it). Reframe this enterprise in a positive way by developing a new space for people who don't want it, so they can avoid it, instead of the other way round. It's Public Relations 101. (Bonibaru Navarathna)

Bonibaru's got it right. Will it change anything? Likely not. But this is the way the Labs should approach it.

Bonibaru also had another point, regarding Blondin Linden:'s "increased foot traffic" fantasy:

I would expect intolerable lag, since sex scripts and weapons scripts are notorious resource hogs. So let's put them all in one place! Great idea! The increased foot traffic will be like swimming through molasses.

Beeflin Grut evidences some (potentially understandable) paranoia:

I find it hard to believe that this initiative is really the result of Residents "asking for more clarity and control over their experiences", whatever that means. I haven't met one person in my 19 months here who's asked for any such thing. Where's the evidence of this request?

I'd love to know, too.

And what about those who don't care, one way or another, about most of what you seem to be defining as adult content, but do care about other aspects of builds and people who it seems will have to move... given the rather puritan definition of adult in the FAQ? (Argent Stonecutter)

And Argent has a GREAT point here. Maybe it's time to go to the FAQ and pull out the Labs' specific definition of adult:

Maturity ratings: an overview

Whoops! The article you're looking for was a work in progress, and not quite ready to be published. We still have a lot of talking left to do; we thank you for your patience while this gets worked out.

...yes, that's extremely helpful.

Nany Kano--who says she's one of the people asking for these changes--has her own spin on things:

Filtering excessively explicit content out of casual public view will be a very refreshing change. It should be a relatively simple matter to apply the same general rules to SL content as are applied to movie ratings. Second Life already has a PG rating in effect. All that is needed is to put it to use.

And if that's as far as it goes, I'm fine with that. Want PG content? Stay in PG areas. Want NC-17 content? Stay in those areas. But understand that those areas may well overlap. The forced relocation of hundreds of businesses may well achieve the unstated, but possible goal of having adult business owners throw their hands up in disgust and walk away. Is that what's best for the grid and for the grid's economy, however?

Welcome to Second Life's brave new world - and it's not one we want to play in, thanks. We won't be prepared to invest the time, effort and hard cash in something that is so plainly going in a direction we hate.

You can claim to be trying to set reasonable definitions by consensus - but the fact is they're *your* definitions. The goalposts will be moved again and again until people are too scared to cough loudly for fear of a ban.

Good luck with your business model, in that case. But maybe you're really doing us the biggest favour you could - spurring us to get off our backsides and create something better.
(Astrofiammante Seminario)

Which has been alluded to, if not outright stated, before, actually.

I really don't think a "warning please do not come here if you do not wish to sexual content/blood and gore etc" on their page in search is too much to ask. (beatrix Muircastle)

If I'm right, beatrix is another SL child; even if I'm wrong, she's not. But the thing is businesses catering to the adult population who want adult activites already do say this--in the images they choose to advertise their businesses with, the names of their businesses, the keywords they type at the bottom of the's all there, right now, as Search exists. That people think it doesn't is sheerly baffling to me.

Nany Kano weighs in again:

If someone is going to be deprived of the use of this technology, I prefer it be the ones who are offensive rather than the ones who are offended. Let the offenders leave.

Okay, but who decides who's offensive? Who makes those calls? And will they do it right when they do?

Me, personally, I find puritanical bigotry and racism highly offensive; furs dressing up in Nazi gear in world I find offensive; people who buy the records of Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus offend the crap out of me. But I don't believe, personally, I have the right to set them on fire and watch them burn.

Nor should anyone else.

But. Lest we forget...server. Place. It's not our world, not our grid. And even though it is our community, it's not our game. So I suppose the question then becomes, what do the Lindens find offensive? Because we're all going to be trapped in the death spiral of their morality before long, if this goes the way many are beginning to think it will.


Anonymous said...

Well said, Emily.

Alexandra Rucker said...

More food for thought over here

Emilly Orr said...

Bonibaru: Thanks. I'm doing this less to rehash the topic--I have commented on the forums, and plan to comment more, but they're just spiraling up in pages so much, it's easy to get lost--but also, because some of the people who need to have input don't have access to the forums, or get so inundated with information coming from all directions, that they shake their hands in utter confusion and retreat.

Alex: Thanks! That formed the starting-off of the next post. :)