Community in Distributed Spaces

I have lost track of the number of times over the last few weeks that I have been somewhere in the OpenSim grid and heard someone say “This is like Second Life in the early days – I love it.”  This resonates for me – and I have been thinking about why.

I think partly its about adventuring into uncharted territory;  in terms of new areas and ideas to explore, new people to meet and friendships to be forged, new possibilities to be investigated.  Almost every conversation I have had in the metaverse recently has been about exchanging tips, ideas, names of people to look out for and say “Hi” to, places to see, hashtags and  blogs to follow, websites to check out.  My bookmarks are in almost as much disarray as my inventory.

The *Aqualand* region on hypergrid-enabled Fun Grid. (Image courtesy John Lester, via Flickr.)

But it is also about the sense of coming together to build new communities – in much the same way as pioneers have always done.  Taking three hypergrid jumps to Aqualand (thank you Pathfinder for founding the Hypergrid Adventurer’s Club!) is analogous to rafting for three days down the river to visit your neighbour at the other end of the valley.  When you finally arrive to find others there, you share the sense of achievement, help out in projects that may need doing and delight in the giving and receiving of gifts of all kinds: social, intellectual and practical.

Hypergrid travellers arrive on a foreign grid. (Image courtesy John Lester, via Flickr.)

Last night several of us chatting in a serendipitous gathering on Scooter, were discussing the fun of being a newbie again. But as someone pointed out, we are newbies with skills, we know how things can work, we are familar with the needs of interacting in a virtual world.  (I love how many of us have left on our typing animation – remembering how much easier it is to see when people are trying to finish a comment – and how uncool that would seem in our virtual alma mater!).  Many of us are  oldbies in new skins (and hair and clothes…..). We have expectations of our new world, we want to contribute to our new communities, to help to shape them and share them.  We want to create a community in this distributed space that transcends the constraints of real life time, geography and ability.

We want to be contributors not consumers.

clare.atkins@hypergridbusiness.com'

Clare Atkins

Dr Clare Atkins ("Arwenna Stardust" in Second Life) is Research Leader and a Senior Lecturer in IT at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, located in in New Zealand's South Island. Currently responsible for the development of NMIT’s presence in Second Life with the islands of Koru and Kowhai, Clare has a strong conviction that the use of multi-user virtual environments will have lasting changes on tertiary education. She has been a Second Life resident since November 2006 and is the SLENZ Project Leader at Second Life Education New Zealand.

  • "We want to be contributors not consumers." That is totally how I feel. Great article!