Giulio Prisco Won’t Avoid The Immersion vs. Augmentation Issues In New Virtual Worlds

I was reading the Second Life Forums when I saw a post from Mecha Innis entitled Giulio Prisco of the IEET Declares Second Life Dead. “Here we go again” I thought and went to read the article itself: Snow Crash(ed) in Second Life (end 2012).

The article isn’t as ignorant as some articles on the death of Second Life, it’s clear that Giulio was a big fan and there are areas where I’m in agreement with him. However there are also areas where it seems clear that Giulio isn’t happy because people didn’t want Second Life to be as he wanted it to be, and that’s something I always find disappointing because the beauty of Second Life is that it can be what you want it to be.

The article is interesting because it brings up the old debate of Immersion vs Augmentation and has links to some interesting old articles:

Many early users of SL were very jealous and protective of the early SL culture, strongly centered on pseudonymity and non-disclosure of real life information, and vocally resisted all technical innovations that could facilitate the intrusion of reality into their “magic circle” (see for example the very heated debates that followed the introduction of voice in SL in 2007). Most of them were “immersionists,” mainly interested in SL as “another world” where they could live “another life” entirely separated from their “first life” (FL) and strongly resisted the “invasion” of “augmentationists” interested in SL as a communication tool for telepresence applications related to FL. I think the tension between these two communities played a significant role in the demise of SL. Henrik Bennetsen’s essay on the subject is not available anymore at its original URL but a backup is still on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

The thing I find odd about Giulio’s comment here is that in the first linked article, of which he is the author, he wrote: “I support that idea that everyone should be free to live her Second Life, AND her Real Life, as she wants to live it. So, though I use voice in SL routinely, I do not have anything against immersionists refusing to use it and support their freedom of choice. At the same time, of course I protect _my_ freedom of choice and resist immersionists trying to tell _me_ how I should live _my_ SL (or RL). The point is, I _am_ into making my SL a reflection of my RL – and want the freedom to use all options that permit doing so.

That’s pretty much my view on the matter, if people want to use Second Life to promote their first life, then let them. Indeed you can list your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn accounts on your profile, there are also sections for real life pictures as well as real life biographies and on top of this you can write what you like (within the TOS) in your Second Life profile. You can use your profile feed to promote your real life activities, if that’s what you want to do. The resistance has always largely been based around features being forced upon people, not about people having the choice. There will always be some who simply don’t like a feature and yes voice was debated, in many cases people feared they would be excluded, voice does exclude some but by its very nature, it can also include people who wouldn’t experience Second Life without it, so voice has been a decent addition.

The Immersion vs Augmentation issues have been here for some years, Robin Linden at her office hour discussed the issue of people being able to use their real names, it’s one of the reasons cited for display names appearing. Second Life has moved to accommodate augmentation by adding features to profiles, immersionists may not be happy about that, but the features are here.

Near the end of the article, Giulio suggests that the likes of Cloud Party may be easier to use and need less powerful computers, he could be right but they will almost certainly run into the Immersion vs Augmentation debates, indeed Cloud Party already has ran into that debate with people being critical of their Facebook only policy for full accounts, that issue has now gone away of course and people can sign up for Cloud Party with an email address, rather than a Facebook account. Cloud Party had already made changes so that people were also allowed to pretty much hide their Facebook profile and pictures from other users prior to the addition of allowing email signups, so the future looks like it will still continue the Immersion vs Augmentation debates, even with new virtual worlds.

The thing to also note is that more and more workplaces are implementing social networking policies, meaning that immersion should most definitely be protected, people are going to want immersion in many cases. However augmentation most definitely has its place too.

Giulio has some other issues with Second Life, such as people not attending his conference. I’m not sure where he advertised it or what it was for. He is also critical of the interface and the requirements computer wise, these are old issues that are not going to go away anytime soon, unfortunately.

Personally I feel there are bigger threats to the future of Second Life, technological advances should make it easier to connect to Second Life, it’s the social issues and costs to end users that are more likely to see the demise of Second Life, but as things stand income for Linden Lab is still very healthy and the death of Second Life is a fair way off yet.

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