Tag Archive: art

If the Spacexcape Project had gone according to plan, we would be celebrating over 2 years of success today. Even though it was a very new installation, it was immediately featured on the projects page of the Second Life website as a ‘hotspot’. Phase One, that was open for just over three months, attracted over 500 people on peak days with 10,000 unique visitors in total.  The Artist in Resident programme was in full swing with a large gallery to showcase the work. On a monthly basis we were running art markets with various discussion group evenings and other events planned to attract people to the site. The potential was immense or so you would think. So what went wrong?

At a time when Linden Lab is being highlighted for its rejection of the non profit organisations, it opened up old wounds. The Spacexcape Project was not unique in its story. Projects like this need financing and for the first phase I did that personally, outlaying around $3,000 over the first year. $1k of that was on the purchase of a main island (sim) with two low usage islands – an investment of a sort. We rented the low usage land to the team at cost price on which they could build and experiment. The business plan seemed solid and would have allowed us growth. With the current phase operating well, we were in a strong position to prove the worth of such a project and raise sponsorship. Then came the crash.

The crash arrived in two different forms. The recession began to bite and the dollar against the pound weakened. Although we had outlaid $1k to buy the islands we still had a rental to pay to LL of around $300 per month! So the rental went from the equivalent of £200 to £280 almost overnight. In addition to that, LL made the extraordinary decision to hike up the tier on the low usage sims by 60%. It created a tsunami of anger. By the time LL realised what a huge mistake they were making, there had already been a mass exodus of residents. The community that had made Second Life what it was, was collapsing.

My official protests were never acknowledged by LL, apart from banning me from posting on the forums for being ‘hostile’! In an attempt to recuperate some of the money outlaid, a buyer for the main sim was found for less than half the price originally paid for it three months before. Damage limitation. The two low usage sims were surrendered and deleted and with it the initial outlay. LL process all sales of sims – only they forgot to deduct the $100 fee for the transaction before processing the sale and I refused to pay it back to them. The money had been swallowed up into overdraft.

The consequences of that were that they deleted the account – Spacexcape Bridges. With that action they deleted over $700 of inventory and nine months of art installation work.  The entire Spacexcape Project was gone with one flick of an administrator’s finger.

So whatever happens to Second Life, there can be no going back from that. Mark Linden (CEO) did a fast exit from LL in the summer and now Philip has now announced his departure along with many rumours. They claim that SL is on the up again and that they have growth. I strongly contest that. Unless someone deletes their account or has it deleted like Spacexcape Bridges, then you are one of their statistics. A statistic in an apocalyptic virtual space.

The Spacexcape Project will never exist in Second Life again. Is the Spacexcape project dead? We hope not. But at the moment we are living in a cardboard box under a bridge. Like so many that Linden Lab evicted.

What is it that you seek when visiting Second Life? or for any of the virtual worlds for that matter? I first found SL through an article in the Guardian newspaper that hailed it as the most exciting internet concept ever. Indeed, that is how I saw it for over a year until the events of late 2008 that drove so many, including myself, out for good.

I was somewhat shocked by a tweet today that purported to have the formula to ‘save’ Second Life from what seems to be an inevitable further demise from the recent decline in popularity. This blog made me so angry! If the only way to save Second Life is to improve the marketplace then the platform is already dead. It’s past saving.

Second Life’s demise has been a series of underhand actions by a money greedy corporation that have lost touch with the true potential of what they control. Linden Labs forgot that it was the vibrant, energetic and innovative people in its community that lead it to success in the first place. By excluding them in the way they have recently – by not supporting them and alienating them – they were driving away the catalyst for further growth. Second Life is unique in that it allows anyone to create. That’s a potent recipe.

Education and the Arts bring in crowds and we all know the formula for internet success – traffic, traffic, traffic. People who, in turn, would be the consumers that Linden Lab are so determined to target. A good property developer will watch the artist communities to see where they relocate. Generally, run down, cheap to live in areas, such as the East End of London 10 years ago. They follow the artists in and in a short time they can completely regenerate an area with new properties to create new prime locations. But in the process it too often makes that area unaffordable to the artist and educators community that created it in the first place. Savvy developers work with artists and schools to include them in their regeneration programme therefore looking for a more sustainable and long term solution to a never ending problem.

Linden Labs have not been savvy. They are driving out the very core of the community that visitors to Second Life are seeking. What will be left? Virtual shopping malls, virtual prostitutes and virtual boredom. Sounds too much like real life for me.

Second Life has no end of possibilities. The creative growth of it was not the work of Linden Labs. All they did was provide a platform. No, the creative instincts come from many different disciplines all brought together in a space that so inconceivable that all most can do is create another world so similar to the real life world that many confused the two. However, the work of the artists and educators was to invite the users of Second Life to think beyond a parallel life to ‘Another Life’. But how can they do that when faced with such corporate opposition? There has to be a better way to save this failing model than improving the marketplace tools.