2008.05.04 13:00 - The other side of the world

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    The guardian at this meeting was Pema Pera and the comments are his.


    During the afternoon session, I could not come into Second Life, since I was flying from New York to Tokyo in Real Life. I remembered my first experience of going into a virtual world while in transit in the real world. That was a bit more than a year ago, when I was giving a number of talks in Videoranch, the first virtual world that I ever entered. I remember vividly arriving at Osaka aiport, and logging in to Videoranch. There I was, at the other side of the world, and yet entering Videoranch everything was the same as before, while I was still in the United States. It was a strange experence, at once comforting in being back in a familiar virtual surrounding and at the same time disconcerting, while realizing that all that traveling had not made the slightest difference for my avatar, with whom I had learn to identify.

    But by far the strongest feeling was one of happiness to be able to meet all my friends in Videoranch even while I myself was located almost ten thousands miles away from home. This was one of my formative experiences teaching me how immersive virtual worlds can be. After having spent a couple months in Videoranch, I would then focus on Qwaq for the rest of the year, switching largely to Second Life early in this year. But the sense of surprise and slight unsettlement of being able to enter the same virtual room no matter I would be on Earth remained, independent of the world I would frequent.

    While I was out of reach, Maxine was holding the fort, so to speak. Each day of the week, a different `guardian’ will stand guard as greeter and facilitator, to take care of the afternoon shifts, during which I will be asleep. The Sunday was assigned to Maxine. She would later tell me that nobody showed up, so she stayed in the tea house with her thoughts to herself. Interestingly, she had similar thoughts as I had, but from the perspective of one staying behind, rather than the one who is traveling. She told me later how she was simultaneously feeling a kind of loss caused by my having departed in RL and a sense of curiosity as to how the continuity would show itself in SL, knowing that I would show up soon again in the same tea house as if nothing had happened.

    All these reflections and moods are part of our ongoing exploration of what immersion in SL really means. It will be quite a while before we’ve sorted that out. For me at least, I keep being surprised at the vividness of yet again different experiences, even while having been in-world now frequently for a few months.

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