Salon de Terra Nova

A couple of weeks ago I posted an entry (reLink) regarding Clay Shirky’s rant about the fuzzy numbers being thrown about by both the mainstream media and Linden Lab. While I wasn’t clear about it then, my feeling about his rant was – or should have been – evident in my focus on his example for why something like the “metaverse” will always be the great idea that never materializes (pun intended). It was good to have the hype called out at that level, but the manner and tone of the piece seemed all wrong to me.

There’s a curious rift between people like Shirky (including many of the Terra Nova regulars) and the critical but apparently more objective people like myself (along with other equally critical voices like Tony Walsh, Mark Wallace, and Peter Ludlow). Curious because this can’t be about those fuzzy numbers, since the people now going toe-to-toe with Shirky on the Terra Nova forum (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3) are the same people who, like me, have been complaining for months about those same numbers. There’s something else going on.

I may not fully understand what it is that’s driving someone like Shirky to be so passionate in this matter that he goes off and makes the very mistake he accuses the media of making (i.e. not bothering to do his own research and thus sticking his own foot in his mouth), but I do get the impression that the conversations that should be happening are being trampled on by whatever biases are held by these people. It almost seems as if they don’t want a virtual world/metaverse; they want games or maybe, in Shirky’s case, they want vindication of some sort. Considering that many of them are involved in development, this does make some sense to me, because what Second Life also represents is giving up Control… which I suspect more than a few of them don’t care to relinquish. Personally, I’m happy to side with the Salon des Refusés.

3 thoughts on “Salon de Terra Nova

  1. Great post, Csven.

    It reminds me of a Susan Wu post lately that was attacking SecondLife, and then lo and behold, Susan Wu is a part of the VC company backing Raph Koster’s latest entry into virtual worlds…

    I also find a lot of people who are busy doing other things like to poo poo Second Life simply because they are missing out.

    Regardless, Virtual Worlds and Second Life will survive or die based on their own merits, and not the hot air of others.

  2. Thanks. And I should mention that I would have included Prokofy in that list above, but she’s arguably not as objective as the rest of us. However, much of what she’s pointed out in her comments on TN are, imo, spot on (though I wish she wouldn’t get too far into the Russia analogies).

    There is a “good ol’ boy” network that doesn’t sit well with her, but also not with me and, I suspect, many others. Not that I don’t think they’re good people, but the constant refrain of “well, this is like (insert something from 10 years ago)” is getting really old. Hell, I was playing computer games on a Prime system back in ’81. Should I dredge my memory and start doing the same thing? Say stuff like “yeah, this isn’t really any different than playing on games on the mainframe in the computer lab back in ’81”? Why bother? The truth is there hasn’t really been anything like Second Life before and there isn’t anything like it now. Period. End of story. Comparisons of the nature they’re trying to make are imo largely irrelevant (and Andy Haven’s attempts, bless him for trying, to show that to them are getting some odd responses afaic).

    I don’t know if they feel they’re missing out or not, but I do get the impression that they don’t care for it. That they really want it to fail. And I have no idea why they feel that way other than what I suggested above.

  3. Shirky’s tone for this entire debate has been entirely outsize the scale of the problem.

    For one, he is right that reporters have failed to do their due dilligence reporting on SL. But this isn’t just a phenomenon related to SL or tech reporting. It’s the new world of “journamalism”, where press releases are converted into news copy with minimal fact checking.

    It’s caused irritation to many of us who follow political/national security reporting. Judith Miller’s (New York Times) reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is a case in point. John Solomon, formerly of AP, is renowned for his stenography, taking opposition research dug up by one political party, doing minimal fact checking, and publishing. If Shirky had saved up and dished out a modicum of outrage for these individuals, in fields of journalism where people *actually die* as a consequence of bad reporting, I’d be more impressed with his windmill tilting here. Given that his arguments aren’t part of a broader critique of journamalism, it makes it seem more likely that he is pursuing some sort of personal agenda here.

    LL certainly isn’t without blame here, but they are playing the corporate spin game everyone plays. The real numbers they have on their population are made freely available on the web site, already padded into an excel document for everyone to see with and play with.

    As for Terranova, I’d chalk their shameful joy up to simple jealousy. They began the Terranova blog focusing on games, and everyone there had their favorite game. SL does things that none of their games can, and is an *obviously more forward thinking product*. I remember being in an analagous situation in the late eighties. I was in late high school and I listened to heavy meta almost exclusively. This was the era of the rise of hip/hop, sampling and industrial/electronic music. I’d mock any genre, specifically rap, that incorporated sampling and digital effects, as lacking real instrumentation and real talent. But what I was really mocking was an insurgent rival to my favorite style of music.

    Fortunately for me Anthrax began recording duets with Public Enemy and I got to hear the work of sampling geniuses like The Bomb Squad. I was also lucky in that Nine Inch Nails broke open the industrial music scene at this point and made it accessible to metalheads like me. As I graduated high school I realized what utter shite I’d been listening to since 9th grade and that I’d wasted countless hours mocking a world I never tried to understand.

    That’s all Terra Nova is, a bunch of jealous high schoolers.

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