Sunday, 21 September 2014

061: Walking around Governor Linden's Mansion

Continuing my introduction to the SL Destination Guide by randomly selecting interesting-looking destinations has been interesting. Yesterday, I picked something called "Governor Linden's Mansion" and was pleasantly surprised.
What you won't grasp if you just look at the pictures here is that this is ... well, I suppose I'd have to call it a historic build. This construction was done in 2003, as I
understand it -- during the beta testing of Second Life. So it may well be the oldest remaining build in Second Life.
So, yes, that's why it looks so primitive; primitive in that it's not very sophisticated, and primitive in that it's made out of primitives, which you probably know better as "prims". This is not a very pretty build, but it's certainly instructive in one respect; it lets you
know how far and how fast both the residents and Linden Labs (and the third-party folks who make excellent viewers like Firestorm) have come.
Yes, folks, this is what it used to be like in the old days. I must confess I never saw the old days this long ago, my first Second Life account was a few years after this house was built. But I do remember buildings like this, where it
looked like one tiny piece of furniture had been abandoned in the middle of a large metropolitan airport building. Look at that swimming pool in the first picture. That's not something where the builder went and got a freebie from Marketplace, someone actually built that and decided that it needed a drain and a diving board and scalloped stairs and that precise shade of aqua. They weren't
exceptionally familiar with the way a diving board works and that too is interesting; this is like digital folk art, in a way. Naive art, like Grandma Moses. Although, to do people proper credit, it wasn't because of a lack of artistic skill or inspiration or reference materials; the tools just weren't there to do the job properly. Second Life is something that everyone built together and figured out
how to make things work. At this point in time, it seems likely that no one had yet figured out that you could apply a texture to a flat prim like a wall. When you walk into the rooms, you keep waiting for the textures to rez, and then you realize -- that flat putty colour is what has been designed to be there. There's also a significant emphasis on pieces of furniture and landscaping that are built
out of squares and rectangles. Bookcases and kitchen cupboards were apparently the first type of furniture built. There's also an office with a computer on the desk that made me laugh aloud, and you know, I HAD one of those computers in 2003. It was just a surprise to see that it had been preserved in time. If it looks this funny 12 years in, imagine what it's going to be like in 50 years? This will be
in the digital equivalent of the Smithsonian. "Mom, is that what a computer used to look like?" says the future child, as he takes a movie of it with his wristwatch.
I wanted to point out particularly the two monuments, photographed at the top of this page. One is from the Lindens to the beta testers and the other is from the beta testers to the Lindens. You know, take a minute and think about that. When was the last time you saw the Lindens and Residents putting up monuments to each others' good behaviour and helpfulness? It made me stop and think for a minute. Yes, we can put textures on walls, but we've lost a certain spirit of cooperation over time, which is sad to contemplate.
There is more to see here; I should mention there is a kind of museum in the basement that contains a time capsule, a photographic exhibit, and some helpful materials about public information sessions. I actually did take photographs of these things, and they were up to my usual standards of off-kilter polaroids, but my computer decided to squirrel them away in some as-yet-unknown location. But honestly, I do recommend you give this build a few minutes of your time; the SLURL is here.
I started out by thinking that this funky old build would amuse me for a few minutes and I'd get to take some silly photographs and make you all chuckle at the good old days. After I'd spent a few minutes there wandering around, it made me think about the work that people put in to beta test Second Life, and what it must have been like as virtuality pioneers, where if you wanted to build a house you had to make it out of prims yourself and spend hours making sure everything lined up and was the right colour instead of just going and buying it on Marketplace or picking it up as a group freebie or from a gacha machine. Are we too spoiled? No, I think we all have to work hard in different ways keeping up with the capacities of Second Life. We cope with technical issues that would have been incomprehensible to the beta-testers. It's just that, every once in a while, it's nice to contemplate that we should be grateful for "the tools to create this amazing world". This historic exhibit may help you do that.

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