7 responses to “Reimagining the World”

  1. John,

    Many thanks for using one of my images as the header for this piece; I’m truly flattered. I just regret I hadn’t forcused more on the subject on imagination itself, given the words you’ve selected here do get the grey matter churning! A delight to read.

  2. Hi John, nice to meet you as well.

    Second Life can be difficult to understand. Essentially it is a 3D virtual environment you access through the use of an avatar you create and dedicated software which is a cross between a sort-of 3D web browser and a computer game. Using the software, called the viewer, you can travel around Second Life with your avatar (itself quite a complex concept to grasp, as allows you to be almost anything you want to be, and can reveal as much or as little about the “real you” as you like). You can also use the viewer to converse with others in text and/or voice, listen and watch media inside Second Life, and join in a huge an utterly varied range of activities.

    All of the environments in Second Life are pretty much built by the users. So in the case of Guana Cay, the environment has been put together by ARNICAR India (that’s the name of the avatar) using items and objects created by other users, in order to present that particular environment. Other places within Second Life might be similar, or might be entirely urban or may represent any given period in history or present a more futuristic / science-fiction environment – it’s all down to what those developing their “virtual land” want to do and how they want to use it. Even the land can be altered to suit the individuals purpose: it can be sunk under the water to create islands as with Guana Cay, or hills can be raised up, or rivers cut through the land, and so on.

    In this regard, a large aspect of Second Life is the creation and selling / exchange of content between users, giving Second Life it own economy. So all the trees, the floating house, the duck, the logs, etc., seen in the image at the top of the article have all been created by people using Second Life and offered for sale to others. The concept of Second Life’s economy is iteself huge and complex, so I’ll shy away from it at this point rather than confuse you further!

    A former tagline for Second Life was “Your world, your imagination” – because as a user, and depending on the depth of your pocket, you really can imagine and create – almost anything within it (and have the potential to make money from the things you create). Although it is worth keeping in mind that getting your head around everything takes time, as the world is so comprehensive and varied and can be quite technical in places, so there’s also a lot to learn.

    Of course, there are downside to the platform – but then, that’s true of the Internet as a whole. For my part, I find the entire concept on such an immersive virtual environment and the technology behind it fascinating, and I love exploring all of the places people have created within it.

    In terms of my images (and any other images you see of Second Life, you’re seeing things pretty much as they appear “in-world” in Second Life as you explore it with your avatar. The images are captured using the viewer software I mentioned above, which includes a “camera” through which the images are captured. Just like a real camera. Just like a real camera, the software includes abilities to alter things like the depth of field / focal length, field of view, etc.

    This camera both automatically follows your avatar around as you walk / run / fly and explore, presenting you with pretty much and “over-the-shoulder view of the world, and it can be moved independently of the avatar, allowing you to create and frame shots and then save them to your computer – including taking snaps of yourself, if you wish.

    The viewer also allows you to maniplate things like the time of day, the look of the sky and the water, even add mist or fog to a place, alter the amount of cloud, and so on, and may include in-built tools for vignetting images or setting tone mapping, etc., – so it’s possible to produce images which are entirely unique and which don’t need a lot of external post-processing via PhotoShop or anything.

    The images I produce are essentially “as seen in Second Life”, using the capabilities in the viewer itself to adjust the time of day or change the look of the sky – amount of cloud cover, colour of the clouds and their density, etc. I do also do a small amount of post-processing to give the images their rounded corners and also (again, depending on the image) to enhance the look of some of the textures – so the bark of any trees is a little enhanced, for example.

    Hope this answers some of your questions – Second Life is such a complex subject it’s hard to give a concise overview, so apologies for the length of my reply :).

    I’m so glad you like the images, and am agaiin flattered; I’m merely a passing amateur within Second Life, and there is a lot of exceptional work done by others, up to and including professional photographers and artists (art is a another huge element with Second Life) – most of whom I tend to lot to as I continue to try to develop my own style and approach to (and understanding of the nuances of) photography.

  3. Thank you for the praise again :).

    Yes, SL does eat some computer systems, although there has been a lot of work put into it over the last couple of years to dramatically improve performance which should benefit even moderately old systems (5 or so years).

    If you’ve not been back since the early days, I think you’ll be pretty amazed at the changes: “windlight” options for creating more realistic sky / clouds, etc; the arrival of “mesh” modelling, allowing items to be created outside of the platform using dedicated modelling tools rather than the in-world building tools, then imported; most recently the arrival of “materials” (normal and specular maps) to create more realistic surface textures. It’s all quite remarkable.

    And you’re right with the photography; it can vary from lens to lens; and there are some truly amazing people out their travelling SL and capturing it. I’m trying to learn from them as I go :)

    When it comes to blogging & the travelogues – I cheat :). I try to line-up 2 or 3 places at a time, log-in and visit each, snapping away using a number of personal lighting presets I have & taking notes. I can then stack-up 6-8 places fairly rapidly, then sit down, write about them from my notes & re-visit if needs be, select the images I want to use, clean them up (where necessary) and post. In this respect, I’m actually logged-in to SL a lot less in terms of overall time than I was a few years ago, when it was very easy to spend 5-6 hours an evening in-world. :)

  4. There are some user-run mentor groups that help new users get to grips with Second Life, but the current official “orientation” starting-points are not exactly excellent, it has to be said.

    There’s also an online Destination Guide which is tied-in to the viewer and which can be used to help in finding your way around (although it can still be a little bewildering to get started).

    If you can remember your avatar’s name and the password you used, you might be lucky and the account may have survived. If not, sign-up is now free (has been since 2006, and if you used a free account to start with, it’s very likely it is still sitting on a Linden Lab server).

    Should you feel like dipping toes into the water again, let me know; I’ll see what I can do to help.

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