Why Second Life when so much is unknown and unrealized in first life?  That, however, is the easy question.  A more complicated question is: What happens to our communication – our words - in these socially constructed virtual worlds? 

As a scenic designer, my company, Pencilogic, was one of the very first to employ many visualization technologies (CAD, 3D modeling, animated fly-throughs) for communicating television studio design to clients and subcontractors.  But then, the inclusion of computers into the design process is a fairly recent phenomenon.  Indeed, I received my MFA in scenery and costume design in 1983, one year before the Macintosh was introduced. 

Thus today, we find that the internet (particularly virtual reality) is simply a form of real estate… new real estate.  Hence the “land rush” by Google for YouYube, Murdock for MySpace, MicroSoft for Facebook and Yahoo.  Indeed, virtual land is cheap - and so is talk within this illogically built environment. 

Today, we find much technological terminology infusing everyday speech.  What we sometimes forget in this rush, however, is that what cannot be expressed well through speech about virtual worlds far outweighs in importance what can be expressed poorly through technological visual performance.

What is gained?  What is lost?  


Of course, many will say that, in their infancy, virtual sites like Second Life cannot be expected to proffer any sense of reality.  In fact, why should they?  They are an escape from, or extensions beyond this world.  Possibly.  But what always remains is our ‘language” -- the inadequacy of language -- or, more exactly, the inadequacy of these new worlds to self-express much beyond their own two dimensional perspectives without the aid of our first life language.  For example, regardless of how hard one may try, it is impossible to technologically model the quote (below) in Second Life -- because it is poetry:

“The convulsed orange inch of moon

perching on this sliver minute of evening.”

Should different worlds employ similar languages?  Could words do it, even if we want them to?  Now... consider this notion: 

                    Maybe, every oral tradition requires the

                    continual presence of the translator.

We are. of course, the translators of our own times.  We need new languages to explain our new worlds, or we risk losing our grasp of the languages from this life, and thus, lose this life altogether.

         ...and if you need another example of failure... try this:

Interpreting Second Life   2008  (5:15)

“Without weight and measure, there is no ‘nature’ anymore, or at least no idea of nature.  Without a distant horizon, there is no longer any possibility of glimpsing reality; we drop into the time of a fall akin to that of the fallen angel…” 

Paul Virilio  (Open Sky, 1997:6)