Bernhard Drax is a machinima filmmaker who has been documenting the art, education, and creative expression in Second Life for that past seven years. He’s got a web series called World Makers that connects virtual world avatars with the people behind them. He’s better know in Second Life as Draxtor Despres, and has quite a rich and well-produced repository of documentary footage from Second Life that is well-worth looking into.
There’s a lot of misconceptions and general negative media bias aimed towards Second Life since there was a lot of media hype and grand expectations of what Second Life would be able to provide. Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg told me that Second Life reached a PR peak in 2006-2008, and Drax sees that there’s still a lot of screenshots and misconceptions about the world’s biggest virtual world environment since that time.
Drax has taken it upon himself to try to counter this negative media narrative by documenting the creativity that inspires him from Second Life, as well as running a weekly Metaverse podcast called “the drax files radio hour [with Jo Yardly]“
He provides a number of insights into for people express their identity in Second Life and has a lot of concerns for what a Facebook metaverse would look like in terms of data mining or limiting people’s expressions of identity. Facebook has a lot of strict rules about connecting your online identity with your actual identity and if these practices carry over into virtual worlds, then Drax is afraid of unnecessary limitations on people’s agency over their identity and how they creatively express themselves through their avatar.
Finally, he talks about how he sees Linden Lab as being perfectly positioned to be a leader within the VR space since they have so much experience in running a virtual world, dealing with people, and maintaining a stable economy. This interview was conducted at SVVRCon before it was revealed that Linden Lab announced that they are indeed rebuilding Second Life from the ground up.
Reddit discussion here.
- 0:00 – Documents art and education in Second Life in his World Makers machinima documentary series. Lots of misconceptions about Second Life. Second Life resident POV is that people have been waiting for VR. When you have a connection to culture and community, then you don’t need a VR HMD to feel immersed. Who are you in VR? You have power of identity and your own life. If you’re good at business, then you can make a living at it.
- 2:03 – What is drawing you into the Second Life community? Friend wanted to start a virtual band in Second Life, and happened to read Snow Crash at the same time. Did first story about group of retired public servants replicating their lives in a virtual world. World Makers is a newer series to connect the people behind the avatar with what they’re doing in Second Life. Second Life has the democratization of tools, and the VR metaverse of the future needs to have that component. Has concerns about a Facebook dominated metaverse like data mining and limited expression of your identity. Want to see an open and creative metaverse
- 4:20 – What does Second Life have to teach the VR community about identity? Person plays a 10-year old version of herself. Doing child play and teasing adults as a form of role playing. She can freely create her own avatar, which is a composite of her former self. Others in virtual world may see more richness than how they categorize us in real life. Has trouble with communicating in real life due to possible autism. Can have more confidence expressing herself in Second Life. If Facebook mandates forces us to look like we really look like and bans us, then that’d be a very limited range of expression. You need agency over identity in an open metaverse.
- 6:52 – Having an anonymous identity in Second Life. Others have alts to test an experience, their business, or a game quest. Don’t have a connection to alt avatars, it’s like talking through a puppet. Have alts for filming. Stage and re-enact a scene for his series. Haven’t explored different genders. Have a character called Fluffy, and sometimes go in as Fluffy. Has a certain amount of celebrity fame in Second Life because people see him come online. Sometimes wish that he could be anonymous in Second Life, and can empathize with celebrities. Feels obsessively connected to his audience, and likes to say good bye to everyone.
- 10:11 – How do you see VR crossing over with Second Life. Feels that Linden Lab is perfectly positioned for a VR resurgence because they have knowledge of running a huge world running on 40k servers and millions of dollars in transactions per day. They are able to deal with a diverse population. Linden Lab has a lot of expertise in running a virtual world. It is built on old code, and has lag. Who know’s what they’re making (this was before it was announced that Second Life is building a second virtual world from scratch). Wants to help counter balance the media narrative. VR might be a media backlash similar to what happened to Second Life in 2007.
Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio