For those of you that don't know what that is, some really late announcements have gone out for a gathering in California next month that purports to be a gathering of SL community. These annual conferences have been happening since 2005, all of them have been in the United States and most in California. This year's website frankly calls it the "Official United States Gathering" but the name Second Life Community Conference implies a greater, global, reach.
In 2006 when I first joined SL there seemed to be a spirit of making events in the SL of equal or greater focus but in recent years the F2F gathering has stolen focus. Inworld events have been more about streaming in content happening in the RL context. In an international virtual world community I find this counter-intuitive. Other virtual world events manage to reflect inclusivity more, eg: VWBPE (Virtual Worlds:Best Practices in Education) but most serve only a sectoral interest.
After 5 years of waiting for the community conference to grow up and embrace the international community that SL really is , I've become a bit intemperate and frustrated I guess. Why do I feel that the focus of a virtual world community conference should be in... virtual reality? (bear with me, I know it seems like a no-brainer).
- we are an international community,
- we tout the value of virtual spaces,
- there is a global recession,
- this year Linden Lab cancelled discounted tier for educators and non-profits leaving those valued participants short of cash
- Second Life was founded on a somewhat Utopian ideal about bringing people together internationally in an affordable and inclusive way
- we tout the environmental superiority of meeting in virtual spaces
All these (and many more reasons that I have likely missed) seem to me to indicate that the main annual meeting of the SL community should be virtual with regional livespace events ocuring as people choose and can afford to attend, augmenting and feeding into the international virtual gathering. I have no doubt that livespace meetings are wonderful bonding experiences for those that live near the event or who are privileged enough to be able to afford air-travel in these times. That is not the majority of Second Life residents.
It's too late to change things this year but each year it has been the same story of late news to the community and all the key decisions made. Yes there will be inworld events but organizers admit they will not be the focus. "Jump in and help", we are told.
I felt two ways about the suggestion from an organizer that in order to be entitled to have a voice in the future direction of SLCC, I become a worker bee at an event whose focus I feel is wrong-headed. Volunteerism is about choice. What are my choices or the choices of people who cannot be a part of the live gathering?
Are there just two unpalatable choices here: support SLCC or walk away & shut up?
Is there a third choice? Yes, let's talk about putting our efforts into another vision. How about throwing our own grassroots party in SL instead of gluing ourselves to media screens to watch the cool (rich) kids talk to each other. We can show our displeasure by saying "we just aren't interested in what you are saying to each other at an event you have effectively shut us out of". But even better we can develop a better vision of a community gathering based on the grass-roots organizing that SL is best for. I have been speaking to some of my colleagues involved with groups who are particularly shut out due to distance and economics, such as the disabled and First Nations people.
Who else is out there that might like to join this conversation?