Deserted Lancaster University where the autoreturn is turned off unwittingly becomes a sales outlet for girls competing in the SL market and looking for any opportunity to leave out their vendors in the hopes someone will click and buy.
I've been meaning to write this post since SLCC. There were many positive things I had to say about this year's very well-managed and thought-provoking session, and some negative things, but I have to say, the educators turned out to be *worse than I knew*.
A more selfish, pig-headed, narrow-minded and sectarian bunch I have not seen in a long time, and it really woke me up to a much larger problem we face, which is the role of these kinds of people in our schools, influencing our kids. It truly was appalling, and the only thing I can do about a situation like this is yelp about it on my blog, and chip away at it where I find these attitudes in RL and SL -- but I realize there are very powerful forces that keep things this way, and there is little an individual like me can do.
An enduring memory of SL was the educators, and of course, the educational consultants in their midst, sitting in a little clique claque in the ballroom where Life 2.0 was shown. Here's a movie, as I mentioned, talking about how a black female entrepreneur from Detroit from a poor setting is empowered and makes a living. Here's a movie about a man overcoming abuse as a childhood, coming to terms with his past. Here's a woman learning a hard lesson about fake men on the Internet. But none of it, even the most politically correct theme in the book, is good enough for these educators. None of it is politically correct *in the way they need it to be*. None of it affirms...um...their projects...or something. None of it is good enough, and they not only sneer, they bellow, they cry, they object in outrage. I stare in amazement at these people, these insular assholes -- because there is no other way to describe people who could band together in this way and shut themselves out to the benefits, the *public interest* benefits of virtuality for people who simply aren't in their class or their culture. They didn't get their way. It didn't celebrate their artificially maintained opensource shtick. And they not only couldn't be generous of it, they couldn't be tolerant. They couldn't *accept* that this reality of SL portrayed in this SL film was *true at least for some people, and maybe a lot more people than themselevs*. That defiance -- that *violence* to reality -- is of course what we loathe in any totalitarian cult. And here it is in our midst. And here, as in RL, we can do little to mitigate it when it gets in power.
So...I didn't cry a single tear for the Teen Grid demise as I explained (and just as wiser heads claimed during the emotional outbursts of these shapers of our future society during SLCC, the Lindens wound up using a closed grid solution to allow 13-15 stay involved in SL, and all the teeth-gnashing was for naught).
And I don't shed a single tear for the demise of the educational discount in SL, which is 50 percent off sims and reduced tier. Predictably, the usual suspects are howling and pitching Open Sim as the alternative.
Why don't I cry if an educational sim closes in SL because it "has no money"? Because...I don't buy the story of crying poverty completely, but more to the point, because I've seldom ever seen the "public interest" benefit that we're supposed to get by the concept of "tax exemption" on which this notion is roughly based. Non-profits remain viable in RL if people keep giving to them and ensuring they keep their tax-exemption status. But if they have no demonstrable purpose or value or good, they don't get support. That's the marketplace of ideas in an open society. Harsh, but there it is. And with the demise of the subsidized educational sector of SL, we're seeing something pretty stark: that even when subsidized and boosted enormously by the platform provider, the faddish educational theories that these educators represent in SL are failures. They don't get significant support, they don't attract and enthuse students, and they don't compel the public to sustain them.
Under the theory of the creation of tax-exempt organizations, and making tax-deductible donations, society agrees not to collect the monies it would ordinarily take from an entity for the public purse for things like roads or hospitals, but instead allows the voluntary association to define its own good within the broad definition of the law, and contribute to the public interest. By this same token, society should have a say in judging whether these entities in fact do contribute to the public interest, but of course, that's the very crux of the debate -- what is the public interest?
The educators are the losers of SL in a triple-entendre -- they lost the game of SL, and got "screwed" in theory by losing their privileged place in the councils of the devs and the political battle over features and policies; they are losers just because they are reprehensible (not all of them, and there are exceptions, but by and large, they behave as a clan with the same belief system that undermines economy and commerce for other people for their own ill-conceived and selfish ideological interests) and they are losers to be pitied for the loss of their educational discounts and other perks the Lindens used to provide that have left some of them high and dry.
Did you know that for a time a few years ago, *any* educator who contacted the Lindens could automatically get a FREE 4096 m2?! I found this out quite by accident when the mother of my son's friend, who is a professor at a local college, casually mentioned it to me. She also bitched that she couldn't seem to get Pathfinder's attention and had been waiting in the queue to him for some time, and was wondering when she'd get settled. You may have noticed how Pathfinder seemed to grab a lot of prime real estate when abandoned around the older parts of the grid, and you may have even noticed how for some funny reasons some universities seem to appear on odd lots nestled in among a lot of humper bunkers and empty malls. That's why. The program never seemed to have many takers, but then, it was never a formal, advertised offer (probably for fear it would be overwhelmed).
What else don't we know about the perks educators got? I have no idea.
The treatment that educators (and by extention some non-profits with the formal tax-free IRS legal status of 501-c-3 in the U.S. for charitable organizations) was pretty grand. Not just a small reduction, but 50 percent off the price of sims. In real life, when I run a non-profit, I can go to a stationery store or a xerox copy shop with a copy of my 501-c-3 letter from the IRS and show it, and not have tax charged on a sale -- but I wouldn't be entitled to that sort of deep discount.
THE IDEOLOGY OF POVERTY
In SL, there is a mythology around education and nonprofits as there is in real life -- the "halo effect," where they are all believed to do good, they are all believed to be a benefit to society, but more pointedly, as non-commercial entities, they are all believed to almost objects of pity, like war victims, who need a handout because they are poor and destitute. That mythology crops up around them because they are on fixed incomes -- although that concept is wearing thin in our modern life as well when we see what the typical educational institution is actually like.
Universities and colleges aren't poor. That is, they may struggle and have to close like any entity does in the recession. But these are institutions that have been able to substantially increase the price of their product -- an educational degree -- by extraordinary amounts in the last decades, to the point where it's not uncommon for a student to be paying tuition of $40,000 a year, the entire one-year salary of a modest working class person. That tuitition is often not paid by the parents in cash, but patched together out of a series of loans and grants and stipends that put the child into debt for many years to come, and on which he pays a low but still substantial interest.
Universities have huge funds to invest to keep their endowments or assets and function as businesses in making decisions where to invest and what to charge and what to buy or sell. They own land and buildings and construct new facilities and spend enormous amounts particular on sports and coaches and facilities and research, sometimes attracting government and the pharmaceutical industries and the military to line their coffers. Universities chose some fields and not others, based on their alumni gifts and foundation grants and state aid, and perhaps the basketball team gets more than the virtual world team, but it isn't about being "poor".
I spent the evening talking to an old friend who does a lot of consulting for foundations. And she made the very astute comment that during the boom years of the 1990s, foundations -- which fund non-profits and university research -- were doing very, very well and adding considerably to their assets or endowments and yet not spending at the same rate and not losing (they aren't businesses, exactly). They headed into the recession, unlike so many of us, with lots more ability to lose and not be as hurt. Sure, there are those that were Madoffed; but there were those that helped those Madoffed recover because they had considerable assets. In fact, a fashionable theory springing up among the more "progressive" funders of lefty causes is that they should "spend down," and not struggle to keep their wealth unto the next generation, given the severe social ills that they might remedy in our time if they spent more. And they are even being criticized for being "too selfish" and not spending more in the boom years, and are urged to do more now. Please explain to me why these people can't spend...$5000 a year. Which is all it would cost to buy one $1,000 island, spend about $500 putting some builds on it and maybe hiring a developer for a day, and the rest in tier. Please explain to me how $5000 can't be a rounding error in these mega-million budgets of the modern university.
Perhaps someone can explain to me why college tuitions went from $4000 to $40,000 in my lifetime, but it had to do with increases of every other cost -- technology (which always pretends it saves you money but in fact balloons you budget outrageously), energy, and salaries and benefits. The demand for a college education began to grow intensively as it began to be seen as a ticket to a wealthier life, and while not exactly scarce, the college education provider began to know its own worth a charge a fortune. Outside the "good" schools and the traditional sorts of colleges with ivy-covered walls and traditional 4-year degrees, there has been a huge explosion in trade and special subject schools where for much lower fees people can get certificates in everything from hotel management to network administration.
So, long story, education in this country, funded by the private sector, the government, and the family (who often spend their entire working lives setting aside at least the first $30,000 required) is a HUGE business. To perceive it as "poor" and "needy" and "deserving a handout" is a peculiar concept that simply isn't sustainable. The typical college already gets $40,000 from many families; or at least $6000 in some of the very poorest community colleges in the poorest states, and has considerable assets to draw from the community *already*. So...it needs to have a sim 50 percent off and plead poor to me as a member of the public?! No more than it needs a desk or a lamp or a van or a teacher's pay to be "50 percent off".
Even the public school today, soaking our tax dollars considerably, makes outrageous claims on our budgets. If you are like other city school district parents, you've just spent probably as much as $100 or more outfitting your kid for the first days of school, supplying the extra paper towels and kleenex that everyone is supposed to bring so that the teacher doesn't have to spend out of her classroom budget; buying art supplies, pencils, compasses and books that the school does *not* supply; buying a gym uniform that is no longer supplied for free; buying a lock for the locker which is not supplied; and chipping in to various other causes like special school field trips. That's not to mention, of course, the clothing costs, but then there *are* curious freebies. Free bus transportation tickets are supplied to all, and in many schools, a free lunch is given without much of a study of actual needs. Not even a quarter is asked of children who could afford that much. The mixture of business-like investment funds and socialist-like subsidies makes the hybrid capitalist/socialist entity of the university not weaker, but more powerful.
THE POVERTY OF IDEOLOGY
To the strapped budget of city schools, however, is often added large grants from various do-good foundations -- like the famous $100 million grant Mark Zuckerberg just gave to the schools. I saw a small version of that in our district with some foundation's grant of $200,000 -- an amount which might have bought a lot of art supplies or musical instruments or field trips that we all paid for separately, but which in fact bought...extra experts on "fuzzy math" (TERC) and special training sessions for teachers to go off and learn how to better teach fuzzy math. Sigh. So often, the gifts are fuzzy like that -- gifts for children to learn "tolerance" or "self-esteem" or "leadership" which amount to some dippy consultant being paid to take away class time from the basics who presents dippy films, zippy powerpoints, and hippy surveys about students' feelings -- and collects a fee. Education, far from being a poor non-profit needing a handout, is a HUGE business for quite a few people!
That's of course the dirty little story of Second Life -- a lot of what passes as "education" or "educators" are in fact *consultants making a buck off the educational process*. These parasites on the traditional function of education are supposed to enhance the curriculum, but the quality control and critical assessment of this class of people -- who can be terribly aggressive and self-defensive -- are usually utterly absent. It's through this class of people, fighting for their own meal ticket in the system, that some of the most ardenly-held extremist ideologies come into the system -- all those theories of Constructivism and Connectivism and Collectivism in various disguises that are slipped in as "story-telling" and "leadership training" and "team-building" and all the rest. It's the TED cult, for example, brought in as "educational" material in ways that few have the knowledge or ability or stamina to challenge. What weary poorly-paid teacher with a huge class of students isn't going to welcome a pre-packaged lesson that is paid for by some foundation grant?
Suffice it to say, that we have to conclude about educators in Second Life:
o often they are the IT department of their university, and don't represent any school of thought or program except their own, and are not representative of more mainstream educators in their university -- early adaptors, and then dogs-in-the-manger.
o often they are teachers of digital arts or new media or some other "new" topic that fits with their "new ideology" and make it up as they go along, with others in their system either unaware or fearful of supervising them or even actively kept away, as the "innovators" create a whole mythology about themselves as fearless pioneers in a sea of mediocrity which they overcome through valiant IT journeys, breaking down of firewalls and old thinking, blah blah
o often they are extension or adult ed or correspondence school teachers who have moved into this field where there are lots of willing and unknowing subjects of their "experiments" in the form of older people or single moms or others who are not in the traditional educational stream. The most virulent and aggressive opensource and faddish ideology promoters, as we've seen from the responses of some of my criticism of such projects as "Open University" in the UK are to be seen among this set. They often try to play the pity card of "I serve the underprivileged, the minorities, the jobless," etc. to push through their faddish ideologies and bids for handouts and demands for free-ness.
That brings me to the single greatest flaw of this set of people, themselves the benefit of something that might be called the educational-industrial complex of America, which is
THE POVERTY OF IDEOLOGY:
LACK OF RESPECT FOR PRIVATE PROPERTY, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, AND COMMERCE
Whether due to their mythology of "poverty" or their particular animating collectivist ideology as explained above, and their perception of themselves as selfless pioneers toiling away in a field of uncaring bureaucrats and non-innovators, the need for "all information to be free" and all property to be expropriate are huge among educators.
Precisely because they may be on shoestring budgets as "innovators" trying to convince the rest of the stakeholders to come along, or because they are in settings where choices are made for sports or traditional subjects and not their particular hobby horse of virtual worlds, the educators of SL as a class demand as low a cost and as free a ride as they can muster. That some of them do this consciously and cynically themselves to lower their own business costs as in fact educational consultants and educational business entrepreneurs partially disguises the reality of this "impoverished" situation. But let's take at face value that a driving force for educators, real or imagined or exploited, is that they have to cut costs and obtain things donated.
That drives their inordinant love of all things open source -- that and the claim that students "learn" when they have open code (a few do, most don't bother) and that this makes everything portable.
I knew that educators in SL were big boosters of the open source cult of Second Life, and that some of them got really crazy on the topic of using Moodle (opensource) or SLoodle instead of Blackboard (proprietary) and so on.
But until SLCC in Boston (and I'd gotten a taste of this in Chicago), I had no idea how fanatical and close-minded these people were, and utterly oblivious to the problems of the proprietor of SL in need of intellectual property protection.
Educators obdurately, insistently, arrogantly, and aggressively demanded the "right" to copy content that they *managed* (and not necessarily owned as *creators*) "just because" they felt they had a right to a low-cost or free ride "just because" they were God's gift to humankind, imparting knowledge or facilitating "network access of knowledge" according to their theories (that they are less and less needed in these "all knowledge is on the network" theories is a point that doesn't seem to be one penetrating them lol).
I had heard from AJ Brooks, for example, at the Sutherland Dam some years ago when he came, bitterly complaining about the impossibility of SL to admit copying of content outside the system. I remember at the time cocking my head and finding that oddly fanatical, and of course it was.
You don't HAVE to have copies of content in SL -- no you do not -- any more than you have copies of lots of things in RL, starting with textbooks. Yeah, I know they're expensive, yeah, I know you think you should liberate them, yeah, I realize you don't have a plan to support, essentially, the livlihoods of people who write them and the companies that distribute them, and yeah, I realize you think they are merely greedy parasitic middlemen and the people who write them should just volunteer for the movement...
First, before getting into the "rights" of "my own copy," I want to cover the specious ways in which educators try to justify their demand for copyability.
o "We must preserve the students' work"
In real life, no one expects that the children's essays and art work should remain on the hallway walls or classroom walls or desks. They are removed to make way for the next class. To be sure, some proud parents want to keep the works and the children take them home -- and that, too, can spawn a RL-analogy virtual exigency ploy. But *not the teachers*. The *children* own their artwork. It would never occur to a teacher in RL that he had a right to that child's work merely for teaching the class or for being part of a system that paid for a classroom.
Yet in the SL setting, the fact that students come and go, and might make an avatar for a semester or year and then abandon it is used as a reason to make content not only copyable but the possession of the teacher. I don't know how this specious reasoning crept in, but it's one of those fake exigencies of the virtual world setting that the nouveau educators cite all the time. Because students are often making buildings, or creating models used for teaching, or participating in designing the space, that's another reason why teachers believe they should be able to copy content and also have multiple accounts.
Of course, there are ways of solving this. One can make one content avatar in a project that owns all the content created for that sim that is permanent infrastructure. But often the educators are hiring contractors to make the space, overwhelmed by the supposed complexity of SL, and then they want the right to copy that build out of SL to any other grid "just because". They may not even have another grid they are on, but they shrilly demand this right as if it is self-evident. In RL, in a RL classroom, if you designed a classroom, you wouldn't demand a copy of it to take to another school -- in SL, this demand begins to creep in as some invoked exigency in part because you *can* move more easily (put away inventory and move to another sim already within SL) and part as a tendency of educators to think up exigencies to invoke *to fit a worldview they are promoting, for which they readily seek such "exigencies" to make a point.
There's a really troubling lack of concern of the students' IP I hear in these conversations. There's also an unwillingness to concede that a child's avatar exists as a person outside the classroom project, who has a right to be having other aspects of his second life the way he would a real life outside the classroom. In fact, in some projects, the students are heavily discouraged from leaving their island, told not to make alts (remember Open University?) or steered only to certain kind of "educational" experiences. It's as if avatar rights for these people are left at the door just because they come in a virtual classroom. The notions that might obtain in real life of electing a student council, having a student president, writing a student newspaper or poetry magazine without direct teacher interference are completely cancelled out by the virtual world exigency once again -- or at least as it is conceived by the educrat running the virtual project.
o "We need copies for funders".
The common requirement in a grant that you supply a copy or two copies of any publication you make, i.e. a report or a study, which is easy to do when you have a printed or duplicated publication, has been -- again, to fit an ideology -- ginned up into an excuse or an analogy for "having" to make duplicates of a virtual project.
This is as phony as the day is long. No funder who gives you a grant for your website expects to get a CD in the mail containing an entire backup of all the files of your website just because they fund your website. Instead, you would present a written report with the URL, and the funder could easily look it up on his own computer at his own desk. Perhaps a screenshot of a design might be included, but there is no expectation *really* that the entire set of virtual content "has" to be backed up outside the platform.
Any funder that was already doing something as innovative as funding an SL project would obviously have SL installed or would be willing to install it in a few minutes to be able to make a site inspection. Grantors make site inspections all the time -- they don't expect grantees to send them slides, pictures, and artifacts out of RL classrooms or conference or NGO spaces, they make a visit. In SL, in fact, this function is made easier for them by being virtual.
o "It's not fair that we pay all this money and can't take out our build"
If your class spent the semester painting or making a mosaic for a mural on the wall, they wouldn't take that out either. If you arranged the desks in your class room in a certain pattern and made certain artworks to discuss, you wouldn't take them out. Yet again, virtuality becomes a setting in which educators began to demand this feature "just because" they think that theoretically, it must be available.
We could have a whole other discussion about why institutions are paying such obscene amounts in the first place for islands -- $15,000 or $50,000 to develop a setting in SL -- but the fact is, what's at the root here is a lack of trust and and active dislike *by this cohort* of the proprietary company, with the proprietary space. This goads these technocommunists of our time beyond belief, and irritates them so much that they can't focus on their mission. They become obsessed with "beating" this feature of the setting and actively undermining it.
In fact, most of the technologically sophisticated who themselves operate the island or make the builds or know something of scripting soon pick up the SL lore and simply quietly make a copy of their build offline using Second Inventory or third-party viewers that simply copy. So their fake protestations that they "can't" do this can only raise an eyebrow. Of course they can, and they do, and what they are lobbying for isn't their own personal copy that they can in fact make without anyone banning them but the *principle of the matter* in order to *transform the world by their lights*. It's an ideological battle, and one they fight as ardently as they fight any of their campus Marxist-ideological battles or any sort, special identity programs or special pleadings for how to read history tendentiously to satisfy their canononical directives.
I could also point out, although it's not a class I support generally because I see they are part of what's driving this "virtual exigency" ideology, that educational consultants should keep their own IP. To be sure, they may be construed as "working for hire" and they may sign that kind of agreement, but again, let's go back to real life. In RL, those loopy consultants brought in to teach "leadership" and "self-esteem" and "fuzzy math" and "tolerance" have Powerpoint slides, texts, photos, props, lectures and other materials that they themselves prepare. They would never imagine that they are supposed to leave a copy behind with their contractor of these items merely because they were paid a bunch to come teach the darlings how to be more self-referential than even their parents have made them. Of course not! That's their proprietary materials. The same consultants that would freak out at the notion that they should work for free or provide their intellectual creations for free -- this is how they make their living -- still nevertheless become part of the proponents for free-ness precisely so that they can reduce their own work costs, and make, for their client, a setting where everything but them is free.
This is the path that the early geeks of the 1990s went down when they urged that newspapers being sent over the early variants of the Internet *had* to be free. They couldn't conceive of a payment form at the time, but more importantly, they had to make the function free for computer users *because they themselves weren't free, and the computer itself was quite expensive*. This obvious factor of the early Internet -- that computer programmers and computers weren't cheap and therefore had every reason to make content free to make it affordable and attractive to customers -- is never discussed, but of course, is an "exigency" ported over from early Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 today in the virtual world setting.
The rest of the Internet is copyable -- the analog hole makes that possible as we've been told and discussed a million times -- and therefore virtual worlds should be too. But what's disturbing is how the educator demanding this "right" has absolutely no concern for the ecology in which he finds himself.
What I found especially appalling at SLCC is the unwillingness of educators to see themselves as part of a world in which they had a role, but which merchants and artists had a role with rights, too. There was none of that awareness that one should expect educators themselves should be teaching that your right to swing your arm ends at someone else's nose. The hatred and contempt for the merchant class as tacky culturally, or greedy socially, or unnecessary in an ideal society were palpable -- and loathsome. To be sure, a few males have an appreciation for the stores that make it possible for their lovely female avatars to have many lovely pairs of shoes, but for the most part, there was a denseness, and lack of empathy to any of the issues that merchants and designers face in SL -- and certainly absolutely no awareness of the role of the land economy. Educators didn't see themselves in a world, like real life, contiguous, and with other people with possibly different needs and interests in them; they saw themselves as a constituency that demanded and got service by being as demanding and petulant as possible to create their own, closed and highly constricted worldlets -- sandboxes where the students didn't have group powers and couldn't even deed a TV or return a prim or sometimes even rez a prim.
Land should be like shelf-paper and available for nothing or for very little, because of the cheapness of server space in general, so this thinking goes -- a mentality that I"ve tried to deconstruct and counter in a recent post about how people just don't seem to "get it" about contiguous spaces with interactivity and stored assets in virtuality, and how that is *not the same thing as* the server holding documents at somebody's faculty.
The hatred for land merchants comes with the socialist ideologies these particular types of educators come with in real life, but their hatred of IP goes beyond even the Creative Commons cunning ruse that makes it seem like they actually care about giving credit where it is due.
Like the affluent early adaptor class that gets its hands on i-phones or other gadgets, there is this mentality that "I should be able to copy my product, it's mine." The *effects* that has on the maker of the product by undermining his sales and his business plan and his IP are of *absolutely no concern* to these anti-empaths. They could give a flying fuck. They want what they want when they want it, and that's it. Any protestations that it is reasonable, for example, for the makers of Spore only to allow 5 copies under its license is thrown out as "evil" by this set. Any protests that merchants should be able to make a living of some kind falls on deaf ears. SL's proprietary code is dismissed as an anachronism, etc. We are lectured a million times about AOL's "failure" for having a "walled garden" and there is absolutely no dissent. Everything must be contorted around the needs of the vaunted educator -- his vaunted role in society is unquestioned, even as he steps on the society that is supposed to sustain him.
The orthodox nature of this opensource rigidity is something I've marvelled at many a time, but for those who think of themselves as communalized and collectivized constantly, and invoke a semi-real or even wholely imaginary "community" that they serve of learners and educators, it's especially annoying to encounter this selfishness and unwillingness to concede that a dressmaker or furniture craftsman had a point, and had to make a living, too -- or that the educator is only one of many constituents of SL fighting for feature sets, and not a particularly contributing or compelling one.
Every time I tried to raise this at SLCC, I would meet with indifference or even hatred. One person I really tried to have it out with kept telling me pedantically over and over again that I was discussing implementation, not the model of the world itself, and I kept saying that he wasn't *really* about implementation, but about first corrupting and skewing the model of the architecture merely to suit his world view (and of course, this is exactly what is happening with the interoperability gang as well, with Morgaine and other extremists trying to weld in the copyleftist world view into those functions of hopping between worlds).
THE OPEN SOURCE OBSESSION
And speaking of hopping between worlds, when we discussed this aspect of the "exigency", the existence of other worlds because a "reason" for "having" to copy content as well, although of course, there's no objective reason why you couldn't build a new build in a new world as you would in a new RL city or building or for a new semester. Building could be part of the learning process itself and then wiped clean like a blackboard! But that's never the sort of thinking for which this particular lot are known.
Instead, they spend inordinate amounts of times complaining bitterly that they can't port content from SL to Open Sim. There is so much of this that one has to point out the obvious: then get the hell out of Second Life, go to Open Sim, and shut the fuck up. Don't even come to Second Life in the first place, just like you don't come to Blackboard as a program but instead use its clunky clone, Moodle, and stop the kvetching. And of course, that's what some of them *have* done, with some of the providers and consultants on the circuit like Pathfinder rushing to provide "services" to make that possible. (In fact, Firesabre was going to profit off the Teen Grid demise by offering educators a transition, using their consulting services, but then the Lindens undercut that gig for them).
Again and again, listening to the plaintive laments of these people in the sessions of SLCC, I could only marvel. Their problems seemed utterly contrived. You can put content on an island or homestead for very, very little in SL by buying prefabs or paying any one of the gadzillion builders out there happy to earn $250 US a day and work for two days for a $500 sim, not $50,000 sim. There are so many gadgets for helping you manage your sim and its security and traffic and whatnot that to be paying other people for that is insane. If you *really* have cost concerns, in this very rich market that you should be supporting if you are part of society and not merely parasites on it, you can do this for cheap, and even take advantage of all the freebies in the freebie culture that educators themselves sustain.
When I suggested that at one point, the AW Groupies leader had filed a JIRA suggesting a check-off box for permissions that included, beyond copy/mod/transfer, a box that said "to other grids," AJ Brooks greeted this proposal without hearing the context, simply because he was looking for easy solutions to fit his own ideology.
The Lindens didn't accept this concept in any event, I'm not sure why, but there is an important context to consider: that the merchants really should have this box check-off fit in with an ecology that also contained *other* grids that had signed on to the third-party viewer policy principles -- that they would have products go to other grids where IP was *also* respected and where c/m/t remained as options *too*. THAT part of it wasn't one that these copyleftist edus were willing to concede. They want want they want when they want it, and any other context be damned.
o ALLERGY TO COMMERCE
Like their ancestors of previous centuries who imposed Soviet communism, the technocommunists among the edus today (who of course hate that I make up labels like this) are completely averse to commerce. They hate they idea that anything should be sold, even for $5. They want none of the "corruption" of buying and selling on their sim. They'd even like to completely shut off the function and HATE that it is even a feature that they have to tolerate on their closed sims where in theory, they could simply just not have anything for sale and stop worrying about it. The fear of somebody making a buck or having dollars they'd have to account for is simply crazy and all out of proportion to reality (again, it's a fake exigency induced to fit a previous ideology and help reinforce it).
Some of the educators I spoke to invoked putative concerns from state bodies that would oversee the expenditure of their grants or other authorities that would somehow find a problem if there was commerce on their sim they couldn't control, unexplained dollars coming in or going out. Sorry, I'm not buying it whatsoever.
In an educational setting in real life, students routinely have bake sales, door-to-door gift wrapping and chocolate sales, car-washes and other kinds of fund-raising activities -- if anything, this is seen as part of the educational process to teach them the value of work and money. It's very common for a band or a football team or a school newspaper to figure out various ways they can make money from events and sales to fund their activities which, as I pointed out at the top, are increasingly not paid by our considerable tax dollars but have to come out of pocket. Why not on Second Life?! I've seen a few educators cook up projects like this, such as the Virtual Morocco where some of the items were set to sale, and the creators of them could therefore personally benefit to offset their education costs, but there is very little of this done in SL to the benefit of either students or the larger community. There is an aversion to it that is fussy, unnecessary, and even hysterically religious. I marvel at how often I heard this demand to "shut off" the Lindex or Linden dollar functions and the ability to buy and sell. Of course, if you need a castrated and neutered commerce-free world like that, go over to Open Sim. Please!
Part of this is also unwillingness to concede the ecology of the RL educational community. Naturally the people who serve lunches, the vendors who supply everything from light bulbs to windows, the artists that might even sell a corporate-style painting for the president's office, the sculptor who creates the usual piece of modern dreck for the center of the quad -- and even the student sitting in his dorm, writing a program on his computer for a social network to enable undergrads to ogle girls online *cough* *cough*-- are not expected to drop their intellectual property rights, or the need not to be paid for their product or work, at the gate of the ivy-covered establishment.
The university sits in a real-life town as part of its economy, often a very important part supplying jobs to people. That the utopians of SL think all this has to be stripped away from the reality of virtuality is just plain creepy and even totalitarian. What the fuck is *wrong* with them??? It's totally unnecessary. It's easy enough to get records of an avatar's accounts and the dollars purchased or gained -- in fact, it's easier to keep accounts because it's an automated function than it would be in RL. Those objecting to the existence of these normal, human functions in a digital interface are *fucking loons*. I can't state it strongly enough. *They have something wrong with them*. It's beyond even the lunacy that the Soviets attempted, since even they begrudgingly conceded the need for shoe repairmen to have permits to provide their modest services, and for citizens to take their used goods to commission stores to sell -- controlled commerce, but at least *something* that wasn't shared or bartered or communalized.Even the Soviets didn't completely scrub money as an instrument from their virtuality, or buying and selling at least at state-controlled prices. Why are the educators trying to create little closed utopians that are even more rabidly anti-commerce than RL communist systems?!
o The Lindens Dump the Educators
So here we all are now. The educators are furious that the Lindens refuse to grant them the "right" to copy *anything* in their possession. They refuse to accept the concession -- gained from their loud and assiduous lobbying! -- that the Lindens are willing to tacitly allow with third-party viewers, and possibly even make a feature of their own viewer (especially when mesh comes along and makes the integration with third-party devices a fact of life) that would allow the copying offline, and implicitly to other compatible grids *of your own created content* although not of other people's (like your students, contractors, and other people in your project in general, or merchants from whom you buy content for your project). But...it's not enough for these ideologues.
The educators have other beefs, whether it be the very existence of the buy/sell/permissions system, as I've explained, or the inability to sufficiently lock down sims or lock away kids from adult content, or the high cost, even with the discount, of sims, or whatever it is they've developed as a list of grievances -- the poverty of ideology and the ideology of poverty being the key two reasons as I've outlined.
The Lindens, those opensource freaks and hippies and libs who are supposed to love all this stuff themselves, seem curiously unmoved by the freebie demands of the edus.
Pathfinder, so "beloved" by educators and so "necessary" (that's a fiction even among educators, but let's pretend it's true for a moment) is fired, along with others who upheld the edu community.
Answer: the educators did not help the Lindens sell Second Life.
They took, but didn't give.
They were a loss leader, that didn't justify itself.
They were part of the good publicity for SL in some cases, but they were also part of a constantly gnawing entitlement-happy constituency that took away more than it produced.
The educators didn't sell sims.
The teen grid, which the educators took over with so much pomp and circumstance and with so many hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money, never took off, never got people on it, never grew beyond 300 concurrency (!) or 300 islands (!). The idea that teens couldn't sign up with their cell phones the way they can with Habbo isn't an excuse, because obviously they find ways to sign up to World of Warcraft without that feature, and sign up to many other things on the Internet they want.
No, they just weren't compelling. They didn't attract. They didn't replicate. They didn't inspire. If the educators had made the kind of innovative "blended learning" and other jargonistic happy places they claim they do that really in fact engaged people, they would grow. But they didn't. In a setting in RL where often they have control of their school administration's decision-making process and can spread their ideologies by taking advantage of the fear of people that America will be left behind technologically, they prevail.
But with SL, they couldn't get it to spread. Not because it wasn't copyable. But because it wasn't usable.
And here's where they really failed: with kids themselves. There were no excited teen blogs about SL of the kind we ourselves has made as adults. Oh, sure, there might be a few nerds. But it never took off. Kids blog about their WoW and their Facebook, but they if they blog at all, it's never about SL. It just never stuck. They were never impressed. "He's just not into you," might be the mantra to describe the entire thing. The educators, as the Lindens could see as they lavished perks, specials, discounts and hype galore in their controlled website messaging and messaging in the RL media, *wasn't paying off in growth*.
*It just wasn't*.
At the end of the day, you can't expect even a hippie groovy business like Linden Lab, with "values" and social awareness and such and all the principles even putting in their own money to keep supplying the free-ness. They just can't. It has to start paying out something. And it wasn't. Educators didn't bring more customers in the door, and with their sectarian demands for copyleftism, they were out the door themselves to other grids soon enough.
And now we'll see if their socialist experiment will work. Now they have their worlds devoid of commerce, devoid of intellectual property (except as a lawyerly copyright registering proposition in RL for those with resources), devoid of *life*. Now they have their captive audiences -- the students -- in a forced sharing regime. Now they can share and copy and copy so more to their heart's content, and they have absolutely no excuse for not growing. Their costs are low, they can copy their content and they can do what they want to control students' lives. So...um...let's see how that all takes off. Oh, wait, some of them have already been at this for several years on Open Sim and its variations (Hypergrid) and whatever growth they can show isn't so inspiring as to cause a stampede of look-sees. It's just not happening? Do they ask themselves why? Do they ever ask whether their ideologies are in the way?
Perhaps the Lindens consciously sat in their board room and made the brutal calculations -- that the people who want IP protections and refuse to stand by while the Lindens opensource their own server code and who fight to the hilt the Lindens' enabling of the copybotting of everybody's content are customers who at the end of the day just pay more in sims and Lindex commissions than cranky educators demanding copyability.
I actually don't think they did that, as much as I'd like them to. I actually think they probably just looked very literally at sim sales, especially the debacle of the Teen Grid which they themselves are in part responsible for ruining and said -- hey, this didn't work. It didn't take off. As a loss leader it failed, so we have to cut it off. We can grandfather some of the people and we can ask any others that come in to treat us like they do any real life business. They don't expect to get computers for half price from vendors in real life; why get server space? They don't pay sales task on sims in the U.S. -- that they have to pay VAT in the EU is the EU's problem, not theirs.
Of course I should mention here the pout that the educators were famous for in their edu-wiki, whose actually usage has never been analyzed by any impartial third-party, and that is that the Lindens asked them to take the "SL" off the name when used outside of the SL setting on the Internet, in keeping with their trademark policy that others of us immediately complied with, and then they threw a fit and simply decided to leave. Unimpressed. If they were sincere about their cause, and they had a healthy respect for copyright in the first place, they'd comply, help keep SL's trademark viable, and help their own cause by not throwing a tantrum. They didn't. And that's so indicative of this bunch.
THERE'S NO THERE, THERE
Due to their preoccupation with copyright issues and control of sims and students' avatars and all the other issues they threw up as obstacles more as fake exigencies to fit their ideology than as actual obstacles, these educators failed to focus on *content*. All these years, we heard of very, very few innovative *lessons* or *teaching*. Case studies like Loyola College and the training for border protection were woefully far and few between.
Most of these edu islands, when you flew to them, were exactly like the corporations. Tumble-weeds. Traffic in the low two digits. Nobody but a couple of copulating furries. Stupid, big didactic posters. Stadiums where the masses were supposed to sit stupified listening to The Great Leader. Sandboxes with boring exercises of torturing prims. That sort of thing. Giant, empty, ineffective. Elaborate offices, unused.
The giant spaces were never really needed, but they were often supplied, sometimes in batches of 4 corners sims, because of another *obsession* of this crowd -- the question of how many people you can fit on a sim, and how, if you began to lag at 40, or had difficulty getting more than 160, the technology was "underperforming".
Of course, it's rare that even the overcrowded classroom of real life had more than 40-50 students; even in universities where you have giant lecturing stadiums, there aren't usually more than the 160 you might get on the 4 corner sim. And...why were you replicating static environments with one talking head and 200 people taking notes anyway?!
WHO ARE THE CUSTOMERS?
The worst advertisement for Second Life comes from other tekkies. It's a sad factor of the exigencies of these worlds that the early adapters come from the tech set whose own fellow geeks are so ruthlessly hateful of certain platforms that they just come to hate for ideological reasons. The WoW playing geeks loathe SL because it's not a game; the extremists of copyleftism with their file-sharing excesses everywhere develop a hatred of a world that respects and enforces copyright; or it's just not sufficiently cool, as it is viewed as a place only for cybersex and shopping.
Recently, I"ve noticed the profiles of people who are my newest customers, coming into SL as newbies, and how they are changing.
The oldest denizens of SL usually have some sort of intellectual or cause-oriented groups on their profile. If they aren't in Thinkers or the Philosophy Club or support Virtual Ability or Relay for Life, they have Builders Brewery or NCI or some other helping or studying or "useful" organization of that type. To be sure, I have lots of customers that only have clubs and socializing groups and shoppers' discount groups on their profiles, but the older ones still tend to have more philosophical or poetical writings on their profile.
Lately, I've been struck how simple some of these newbies are putting simpler messages, messages that are result of the more basic marketing the Lindens are doing now. They write "I'm here to see what it's like being an elf." Or "Basically, I'm here because I love to shop". Or "I'm here to socialize and meet some new bi-sexuals like myself" and so on. It's very basic and simple. Fantasize. Shop. Socialize. Cybersex. All normal stuff by normal people who care nothing about technology other than it "just work," who are not trying to save the world or prop up various ideologies of the betterment of humanity through copying content. These people rent, buy stuff, then buy their own sims. They hold up the Lindens' basic land-based economy, and they hold up our economies dependent on that basic model. They aren't interested, except as a date possibly, in going to learn about things like architecture -- and to the extent that projects like the Frank Lloyd Wright people make themselves date-friendly by having dances and socializers and contests, etc. rather than heavier fare, they attract these newbies -- and oldbies -- who are not here to make the world safe for socialism.
It may come as a shock, but most people want Second Life to be *fun*. They don't want it to be educational in the didactic, heavy-handed way in which some of the educators have come at it, with heavy, orthodox views and insistence on doing things with rigid, cultic control.
To the extent that something like NASA has succeeded in attracting the general public, it's a function of freebies and rides and compelling builds, not their participation in the copyleftist movement and the constituency demanding portability to opensims. The public isn't flocking to open sims. The Rezzable people don't seem to publish the figures for their museum pieces but I can't believe they have any huge following for sims that involve even the ability to buy fashions for avatars in them -- that's because people can't themselves take a place in the market if they themselves want to sell something (Rezzable never had much of a model for vendors in a mall that could be incentivized to build traffic, too.)
And most of all, it's important to point out that educators *did not* leave SL en masse. Some very vocal ones did. Some that didn't have budgets did. Some that were the most ideological did. But others remain, shrugging their shoulders at all the fuss.
AM Radio still has a snowy build at a place called IDIA lab. The build with the frozen violins in the pond, like the silent totems of unplayed possibilites of numerous students and educators caught in the chill of ideology, still remains. And like the birds that suddenly emerge out of the frozen icons if you click on them right, education in SL is not lost.
Perhaps Bowling Green or East Tennessee or Minnesota State might yet prove to be contributing to the public interest, not only for their own students, but any of us. Maybe their innovations in online learning, set free from the shackles of obsession about whether or not they can copy stuff, could still benefit their state residents or any of us -- indeed, it is not from these people you are hearing complaints. (Indeed, the Tennessee facility seems to have been inexpensively built from prefabs from people like Isablan Nevlan and Efflugent Brown, or even by the educators in the island property group itself).
Obviously education in our country and our world has to reform and change as it no longer works to prepare people for life and to keep society viable. That doesn't mean the radical reforms of these educrats in SL are feasible or viable; not at all. In fact, they represent a conservative force (like communism itself was a convervative force in Russia) that keeps certain old patterns of isolation and power intact for university settings.
17 ideas for using SL...with many faddish theories and intimations of social progressiveness, not a single one involving a model for a business, for buying and selling and commerce...