Second Life and Text vs Voice Chat

Full Audio available here (3:30 minutes)
New technology and the new media marketplace of the 21st century, have greatly changed the nature of information exchange and the very framework for Human communication. Cave paintings, stone and paper etchings, wax and clay records are now mere nano-scale metal etchings, polarised atoms, insubstantial radio waves, beams of light, electrons, even Quantum signatures on the border of Scientific research. We stand on the precipice of a convergence of all Human communication into a single datastream, the development of an Electronic Human network. (Singularity?) (Audio: 37 seconds)]

The Older communication frameworks, favoured systems of proxies, designated champions and sporadic polls. The greater populace was excluded from meaningful participation in issues of commonality, the grand Economic, Political, Scientific, Religious debates, the Historical and Educational scholarly imperatives. It simply was not technically or administratively possible to include a large population in expansive dialogue when using the older frameworks. Technology has lowered the barrier to communicate, participate and record, now the greater populace, the everyday actors, participate in the recording of thought, the dialogue, discussion, the narration, negotiation, the persuasion, compromise and consensus, Human interaction, communication and especially documentation is no longer the preserve or the arena of an elite minority. (Audio: 50 Seconds)

Massively Multiplayer Online Realities are one tool in the new communication framework. MMO’s are technology showcases which emulate the physical presence and proximity of the participants by simulating each individual and a shared reality on are computer. These communities are vast forums for social networking and experimentation in culture and perception. Politics, Religion, Culture, Society, all the greater issues are emulated and the core principals modified and new concepts tested as the participants “play” with the boundaries of reality and society. (Audio: 32 Seconds)

In one such MMO, Second Life, despite the effort spent on implementing the “virtual reality”, communication is still based on the older framework. The visual aspects of the simulation have been prioritized in the development and dialogue has been relegated to a linear textual chat system seen in older communication systens. In essence, SL avatars are still etching thought onto a virtual clay or wax tablet when they type on a keyboard. The community has learned to adapt to the limits of the system but it cannot last. The introduction of Voice into Second Life will be another paradigm shift in communications technology. (Audio: 40 Seconds)

The emphasis on text chat in SL has facilitated the growth of the community to date but also impeded wider adoption by the non-technical or non-literate. Voice is a bridging technology and dictates that certain social and technical measures are implemented before it is widely adopted. SL must not discriminate against the members of the community who chose to communicate textually and we must not discriminate against those who choose to use voice. Second Life is not Reality, the participants in the community agree on what form their Reality takes, they opt-in to societal constraints. Similarly they must be able to toggle voice integration on demand and “play” with their voice technology and concpets. We must not encourage divisive tiers in Second Life built around text and voice or insist that the Real Life concerns are echoed in Virtual Reality … (Audio: 41 Seconds)

Misc:

We encourage Linden to implement text to speech synthesis and the reverse. Voice cannot discriminate, it must bridge the divide.

In Speakers Corner in Hyde Park in London. Members of the public can wax lyrical without fear of Legal Repercussions and without any guarantee of a receptive audience. Voice in Second Life must be similarly enshrined as a Free Speech Zone.

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