Thursday, March 12, 2009

One Musician, Two Worlds

I don't normally talk about my music on this blog, I leave that for my music site. But this story is less about music and more about virtual worlds, so I decided to break tradition.

The power of Collaboration, Community and Creative energy still amazes me despite being immersed in them nearly every day. I am convinced that it's these things that are the very heart and soul of virtual worlds; this is the power that keeps the engine running and the lights on. No matter in what world you find yourself, you can generally get a sense of the collective health of the space just by weighing the strength of those three Cs.

The three Cs powered a two-world live gig this week in Second Life and Metaplace for me. The most interesting aspect for me, is that this is a story of two parts, one in Metaplace and one in Second Life but each with interesting parallels.

In Metaplace
Raph recounts the Metaplace story from his perspective on his blog. It's a straightforward retelling which is entertaining if you know Raph and his passion for this space. From my perspective, it felt like a whirlwind in which I was swept up and carried to an entirely new place. So call me Dorothy if you will, but let me tell you what it looked and felt like from inside the swirl and I'll highlight some important nuances.

It was the first live music performance in Metaplace and it started with a simple note from Raph Koster connecting me to Fredrikkson, a musician in Metaplace who needed a little help with streaming. Raph introduced us via the Metaplace private messaging system which was delivered to me as an email. In this case Raph was acting as a connector and the cross over vehicle between the virtual space and my day to day life was just plain old email. Connecting and cross-over is vitally important to collaboration, and if worlds are encapsulated within walled gardens that don't effectively allow the *right* kind of cross-over, collaboration will be hindered.

I had not been in Metaplace for a while but I logged in to message Fredrikkson and did so with just a few mouse clicks. Finding people and places is critically important, the easier it is to do, the easier it's going to be for people to connect and form communities.

Fredrikkson returned my message, so I logged back into Metaplace and visited one of the first spaces I built. Within a few minutes, Raph appeared, gave me a guitar that I could use to play and stream and literally in the next minute we decided to do a dual-streaming event in conjunction with my Second Life gig planned at the Isle of Wyrms. We had the tools, but we needed a better place. [I'll skip Raph's commentary about my "outdated" space ;-)]

We went to Fredrikkson's cafe, beautifully built and complete with stage, a modified copy of Raph's guitar and lots of room to chill out. Fredrikkson showed up and after brief introductions and a few tries, we had live music streaming into Folk-n-Coffee. There was much rejoicing and honestly I had a bit of a holy shit we can actually do this moment.

Even though I'd just met Fredrikkson and it was well past his time to sleep, he graciously entrusted us with the use of his cafe for our trial performance. I've said this before, but trust is built within communities. As a world builder, you can't manufacture it - it grows organically on a bed of sharing, common goals and values - but you can set the stage with terms of service that are relevant and unmistakably clear.

In Second Life - There Be Dragons
This was no ordinary Second Life live music gig for me, it was a part of an initiative spearheaded by Bourque Rau to raise awareness about live music across the grid by investing in existing communities that are not normally associated with live music.

Bourque, as they say, is a rock star and a perfect example of harnessing the three Cs toward a great end. Bourque has reached out to over thirty communities and has been dispatching live musicians on an on-going basis since February. I learned about this event via a forum for Second Life musicians, not in world. Again, there's a web to virtual world cross over that is vitally important.

My gig was scheduled on the Isle of Wyrms, the home of a most amazing Dragon community. A new stage with spectacular views was erected over Dragon Lake for the event, and the majesty of the dragons and hatchlings cannot be overstated.

As fate would have it, one of the Dragon leaders met with an terrible accident, so we decided to turn the event into a fundraiser for a get well offering. Bourque worked out all the details with the Dragon community leaders, and all I had to do was show up and play!

The Guests are all here ...
I won't bore you with the details of setting up in two places but I panicked just a little as I tried to talk to people about different things and explain to each about the other.

I realized how important it was that I was Grace McDunnough in both places
. How confusing and diluting it would have been otherwise when I said "Hello. My name is Grace, welcome to the Isle of Wyrms in Second Life and to the Folk n Coffee cafe in Metaplace".

Fortunately, people were very supportive and had fun with the idea of dual streaming. We had over fifty people in Second Life, around a dozen or more in Metaplace and some in both places (other than just me) and they were all very chatty!

Throughout the performance, I wished for a chat bridge between worlds. I found myself contact switching between worlds, responding to *meeps* in Metaplace and chat remarks in Second Life, but I think people would have had a great time talking to each other between spaces instead of me doing the relay (and sometimes poorly).

Other than that, I was completely in both places and it was possibly the most exciting and thought provoking experience I've had as a musician so far. I can't wait to hear Fredrikkson play in Metaplace, and secretly I hope to get him to perform in both places when he does.
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