Sophrosyne's Salons: Two This Week!

As part of the busiest week of events in Extropia's history, we're holding a special Sophrosyne's Salon at 10 am SLT Thursday morning, in the Central Nexus in Extropia Core.

Our Salon Spotlight Guest will be Tom Bukowski (Tom Boellstorff).  Tom is the author of the newly-released book, Coming of Age in Second Life.

Tom is Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of California, Irvine and Editor in Chief of American Anthropologist. He hosted the recent atomic-world conference "Cultures of Virtual Worlds," and has been an embedded anthropologist in Second Life since 2004.  His new book is an anthropological study of Second Life's cultures and subcultures. It's challenging, provocative, engaging, and offers much to everyone, casual reader, SL Resident and social scientist alike.

Tom is a delightful, engaging, insightful speaker, and we're delighted to welcome him to Extropia!

Our regular Saturday Salon will feature another very special guest, Universa Vanalten (Erika Vick) of NASA Headquarters. Universa is the coordinator of NASA's extensive activities in Second Life, and will be discussing the space agency's use of virtual technologies for outreach, education, research and exploration. 

Fresh from the coming NASA Future Forum this week in Extropia and other SL venues, Universa will set out the future of NASA's virtuality efforts, and share some exciting movies and slides of present and future space endeavors!

Saturday, May 17, 1-2:30 pm, Central Nexus at Extropia Core.

Meanwhile, last week's Salon has been described by many as the best yet - which is saying a lot!  Ben Duranske, of the virtual worlds legal blog Virtually Blind and author of the new book Virtual Law, joined us for a terrific discussion of legal issues facing residents and merchants in virtual worlds.

Ben has a rare gift for explaining complex matters in an engaging, entertaining and enlightening way, and we were all (33 peak concurrency) treated to a marvelous discussion!

Thanks, Ben, and we hope to have you back in Extropia again!

Sophrosyne's Saturday Salon: Virtual Law

Join us this Saturday, May 10 from 1-2:30 pm SLT in the Central Nexus at Extropia Core for Sophrosyne's Saturday Salon!  This week, our Salon Spotlight Guest is Benjamin Duranske (Benjamin Noble), author of the authoritative legal blog Virtually Blind and the new book from the American Bar Association Press, Virtual Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds.

Ben is a terrific writer, who makes difficult subjects accessible and interesting. I'd been daunted by a 450-page law book with such topics at "Further Identification of Documents in Virtual Worlds," but  it's a smooth, engrossing and enlightening read, and well worth the troubles of navigating the ABA's online store to obtain a copy. If you're doing business in a virtual world, or concerned about your personal rights, this book is an excellent investment.

Ben will be discussing his book as well as a number of controversial legal issues confronting residents and business people in virtual worlds, so if you have questions about the rules and forces increasingly shaping virtual worlds, come on down - this promises to be one of our best sessions ever!

(While we may well use our half hour of scheduled overtime and run till 3pm, if Ben has the energy, I will be leaving promptly to attend the conference in World of Warcraft!)

Sophrosyne's Saturday Salon: Hamlet Au

Hamlet Au, New World Notes blogger, former Linden and author of the outstanding new book The Making of Second Life (seriously - it's maybe the very best book on synthetic worlds out there - it's smart, gripping, sensitive and insightful - go buy a copy!), was our Salon Spotlight Guest today.

We had a terrific crowd - a peak concurrency of 42 - but the Salon room looked strangely empty after seeing 84 people in there last week!

Hamlet dealt well with the outspoken Salon crowd, told some great stories, shared his insights on the Lindens, the state of the industry and the future of synthetic worlds, and stayed into overtime to chat with all of us. 

The transcript is available here.

No Salon next week!  I'll be gone all week.  Back in two with a second try for JoJa Dhara on Virtual Holland, which we had to cancel a few weeks back due to logins being shut off...

photo by Boc Cryotank (Stephen Euin Cobb)

Academic Conference in WoW

This was just passed on to me, in conjunction with an exciting new event we're developing for Extropia.

I never imagined myself in WoW, but for this, I'll get an av set up right away!

Convergence of the Real and the Virtual: The First Scientific Conference in World of Warcraft

This is a formal invitation to participate in a scientific conference held inside World of Warcraft, May 9-11, 2008, devoted to research on WoW and on virtual worlds in general. Please share it with interested colleagues and students.

The idea was proposed by John Bohannon, who creates the "Gonzo Scientist" feature for the AAAS journal Science (
). You may be aware that Science published an article I wrote about scientific research opportunities in virtual worlds, focusing on WoW and Second Life, and a picture of the Stormwind auction house appeared on the cover of the July 27, 2007, issue. John says that the editors of Science are very excited about this conference - "going bananas" was his exact terminology. I believe we can actually accomplish some serious intellectual progress, while having a lot of fun!

There will be three academic sessions:

1. Research in World of Warcraft.

2. Relationships between WoW and the "Real World."

3. The Future of Virtual Worlds.

We anticipate writing a serious multiple-author report, comparable to a review essay or projection of future trends, expanded from the chatlog of this conference. John Bohannon plans to cover the conference for his Gonzo Scientist feature in Science.

We will announce a number of pre-conference events, and there will be three major field trips, each following one of the formal sessions:

1. A hike from Orgrimmar to Thunder Bluff, stopping half way at the Shrine of the Fallen Warrior, and at a number of other historic sites.

2. An excursion to Grom'gol Base Camp and Booty Bay in Stranglethorn Vale, beginning at Undercity.

3. An attack on an (undisclosed) Alliance location.

Participants will be represented by Horde characters on the Earthen Ring US server. We will do our best to accommodate participants having low-level characters. While it will be possible to attend at level 1, level 5 or even 10 will be more comfortable and fun. So long as the numbers of participants remain manageable, we will provide each new character with some gold, carrying bags, and souvenir clothing.

To attend, you should immediately get a Horde character onto Earthen Ring US - which is a different server from the European one named Earthen Ring! You could create a new Horde character, or port one over from another US server (at a cost of $25, but there are no other "travel" costs for this conference!). In either case, we suggest you prepare your characters right away, to make sure you can do it and become familiar with the environment. It is possible that publicity about this meeting will fill up the Earthen Ring US server, which already is one of the most active realms. So, it is crucial to get your character there right away.

European participants may need to do what some have already done, obtain the North American version of WoW from the US, including the discs, install it on a computer that does not already have the European version of Wow, and open a US account. Of course, North American participants who do not already have WoW will need to do the same thing. For my own research, I have long run two accounts from separate computers with the same credit card and home address, so this is not unusual.

We have set up a guild for participants to join, named Science, and the beginnings of a website and wiki, which will be expanded significantly over the following days:

I do hope you will be able to join us! Lok-tar!

Best wishes, Bill Bainbridge


William Sims Bainbridge, Ph.D.

Human-Centered Computing

National Science Foundation*


*Although this conference is not officially sponsored by the National Science Foundation, my involvement is an extension of my NSF duties, as part of my research and development plan.



Many dear friends have chosen not to blog this week, striking in protest against Linden Lab's foolish and overreaching brand-protection policies. I've given quite a bit of thought to the issue over the past few days: it would be easy enough to join them by default: I don't have the time to blog this week anyway. Friendship and laziness could reinforce each other; easy enough to stay away.

But I can't do that. I'm taking the time to post, to cross the virtual picket line, for a principle that I think is of overwhelming importance.

Silence is *always* complicity in oppression. The one obligation of the dissident, the sole moral response in the face of oppression, is to SPEAK OUT. To never relent, to never be silent, to never allow the oppressor a single moment's peace, to make the case for freedom and justice to anyone who can listen, at any time, anywhere Passivity enables oppression.

Seeing a wrong and refusing to speak out is not a tactic, it's a moral failing - and one I've been guilty of, in focusing on building something positive in Extropia to the complete exclusion of criticizing Linden Lab's increasing demonstrations of contempt for its Residents.

A generation of AIDS activists pioneered the slogan, SILENCE  = DEATH. Imagine if their response to official discrimination, to neglect by researchers and pharmaceutical companies, had been to *remain silent* until the world changed around them!

The rationale behind the blog strike seems to be that blogging about Second Life (no, I'm not conforming to Linden Lab's demands that I forgo nominative fair use. Let them come after me if they want) legitimizes or promotes Linden Lab's actions in some way.

Let's have a little realism about the nature of power, please? The commercial blogs - New World Notes, Massively and their ilk - aren't striking. The rest of them - fashionistas, SLebrities, microbusiness promotional blogs and personal journals - don't contribute any measurable amount to Linden Lab's revenues or to its ever more tattered reputation.

Linden Lab has been overreaching, deaf to its customers at best and actively hostile to them (Robin Linden and identity "trust," anyone?). They deserve to be called out, to be pressed to change. Second Life Residents and users should be informed of Linden Lab's actions and encouraged to take action. Our grievances are legitimate, and we should do something about them.

Like what?
  • Education and outreach. The bloggers who've chosen to remain silent this week have done a wonderful job until now.  I've learned a tremendous amount from Gwyneth Llewellyn and Kit Meredith about my rights, and how Linden Lab's actions have threatened them. Those of us without the knowledge base and skills to analyze the situation in the first instance can spread the word - speak out, link, post a supportive comment.
  • Collective action, not collective incation. Organize and join in mass attendance at Linden's office hours. Organize educational events, speakers, and mass protests inworld, where they can be seen, and where our numbers can be counted.
  • Escalation. The frontline Lindens are deaf, inept, destructive? Write and petition the Board of Directors individually. Write to Linden Lab's investors, explaining how Linden Lab's actions are damaging the value of their investment. Call out Mitch Kapor inworld and at atomic world events. Hold him accountable for corporate actions.
  • Cashing out. If you're upset enough - and I confess I'm not - cash out. Dump your Premium account, the three or four of you who still have one. Dump your landholdings. Stay out of the world. Make an impact that shows up on the concurrency and economic statistics. Linden Lab is using economic and legal tools against you? Use them back.
Okay, big talk for someone who hasn't stood up against Linden Lab's actions in months. It's easy to complain from the cheap seats, something I've seriously not appreciated when it's been directed at me. Do I have money to put where my mouth is (and if that isn't one of the more disgusting images in English figures of speech, I don't know what is)?

Here's what I've got.
  • Once a week, here, or where this blog may end up moving to, I'm going to post a "for dummies" analysis of Linden Lab's problematic policies - and give them credit for whatever they may get right. I'll link to all the first-line smart commentary and analysis I'll be drawing from - and hopefully our intellectual leaders will come off strike and supply me with some material to work from!
  • I'm going to offer Extropia's facilities: an expanded set of conference rooms, lecture halls, media displays and our mighty marketing engine, for an Anti Silence Day.
    • You striking bloggers: I'll give you a stage and an audience.
    • You Lindens: I'll issue you an invitation to show up and explain yourselves - or *you* can stand silent and ineffectual while *we* take control of the message.
    • You concerned Residents: I'll give you a chance to show up, be counted, get informed, and get inspired.
    • You veteran activists: I'll call on you to teach us, lead us, politicize and empower us.  Show us how to be effective agents for change. Give us the tools that have been proven to work in worlds like ours.
I'm not an intellectual analyst, not a veteran activist, not an influential heavyweight. I'm a pretty good marketer and events organizer with a blog. Those of you who *are* leaders - there's my contribution. 

Will you take me up on it, put it to use, and ACT UP? 

Sophrosyne's Saturday Salon: David Brin

David Brin's appearance as Salon Spotlight Guest was the centerpiece of Yuri's Night celebrations in Extropia. Dr. Brin packed them in: we had a peak concurrency of 84, and stayed right around 80 for most of his two-hour appearance.  Thankfully, sim stability was excellent, considering the circumstances.

It was certainly an unusual event!  We got off to a ragged start, with many of the audience trying to talk at once - which works fine for backchat at events like Metanomics, where the speaker is in the Voice channel, but which completely overwhelmed our guest, who was in text chat,  struggling with the interface and the speed of threaded conversations.

After our shakedown, Dr. Brin got into the spirit of the thing in fine form, challenging us to look critically at internet-based communications tools, including those we were using, and led us in a rough-and-tumble exchange that left us all thinking, and hungry for more.

Many thanks to Dr. Brin for his time and engagement with us, and our thanks to Zeroe Auer, who created Dr. Brin's photorealistic skin, and Zada Zenovka, who built his shape.  He was looking fine!

Next week: Hamlet Au (Wagner James Au), founder of the influential blog "New World Notes," and author of the terrific new book, The Making of Second Life.

Photos by Boc Cryotank (Stephen Euin Cobb)


Salon Photos

Special thanks to Boc Cryotank (Stephen Euin Cobb) for the photos-  Boc's got an eye for the ladies, doesn't he?  :D

We cancelled the regular Saturday Salon due to SL's long downtime: logins started working right at 1, when the Salon was scheduled to start, and a lot of people hadn't gotten the word.  Plus, our Spotlight Guest, JoJa Dhara, had been sick anyway - we decided to let her rest, and to sav her visit for a time when she's healthy and we can get a full crowd. 

The afternoon turned into an impromptu party, as a good dozen people showed up anyway, and kibitzed while Vidal expanded the seating in the Salon room, in preparation for SF Writer (Robert J. Sawyer)'s visit on Sunday:

And, photos of the Salon itself the following day:


Sophrosyne's SUNDAY Salon: Robert J. Sawyer!

What an incredible event!

SF Writer (Robert J. Sawyer) was so kind as to join us for nearly three hours of intense conversation today! We drew a decent crowd for our unusual timeslot, 33 people, all of whom were talking at once at some points! The crowd enthusiasm was great, and SF jumped right in for a spirited discussion of transhumanism and its discontents. Religion, elitism, uploading, the singularity, American and Canadian cultural differences - we hit it all in a cheerful and vigorous discussion.

A full transcript is available here.

After the Salon, SF stayed to join the Extropia Book Club for a discussion of his Hugo Award-nominated novel Rollback. We had if anything an even better time in this small venue. It was the treat of a lifetime for many of us to sit and chat with such a gifted novelist. It was hard to let him go, and we kept him till the point of exhaustion, I'm afraid.

SF is adorable, generous, terrifically funny, and just a natural fit in Extropia.

While we wish all the other excellent nominees well, if Rollback wins the Hugo at the World Science Fiction Convention this August, we hope SF will come back for the absolute blowout party we'll throw in his honor!

Very special thanks to Boc Cryotank (Stephen Euin Cobb, of the podcast The Future and You) for all his work in arranging SF's visit!

Yuri's Night Updates

DJ Nicki Petrichor anchors Extropia's Space Party!

We're still finalizing the DJ lineup for Yuri's Night, but our all-day party will be anchored by Extropia's good friend, DJ Nicki Petrichor! Nicki was on the decks for Extropia's Grand Opening last November 11, playing our national anthem (:45 of modem sounds
!) and mixing the world's finest electronica.

She'll be back for Yuri's Night with a very special set of Russian and space-themed electronica, electro body music and more! Nicki's a huge space fan, and she's going to rock this set like never before!

Catch Nicki every Friday afternoon SLT for Carpe Electro, her set at Club Reactor, and tune in any time on the web to Reactor Radio for the finest in progressive electronic music!

Second Skies Hosts Dogfighting, Flight Demos!

Extropia proudly hosts a Second Life legend, Gaius Goodliffe's Second Skies, the premier home of aerospace craft and combat! Based in Extropia's Skies of Tomorrow region, on Yuri's Night, Gauis will host an open air combat game - fly, dodge and fight across Extropia's six sims (400,000 square kilometers!) of open skies!

Aircraft and airships will be available for touring and purchase - fill our skies with silvered zeppelins! And, Soviet spacecraft and boosters will be around for your inspection.

Be sure to visit Gaius's facilities in Low Earth Orbit in Extropia Core, for the best views this side of the International Space Station!

Sophrosyne's Saturday Salon: David Brin for Yuri's Night!

Saturday, April 12 is Yuri's Night, the commemoration of Yuri Gagarin's first flight to space.  All over Earth, parties will celebrate the legacy and hope of spaceflight, from Alaska to Antarctica.  In Second Life, party central is Extropia!

We'll host a full day of events, but the cornerstone will be a special appearance as Spotlight Guest at Sophrosyne's Saturday Salon by novelist, futurist and gadfly David Brin!  Soph will interview David in an open discussion event in the Central Nexus in Extropia Core, from 1 to 2:30 PM Pacific Time.

David Brin is a scientist, speaker, technical consultant and world-known author. His novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages.

His 1989 ecological thriller, Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and near-future trends such as the World Wide Web*. A 1998 movie, directed by Kevin Costner, was loosely based on The Postman.

Brin serves on advisory committees dealing with subjects as diverse as national defense and homeland security, astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction and philanthropy. His non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with secrecy in the modern world. It won the Freedom of Speech Prize from the American Library Association.

As a speaker and on television, David Brin shares unique insights -- serious and humorous -- about ways that changing technology may affect our future lives. Brin lives in San Diego County with his wife, three children, and a hundred very demanding trees.