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Ginny Talamasca Day: Cui bono, Second Life?


There's a lot to chew on in this recent post by CNet's Daniel Terdiman. As one of the leading figures in Second Life's huge fashion industry, Ginny Talamasca was a beloved resident. After her recent death, a message was sent to Linden Lab to declare April 17th as 'Ginny Talamasca Day'. LL's response appears to be that it merely controls the architecture and underlying tech of SL, but keeps its hands clear of any of its content, which in this case apparently includes social structures.

However, LL did take the time to acknowledge the death of Jesse Malthus, and it could be (and probably will be) argued that Ginny's influence was at least as strong as his. There's a shade of difference in the form of acknowledgment, however -- Jesse's honorarium is the "Best Community Influence" award, not a special day once a year. This will all be fodder for discussion in the upcoming days and weeks, but while Terdiman's post centers on asking whether or not it's LL's responsibility to issue an official proclamation concerning a public event like this, I think it's more reducible than that. The question to ask should be 'who benefits'?


I'm not arguing the merit of such proclamations; obviously Ginny is survived by a huge fanbase that includes both customers and contemporaries. These are the people to whom such a day of remembrance would mean the most. But should this be looked at in the spirit of Harvey Milk Day, or César Chavez Day? When a person of a specific community receives direct acknowledgment by a wider community, it's an opportunity for education. It's a way to create an even tighter world community through a type of catharsis.

Second Life survives not on the strength of its features, but on the strength of its adherents, the residents who create the content, manage and populate the events, and most of all, defend it when it's under attack. It behooves LL to listen to the residents whenever they speak up because without them there wouldn't be a Second Life to enjoy. That alone would be reason enough to grant this rather simple request, but it's not the residents alone who would benefit from Ginny Talamasca Day, it's LL itself.

One of the biggest problems LL faces in getting more users to sign up and remain is the continued focus by the mainstream media on all the sensational aspects of SL, with attendant negative spin. It's difficult to view the subjects of gambling, sexual play, and violence through anything other than the filter of Community Good -- how do these events benefit not just the fetishists and hobbyists, but the public as a whole? Perhaps the best way is to provide counter-examples that emphasize creativity, compassion, and altruism. Creating a Ginny Talamasca Day would go a long way toward engendering just such an environment. Something for LL to point at and say 'See, our residents care about each other emotionally, for reasons beyond enlightened self-interest. It's safe to come here.'

Is it likely that LL will eventually cave in and make this 'official'? Judging by past behavior, probably not. That shouldn't, however, deter the SL community from making it happen anyway. In fact, it might be an even stronger event for lack of 'official' support. This would be an event for the community, after all, and if LL is taking such pains to distance itself, then it doesn't deserve to bless or condemn any part of it.

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