Monday, March 16, 2009

Don't Adults Do Adult Activities?

The latest controversy that the good folk at Linden Lab have engendered regards the announcement that “adult” content will be confined to an “adult” area of the Mainland. As usual, Miss Orr has a thoughtful take on the situation – indeed, many thoughtful takes, as she has at least four Journal entries that parse through various Lab statements and comments thereon – and Miss Laval has her own thoughtful comments, as do many others, no doubt. Rather than trying to summarize and analyze everything, which would seem redundant in light of the efforts already undertaken, I would offer only a few thoughts, none of which are terribly original at this stage:

1. It would have been nice had the Mainland limited the scope of hard-core sexual activities such that one would not find a virtual day care center next to a virtual adult movie shop or sex club, but that ship sailed long ago. As a number of people have observed, it would be far easier at this stage to create a family-friendly continent that prohibited “adult” activities than to move those activities to a new continent.

2. The term “adult activity” seems so ill-defined as to be useless. I have no doubt that it will evolve over time, likely on a case-by-case basis. The idea of yet another ad hoc policy is a little worrisome, however.

3. Although I have no doubt that many people would prefer not to have purchased some property for use as, say, a Trappist monastery, only to find a BDSM dungeon next door, a solution already exists: private estates with restrictive covenants.

4. Age verification has reared its ugly head as well – one will have to be age-verified in order to access Adultland. All well and good, except, uh, how does the Lab verify ages, anyway? My one attempt a year ago was singularly unsuccessful. The methods I have heard bandied about seem cumbersome and/or invasive. I’m not giving out my Social Security number (and non-U.S. residents would not have that option) (see this link for a discussion of the use of SSNs for authentication purposes). My driver’s license has an unflattering picture and my age, and I suppose credit cards are, in theory, unavailable to minors. But nothing would prevent Junior from using a credit card or driver’s license to claim he or she is an adult. This just seems like legal butt-covering.

5. Some have speculated that the present effort is designed to (a) merge the Teen Grid with the Not-so-Teen Grid, or (b) make the grid more attractive to business users. I’m inclined to go with (a) rather than (b). I’ve never understood the attractiveness of using SL as a virtual meeting spot for businesses – for one thing, the bandwidth requirements are huge; for another, participants would need cheat sheets to determine which avatar corresponds to which colleague, because neither the name nor the appearance matches – and, in any event, a serious business would have an estate, not a Mainland presence.

6. I’m not keen on having (even more) teens running rampant. This is not because I have anything against teens in general. Rather, annoying behavior seems to occur with greater frequency among the teen set, so there would be more anvil-dropping-name-calling griefing behavior even though most teens would be perfectly pleasant. Fortunately, at least for me, I hold a strong prior belief that most teens, and certainly most griefing teens, do not find neo-Victorian quaintness to their liking. Which brings me to…

7. Perhaps my egocentricity is showing, but all of this seems like a big non-issue. Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe I’m not seeing some important consequence, but my impression is that it’s business as usual for Caledon and related areas. I certainly agree with much of Miss Orr’s commentary – the whole thing seems ill-conceived, under-planned, fraught with intractable issues, and pretty much pointless (see above) – and, of course, others may have different preferences and spend their time differently than do I, but, honestly, the Oxbridge gateway seems like a much bigger deal to me.

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