Standing infinity

I celebrated my 8th rez day anniversary by dancing naked. :D

And did you realize that the number 8 is like the infinity symbol standing on one end?

Maybe there's something of infinity in this rez day anniversary. I'm past the 7-year itch, if there's such a thing about being a virtual world resident.

I spend less time as Opal now, and less time inworld in general. But my heart is still in there. My loves are still there. It's still the place I yearn for when I get homesick. Sure, most of the places are different now, but there's still a certain ambience about virtual reality.

And because August always seems to start a new life for me, maybe the coming year would be something different. After my experience in Utherverse, I've had a paradigm shift, similar to the paradigm shift about the global community that I've had when I first joined SL. This time, the shift I experienced is about the universality of virtual worlds.

During my conversation with Knightman in Utherverse, I was surprised at how strongly he was attached to UV, just as I am very attached to Second Life. UV is home to him, just as SL is to me. I realized that, in the end, the place we call our virtual "home" has nothing to do with the technology or the avatar or what the place looks like. It has to do with the relationships that bind us to it.

In the end, these different virtual world grids are just villages, colonies, and tribes of humans, separated by differences in technology, just as villages, colonies, and tribes are separated in the real world by distances.

In the end, we are all humans behind the avatars -- a soul touching another soul.

The Utherverse

Two months ago, I received an email notice that someone had filled out the contact form in my company website. Colin (RL name) said:
Have you ever spent time in Utherverse/RLC? We're looking for Speakers for VirtualCon and it seems you would be a good fit.
I must have heard/read about Utherverse in passing because the name was familiar. Maybe I had seen their ads. But I didn't pay much attention to it, because they seemed focused on sex. For the same reason, I wondered how I could be a good fit. My book is about deeper and more intimate relationships (even though they may be short), not impersonal one-night stands.

Long story short, Colin gave me a short tour of Utherverse. In exchange, I gave him a short tour of SL. Actually, I just showed him one of the events going on at the time and gave him a gazillion links to learn more. Then we just coordinated via email as the plans for the convention firmed up.

A few days ago, I went in again to get a bit more familiar with the application (it's a proprietary platform, not at all like SL or OpenSim), to get acquainted with the venue, and to customize my avatar (well, as best as I could anyway). As I sat on the stage of the lecture hall, looking for the "Stand up" button, a couple of people came in separately and started chatting with me. Knightman (partial virtual name) told me that the W key would let me stand up and we started chatting about Utherverse and SL. Meanwhile, Rainbow (partial virtual name) was crashing every few minutes. In the end, Knightman invited us to see his "zaby", which is a living structure, in this case, a house.

I gave the talk today at 1pm Pacific. I went in a little early to look around some more. I checked out the booth that the Utherverse staff created for me. Then I attended the session by Veronica Franco about etiquette and learned that, in Utherverse, it is better to talk to someone in public chat before IM'ing them in private. That's the tip that I remember the most because it's so different in SL. Or, at least, so different from my experience in SL.

"Love, Like Dim Sum" at the Virtual World Convention

Afterwards, I walked to the lecture hall where my talk would be and we got set up. Colin informed me that Anna Lee, the president of Utherverse, was going to be moderator for my talk. (I must be special! :D )

Initially, Skype kept dropping out, so Anna decided we'd try my cellphone. But the sound was bad, so we went back to Skype, which held up, thankfully.

Earlier, I asked Colin if I would be able to see what people wrote on the public chat. I wanted to know how I could structure some audience participation into the talk. I had started doing slides but I found out later that they had trouble with slides, but I went with the outline I had in it anyway. Besides that, not much preparation. I was just going to primarily present what was in the last chapter of my book anyway.

So, the talk started out a bit shaky. But I asked the audience some questions to get to know who's listening to me and the ball went rolling from there.

The audience was wonderful.

They were responding to questions. They were sharing opinions. They were commenting on each other's comments. ... I could have been in any virtual world. ... I realized then that it wasn't a world that was focused on just sex. They had the same soulful longer-term relationships as we do in SL.

And the people are very warm and very welcoming. After the talk, so many people sent me private IMs asking questions, thanking me, giving me compliments about the talk, asking for advice. And they gathered around me with all these large question marks around them, which turned out to be requests for hugs! I had never been hugged by so many people in any single event! And they waited patiently for a hug! I was floored!

Knightman had already invited me to build a home in UV when he showed me his zaby. Today, I got more invitations to come back and check it out more. Anna invited me to talk again next year.

Well, one thing is for sure.... Next year, I won't look like a newbie anymore. :D

UPDATE: Here's a recording of the talk. (Thank you very much, JokerEmpire!) View it full screen so you can read the public chat at the same time.
UPDATE2: And the official recording!