Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Svarga Still Matters

Location: Chamber of the Oracle

I was delighted to get word, via New World Notes, that Svarga, site of my first "aha" moments, has again opened to the public. In a very real sense, this is Svarga (and SL) 2006, before sculpted prims and Windlight changed the experience in-world for all of us.

Laukosargas Svarog, the original creator, largely left SL, but Linden Lab has apparently purchased the content from her and opened Svarga as a sort of national park. I love this idea for many reasons, and despite some mean-spirited (and not unexpected) carping from Prokofy Neva over Socialist tendencies (yawn) Svarga still matters.

History of Technology: Saving Svarga sets a precedent that, while making some builders uncomfortable, could preserve signature work in the history of virtual worlds. Those of us who study the history of technology lament when monuments in its development do not end up in the Smithsonian or its equivalent overseas. It is instructive to have an actual Xerox Alto, Apple I, and IBM 8088 PC to show to students, not to mention Chuck Yeager's X-1 Glamorous Glennis, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of Saint Louis, and the Apollo 11 command module Columbia.

With virtual technologies, however, it's harder to preserve things, so Linden Lab presents future historians the chance--if they keep Svarga around in future iterations of SL and whatever comes after--for us to explore. Code may change, but there's a better chance of my students seeing a "heritage" sim as it was meant to be seen than taking a ride on a Saturn V.

Svarga may seem dated, compared to amazing builds I've seen in SL and, more recently, Heritage Key. Yet it provides a touchstone for those works, a bar to be topped. We need Svarga to remind us of what is possible.

A Place to Dream: What use is beauty, in a capitalist sense? Can it be made a commodity? Yes. Does it lose something in the process? Can you tour it on the back of a giant wasp?
Wasp Tour
I go from the purely pedagogical to the aesthetic and Romantic here. Since my arrival in early 2007, SL has steadily become more professionalized; Philip Rosedale noted that the Burning Man era had ended, after he stepped down as Linden Lab CEO. Of course I hope Linden Lab makes the money to keep SL afloat, but it needs a space to inspire the arts.

Cultural creatives online should not be elbowed out of the way to serve the bottom line. When they do, like art-district bohemians when a warehouse area goes condo, only a shell is left without the "edge" to produce interesting art. This has occurred all over Richmond, VA, and it pains me to see the pattern replicated in virtual spaces.

I suppose Linden Lab had to become more corporate, but along with the Burning Life festival, I'd love to see spaces like Svarga kept around to inspire content creators.

So as long as Svarga stays open, I'll go back, put 25L in Taras Balderdash's oracle (all money supports charity) and see what it portends. The oracle produces random advice, like Brian Eno's Oblique Strategy cards.
Chamber of the Oracle

Today it told me, "Offer a teleport to a friend." I'm going to do that--and bring them to Svarga. So here's a teleport link for all of you!

1 comment:

Ann Wuyts said...

I'm glad to see Svarga still exhists. I've heard it was in trouble for a while, and assumed it would have vanished. The ecosystem is beautiful, I spend some of my first moments in SL (or first worthy moments, you know, after you've learned manoeuvring, blocking people, etc ;)) there.