Both the Independent State of Caledon group IM and the Caledon blogosphere are bubbling with conflicting opinions about whether something is going wrong in Caledon, and if so, what to do about it. If you somehow read this blog but don’t already know about it (how could that be possible?), the Duke of Argylle has links to several posts as well as sharing his own thoughts. There is an active comment thread on Miss Orr’s most recent blog post, including a long response from Guvnah Desmond Shang. Meanwhile, Miss Callisto reminds us that things change (while also cleverly pointing out several old-timers who are still around and may be feeling dissed), and says she intends “to ignore you and your whole petty squabble, which I might venture to suggest has very little to really do with the Caledon chat, entirely.”
I quite agree with Miss Callisto on a number of her points, especially about Caledon chat not being the real point. (I must say that I doubt it is all attributable to fallout over a land squabble, however, nor that it is a petty squabble, as I believe the rest of my post will make clear.)
Here’s a Venn diagram for your amusement:
[unremembered diagram, image lost to data corruption long after the event]
This diagram is obviously not drawn to any scale—indeed, the actual and ideal relative sizes of each portion are part of what is at issue. The diagram helps to clarify for me that focusing on Des, Caledon, or Caledon chat is missing a major piece of the picture: We (those reading this blog, those who live in Caledon, those who visit Caledon, those who think something is wrong, those who don’t think anything is wrong, those who think the only thing wrong is that some people think something’s wrong) belong to and create a human community (a real community, not a virtual one, even if virtual worlds and electronic communications make possible the vast majority of our interactions), which is not synonymous with Caledon.
This community long ago ceased to be a single village, or a single conversation—and let us give thanks for that! Des, as a visionary small businessman, has nurtured a number of other fledgling estates as well as creating a community against which others can sharpen their own visions, creating their own attempts at Steampunk, Victorian, or “historical re-imaginist” and fantasy estates in Second Life. What an amazing eruption of creativity in just a few short months, relatively speaking, since Caledon began with a single sim on February 26, 2006. (Perhaps we are just experiencing the last bit of the Terrible Twos?) Anyone who looks only to ISC chat, or to the ISC membership, or to who rents land in Caledon, will inevitably miss a much broader context. And that larger context is one of change, growth, and the conflict that often accompanies (or even creates) both.
I would be remiss were I not to mention something that I don’t believe has been directly addressed elsewhere thus far: We don’t all like one another. Of course, you might say, of course we don’t. But it bears repeating, and really let it sink in: We do not all like one another. We are a real community: There is everything from simple lack of friendship to dislike to enmity to broken hearts to feuds. There is rivalry and competition, in business and socially. Most of us have learned to navigate these realities of the human condition in our daily lives. There are limitations imposed by the technology that makes possible our particular community, however, which make these realities more difficult to deal with. But deal with them we must, and shall.
I confess that I had been of the opinion that “Des should do something.” And there are times I still feel that way. Residents of Caledon are Des’s customers (whatever else we may be), and as a customer I have on occasion complaints about the way his other customers behave, or wish that he would take Caledon in a different direction than he does. In some ways, Des and Caledon are frighteningly parallel to Linden Research and Second Life. (If you have not done so, please go read the Guvnah’s comment on Miss Orr’s blog. This is a long post; it will be here when you get back.) Not only is Des disinclined to become a tyrant (or even an enlightened moderator), I’ve come to realize that it would be impossible for him to do so. The Guvnah did not create a community, and he cannot control it. He did create a wonderful seed-bed for community, and I have to trust his good business sense as a steward of that seed-bed.
Here are my woefully inadequate and incomplete thoughts about what has made us a community (with another nod to Miss Callisto for pointing out many of the talented people who have lived and live still in Caledon):
- Gathering places: Where would we be without CrystalShard Foo’s dance machines, the venues provided by any number of generous landowners, and DJs of every stripe? Or the pubs and bars with their storytelling and poetry sessions?
- Places of learning: The Caledon Library, now the Alexandrian Free Library (libraries of Caledon, Steelhead, Winterfell, New Toulouse, New Babbage, Amatsu Shima, & West of Ireland), with its ethos of service and a commitment to deepening our understanding of history, literature, the arts, and all fields of knowledge that might inform our Second Life communities.
- The web, specifically Excalibur Longstaff’s forums and wiki, Gabrielle Riel’s Google calendar, and the many blogs and journals: Imagine being limited to the group communications channels provided in Second Life. (And there I reveal a bias; there are dozens if not hundreds of Second Life residents who are part of our community who do not extend that community beyond Second Life itself. They, of course, are limited to the group communications provided by Linden Research, most, I must assume, by choice.)
- Who created your skin? Your clothing? Your hair? Your AO? Your house? Your gardens? Your armaments? Your sailing ships, riding horses, buggies, and flying machines?
- Events: Relay for Life; Caledon anniversary events; balls; the Grand Tour; races; dogfights; regattas; duels; banquets; CaleCon; informal RL meetups.
- Friendships: Let’s keep them strong.
These elements of being a community were and are created by us, by our friends—and by strangers, and by those we may dislike. (Notice that few of these elements of being a community were created by Des, although without him any number of them might not have happened.) In order to continue to enjoy these fruits of community, do we have the will to find our way through disagreements and conflict? Can we become better at building what excites and nourishes us now and letting go of that which does not, no matter how affectionately we may once have regarded it?
I hope that this very long post has more in it than “Can’t we all just get along?” But in the end, perhaps, that is exactly the greatest challenge for us as a community—the human community.
Tolerans, Civilis, Innovus, Laganum
So—is there anything I’m actually going to do? At this moment, I’m tending towards these things (not a prescription for anyone else, simply my thoughts on what might be best for me to do):
- I’d like to be kind and to personally act with decorum. I will attempt to address people as they wish to be addressed, except when strangers ask me to use their first name in Caledon (because I do value that in Caledon; in Steelhead and Winterfell, not as much).
- I will not put any effort into ISC chat. If it annoys or bores me, I’ll simply close it. My “communications” time and energy will continue to go to the Caledon Forums, Caledon Wiki, and the Aether Chrononauts Google calendar (which has a handy mnemonic: http://tinyurl.com/aetherchrononauts).
- The Guvnah and I have had conversations about coordinated events within what I will call the “Aether Chrononauts” world, or perhaps the “themed” estates, if one includes Raglanshire. I want to encourage distinct communities in Second Life and within Caledon to recognize and develop their distinctiveness, while also serving as I can to encourage cooperation and creative co-existence.
- Last year’s Caledon Social Season was an uneasy marriage of role-play and community education. Like the Duke of Argylle and the Marchioness of Giggleford, I am interested in creating opportunities for non-RP but themed education, which might serve as one form of introduction to Caledon and its related communities.