Will The Voice Issue Be Ever Solved?

Institute for Ethics and Emerging TechnologiesIn “Life 2.0: Augmentationists in Second Life and beyond“, Giulio Prisco writes on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies’ blog about Second Life’s social changes due to the introduction of voice. The discussion went through the way immersionists disdain the use of voice as a too disruptive technology in our virtual world, while augmentationists claim the right to use whatever technologies they please, while being tolerant towards others that are unwilling to use a certain technology.

Giulio’s argumentation, while more open-minded than most augmentationists, claims that in essence immersionism is a lifestyle choice of a group of role-players, and that augmentationism, as an “alternate” lifestyle, should have the right to peacefully co-exist — while obviously criticising the lack of tolerance of immersionists in “trying to remove voice from the augmentationists”.

I think that his crucial highlight of the issue can be summarised in the following excerpt:

Unfortunately, immersionists have a very valid point when they argue that, with voice and more augmentationist options becoming available (such as the possibility to paste a realtime webcam feed onto an avatar face and body, that may well become available in one or two years), most users of Second Life will become augmantationists and this will effectively discriminate against immersionists and push them into a second class role. They will be able to join immersionist communities where voice and webcam feeds are banned, but will be effectively cut from interacting with most other users.

I understand this argument but it does not seem such a big deal to me. It seems a reasonable assumption that role players prefer to hang with other role players in SL anyway. […]

If you’re still interested in this debate, I encourage you to join the comments section on this article. Giulio welcomes the commentary and is not only very open-minded about the subject, but understands most of the arguments brought by immersionists. Well, perhaps with an exception: immersionism is not about role-playing, but sort of a fusion of “self as an art form” mixed with the notion that on a social environment where real life credentials can be absent, trust, reputation, and honesty emerge from your behaviour, not from the credentials you’re able to present (your real voice is just one of those). Similarly, augmentationism cannot be reduced to “just having another nice tool to play with”, but enforcing the notion that the mainstream society will rely on presentation of real life credentials to establish trust — those refusing to present them are still welcome to enjoy Second Life, but they’re cut off the mainstream and isolated in their ghettos.

If you think that the whole question is moot anyway — Linden Lab will not remove voice from SL (but add more and more features to it over time), and we do have voice already, so it’s pointless to discuss “what if?” scenarios anyway — skip ahead to the next article 🙂

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About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...

  • Well, you know, it’s hard to leave comments without paying them money it seems. Which I am not going to do.

    I tried to say this:

    > Immersionism places the focus on self-expression to the ultimate level — in the limit, the *self* can be self-expressed through role-playing, for the ones interested into that. The self becomes an art form. Augmentationism, by contrast, places the limit on self-expression on what you can create; art is separated from the individual.

    I would certainly agree with this position; creating a role for oneself and acting according to that is hampered by augmentationist principles. Were I to routinely expose my personal RL situation in an augmentationist fashion I would be cutting off a huge part of the creative endeavour that is my SL existence. Going back to the issue of voice, that would definitely do so – I could certainly not replicate my particular patterns of speech using voice.

    In situations where I am not concerned with exposing contradictory details (say, business deals where I will have to give away my RL details to be paid) I am not too concerned, but I expect the basic principle of my creation – my identity – to be respected. The scripts and the builds are nothing compared to the person.

  • There is a response to his article on my blog.

    Please take a look at the posting and responses there.

    Anony Mouse
    “Tolerance… tolerance… tolerance.”

  • To answer your question more directly…

    It will be solved when LL implements voice correctly.

    The main issue with voice is not it’s existence, it’s that it was implemented in a way that is both not very private and insensitive to the needs of the very large portion of the community which wants it’s anonymity.

    Respect these and the ENTIRE debate about voice goes away.

    There are serious bugs:

    1) one which allows you to hear ALL conversations on the sim and
    2) another which prevents voice from shutting off even when the SL client is killed or quit.

    You know… sometimes the SL client actually dies when you shut it down and it doesn’t properly disconnect the voice slave application from the vivox servers. So… there you have a spy in your house they can here you at your previous location until the client dies or times out. Wow… secure. You won’t find me using it at all. I don’t use the voice features of Yahoo, AIM, MSN etc for the very same reason: privacy.


    what needs to happen to voice to make it acceptable to everyone?

    1) add the ability to make SURE that voice is properly turned off and it respects everyone’s privacy. This is the most important. I will not be to happy if suddenly people know my business simply because I was logged into SL and it doesn’t disconnect properly…

    2) Add voice disguise/masking/text-to-speech/whatever into the client to allow people who do not want to use voice to either:
    a) filter their voice or
    b) use a decent synthesized one.

    The fact of the matter is….

    There are lots of people who prefer their anonymity on SL and the numbers are not static (as you have previously asserted in other articles) it’s growing.

    People don’t come to SL for a “phone call” they come to meet people. For some, SL is a voyage of self-discovery.

    I would rather have waited 6-8 months for a really good, well implemented, version of voice than for the slow… buggy, laggy, no filtering piece of crap we have now.

    Additionally, for all Giulio’s positioning… what he doesn’t understand is that Immersionists *ARE* transhumanists. Being the executive director of the World Transhumanist Association I would expect him to understand that.

    I, personally, intend to keep agitating and agitating and pushing and pushing until it’s done right. I won’t stop until it is done in such a way that respects the immersionist contingent in SL.

    Anony Mouse
    “Nothing is over until we decide it is…” ~ Animal House. 😉

  • “The discussion went through the way immersionists disdain the use of voice…

    …while augmentationists claim the right to use whatever technologies they please, while being tolerant…”

    I imagine this phrase don’t show the way you think, only the general ambience of said discussion… but it made my blood boil anyway, because I could had rewritten it like this:

    “Immersionists are tolerant about voice but worried about being shunned out by the talkink masses (that already had showed a nasty streak about it), and cannot understand why a disruptive function like that is being worked at now, when 100% of LL resources should be on avoiding inventory losses, something that cannot be tolerated in a virtual world that depends so much on it’s virtual economy.”

    Btw, nice blog, I like a lot to read it 🙂

  • I agree with all your commenters – Guilio got it precisely backwards.

    For some fascinating commentary on this issue, including several comments from Guilio, please see my post on his article!

  • Giulio Prisco

    “Immersionists *ARE* transhumanists”:

    Well, I am ready to concede that immersionists *have many things in common* with transhumanists. That is why I like you guys.

    There is an important difference though. Most transhumanists are acutely aware of the potential problems caused by the disruptive social impact of new technology deployment, but do not think relinquishment can ever be a solution. The only good solution is what Gwyn proposed on the IEET blog: finding some smart way to facilitate the co-existence between persons who choose different options.

  • Extropia DaSilva

    As I said on Giulio’s blog, taking a fundamentalist makes about as much sense as thinking pen and paper should only be used for writing your autobiography (the hardcore augmentist viewpoint) or purely for creating fictional characters (the immersionist stance).

    RL shows quite clearly that there is plenty of room for both forms, and that there is a lot of grey area between them. How many autobiographies contain fictional elements due to false recollection, embelishment of the truth etc? How many authors use RL experience to flesh out their characters?

    I really can’t see any reason why the inclusion of voice should cause immersionists to become ‘second class’ citizens huddling in ghettos while the augmentists go on to rule the world. I have met up with Giulio inworld on several occasions and he is perfectly happy to switch to text-chat, as are most of my augmentist friends. I dare say some events will require voice and some folks will insist on its use, but fundamentalist attitudes (on either side) are simply too limiting to have much of an impact on a world as wonderfully diverse as SL, IMO.

  • Jack Ketch

    Oh dear – when I first started reading this I hoped the ‘issue‘ was that for many of us sl voice chat just doesn’t work.


    Until this is fixed any discussion voice and it’s impact are lost on me I’m afraid.

  • Second Lulz Vigilante

    Mostly what I’ve seen are 2 different groups of fanataics…

    1) The Text Nazis: These people want Voice banished from the grid completely. Most (but not all of course) seem to be RL men with femme avs who cybersex a lot.

    2) The Voice Evangelists: These people are like a cross between Jesus freaks and Amway salesmen. They’re very quick to ask you why you don’t have Voice turned on and offer to “help” you right away. They also tend to figure that anyone who doesn’t want to use Voice is hiding something.

    Both of these groups are extremely annoying in their own ways. They also have this “serious business” attitude towards their respective positions and insist that everybody else join in their little false dichotomy head fogs. The only sane recourse when encountering either group is to flame them mercilessly using a combination of insults and logic.

  • Well, I don’t deal with any of extremists…. just don’t have nerves for them…. especially since one suggested me to instal windows to get voice.