No, it’s apparent voice will not be a universally-loved addition to Second Life. Cala brings up a point which I had not considered, but really should have:
In the CNet article about the voice feature, my friend Noche, editor of Pixel Pulse magazine, “is concerned that some people are not ready to divulge their real-life gender”- and that is very much the truth. The impacts to outing ourselves are massive, and the constant feeling of rejection from a non-understanding public eventually wears the most positive of us down.
For many of us – the TGs in Second Life – it really does mean an end to an era, where we can truly immerse ourselves in our chosen gender expression, and it feels natural and our entire avatar *is* our entire expression of ourselves in this new world. Now if we choose not to participate in voice, we are cutting ourselves off from communication, and we’ll be percieved as hiding something (again), and the shame can settle back in – and with it the depression, and with the depression…
Of course, I mostly had in mind the regular (and presumably straight, but perhaps not) guys who use female avatars in SL…but this is an issue of a totally different nature. It is certainly plausible, in hindsight, that people with various forms of gender-identity issues should use SL to visualize themselves as the “correct” gender from their mental point of view…and that voice, by bringing an element of the physical (and “wrong”) in, would get in the way of that. And, if it becomes more of an “expectation” of people in-world, it could prove devastating to those whose voice doesn’t “match” their avatar.
(Blame “carpal tunnel vision” on my part. Readers of this blog know that I crafted my avatar’s appearance to resemble my own in RL, minus certain aspects, and anyone who’s heard me DJ at the Gin Rummy or the Black Diamond knows what I sound like in RL. The same goes for Danielle, Chelle, and several others I know, too. I sometimes forget that not everyone in SL is like that.)
And even Triste is uncertain that voice will help out his Bible studies as much as I thought it would:
I think about the way the Bible studies are currently being done via audio and via conference call. I have to set the conference call to “lecture” mode (where all lines are muted save the moderator) in order to avoid distraction caused by noise or other activity on other lines that are connected to the call. To have background like that, especially when it’s all being recorded for a podcast later, makes it necessary to take that step of making the sessions “one way.”
Now, having heard some of the pros and cons, this still begs the question: Voice is coming. What do we intend to do about it?
At the moment, all of our land holdings (the Evans Family Compound in Aphrodisia, Don’t Panic! Designs in South Sunset, and the Gin Rummy in Joie) are on islands, which, according to LL, will not be automatically upgraded to voice unless the owners decide to do so, which may involve an additional fee (and if it does, I wonder if that will keep some island owners from adopting voice). Only if they decide to allow it will the decision be put in our hands. But, if they do, what then?
Well, if we shut down DPD, as Danielle is thinking of doing, the question becomes moot there. At the house, I guess we’d allow it, for our own convenience and the convenience of guests who choose to employ it. But what about the Gin Rummy?
I think I would probably choose to allow it there, too, but with some provisos. I would insist, for one thing, that our hosts continue to do business in “text mode,” for the benefit of guests who don’t have voice capability. (And it might not be due to being transgendered, either…they might be hearing-impaired, or might simply not have a decent headset for their computer. The actual reason is not critical.) And, naturally, we would treat voice disruption just like any other form of disruption (like gesture-spamming or excessive particle effects, for instance). And people that hassle other people for not communicating in voice, when it’s clear that they can’t or don’t want to, would be facing the business end of the Banhammer. As for our employees…if we hire someone that can’t or won’t use voice, we will respect their right to not do so, just as we don’t expect everyone to have and use Skype now. It shouldn’t be a requirement for working at the GR…heck, we’ve had DJs in the past who haven’t spoken on-air, or not much, and they did fine.
I do think built-in voice will be good for myself and Danielle in particular, simply due to the fact that we already make use of it, and the convenience of not having to use an external client for voice will be a net win. But we can’t speak for everyone, and it would seem that voice is not the universal benefit that LL would claim it is.
UPDATE: In comments, Danielle says “no voice at the GR.” That would appear to be that, then, because her word is law there, as far as I’m concerned. It does mean that we might be considered more “transgender friendly,” perhaps…