Visualize building stories in Second Life!

My avatar is being recruited for a job! This happens from time to time in real life, but this is the first time my avatar has been approached by a job recruiter. An exciting milestone! And the ironic thing is that my atomic self really is looking for a job in real life .  .  . but it’s my avatar who gets the recruiter’s attention!

Believe it or not, these folks at Zeega are recruiting someone who can “hear story ideas.” I don’t believe I have ever seen that in a job description before. I was struck to see an employer articulate the process so concisely. This listening process is exactly what I try to do when I write poems and stories and make videos.

Attracting story ideas is the idea behind almost everything I do. It’s why I construct virtual poem parks in Second Life, why I built my little (virtual) blogging studio down by the koi pond at my (virtual) home (feel free to visit!), why I construct moody landscapes like this wintry one in Farley Crabgrass’s beautiful video A Second Life Winter’s Night, why I built the little interactive flower path in front of the Elf Circle library that gives out lines of a poem when you walk on it (visit it here), why I log into Second Life to do most of my writing, why I write this blog–why I have a second life at all. It’s all a virtual story stakeout!

Story ideas are such shy and skittish things, like wild birds, or butterflies, or deer. You have to sit still in the places that they frequent, have patience, and eventually the ideas will come. Build it . . . and they will come.

Anyway, back to the job offer that appeared in my very own gmail box this morning. To Bay Sweetwater:

We are thrilled to announce a new job opening for Zeega’s Director of Projects + Community Partnerships. Zeega, winner of the 2011 Knight News Challenge, is an open source platform for creating interactive documentaries and inventing new forms of storytelling. You would join a core team of futurists in the fields of journalism, documentary arts, interactive design and social entrepreneurship.

“Zeega is being developed at the metaLAB (at) Harvard, a new experimental research, design and development group for innovation in the arts, media and humanities at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Zeega is housed within the independent 501(c)3 non-profit Media And Place (MAP) Productions, the ultimate employer for this position.”

Harvard! That’s where I first got involved in Second Life. It was during the historic CyberOne law course, taught by Charles and Rebecca Nesson through the Harvard Extension and the Berkman Center. I was participating as part of the “At Large” community, a group of students stretched out around the (real) world. CyberOne was Harvard’s experiment in opening a few law classes to anyone, anywhere in the world, without prerequisites. Classes were held both at the bricks-and-mortar Harvard Law School, and at the virtual Harvard Law School in Second Life.

My avatar, with Bruiser II, at Austin Hall in SL during CyberOne

One of the assignments was to create an avatar and explore Second Life. Once I did, I never looked back. I found a whole new life. I still hang out in the Berkman Island sandbox in Second Life, always hoping Harvard will offer another virtual course. They are rebuilding Berkman’s main building, so hopefully virtual Harvard will rise again soon.

But back to the job announcement. Job requirements include the expected “communicate, collaborate, create,” but there’s also another showstopper:

“Inventing new forms of storytelling that creatively combine text messaging, interactive audio, tablet browsing, awesome maps, online data feeds, physical objects, networked receipt printers, portable projectors, print media and tons of things we haven’t even begun to consider.”

Wow. They had me at “new forms of storytelling,” but to go on about the “tons of things we haven’t even begun to consider” piqued my interest even more. The very reason I’ve built my whole (second) life is to find new ways to tell stories. This job fits me like a glove.

Except for one little thing: I think the candidate has to be atomic. As in, biological. At least I think so, since the job announcement says candidates have to work in Cambridge Mass. And, well, sadly, all I have are pixels. But, hey, Zeega, they’re really awesome pixels!

But wait, I just had a brainstorm. This job is mixed up  with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Hmmm, the Internet  . . .  as in web, metaspace . . . virtual space. I could work on the Internet! Except the job says no telecommuting. This is curious. Now I’m not one to criticize Harvard . . . well, maybe just needle a little bit: OMG! Kicked Outta Harvard Because of My Boots). But why is it that the jobs I see with the Berkman Center for Internet & Technology never involve working over the Internet? Why do they  always want their candidates to be in Cambridge? I mean, for heaven’s sake, the Internet is all over the place these days. Even in other worlds!

I could easily work from Berkman Island in Second Life! I could walk from the Berkman sandbox, over the (virtual) Charles River, to whatever (virtual) digs replace the old Austin Hall replica. We could all brainstorm there. We could even [dramatic pause] . . . build our stories in Second Life! Build our poems, our videos, our dreams. . . practice hands-on building those illusive story ideas out in the sandbox!

Second Life is perfect for stalking story ideas and giving them virtual form. I do it all the time. I can sit for hours at my paint-spattered writing desk, or my floating bookpile, or the sunstreaked woodland glens . . . and just wait. The ideas always come. P.S. It helps that four dayscapes pass in SL to every one in a real world day. Four mornings, four afternoons, four nights, four skies full of stars; stories have four times as many chances to appear!

Ah well . . . they say I’m just a dreamer. But as another dreamer once said: “I’m not the only one.” Check out Robbie Dingo’s masterful video Watch the World, and you’ll get the picture. Robbie dedicated his video to ” the many weird and very wonderful strangers from around the globe I have met, but have never really met.” These weird and very wonderful strangers live all over the Internet, and that’s where we need to be if we’re going to hear their stories.

They say I'm just a dreamer.

On of my Poem Parks: Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"

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