Saturday, March 29, 2008

Freedom and the "Restricted Life" viewer

[For general information about D/s relationships in SL see here]

There are (essentially) two parts of the second life software: the software that they run on their servers which keeps track of all the object and avatars in SL - their positions, what their textures are, their scripts etc.; and the software that sits on your computer and communicates with the SL servers which draws what the world looks like to your av camera, including animations, etc. Every time you use the SL viewer interface to do something like sit on something, wear something, type a line of chat etc. it sends this to the servers which make the adjustments to the world as stored on their servers, and it sends back any messages, changes, sounds, animations etc. that may affect your av. In this way the work is divided and the minimum of information is passed back and forth (the "heavy" ones being textures, animations, sounds and videos).

When the Linden corporation designed SL system they tried to ensure that the user always had control - that they could never be forced to do anything, wear anything, sit on anything etc. and always could take things off, TP away, quit, mute, talk, IM etc. In this way they assure their users and help make them feel safe in SL. Thus many kinds of crime are simply impossible in SL - you cant hit anyone, steal anything from anyone, or kidnap anyone if they don't give you express permission to do these things. Undoubtedly this safety (along with the RL/SL anonymity) encourages people to explore activities they would not dream to trying in RL.

One such activity that people try in SL they would never dream of trying in RL is BSDM activities. The fact that there is no pain in SL and that one can always escape from anything gives people the confidence to explore some taboo and robust fantasies in SL, for if things get to unpleasant one can always TP away at the touch of a button. It is one thing giving allowing someone to roleplay tying you up in SL where you know you will be able to escape and yet another in RL where you have to be able to rely on the person tying you that they will release you whenever you wish. Thus BDSM is a much more common and obvious activity in SL than it is in RL - and not *just* because people are embarrassed about admitting it.

What normally happens in D/s where one person has control over another is that it relies upon a (usually implicit) agreement between the parties that the submissive will do what the Dominant says, for example staying in the cage rather than TPing away. The ultimate sanction here is that the relationship will end, thus a submissive is not totally free to do what they want since it may come at the cost of the relationship with their Domme ending - but no more than this. Thus if their relationship is giving the submissive pleasure overall then they may well choose to obey some otherwise unpleasant orders from their Dommes (like sitting bored in a cage). If their relationship is not providing these benefits then it is highly likely that the submissive will simply walk away and seek a better relationship. Thus a Domme does have to give the submissive enough of what they want (in some ultimate sense), if they want to keep dominating the submissive.

This consensual basis of Ds in SL is enhanced by a number of devices which essentially stop cheating -- that is ones that reinforce the above understanding by making it difficult to say you will obey but really do not. So that there are many collars that will allow the Domme to directly control and restrict the submissive (for example making them kneel) which will tell the Domme via IM if the collar is detached. Thus if the submissive wants to keep to the understanding then they can not take off the collar (without a discussion with the Domme at least). Other devices such as handcuffs and cages work on the same basis. These reinforce the experience of deliberate loss of control, since it makes it difficult to not follow through the decision made with the agreement - one can do things like escape bondage but only at the risk of canceling the basic agreement. However from moment to moment one has to decide to keep to the agreement, to follow the role play.

The "Restricted Life" viewer is an alternative to the standard Second Life viewer that one installs on your own computer. It looks and behaves in many of the same ways. However it is designed to deliberately not allow the obvious escape routes that are so fundamental to the standard viewer. In conjunction with scripted items that you can attach it can prevent you TPing away, or returning to home once you relog. It can stop you being able to "stand up" from a suitably scripted object yourself or sitting on an object more than 1.5 metres away. If the scripted items are so set it can prevent you detaching them at all and can even be set to prevent you using IM or to force you to only use "mouselook". Using the combination of the Restricted Life viewer and attachment scripted to work with it, one can be imprisoned with no escape and quite closely controlled by a Domminant.

Of course this level of control, although much greater than possible normally is possible to escape from. You can reinstall the standard viewer and then TP away or detach the scripted items etc. The scriped items will still warn the Dominant of this and this may effectively end the agreement and possibly the relationship between Domminant and submissive. However this is a big and active set - from moment to moment if they are not going to take the big step, the submissive can be restricted and controlled in a detailed way. There is always the quit button, but unless one goes back to the standard viewer when you log back in the av will be in the same position as before.

I have not used this technology with my submissive, since what I value is that she wants to obey me - I enjoy the complex dominance of a relationship rather than the simpler dominance made possible with technology. That is a personal choice due, in part, to the way I use SL - as an extension of my life and not as a game. For me the trade of satisfying her needs for attention, constraint, safety, belonging, sex etc. in return for control and love is satisfying in a deep way *because* it is based on our real emotions and not on any 'trick' of the technology.

However, many submissives actively choose to install and use the Restricted Life technology even before they enter a D/s relationship - the idea of being able to loose control is what excites them. So they seek to be able to do this as thoroughly as possible. Yes some Dommes insist upon this technology due to the control it gives them over the submissive, but the main advantage is that it can make the experience more intense and real for the submissive. As one put it to me "I don't have to deal with the Stand Up button looking at me at the bottom of my screen". They still have choice, but the choice is an all-or-nothing choice that can fade into the background rather than a moment-by-moment detailed choice. Thus once immersed in the situation they have chosen it can be that they have effectively chosen to give up choice.

Of course at the moment such defection is a matter of taste and trivial choice. The most these people will loose if they revert to the standard viewer is a possible loss of a Domme and their previous lack of choice. This may not, of course, be a trivial choice since this relationship might be very important to them indeed (not to mention the fact that there is a relative shortage of Dommes - see previous article). However for many people these things are not insurmountable losses, and so they still do have effective choice in the end.

In the future things may not be so clear. Once the use of SL becomes more entangled with RL, becomes more part of RL the costs of defection might be quite great. There are people employed in real jobs in SL, customising landscapes and homes for rent using relatively cheap Chinese labourers for example. There are students who attend some real classes with their lecturers in SL. What happens if this company or that university decides to insist on the Restricted Life viewer for their employees or students? Yes they can maybe get better value out of the use of SL by preventing their employees or students IMing with their friends in SL whilst they should be working or studying. The students or employees could be literally chained to their desks!!!

This raises the basic question of "human rights" (or should that be "avatar rights"). Does a human have a right to use a avatar that can IM with its friends when it is being paid to work? Does a student have a right to be able to TP away from their class, when they have signed up to listen to a lecture? We *do* accept that an employee may not be free to do as they wish whilst at their place of work (e.g. smoke, or use the computers for internet shopping), but are their limits to this? Just saying that one can always quit ones employment is not a total answer, since many people are sufficiently desperate for work that they effectively have not choice (or the choice is too drastic, having to choose between health care for their children and these freedoms).

Even the quit button is not sacrosanct, in a future where your computer and the running scripts in your SL are performing vital functions for you (e.g. earning your money, or monitoring the safety of your child) you may not even be able to quit. You may not have even the choice of turning your computer off.

San Mauvaise

Information about the Marine "Restrained Life" viewer can be found at:


Anonymous said...

You speak allot of truth for sure ,
And its not that easy just to ,
''Teleport Away''
As you most likely have already ,
build up a relationship with ,
you master/mistress/domme.

Greets Jay Zona

Anonymous said...

ok one major thing i have to say on this as a rl pet, that whole part where you said that bdsm is something people would never dream of trying in rl is in the view of this rl pet who is loyal to his owners a load of bs as i have experience though not much experience being a pet with a rl master so yea do more research first =^.^=