Saturday, August 04, 2007

Focus not

An interesting experience today.

I used the new voice viewer in Second life with Martin.

Now we have been talking in text chat and on rare occasions in voice in our usual Instant Message application for close on 18 months now.

Voice was always hard to achieve as it had that "all-or-nothing" quality to it. It wasn't that it didn't just took a lot of intense concentration especially on Martins side of things.

But with Secondlife, it seems to be different.

In Secondlife, voice chat seems more natural somehow as we are DOING stuff other than just talking. It's like being in a room together and one person is doing their thing and you are doing yours but you can still talk if and when you want or need to. The focus is not as intense. It's quite liberating really. It means that for once we are not focused on the conversation so much but rather on natural friendship. We are not having to think hard about how we write things when trying to establish meaning and context. Instead, we are moving in and out of conversation in an ordinary way such as would be found between friends in every day life. The feedback we receive and give is more immediate and easier to understand and grasp.

This is in direct contrast to my experience with using text chat for the first time with my daughter the other day. Just as text chat revealed a new kind of relating to my has voice in Secondlife revealed a new kind of relating to Martin. It's the same but "different" in that the focus is different in both experiences.

With my daughter, I've taken for granted the face to face conversational aspect of our relationship. We just! When I spoke to her in text that highlighted aspects of her character I don't get to see so often in normal voice conversations. The focus however was more direct than usual. I was "tied" to that conversation because it was new for me. I also had to concentrate more about how I said things in words than I might have if I'd spoken them.

In the past, the level of focus in voice conversations with Martin was like this...we felt "tied" to the conversation rather than the relationship. With Secondlife, that has shifted and we can talk more freely and naturally because its more about the relationship and the friendship in that space.

I have had a strong impression of what I believed his character to be from text chat but now its being fleshed out (so to speak) by the difference in focus in using our voices to talk rather than constructing sentences in words.

None of this is better or worse than the other...its just an observation on the quality of focus required in talking to people in different ways.

Focus is the key here. It's not about how good the conversation is or isn't and nor is it about what the converstation is about or how its conducted; the point here is that in ANY type of conversation it is the kind of focus required to engage oneself within the relationship that becomes important.

There are times when either form of communication, text or voice, will demand a high level of focus - concentration - because its important to do that. Generally though, the intensity of focus in a chat application, both text and voice, seems higher than in natural conversation in "ordinary" life settings.

Using voice in our usual IM application was too focused for us...we were tied TO the conversation in voice rather than the relationship behind it. So we naturally opted for the slightly lesser focus of text chat as it took the focus from the conversation itself to our relationship, our friendship.

In Secondlife, using voice is less intense than using the text tools as we have more freedom to do things simulutaneously while we are conversing. It has an entirely different style of focus to it.

I was hestitant about using Voice in Secondlife and I still am to some extent. I know Martin reasonably well from our long year of regular - albeit text based - communications, so I trust him to use the SL voice client appropriately. I will probably be very shy though about seeking to voice chat with people I hardly know at all. That's just not my style.

Secondlife is a real playground. It's a theatre, a stage, a confidence tricksters delight. It's also got relational politics, angst, love, history joy, sorrow, stalking, winking, sex, fashion, travel, sights, beauty, ugliness, wonders, and marvels. It's not like Real Life but its definitely representative of EVERYTHING you can find in Real Life. For this reason you take nothing inworld very seriously and assume that everyone inworld is taking you very seriously indeed.

Voice in Secondlife is voluntary. Just as you can chose not to talk to a stranger you "meet" in the street in real you can in Secondlife. Just as you make new friends through conversations in real life, so you can in Secondlife. Its not that these things are different as such...its just that they're not quite the same ;)

The thing I am finding fascinating is the dimension of Focus required at each of these layers of relationship. It's really interesting stuff to me.

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