Voice in Second Life

I guess everybody will be blogging about voice in Second Life over the next few weeks. The latest download released has voice fully enabled, and despite my initial experiences with the trial grid being frustrating, I had an amazingly positive experience with the new version.  Last night I tried it out with friends and fellow bloggers Jerry, Sharon and Alja.  I should disclose that I have met Jerry and Sharon in “real life”, they are fellow Australians, and I’ve been enjoying a renewed enthusiasm for Second Life since they joined (I wonder if other people experience peaks and slumps in their enthusiasm?).  I’ve also talked through the live streaming function a number of times for conferences.  So the thought of voice wasn’t in any way intimidating, and didn’t threaten any sort of fictional persona I had going on (I think these are the two main concerns reported to date).

All four of us experienced technical difficulties to begin with, and I have to say getting it working is not for the faint of heart or the (like me) easily-frustrated-when-technology-doesn’t-do-what-you-want.  But after maybe an hour or so, it was all sorted out and we’d launched into a full scale party, with Jerry playing his fiddle (Jerry is an incredible musician!), all of us dancing, and lots and lots of laughter.  Jerry has a photo and a great write-up here. It was lovely to hear Alja’s Slovenian accent and to learn how to pronounce her name properly!  We had a few other people come and go – one guy was practising his English on us – and it was all wonderfully entertaining.  It was fun to share the experience at an entirely new level – so much so that when one of my other friends came along who didn’t have voice enabled, we felt terribly sorry for her because she was missing out on all the hilarities.

I think voice will offer the opportunity for much more full scale immersion, interaction, and engagement. And now that I have such a fantastic experience I can easily see it revolutionising communication.  The only negative thing I have to say about it is that personally, I found it exhausting after a few hours had ticked by – it was quite intense and I couldn’t multitask like I usually do.  Trust me, being chatty and engaging for hours at a time can be draining, especially if you’re more naturally an introvert.  I look forward to seeing how others are experiencing it.

11 thoughts on “Voice in Second Life

  1. Great write up about SL Voice! What sort of technical difficulties did you have? Are there some tips you could give people who are just trying it out?

  2. Nice write up indeed. I had a very strange incident regarding voicing today in SL — I was hanging out in Caledon when I met a man who was about to sell his land there. I asked him why, and he said:

    “It happened to me in EQ, and now it’s happening here. Goddamned voicers are taking over, ridiculing me because I prefer text. My favorite SL bar, which is usually a solid scroll of text, was all but silent last night because of voicing. That’s why I’m going to sell my Caledon land and move to Babbage, where it isn’t enabled.”

    Fascinating, isn’t it? I had no idea that “anti-voicer” sentiment existed.

    By the way, I’m Achariya Rezak, one of Donna Alvermann’s grad students. And if you have a moment, I’m ACHING to get my poor, comprehensive-exam-writing, grubby hands on your New Literacy Sampler article about fanfiction. Please, please shoot me the PDF if you can? The link to the site has been taken down. *cough* Anyway. I’d be very grateful.

    On SL, my login name is Achariya Maktoum, and I’ve stalked you there as well. =)

  3. @Achriya I too have apprehensions about voice. I guess will get used to it with time.

    @Angela Is anyone working on Avatarization of the voice? I want to speak in say mickey mouse voice instead of my original voice. A lot of scope for using Speach2Text and Text2Speach technologies.

    Thanks Andy Piper for pointing to this blog!
    RL :-Balaji S. – Chennai, India
    SL: Labsji Link, SL2RL Tree Sapling Teleport Service

  4. @Halt Hi there 🙂 I had some initial problems with my internet server blocking the audio for some reason, which was easily fixed because it was on my end. But I found that when I was tp-ing back and forth across sims that sound dropped in and out. I don’t have a clue why that was. Some of my friends on Macs had to fiddle with their setting to get it working but since I am not on a Mac I didn’t get the details. I think there are conversations about works and what doesn’t and troubleshooting etc on the Linden blog.

    @Achriya Hope you have everything you need now, it was nice to meet you in SL 🙂 There are a lot of people anti-voice for various reasons, and I can understand them all. But after using it for a few days I find it lovely when I can hear people laughing 🙂

    @labsji Yeah there’s a few companies who are offering voice modification software. I heard somebody mention “Screaming Bee” but havent followed it up yet. I think that would make a fabulous study – fictional selves, fictional voices. Let me know if you get something going so I can come listen to you 🙂

  5. I found a lot of the most interesting conversations with people in SL were with those who had some trouble with English. They therefore preferred text which they could review (and translate). Others had a scripter’s affinity for text and others were switching gender/species. In these cases they are very upset with the move to voice. I have heard a lot of people worry about the effect on their enjoyment of SL.

  6. Pingback: Voice, text, meetings… «

  7. I’ve heard the same concerns too Ian, and its interesting for mt to try and get a collection of stories about peoples experiences so we can have more data to reflect on the affects of voice on society and culture. Any stories, please send them my way 🙂

  8. Well if you want stories of voice I can give you mine. I’m one of those role players. I shift gender and species at the drop of the hat. But I also am not scared to use voice. How ever I have seen that voice and text are very very different in the interactions you get with people. I have laughed so hard I cried on voice. It is fun, light hearted, and generally a ball. But well that is it. If you want something more then your average conversation voice is not it.

    I have yet to have a deep soul searching conversation on voice. In my feeling voice is actually worse for those things then text for a simple reason. Humans are made to talk and the written word is very unnatural for us. And with that we get a distance form what we are saying in text. That distance means we can open up easier in text then voice. I have had so many people tell me very personal things and feelings that they would never express out loud in text that I have lost count. It is part of the reason relationships on line are so fast to start and quickly get into personal and deep feelings. People talk more truthfully then they do in voice about things that aren’t talked about in real life.

    Also the role play aspect is not to be underplayed. Simply put everything in sl is a version of rp in some way. Going out to a club, having a house that looks like a rl house including bathroom and kitchen, siting in a chair on your deck watching the waves as you talk to someone, even wearing a swimsuit when you go into water. All of those things are not needed in a virtual world but that are comfortable to people and are light rp. It is part of the reason the vast majority of people look like the idealized version of there rl self if they were simply younger, sexier, and never had a bad hair day. SL is not conducive to being first life mark II. Visually and partially emotionally we are not ourselves and we even act slightly different on sl then we do in real life for the majority of people even if they are not role playing being a furry cyborg or other vastly different body form.

    And there is the simple fact that role playing in voice is very awkward and unnatural. When I cuddle or more personal things I explain what I am doing in detail. I create a story. Sometime it is a full short story since one time I did a word count and it was 4,ooo words. The slower pace of text gives time to think. I have played a bard in text and told long involved stories that lasted for an hour or more. Created entire legends of the top of my head because of that slower pace. I love telling stories to people and it is a free form flow of consciousness form of writing. But in voice you can not do that. It is to quick and any delay in the story telling is unnatural. Simply put I can not put as much of my creativeness and artistry of text into voice.

    So voice is fun, but it is also not as friendly to creativeness as text is. So light hearted chat is is great but if you want more then that, deeper then that, or more creative then that text is still king.

  9. Wow that’s fantastic Tasrill, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your story. I would love to make a collection of people’s stories, it is so fascinating to understand how this is potentially impacting upon individuals. I’ve had a lot of research participants actually comment about the slower pace of text being really valuable. I appreciate the idea of voice not being friendly to creativity and artistry of expression in many contexts. Thanks again! I love that line “text is king” 🙂 Can I steal that for a publication title?

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