Why I don’t use voice in SL

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I wrote this a little while back, but it’s still pretty much accurate. The topic came up over on Plurk the other minute, and I thought I should post it here as well as inworld, for when I’m (well) here rather than inworld.

It’s a bit outdated, using funny old meanings of words like “immersionist” and “extensionist” (I think I may have accidentally made that one up trying to remember “augmentationist”), and worrying more seriously about voice fragmenting the community than I would today (because for whatever reason that doesn’t seem to be an active problem right now anyway), but it still accurately reflects my views. Comments are more than welcome!

WHY I DON’T USE VOICE IN SL
by Dale Innis
Version 1
23 July 2007

I don’t currrently use voice in Second Life, and I don’t except to be using it (except maybe in business meetings) in the near to middling future. Lots of ppl have asked me why I don’t, and since the explanation is long an’ involved I thought I’d like write it down on a notecard like this one here. There are actually a whole buncha reasons; here are some of ’em in no particular order.

1) I’m not alone in RL.
Quite often when I’m in SL, I’m around other people in RL; either there are other folks that live here in the same room doing their own things, or there’s someone sleeping on the other side of a none-too-thick wall, or whatever. It would be too rude for words (not to mention sometimes really embarassing) to be carrying on voice conversations in SL with RL folks around. One exception to this is when I’m at work or otherwise willing to sequester myself away the way that I would for a business teleconference; so this objection doesn’t apply to RL business meetings, say.

2) I’m an immersionist.
Which is to say, I consider SL to be a world of its own, rather than a sort of “networking” extension to RL. (I once read some clueless mundane refer to SL as a “business networking site”: I larfed and larfed.) There are at least five AVs that I use on a more or less regular basis; it would not imho make sense for the adult woman, the adult man, the little boy, the little girl, and the Pandaren Brewmaster from Warcraft III (the Frozen Throne expansion) all to talk with my RL voice. Voice-morphing software isn’t yet up to the task; it might be someday, at which point this part of this objection goes away.

There’s a similar problem with background noises; it’s really offputting when the President of the Imperial Council is about to make an important and solemn announcement, and suddenly the entire kids’ birthday party comes in from the RL pool behind him and starts whooping it up. Push-to-talk doesn’t really solve this problem. It’s probably not a killer all by itself, but it’s another straw.

Again there’s an RL business-meeting exception to this part, in that when I’m in an RL business meeting, I’m perforce being something of an extensionist, and I can just wear a form that goes more or less well with my RL voice, and RL background noises seeping in are only annoying, not reality-breaking.

3) Voice is single-threaded.
I can carry on three or four (or five or six, if I’m really in the zone) conversations at once in text chat an’ IM. Not gonna happen with voice, clearly.

4) Text favors the rational; voice favors the loud
Similar to (3), since only one person can really be talking in a voice venue at a time, voice favors the loud and pushy and aggressive. On the other hand everyone can talk at once in text, and the obnoxious are just ignored. I don’t really like being dominated by loud pushy ppl. On the other hand rational an’ polite ppl are pretty reluctant to use the mute button against anyone who isn’t actually violating TOS; mute has v anti-social effects.

5) Can’t scroll or search or archive voice
I save all chat an’ IM. I can figure out easily who that was I was talking to about sculpties last week. I can scroll back in any given conversation to see if I missed anything in (say) the conversation in the dance club while I was talking in the Scripters of Second Life IM channel. Voice enables none of this.

6) I like music
One wonderful thing about text chat is that I can be in a club with the music just as loud as I want, and I can stil be talking to the other ppl who are there with no difficulty. With voice, do we sort of shout over the music? Or turn off or down the music while we talk? Or what?

7) We can’t all talk (comprehensibly), or hear (well)
I’m somewhat shy in RL. Part of this is because ppl don’t understand me when I talk; when I talk to someone new in RL the first reply is usually “Huh?”. I talk too fast, I mumble. Other ppl want to communicate in languages that aren’t their first, or can read but not hear. (Text-to-speech is much easier than speech-to-text.) Voice disenfranchises all of those ppl to some extent (varying from a little bit, for me, to quite a lot, for the deaf). It’s possible that there are some people that voice enfranchises over text; but given how visual the rest of SL is, those ppl are probably not here (yet?) anyway.

There are some other reasons, but I think these’ll do for now I think. :)

WHY I SORT OF IN A WAY WOULD RATHER YOU DIDN’T EITHER

Now really if you live alone an’ aren’t the kind of immersionist that I am an’ only want to carry on one conversation at a time an’ don’t need to search or scroll back in conversations an’ don’t mind having to compete conversationally with other folks an’ are good at talking an’ hearing an’ don’t mind talking over the music, then I should say go ahead an’ use voice all you like an’ more power to you.

But, well…

I have most of the same concerns about voice fragmenting the community that Gwyneth does, and that she expresses better than I’m going to here:

http://gwynethllewelyn.net/article147visual1layout1.html

If I don’t use voice, and you do, we may well end up not talking. Now that’s not really really awful at first glance; if half the ppl use voice an’ half don’t, that means I have maybe 40,000 ppl I can talk to instead of 80,000. Given that I’m probably not going to get around to too many thousand anyway that’s perhaps not a huge difference.

But still.

What if most new people coming in sort of start with voice by default, without realizing that anyone does anything else? Some of them will encounter the problems above, maybe, and switch to text if they happen to run across texters. Others may give up an’ leave. Others will stay an’ be voice users. And all the people in that latter two categories I maybe don’t get to talk to. And that would be too bad!

’cause I like talking to ppl…

So that’s all for now. Responses an’ replies an’ thoughts an’ chocolate are all mos’ welcome.

Hogs and quiches to all,
Dale

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