Interview: If You Can’t See Them, Be Them: U2 in Second Life* - U2 Feedback

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Old 07-17-2006, 11:15 AM   #1
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Interview: If You Can’t See Them, Be Them: U2 in Second Life*

By Roland Schulte

There exists a three-dimensional online world called Second Life, or SL for short. When I say world, I mean world, because it contains people, real estate, charities, stores, schools, churches, currency and everything else you can think of.

The whole idea of Second Life deserves an entirely separate explanation. To kick off this piece, however, we’ll focus on just one part: creating an online persona in Second Life.
You see, in Second Life, you get to be whoever you want to be. Sort of like when you were little, and imaginative.

So, if you were to join Second Life, who would you pick to be your online persona? Well, Bono, of course—the biggest rock star in the world. Then, naturally, you’d find the virtual Edge, Adam, Larry and complete the band. Then you’d find some stage designers, lighting technicians and security guards, perform some virtual concerts, and you’d create something called U2 in SL. caught up with DarkDharma Daguerre, an avatar (caricature) creator within SL who also happens to be one of the creators of U2 in SL. DarkDharma told more about the virtual concerts, the real-life interview with MTV and interesting spots in Second Life.

Many fans dream of being Bono, or Edge, or any rock star. Have you pulled
it off?

We think we've virtually pulled it off in grand style. We do it because we are passionate about U2 and their music, but most importantly, to further the issues we believe in and that the real band represents to a virtual world of 315,000 real people from all over the world. When we put on a concert, it's really a big production with lots of elements involved. Production scripts are handed out; backdrops are synced to the set list. Band
rehearsals are scheduled. Every attention is paid to detail—the band's costumes, sets—virtual Bono even has a virtual green Irish Falcon Gretsch guitar. In fact, the role player who runs the virtual Mr. B tells us that it's a huge adrenaline rush being on stage and performing, much like he would imagine being on a real concert stage. Several of the U2inSL role players tell us they get stage jitters before performances, and it takes them hours to come down to earth afterwards—much like their real world counterparts. Before the virtual performances begin, the crowd is buzzing for the show to start. Like the electric crowds found at a real U2 concert, it really helps that the Second Life concert goers get into the role play and have a lot of fun.

Before we go much further, can you bring back ZooTV?

We bet you didn't think the answer would be yes. We are thinking about bringing back different concert eras. We've also been asked about bringing back Red Rocks. Anything is definitely possible. Sets, equipment, avatars, etc., just need to be created to coincide with whatever tour era we would be replicating. Eventually, this may be done. Wouldn't that be a blast?

Aside from your band, what is the most interesting thing you've encountered in SL? Most interesting place?

The most interesting thing in Second Life is that literally everything exists there that can be found in the real world, as well as anything else that can be imagined and not found in the real world. The possibilities are infinite, so it would be tough to pinpoint one other interesting thing. But here are a few interesting thoughts: In SL, people can marry, complete with the whole-nine-yards white-gown wedding, get pregnant and have families. They can also choose to be a furry animal, a dragon or whatever their imagination can dream up.

Are you concerned with legal backlash from U2? How did you get the audio
streams? What's Second Life creator Linden Labs' position on all of this?

Really, what we do is not much different than dressing up in a Halloween costume and pretending to be a favorite character. However, so people won't be mislead and think we're the real deal, at every concert and event, we prominently post a big sign with a disclaimer that reads, "U2inSL is a role-playing group that exists in support of the One Campaign, Make Poverty History, African Well Fund, Music Rising and others. No money is being made. We are not affiliated with the real U2. U2 is a registered trademark owned by U2. Bono is a registered trademark owned by Bono/Paul Hewson. All rights reserved. No infringement is intended."

We have been attempting to contact Principle Management since the beginning of our Second Life project in mid-2005 but apparently they are a tough organization from that to elicit a response in certain matters. We have phoned, faxed, e-mailed. We have spoken directly with people in their offices who have asked us to forward material—that we've done. We're still waiting to get any sort of response from their organization. We think U2 would love what we do. We do it for no money; we don't claim to be them, merely to be role playing them, and to support the urgent issues that the real world band supports. In fact, as part of Bono's wishes for acceptance of the 2004 TED award, he stated, "I wish to tell people one billion times about One ..." The TED organization went on to state that what is needed are, "Offers of creative help to adapt the message to different media.” We believe we are providing a form of "creative help" by adapting and spreading the word about One to a very different sort of digital media: a thriving 3-D metaverse with over 315,000 inhabitants.

Our concert streams are obtained online as torrent files. They are streams of actual concerts recorded at the events by fans such as ourselves. We do not sell or make any money from these files.

Linden Labs' position on all of this so far has been positive as what we do provides a ton of quality content while, at the same time, raising awareness for the urgent issues that we and the real world band support. About six months ago, Linden Labs suggested to us that we should clarify and revise our disclaimer. We have done that so there will be no mistake about who or what we represent and to strongly point out that no infringement is intended. Our current disclaimer is included in every event listing and on every poster or public piece of information we put out so there can be no mistake about whom we are and our intentions.

How do you "perform" the concerts? Is the performer's movement pre-programmed, or done "live"?

All avatars in Second Life use animations to move, from lifting an arm a certain way to holding a mic, etc., all moves involve animations. That being said, the U2inSL role players do perform "live" and have freewill to move about as they choose. Think of it the same as moving around in the real world except in order to lift an arm, which we do automatically in the real world, we need to click an animation to do so in Second Life. All the U2inSL role players have specialty animations for their characters that they run
randomly at any time to provide realistic moves to go along with the song or whatever is happening on the stream at the moment.

However, it's not as easy as it may sound being on stage and running animations during a concert, as there are multi faceted things to focus on all happening at once. For instance, at any given moment during a concert, virtual Bono is quadruple-tasking, running several interacting animations (moving arms, bending down, opening mouth, walking about), while keeping an eye to the specific song and what's involved, as well as utilizing whatever props (guitar, tambourine, etc.) and, at the same time, keeping track of making wardrobe changes (he makes about four to five wardrobe changes during a concert all done while he is performing and moving about).

What has been the reaction to U2inSL outside of SL?

When people understand what it is and what is involved, they have been amazed. When they don't, they are like, "What's that about?" Often we find when speaking about our endeavor to folks in our first lives, an example dialogue we may hear goes like this: "You mean you actually move around in there?" Us: "Yes, there are roads, trees, houses, mountains—a whole world." “You mean you can actually do things there?" Us: "Yes, you can do everything there."—and so it goes. Some of us have told our families about it, some have not. Some family members do watch alongside in real world our role players while they are performing virtually.

Since our February 2006 concerts, we have become more widely known on the web, as lots of blogs have picked up the beat on us. And, of course, the fact that we were recently featured on MTV has really raised the awareness bar quite a few notches.

They never sell Bono glasses at the real shows. Can you get them at your

Although with this project we strongly emphasize that we never sell anything—we do have a virtual swag booth where concert goers can pick up freebies such as One Campaign wristbands, flyers, U2inSL T-shirts, buttons, posters, etc. We haven't yet made Bono glasses available but that's a great idea, we'll work on it.

Has your presence gained fans for U2, and/or support for the One
organization? Have you talked to the One organization?

Most definitely our presence in Second Life has gained fans not only for U2 and their music but also for the One Campaign, Make Poverty History, Music Rising, African Well Fund—all the causes that are featured at our virtual gigs and events. Because of our endeavor, we know of many inworld people who have actually gone on to attend their first real-world U2 concerts and become permanent new fans.

As we mentioned above, besides concerts, we hold One Campaign rallies that are extremely well attended. Last year at the start of this endeavor in SL, we specifically wrote to many of the heads of the One Campaign as well as all the organizations and fan sites of that we were aware to announce what we were doing in Second Life. Although we do go to great pains to clearly explain to the non-VR-aware person or organization what we do, generally, we've found it appears difficult to understand unless there is a certain awareness and knowledge of 3-D worlds.

Do you plan to authentically recreate U2 shows or mix in new ideas?

So far, for concerts, we've strived for authenticity as we are role-playing the real world guys. Part of the fun is seeing how well we can replicate things. The new ideas come in the form of whatever different elements are introduced in whatever concert stream we may be using at the time. For example, when U2inSL played in virtual Dublin, we used the June 25, 2005, Croke Park, Dublin stream. During that concert, a guy named Matt from Canada came on stage to play “Party Girl” with the band and we replicated that whole experience virtually.

New ideas have more come into play with the virtual One Campaign rally events. During these rallies, U2inSL performs several tunes, coupled with One Campaign podcast messages as well as photos of Bono's recent African trip that the virtual Bono "narrates." This is all put together in our own way as a new idea on how to get the message across. At the event there are banners, awareness signs and many links to read more about and sign up to the One Campaign. It certainly makes for a unique experience and one that really motivates people to be aware of and lend their support to the urgent

U2inSL has its own lighting experts, PR people and security. How did
you find these folks?

Some of the players came with us from another virtual world called There. We came into Second Life some earlier, some later, in 2004. Others involved are good friends we have made in Second Life with various skills they lend to the production. Our techno lighting wiz, stage builder, stage manager, Demian Caldera, has been with us since our There days. He is in charge of the production setup and handles the backdrop scheme and spotlights during the concerts. Nyna Slate, our security head, and also great PR person, has honed her skills over the past year to now find herself to be a sought-after expert at inworld event security. On occasion now, she consults with other groups regarding such matters.

The idea of virtually recreating U2 started in There where we actually held the first virtual events as "U2 in There.” However, There was extremely limited as to creativity allowed and what we could accomplish, so when we emigrated to Second Life in 2004, the seed of the idea came with us and, eventually, re-blossomed. However, it wasn't until about six months later, fall 2004, when we actually started to get the virtual U2 idea rolling once again. Things very slowly progressed from that time until June 2005 when we held our first U2inSL meet-and-greet. It takes a certain passionate dedication to pull off a project such as this.

What's next for U2inSL?

We love U2 and we plan to keep on doing what we're doing—role-playing concerts and One Campaign rallies in support of the real world band's issues that we wholeheartedly embrace. One thing we strive for in our virtual performances is constant improvement in animations, performance, stage set, avatar appearance—everything about the production is always looking to be improved upon.

What we hope for is that the real band will get to know us and love what we do in support of the very important real world issues we put forth to the virtual world. And we'd love for the real Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry to someday get to know about their virtual personas and maybe decide to take them for a spin inworld. Wouldn't that be the ultimate?

You can get more information about U2 in Second Life through here and here. Check out Second Life here.

Many thanks to DarkDharma Daguerre for taking time for this article.

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Old 07-17-2006, 01:59 PM   #2
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I still think this is really, really creepy.
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