Newsweek is running an article entitled "The Creativity Crisis" which points out something that has worried me (and a great many computer/technical people) for quite awhile now. You can see it in the slew of remakes-of-remakes-of-classic films, girl-singers-who-you-can't-tell-apart, facebook-clones, web 2.0 gaga, flash-reinventions-of-old-concepts and gaming. Recycled (and lamer in execution) concepts with perhaps a small facelift or pancake makeup, offering nothing new or stimulating; only something recognizeable with a new "shiny" attached to it like a leech or a Botox injection.
I see the same problem in Second Life. Coming from a background helping to build the original VRs (Alphaworld, Cybertown, blacksun, Worlds, etc.) I am often saddened and disappointed in the so-called "progress" of SL and VRs in general. In 1997... we had "video on a prim," integrated email-from-within-world, stereo sound (my personal beef with SL's crippling of the FMOD sound engine), inworld and outworld-integrated IM... the list could go on. And all this useable from any browser... until MS polluted and subverted the W3C HTML standards and brought the VRML concept crashing down in their bid to take over and monetize the net.
Sure, in SL these things are better-integrated; sure, the interface is cleaned up... but what is new? 13 years of "progress" and we still have crashing browsers, borky asset servers, completely and stupidly non-functional "group chat," teleport problems, crapping-out sound... and what new paradigms? Just a refinement/prettying-up of the same concepts and functions I could use in 1997. I am not goggle-eyed nor romantic about SL's interface, having something to compare it with.
I see the same thing in SL among artworks. Of course artists are going to be influenced by things they see and applications of technique; scripting, texture tricks, spacial tricks; the uniqueness of the 3D worldspace. When you see something done with a tool you didn't know existed or something that causes you to re-examine or understand some aspect of 3D creation, it's natural that you will experiment with the technique, and that technique will have echoes to other's work (think flexi prims, texture fades/changes, inworld physics exploits, etc.)
But when you can look at a piece and instantly think, "Oh, that's Alizarin's work" or "Ah! I see Soror is working again" only to find another artist's signature on the work, that is clearly a lift, in the same way there were hundreds of Warhol imitators or fake Picassos. A school of art will have similar thematics, approaches and materials, yes; but an Apollinaire did not look like a copy of Picasso nor Juan Gris. Each artist used the techniques and philosophy of their particular school but managed to imprint their individual voices and styles in their works to the point where you could recognize a Picasso as a Picasso, and not a Gris, almost instantly.
It grates on my nerves (the few I have left anyways). When someone imitates a better-known artist, bringing nothing new to a composition - no individual voice, no interesting perspective, no vision - I dismiss the work, no matter how technically proficient the handling of that imitation is. Technique is mechanics, and mechanics can be learned, taught, imitated. What cannot be imitated is an artist's vision, and vision is what interests me in art.
So I am considering my "Fake Imitation" series, begun with a gentle joke for my friend Soror Nishi about the SL art scene with my work "nise ichiyou no Soror" (A Fake Imitation of Soror). Perhaps I will do "nise ichiyou no Ali" next, as I am seeing quite a few copies of Alizarin's thematic approach lately. But I will have to get a lot smarter before I can do "nise ichiyou no Glyph" :( Stay tuned.
[btw, i did try "nise ichiyou no Oberon" but i crashed the sim. Success?]
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PS - for the idiot "Web 2.0 buzzword monetize lets-try-to-get-in-on-something-that-already-is-old-because-it's-making-money Linden Lab MBA theorists," try directing them to this PC Magazine article entitled "Facebook, MySpace Get Failing Grade on Customer Satisfaction." Maybe this will influence the rush-towards-trashing-SL-in-favor-of-a-concept-we-didn't-get-in-on-early-enough-and-which-we-suck-at. Perhaps LL needs some people who have grown up on the net to tell them the elementary rule of the net: you lag, you lose.
So quit screwing the interface in a poor imitation of an already-existing suck-wind concept and get on with building the metaverse's future. Quit trying to sell half a baby to Facebook idiots who will drop the platform as soon as they get bored playing Farmville.