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Second Life Spotlight - Marly Milena


Linden Lab

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Today we are shining a spotlight on Marly Milena, a creativist known as Niela Miller in the physical world. At the age of 88, Marly has been bringing years of her educational experience and expertise to build communities in Second Life!

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How long have you been in Second Life and how did you first hear about it?
I have been in SL since October 2007. I heard about it at a transgender event (The Fantasia Fair of Provincetown, Massachusetts) where I led workshops for years. One of the transgender community leaders, who is also in SL and was my initial mentor for all things SL, told me about it and it appealed to me immediately so I joined as soon as I got home! I just knew that, for a creative person like me, there would be many things I could do to transfer my skill set and experience from my physical life to Second Life. One of my first projects was facilitating support groups for transgenders in SL. Then I trained some facilitators from that community to take over.

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How did you find the new user experience in Second Life when you first started? Do you have any tips for newcomers?
Having a mentor/guide made all the difference for me. I am pretty sure that, without that help, I would have been hopelessly frustrated. I strongly suggest that when new people come in, they are assigned to, or find, a personal guide to help them learn the ropes. It isn’t enough to provide self-guided orientations unless the person is very tech-savvy. The guide should also have a basic training in pedagogy as it applies to adult learners. Adults usually learn best by doing, not just listening to information.

Tell us more about your educational background and work experience and how that assists with the work you do in Second Life.
I combine many arts-based tools (I am an amateur musician, composer, singer, multi-media artist, actor, and writer) with my training and background as a Gestalt therapist, group facilitator, educator, humanistic psychology practitioner, coach, organization development trainer, and consultant. 

I have designed and implemented programs and offered training in a wide variety of settings ie corporate, non-profit, military, medical, religious, and more. For fifteen years, I was with a group called Associates for Human Resources in Concord, Ma. We went to many locations to do all kinds of programs and then, in 1984, I left to create my own business called PeopleSystems Potential. It still exists as a DBA although I am mostly retired and do the majority of my work now as a volunteer in Second Life. 

I also have a monthly Zoom class focused on Creative Process. It was a natural transition for me to bring in my hefty creative and pedagogical background to SL and not only design and implement a wide variety of presentations and interactive programs in a virtual world, but find collaborators and also create new organizations. 


Visit Butterfly Gallery in Second Life

How do you integrate symbolic modeling into your avatar's personal development? Can you elaborate on the two types of creative expression - theatrical applications vs shared creative expression and how you use them in Second Life? Any examples?
The best way for the viewer to get a sense of how I developed and used SymMod in SL is by watching my YouTube videos, which are linked from my website. The videos provide demonstrations in all three areas: Personal Development, Education, and Creative Expression. 

Music is a big part of your life. Tell us more about your music career and is this something you do in both the physical and virtual world?
I play piano and guitar, was a singer-songwriter for many years, and have an album called Songs of Leaving  (under my name, Niela Miller, produced by numerogroup.com) II. This is the LP album cover. I am a teenager in Washington Square Park in NYC where all the folkies played.

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I also started performing when I was very young at the great Catskill Folk Festival (and others).

I also have a one-hour video of a concert of all my piano music and some separate albums as well played by other pianists. As one teacher clarified, “You are a composer who plays piano, not a pianist who composes!" They are available at the Marly Milena Music Library in SL at the Community Virtual Library. We are collecting music and performers at the library and it is currently being administered by Katsii Tennen (known as CATS) who is my program manager and the Acting Director of the music library. My musical activities have been steady my whole life but not as a professional, just as a lifelong hobby and love. 

In SL, I have had my music streamed in/performed by Tip Corbett, also a composer and professional musician who has done improvisations to some of my pieces, and also by Ari who plays piano collections at many venues and events in SL.

We do a program called Improv: Musicians and Artists where we have one of each improvise to each others’ creations.


Featuring piano performances by Molly Lozeau and Justin McCarthy for Marly’s 85th birthday.

You are also an artist. Tell us more about your art, which art mediums you use, and do you sell your artwork in RL or SL?
Again, this has been a lifelong pursuit of mine but not as a professional. Anyone can go to my art page on my website and download copies of my mixed media art. I also have a Padlet page with art I have done for classes or on my own. I take classes on a regular basis in drawing, mixed media, and collage. Once a year, I am in an exhibit at the Concord Center for the Visual Arts in Concord, Ma. I have the soul of an artist and, therefore, would be doing some form of art as long as I live. Money has never been a motivator for art-making. I earned my living with my therapy, teaching, and training skills. I just happened to be able to incorporate arts-based tools into those processes! 

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See more of Marly's art

You have a group called Octagon in Second Life, can you tell us more about this group? 
The full name of the group is Octagon:Creative Exploration and we offer programs just like the title indicates. One is called Visions of Self for those who want to experience SymMod for their own personal insights. One is a training program for those who want to learn how to use SymMod with their constituents. One is a theater program called Shakespeare’s monologues which combines speeches, costumes, Symbolic Models of the characters, and audience interaction (ie what is the archetype represented by x character which shows up in contemporary life?) I also do a lot of presentations for groups like Nonprofit Commons, Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable, and conferences in SL.

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Visit Octagon Cinema Grove in Second Life

Are there any other current or upcoming projects or events you are working on in Second Life?
I have been doing ongoing groups in personal development and intuitive education for almost as long as I have been in SL. The current group is called “Beneath the Waves.” We explore all sorts of Ways of Knowing beyond our primary consciousness.

Different people facilitate based on their interests. VOS (Visions of Self) will be offered again in April. For all inquiries about my workshops and presentations and Octagon programs, please contact my Program Manager, Katsii Tennen (known as CATS in SL.)

I am also very involved in the growth and development of VWEC and am on the board. We keep evolving and doing all sorts of projects. We are working on bringing in as many educators and institutions as we can find who can see the value of teaching and learning in virtual worlds.

I will be doing a few programs for the upcoming VWBPE Conference. The full program can be found on their website. It runs from March 23rd to 25th .

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Visit the Marly Milena Music Library in Second Life

Where can people learn more about you and see your work in SL or RL? Please share links to your sites and social media accounts.
I am on Facebook and LinkedIn as Niela Miller.
My comprehensive website has all of my information: peoplesystemspotential.com

I am also always open to collaborations and especially finding people who want experience and training in Symbolic Modeling.


Thank you, Marly, for being an inspiration with all of your community-building work in Second Life.

Each of our Spotlight posts features a different Resident to showcase the spectrum of experiences and personalities found in our virtual world. If you have created something inworld that you’re proud of, or have had a deeply meaningful experience that could brighten someone else’s day, please sign up! More info here: https://second.life/spotlight-signup

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