Dive into the heart of creativity and connection in Second Life with the latest addition to our Made in SL series, "Creations Park Made in Second Life."
In this two-part feature, we highlight the inspiring stories of Barbie Alchemi and Carlyle Chaparral, two remarkable Residents who have transformed their virtual experiences into avenues of real-world impact and cultural enrichment.
Hi Barbie, how did you get into Second Life?
My brother lived on the East Coast while my mom and I lived on the West. Although we always had a strong love bond, we did not have a lot to share in our phone conversations. One day 14 years ago, he began to excitedly talk about Second Life. We had no idea what that was, but Mom said “If we want to communicate with him, we need to learn his language.” It was our love for my brother that got us involved in SL and motivated us through the learning curve.
Few people would want to share SL with their mother, but it brought us together as a family again. People would ask Mom how often she got to see her son and she would have to bite her tongue because she wanted to say “I just saw him last night. We were playing with our Kitty Cats in our garden!”
What is Creations Park in Second Life? Please give us a bit of history and explain what people can do in your region.
After being in SL for a year I heard someone say, “How you spend your time and money shows where your true values are.” I wanted to use SL in a positive way to raise donations for Team Fox, the charity arm of The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. We have now raised over $48,000 US. Our Dad had died with Parkinson’s and a year later Mom was diagnosed with the same disease. When she came into SL we were amazed to see the benefits it gave her in Real Life (RL). Mom was also documented in The Drax Files: World Makers Episode 13 back in 2013.
In Creations Park I wanted to create beautiful environments and experiences. The idea for the Ethereal Light Level was influenced by Mom’s near-death experience. She described it as if the air was made of love and everything she could see was made of light with many more colors than our eyes could see. She also said she had access to all knowledge. When she came back into her body the only message she brought back was “Our purpose here on Earth is Love and Service.” Creations Park was built based on that message. For me, the most meaningful thing I do each week is the Parkinson’s Support group which has been ongoing for 12 years. Although this group was started by Mom, it has continued after her passing.
What encouraged you to stay in Second Life?
My now deceased husband rolled his eyes every time I turned on Second Life. Eventually, he came to understand and respect what I had accomplished at Creations Park. My friends all thought I was crazy. I told them I felt like I was an early explorer when all the people of “the old world” were afraid I would fall off the edge of the earth when getting on a ship to sail out to see “the New World.” It was the endless creative opportunities and deep friendship connections that kept me coming back.
Your experience with folks of your generation: how would you alleviate potential fears of taking part in a “digital” community like this?
There is no age in Second Life. You are as young as you feel. Although there is a learning curve, this is also true for anything of value in life. My biggest fear when I came into SL was that everyone would be fake and how I could possibly trust enough to make a friend. A few weeks after I joined, I attended a philosophy group which asked the question “Where do you feel more authentic: in SL or in RL?” Much to my amazement, every person in that group answered in SL. That opened me up to trust. I discovered I was able to “feel” the essence of the person behind the avatar, and it had nothing to do with what they looked like. I know that SL has taught me more life lessons than I ever could have had by only living one life.
What is the future of virtual worlds like Second Life?
Second Life will always have a future as long as the residents find value in the creative and social connections. SL has the ability to fill areas of a person’s life that might be missing in RL. It has been my desire to follow a path to use Second Life in a positive way.
Hi Carlyle, what is the Savoy Ballroom in Second Life? What can people do?
This is the mission statement of Savoy in Second Life:
We create the authentic, realistic experience of being at the Harlem Savoy Ballroom during the Swing Era. We teach the music, clubs, bands, and especially the dances of this era and their legacies today. We educate our guests about the role swing dancing played in dissolving segregation in the 1940s. We empower others to creatively achieve our mission and our partner organizations’ missions.
Guests at Savoy most often come to meet people and dance. They may come for one of our many live entertainers; singers, instrumentalists, and DJs who perform mostly during the European prime time and US Prime Time hours. Our dancers have the unique experience of our Savoy couples dance animation machine, which names the dances according to their actual type of dance and organizes them by type and tempo. This allows dancers to pick dances that match the music just like you do in real-life dancing.
Some of our guests tour the Swing Era Museum that surrounds the Ballroom. This explores the key events in swing history as well as the bands, venues, music, and especially the dances of this era. In the sky above Savoy, our Museum also presents an Avatar-scale model floor plan of the original Savoy to experience just how huge it was.
Developing dance classes in Second Life was our original mission before we envisioned Savoy. Our Dance 101 Class located in front of the Ballroom is an introduction to dance in Second Life. We teach people how to recognize six different kinds of music and choose dances to match. Our Dance 301 Class -The Birth of Swing, is a full-immersion experience taking advantage of the capabilities of our virtual world in Second Life. You enter a room which transports you to some of the key venues of the early Swing Era, as you dance along with the bands and music that occurred there.
How did you get into SL and did it take time for you to decide on focusing on Savoy/teaching dancing?
I first came to Second Life in 2006 having read an article about it in a prominent business magazine. My wife soon joined me and we had a marvelous few years exploring the experiences of this virtual world unlike anything we could have imagined. I built a real estate business in SL that was surprisingly profitable and had a lot of fun meeting tenants from all over the world. We found ourselves dancing in SL so much so that we started dancing in real life. In 2010 we both left SL and became avid dancers, dancing swing, country, ballroom, and Latin at a wide range of real-life clubs and colleges.
In 2014, I came back to SL with two specific project ideas in my mind. First, to make dancing more fun and realistic in Second Life. I want to apply the things I had learned in real-life dancing including dance classes and the social experience of dance groups. Second, to explore the medical concept of vivid motor image therapy to see if the uniquely empathic experience of Second Life could utilize high-repetition dance mental imagery to rebuild neural and cortical damage. The teams of people I have brought together have made great progress on the first project, resulting in Savoy. I hope to be able to address the second project in the future.
What background in regards to dancing and music do you have IRL?
I have an extensive background in music dating back to my high school days singing and playing in marching band, jazz band, and rock and roll dance bands. As an adult, I have been performing in church rock bands for many years and also in coaching youth church bands. I have played a lot of different instruments including acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, electric guitar, banjo, and mandolin, but for the past 20 years or so I have performed primarily on bass guitar and keyboards.
As far as dancing goes, when my wife and I left SL and began dancing a lot in real life, we took some formal dance classes and countless pre-dance event lessons. The experience of dancing with a variety of partners, as you do in real-life dances, was very helpful to hone our skills. Most dance events, particularly those held in colleges, will have a free dance class at the beginning where you can learn the basics and dance with people who are more experienced.
Your experience with “older” folks in Second Life: how would you alleviate potential fears of taking part in a “digital” community?
I think by now people of all ages have experienced taking part in a “digital” community, ranging from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to dating/friendship sites. Perhaps less experienced by “older” folks are the virtual game worlds which most young people have played, some extensively. The challenge of SL in particular is that it is not a game to play but rather an alternative place to live a different, fantastic life (or lives.) What you experience here can be so emotionally potent that it is common for people to leave SL for a time, and then come back and do it again. However, the broad diversity of experiences and particularly the people that you meet and live with can make it all very much worthwhile.
What is the future of virtual worlds like Second Life?
It seems to me that essentially all of the virtual worlds created so far have been an environment that was created by programmers for users. The theme might be educational or simply game playing but it is you reacting to the program. Some of these Virtual Worlds, particularly the games, have been fabulously successful in the number of people playing.
The one exception is Second Life, where the virtual world you experience is created by you and the people you are experiencing it with. Linden Lab has been providing this virtual world for decades and it is clear that so far no competitor can get close to matching the realism of what you actually experience in SL. I think the success of Second Life in the future will depend upon Linden Lab communicating the SL experience to potential new residents. I have found the video series that Drax has created called “Made in SL'' to be particularly effective in doing exactly that. Finding a way to incentivize existing residents to spread the word about SL may be the key to growing this world.
Teleport to Creations Park and the Savoy Ballroom now, and immerse yourself in the vibrant communities, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural richness that await.
Step Back in time to the birthplace of swing at the Savoy Ballroom in Creations Park! Inspired by the real-world Savoy, you can experience the best in swing music and dances with daily live DJs playing Jazz and more. Walk over to the Museum of Swing which features bands, music, dances, and history of the Swing Dance Era. You can also learn how to dance at the Dance 301 full-immersion classroom.
Video Production and Interviews by Draxtor Despres
Logos by Marianne McCann