Keeping adults in control in Second Life

After she explored Stonehenge in Second Life, my wife turned the corner and walked into a shop selling fully nude skins for female avatars.

With rather large pictures visible from outside the store.

A while ago, I addressed the ghettoization of “adult content” on Second Life. The sad thing is, all the discussions of this sort would not address her experience. While the definitions of “adult” are shifting and hard to define, Linden Labs has – unofficially, at least – stating that only the most extreme adult content would be exiled off the mainland.

In my earlier post, I guessed that Linden Lab’s rationale for this policy has less to do with truly offended people than with making things seem more palatable for pinks in suits. While searching for a lightweight text SL client, I stumbled across the seeds to a much more elegant solution to the whole “adult” problem – one that addresses both the most extreme conditions and relatively banal situations as well.

The Able edition (though now unfortunately discontinued) allowed the ability to mute objects:

The viewer is already able to mute the chat from object or avatars that spam the public chat channel. The Able Edition viewer also allows objects to be muted visually, so that they either appear much less intrusively or disappear altogether.

If Linden’s goal was to allow people to selectively determine what kind of “adult” material they were exposed to in Second Life, the concept behind the Able viewer points the way. Require a single byte on objects that denotes a rating (I’d suggest G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, simply because there’s general agreement in the US about the cultural standards denoted by these ratings), and the ability to “mute” all objects/people who are rated as more severe than you want to see.

Sure, there’s still problems defining the exact boundaries of the standard. Sure, there will still be problems with people setting pictures of boobies to “G” – but there’s already a reporting mechanism in place to deal with that. Parcels and shops stay where they’re at, people have the independence and liberty to individually choose, and we can all still co-exist.

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