Feb 28, 2013

Gone Fishing

#MTV approaches Linden Lab for #SecondLife inclusion in the show Catfish



Catfish Logo



Catfish: noun

Someone who pretends to be someone they're not online to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.




What the Fresh Hell?


In a recent Linden Lab announcement, the following source of insanity burned the retinas of my eyes and cause kittens worldwide to spontaneously implode in a show of glittery contempt:



"MTV’s Catfish is Seeking Second Life Stories

by Community Manager Linden Lab on ‎02-26-2013 10:49 AM


MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show brings together couples that have online relationships to meet offline for the first time, often with surprising results as the differences between online personas and offline lives are revealed. MTV is now casting the show’s second season, and they’re interested in hearing from Second Life users who have fallen in love inworld, and would now like to meet their love in person. If you’d be interested in being on the show, you can apply online here."


It would seem that the circus has come to town, and the ringmaster (MTV) is looking for Second Life residents who would like to participate in the show Catfish for Season 2. In and out of SL dating myself, I’ve heard that term over and again “Catfish” to describe people in online or long distance relationships who build a false persona in order to invariably hook people into a romantic relationship.



Here…. fishy fishy fishy fishy fishy….



I’m no stranger to the term or to people pulling this, but I’m usually on the cynical side of things looking to tear those safe-harbor identities to shreds. I’m kinda a bastard like that in the long run, despite my outward appearance…


After all, in Second Life we can, and more often than not do, play characters and hide behind that digital mask for safety. I’m not entirely sure if that sort of safe harbor is warranted or deserved, because it’s all about context in the end. I really have no issue with people in Second Life for roleplay purposes, to explore identity or alternative situations of being which they otherwise couldn’t in real life. But the moment you’re dealing realistically with another person’s emotions you are inherently having a real world effect on them, your reasoning about keeping SL and RL separate go right out the window. You no longer deserve to have identity safe harbor.


If you value even keeping a friendship with somebody, you owe it to them to be honest. Either in disclosing that you’re playing an identity which is not who you are or in coming clean entirely and letting the mask down. Other people deserve to make the decision for themselves whether they feel they want to continue being involved with you as you choose to represent yourself. Otherwise you’re just acting too chicken-shit to face the consequences of your actions, digging yourself a deeper hole and the consequence will be worse over time.



Rainy Days


rainyday superstar

Not to be confused with Rainyday Superstar. Even though she’s 100% Super Awesome.



Even if you’re setting those boundaries in advance, and both parties are in agreement, emotion takes a toll on real life whether we like to admit it or not. But in the half-honest scenario of mutually agreeing to lie to each other, as strange as that sounds, I at least see where people shouldn’t (but likely often do) get hung up with real consequence and emotion. I’m not so polarized as to insist everyone needs to be completely honest and themselves at all times. It’s really about the context of interaction which dictates what is appropriate.


It’s when none of that exists up front, and you’re giving no indication of lying, but instead insisting you are being honest, that I have a problem with. You’re leading others into your persona and having a real life effect on their emotions – knowing full well you’re outright being selfish at the expense of others. That’s what Catfish is about, and a show from MTV isn’t to blame for making your actions look bad.


Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re having a real world effect on people and our refusal to respect that simply makes us shallow and selfish. I care no more about offending those people than they do in jerking others around and lying to them. I suppose that’s a big reason why I choose to be 100% myself in Second Life and not hide who I am. It’s less about me and more about having the empathetic consideration for my effect on others who get to know me.


I respect others enough to let them make an honest decision about their involvement with me on any level – whether that be an acquaintance, friends or more. And yes, even if that means people choose not to associate with me at all – I give them the honest chance to decide that for themselves. Taking that away from them shows absolutely no consideration for anyone but myself, and that’s just wrong.


There is, of course, some amount of mini-ranting going on about all of this. Bryn Oh (bless her petite twisted heart) chimed in on her blog talking about how MTV would play the part of Jerry Springer, only looking for the drama and to incite it, even going so far as to suggest creative editing and selective memory in episodes to make a story that didn’t happen but looks great for television drama.




SL Secret

As if this isn’t considered an every day normality in Second Life to begin with.



I’ve seen some of the show before on MTV and to my knowledge, the people behind it are a lot more sincere than you would expect. After all, they seem to really want things to work out well for people and are just as dismayed that they do not more often than should.


I think this says a lot more about our behavior in the online world than about MTV. If there wasn’t ample amount of drama and deceit in Second Life, and it wasn’t an everyday occurrence for people to have ten and twenty ALTs and fifteen partners and be married in Real Life… do you think MTV would consider Second Life a viable pool of material for a show like Catfish?


All a show like Catfish is doing is exploring the premise of distance relationships in the online world, and facilitating the initial first meet-up, with probably some help in resolution for better or worse. The people behind it, while they know drama is good business, are also keen to admit that they’d like to see happy endings more than not. In the context of television and MTV, maybe they do lean heavily on creating drama and scenarios… but that’s business.


If television programming is business, and drama is good television, then by default drama is good business.



Sunny Days


Sunny day

Not to be confu – We need some rehab if we’re confusing this with anything sane.



Setting aside the accusations of MTV making shit up for good television, because it probably happens a lot anyway, let’s look at the bigger picture. The underlying root of all of this is that there is more than ample amounts of Catfish and Drama in Second Life for this show. If anyone is delusional enough to pitch a fit about that declaration of inarguable truth, they deserve to be flatly bitch-slapped into the next region.


Really, this isn’t a sudden realization that a lot of people are about to be publicly humiliated on MTV for being lying sons-of-bitches and jerking people around in SL (because they deserve it), but more importantly -


If you don’t want to look bad, then simply stop acting bad.


Novel concept, I know… You mean to say that if MTV goes looking for the drama and bullshit in SL and the couples that apply for the show are more likely honest and overjoyed at meeting each other in real life, instead of uncovering dirt-bag guys and manipulative women, the stigma of Second Life would change for the better?


Well, duh.


Captain ObviousI always hear about the media giving SL a bad name and saying it’s all about sex and bullshit, and all sorts of perversion… and people in Second Life just going on ad-nauseum about how it’s all the big media’s fault for making them look bad.


That’s absolute bullshit and you know it.


It’s a lot like a bunch of kids throwing temper tantrums and wrecking the place, but having the audacity to blame the parents for pointing out that they’re having temper tantrums and wrecking the place.




“Well the rest of the store wouldn’t think we’re horrible children if you stopped pointing out that we’re acting out of control!”


Some of the worst human behavioral qualities are manifest in Second Life, and dramatically amplified because of that feeling of identity safe-harbor. If you think you can get away with anything without consequence, apparently Second Life is a prime example of just how many people would take you up on that offer.


All the things society would think are morally reprehensible? Yep, it’s an everyday occurrence in Second Life. MTV didn’t make that happen, and it’s not the media’s fault for making you look bad. Nobody is really throwing a fit about MTV or Second Life looking bad to the world, and that’s something we need to understand. What people are really having a fit about is that there is a possibility that their safe-harbor identity in Second Life has a very real possibility of coming back to bite them in the ass.


You no longer have a guarantee that your actions have no real consequences.


That’s what people are flipping shit about… and it’s still just a selfish reaction. Cry me a river… you’ve acted badly to another person, lied through your teeth and treated another human being like they are disposable, all because you thought you would never have to pay the piper for it.


I sincerely hope you get busted red handed and shown for the person you really are. That’s what you deserve.


So for a moment, you might want to seriously think about the person you’ve been falsely romancing for months, and even a few years. Now is a good time to ask yourself – “Have my lies done such a good job of convincing them that they are going to bring MTV over to my house?” – Oh yes, it’s a possibility… and that’s what freaks people out the most. The very real possibility that their actions will come back to bite them in the ass in a public manner. Which, for all intents and purposes, may as well be the biggest fear of a majority of SL users. Because in real life, you can’t just make an ALT to escape it.


But there is a bright side to all of this – drama, lies, and bad behavior aside. Just as much as MTV will capitalize on your bad behavior which is running rampant in Second Life, and likely show just how insanely fucked up you all are to the world, there is a bright side to be discussed… a golden opportunity if you’re willing to take it.



Bad Press | Good Press




In hindsight, we went on to continue having an awesome night ;)



Most are immediately assuming that Linden Lab is being brave for exploring the notion that there is no such thing as bad press. That somehow Linden Lab is betting on capitalizing your drama for publicity.


Ok, let’s explore that a bit. Maybe they are, and that’s how they are looking at it. But Linden Lab isn’t in control of the community dynamics which produce that drama and bullshit.


You are.


Ergo, wouldn’t it be awesome if you were responsible for sabotaging the drama expectation and instead (as a community) showing the world that this is better than they expected? Linden Lab and MTV are likely betting on the drama factor, but what if a majority of the relationships in Season 2 of Catfish stemming from Second Life showed happy couples that were overjoyed for meeting in real life?


What if a majority of the relationships stemming from Second Life on Catfish turned out to be honest and good instead of the expectation of lying, cheating, etc?


Linden Lab wins either way, and so does MTV. The only real losers in this situation are you and the community if you can’t get your shit together and present a better Second Life to the world.


Think about it… if Catfish comes out with Season 2 and it involves a ton of lying, cheating, manipulative people treating SL like a total adult playground without consequences, then that will attract more of that to Second Life, won’t it? You’re giving the green light and impression that Second Life is a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah with absolutely no consequence.



Bunny Ranch Nevada

As if escorts, prostitution and extreme kinks aren’t the “norm” in Second Life.



Maybe… just maybe… Linden Lab is looking at it like if they bring in MTV to start busting people in the real world for the bad stigma they’re giving their community and flagship product, maybe you’ll tone it the hell down and start acting a bit less morally reprehensible or (at the very least) quit flaunting it and ruining the overall community reputation in the rest of the world?


I dunno about you, but the thought of MTV coming in and randomly busting people for being Catfish, and the real world ramifications that will have on people who previously thought they were untouchable… I’d be more worried about saving my own ass than anything. That’s the sort of thing that should (in theory) be enough to put a healthy fear of CeilingCat in you.


But the realization about all of this is that it won’t.


It’ll be good drama, people are going to get hurt, and there’s nobody to blame but yourselves. Only you can decide whether this is going to be a train wreck for the world to see or whether that train gets to the station untouched.


After all, I’m a bit of an optimist. I’d very much like to see you break the stigma and expectation of failure and drama… but I bet it’ll be great television even when you fall flat on your faces.


jewlie & san 2I know my friend Jewlie and San both met in Second Life a few years ago. They partnered, and did a long distance relationship. After a few years, they are now engaged to be married in real life. Nobody turned out to be already married, or lying about anything. They had (and have) a loving and committed relationship that didn’t disintegrate the moment they met face to face.


After about two years together in SL and RL in a distance relationship, he proposed and she said yes.


Therein is an example of some of the best human qualities which manifest from Second Life, and an example of an honest and long term relationship should be like. Using Second Life as an identity safe-harbor to lie to people just to get into a relationship is never a good idea and almost always… and I mean always, ends badly.


As BotGirl said in a recent post:



The common thread in every episode is that someone feels they have to project a false image of themselves to initiate a relationship. As authentic human connection deepens over months or years, they become trapped by the initial lie, fearing that disclosure might end what has evolved into an important friendship. They agree to reveal their identity as a latch ditch attempt to salvage the relationship, or at least get closure. Although there was only one fairy tale ending, most participants used the show to move forward with their lives. None of them planned to try another online relationship.



I think that is pretty spot on, but I’m sad about the last line where nobody planned to try another online relationship. That says a lot about negative expectation…


Sure we’re going to meet a lot of dishonest people, but wouldn’t it be worth it if you found just one that was honest and it worked out? Equivalent to shoveling a mountain of coal to find your diamond. Ultimately, a true friend would be honest – even if it’s going to hurt.


Give MTV stories that show the best qualities and not the worst, and you’ll bring Good Press to the community of Second Life. Otherwise… I await the train wrecks.


If you think your relationship has what it takes, then why not sign up for Catfish. I wish you all the best of luck… you’re going to need it.



Feb 24, 2013

Alpha State

ASMR Theory and Total Relaxation


ASMR Cover [Generic]There has been a lot of coverage lately about a phenomenon known as ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, in the mainstream media. Essentially, ASMR is a set of audio or visual triggers which invoke a type of sensory “tingling” on your head or other areas of the body which is a result of a deep relaxation environment.


A lot of people seem to believe (erroneously) that ASMR is a “sexual” sort of thing, but I‘ve come to understand that what it really represents is a type of intimacy in certain situations. Now, “intimacy” in this regard is not ubiquitous for “sexual” and I believe people tend to throw them all in the same category lumped together - which is our first mistake.


One of the triggers for ASMR is a slow or accentuated speech pattern, often whispering or soft spoken. Another trigger for this is experiencing a high empathetic response to a situation or directed at an individual (such as yourself) but even if that empathetic response is directed toward another, we enter into a state of proprioception. In this manner, there is a high intimacy scenario – but again not sexual.


In the ASMR acronym, Meridian is another way of saying orgasm but in context it’s really like a brain orgasm. Originally when the community began to form, it was decided that overtly using the word “orgasm” would devalue the legitimacy of the ASMR response and so Meridian was chosen instead (for a very obvious reason). After all, there is already an issue of confusion over what exactly ASMR is about and too often people who do not have ASMR triggers falsely attribute the situational triggers to a sexual intimacy.


Therein is the differentiation that I believe many are missing, in that ASMR often comes in the form of empathetic intimacy. In conjunction with one of the other triggers (soft, accented, slow speech patterns) often referred to as the “Bob Ross” effect… it is a multi-trigger bombardment to relax you.


Painting happy little clouds and trees…




TheOneLilium on Youtube | ASMR Example





There really hasn’t been much actual research into the ASMR effects, but the reports of the symptoms are widespread worldwide. In essence, I’m not entirely certain the ASMR community has any idea what is going on, but they know generally what the effect is and how to trigger it as shown by the definition below, provided by http://www.asmr-research.org/ :



Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a physical sensation characterized by a pleasurable tingling that typically begins in the head and scalp, and often moves down the spine and through the limbs.

Most ASMR episodes begin by an external or internal trigger, and are so divided for classification.Type A episodes are elicited by the experiencer using no external stimuli, and are typically achieved by specific thought patterns unique to the individual. Type B episodes are triggered involuntarily by an external trigger, via one or more senses, and may also involve specific thought patterns associated with the triggering event. Both types of triggers vary between individuals, but many are common to a large portion of ASMR enjoyers.

Common external triggers:


  • Exposure to slow, accented, or unique speech patterns
  • Viewing educational or instructive videos or lectures
  • Experiencing a high empathetic or sympathetic reaction to an event
  • Enjoying a piece of art or music
  • Watching another person complete a task, often in a diligent, attentive manner - examples would be filling out a form, writing a check, going through a purse or bag, inspecting an item closely, etc.
  • Close, personal attention from another person
  • Haircuts, or other touch from another on head or back



This is a good start for understanding ASMR theory because it gives us vital clues as to what the mental state of the person may be with this experience. From there, we may better form an idea about what best describes ASMR and why it is effective for many (but not all). What comes next is my deconstruction for ASMR theory and what I believe is likely causing it. I do not proclaim to be an expert on this, but it may offer up some real insight as to what is actually going on.


This is written from my own point of view, as I am actually lucky enough to experience ASMR first hand. This post essentially is my theory about what’s going on to enable ASMR and why it is triggered. Hopefully it is helpful for people who do not readily understand ASMR, the community, or maybe just existing people in the ASMR community who would like a possible idea of what’s going on other than “tingles”.



ASMR Theory



The term "autonomous sensory meridian response" (ASMR) is a neologism for a purported biological phenomenon, characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation often felt in the head, scalp or peripheral regions of the body in response to various visual, auditory, olfactory and cognitive stimuli. The phenomenon was first noted through Internet culture such as blogs and online videos. Tom Stafford, a professor at the University of Sheffield, says "It might well be a real thing, but it's inherently difficult to research."



As with anything of an experiential nature, ASMR seems inherently impossible to pinpoint in a proper research setting. However, what we do actually know of it may provide enough to form a better understanding other than “tingles”, or at least lead us to a plausible explanation to work from.


For instance, the “tingling” sensation itself is noted as in the head, scalp, or peripheral regions of the body, and that right there is enough to pinpoint a mental state candidate in conjunction with the total relaxation state which accompanies ASMR.



Alpha Waves


As the name of the post implies, our search begins with the Alpha wave state of mind.



Alpha waves are neural oscillations in the frequency range of 8–12 Hz arising from synchronous and coherent (in phase or constructive) electrical activity of thalamic pacemaker cells in humans. They are also called Berger's wave in memory of the founder of EEG.


Alpha waves are one type of brain waves detected either by electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography (MEG) and predominantly originate from the occipital lobe during wakeful relaxation with closed eyes. Alpha waves are reduced with open eyes, drowsiness and sleep. Historically, they were thought to represent the activity of the visual cortex in an idle state. More recent papers have argued that they inhibit areas of the cortex not in use, or alternatively that they play an active role in network coordination and communication. Occipital alpha waves during periods of eyes closed are the strongest EEG brain signals.



Of course, a lot of the ASMR community thrives on the visual triggers in video, so the alpha wave state should be diminished with open eyes. However, I’d like to put forth the theory that since the ASMR community usually concentrates on repetitive and mundane actions (pages turning, drawing, brushing hair, nail tapping, scratching, etc) that the redundancy of the visual cues in conjunction with what is known as Selective Attention does not disturb the alpha state nearly enough to counteract the effectiveness.






In essence, the visual cues aren’t chaotic enough to negate the alpha state trance and in fact actually aid in getting there faster by pinpointing a repetitive task with hyper-focus and then mentally omitting everything except non-predictable actions. But since non-predictable actions are miniscule in that scenario, the mind may as well be totally blind. In the same manner as a teacher droning on in class will shut you down (see also: Ferris Beuller), ASMR holds the same pattern triggers.


Another way to understand this is in the context of a hypnotherapist putting somebody in a trance. A lot of soft spoken and guided visualization occurs in this scenario, sometimes they use a repetitive visual cue (watch the pocket watch swing back and forth). This also would explain why not everyone is able to experience ASMR – since in the same aspect not everyone is able to be brought under hypnosis.



Given the alpha wave's connection with relaxed mental states, many people have latched onto the idea of utilizing this state through a technique called biofeedback training. This technique utilizes EEG to indicate to a subject or trainer when the subject is in an alpha wave state, which the subject is then instructed to remain in.


There are several different prospects of this training that are currently being explored. Arguably, the most popular one is the use of this training in meditation. Zen-trained meditation masters produce noticeably more alpha waves during meditation. This fact has led to a popular trend of biofeedback training programs for everyday stress relief.


Psychologists are hoping to use this technique to help people overcome phobias, calm down hyperactive children, and help children with stuttering problems to relax enough to practice regular speech.



However, the same things that would put somebody under a hypnotic state (trance) would also merely act as a deep form of relaxation for somebody who isn’t receptive. Therein is why so many people buy sleep machines to put by their bedside (the ones that play white noise, pink noise and ocean sounds).


Now we’re in the ballpark of what’s going on with ASMR.


In regard to the visual cortex, when you are visually subjected to repetitive tasks, you (at some point) stop mentally processing the scene since it is repeating and no new information (or relevant information) is being shown. This leaves you to focus just on the trigger sounds and visuals in a state of trance where you may still be seeing the scene but not fully acknowledging it visually. This would be equivalent to when you are “half asleep”… very relaxed, and yes you see what’s going on around you but it’s not fully registering in your mind.


In a way, you become situationally unaware and your subconscious tilts in favor as your conscious mind begins to drift or hyper-focus. Have you ever seen the video where they ask you to count how many times various players pass a basketball to each other, and in the end they slow it down and show you that you didn’t even notice the Gorilla walking into view and dancing?


The term for this is Selective Attention, or the ability to focus on one thing while omitting all other things in your field of view or senses. For instance, when your are in a crowded room and hear somebody call out your name – you are able to tune out the rest of the audio “noise” around you to hear that. In the same manner, when you use selective attention in your visual sense, you visually tune out most things around you as if you are blind to it.


Let’s do a quick Selective Attention test:



Lights on, nobody home.



In the same manner as you visually omit things in your field of view via selective attention, ASMR redundancy has you omit nearly everything at a certain point because it is redundant and you are expecting the outcome. You seem to overextend the predictive ability of your mind and then lull into a state of autopilot. In this manner, the effectiveness of Alpha Wave state isn’t diminished with your eyes open because your Selective Attention is effectively blinding you, and when the visual cues are repetitive and mundane, your selective attention ability even omits that from your processing. Just like the swinging pocket watch.


Thus, you may as well be embodying the term “Eyes Wide Shut”.


This is just the first phase of ASMR triggering, reducing the person to an alpha wave state, which then makes them susceptible to the “tingles” aspect… but then that’s another wave-state which we’ll get into next.


Mu Rhythms



Mu waves, also known as mu rhythms, comb or wicket rhythms, arciform rhythms, or sensorimotor rhythms, are synchronized patterns of electrical activity involving large numbers of neurons, probably of the pyramidal type, in the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement. These patterns as measured by electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), or electrocorticography (ECoG) repeat at a frequency of 8–13 Hz and are most prominent when the body is physically at rest.


Unlike the alpha wave, which occurs at a similar frequency over the resting visual cortex at the back of the scalp, the mu wave is found over the motor cortex, in a band approximately from ear to ear. A person suppresses mu wave patterns when he or she performs a motor action or, with practice, when he or she visualizes performing a motor action. This suppression is called desynchronization of the wave because EEG wave forms are caused by large numbers of neurons firing in synchrony. The mu wave is even suppressed when one observes another person performing a motor action.



This is where it gets interesting.


“Unlike the alpha wave, which occurs at a similar frequency over the resting visual cortex at the back of the scalp, the mu wave is found over the motor cortex, in a band approximately from ear to ear.”


We’re in the right neighborhood of the EEG waves at this point, but where Alpha Waves would be diminished from visual stimuli, Mu Rhythms are diminished through motor action or proprioception. On their own, they have weaknesses which can diminish their effectiveness, but what I am gathering is that Alpha waves and Mu waves are at a similar frequency range. More specifically, Alpha waves occur between 8 – 12 Hz and Mu waves between 8  -13 Hz.


The difference is a top end of 1 Hz range differentiation, while the rest of the range overlaps between the two.


I believe that the ASMR effect has something to do with the overlap of Alpha and Mu as you still hold consciousness (mostly). I suppose what’s going on is that you’re moving back and forth between Alpha and Mu and the trance like state it produces allows the effect of Mu Rhythms while affording the Alpha functionality by rapidly entering and leaving that 1 Hz range and staying mostly in the overlap phase of Alpha and Mu simultaneously.


Because Mu would be diminished with motor action (movement) or proprioception of movement (seeing others move or putting yourself in the position of the camera viewpoint) you would think that ASMR wouldn’t be possible in much the same manner as Alpha would be diminished with your eyes open. I believe it’s the specific combination of presentation which overrides the diminishing factors, and (in a way) utilize each other to strengthen the effectiveness and compensate.


For instance, if the Alpha state is normally diminished with your eyes open – that would imply cutting off visual stimulus would be required for full effect. However, if the visual stimulus is repetitive or of no inherent significance (tapping nails, turning pages, etc) then you aren’t really thinking about the visual stimulus or processing it… the lights are on but nobody is home. I suppose a good analogy is again in a long winded and monotone lecture where you’re staring at the blackboard. At some point, you just blank out. Your mind says “this isn’t important enough to pay attention or remember” and so you see it but it doesn’t really register.


In effect, your eyes may as well be shut.


This explains why the visual portion of ASMR is actually more effective at reaching an Alpha state instead of sabotaging it.


Then we reach a point where Mu Rhythms kick in, which are like the relaxation overdrive mode. Again, watching somebody move around would diminish the Mu wave effect, but if your visual cortex and mind aren’t actively registering the scene (lights on, nobody home), then the repetitive tasks being shown would have little to no effect on the Mu wave state. As for the personal being of the observer, you’re already sitting still, likely in a quiet room (interference deprivation), and barely moving – such as sitting quietly in a comfortable chair, or laying down listening on an MP3 player.


Your personal mobility at that point is negligible as you drift into a combination alpha/mu state of relaxation.


As a result, maybe ASMR should better be known as:


Alpha State Mu Rhythm


Prolonged exposure to this complimentary dual-state could produce that “tingling” sensation, and so it is a symptom of isolated neurological dual-wave synchronicity. Much in the same manner as your leg falls asleep and you get pins and needles, your mind inherently is using maybe one small portion excessively and in synchronicity of wave state while everything else is in suspended animation or subconscious autopilot.


In a way, ASMR as defined by Alpha State Mu Rhythm exhibits many of the symptoms and procedures as hypnotic trance, but not in a manner that specifically looks to shut off the conscious side entirely to leave only sub-conscious state. As a result, ASMR may in fact be better described as a synchronistic super-state in a complimentary dual-wave neurological function.





Over time, one could become accustomed to the triggers and lose sensitivity to them (as is reported often). A possible cause of this is that the triggers are no longer unique enough to hold the mental attention and you subconsciously tune them out from over-exposure. The premise is that Selective Attention should be tuning everything except the triggers out but when you overexpose, you end up conditioning your mind to include those triggers in the pattern recognition for the blind spot.


Of course, the simple solution for this is to abstain from ASMR triggers for a time in order to essentially reset the desensitization.



Tingling Sensation


So what about the tingling sensation on the top of the head, back of the head, and other parts of the body for those who experience ASMR?


I believe that can also be explained -


Let’s take a look at the locations for the Visual and Motor Cortex:



article_cotexvisuelmotor cortex fMRI



As you can see, they are located right where you would expect to hear the most common reports of “pleasurable tingling” on the head and scalp associated with ASMR. As for the Audio Cortex, it’s roughly on either side of where the Motor Cortex area ends at each ear. Three areas of input, subdued into an alpha/mu synchronicity dual-state.


In terms of meditation and holistic beliefs, this could also explain the sensation for meditation and a “higher plane of being”… that “one with the universe” sort of thinking. While not exactly one with the universe, the person would be in a state of mind where chaotic consciousness would cease and a much deeper relaxation would occur. Maybe inner peace…


I suppose this is why ASMR is often used to help insomnia, anxiety, and stress – while the bio-feedback aspect of Alpha State could be considered to help relax people with phobias or autism…



Binaural Recording


As a supplementary, I’d like to add that Binaural audio is best for ASMR as it (in theory) offers the Cetera Algorithm whereby the space between your ears and difference in arrival time for audio to each ear allows your mind to spatially position the sound location in real time. In short – it sounds like you’re actually there. Of course, this all depends on the quality of the microphones (Left and Right) as well as the binaural setup.


Personally, I have a Stereo/Binaural microphone on my HD Webcam, but I also know it won’t produce true Binaural output since it’s not in a simulated dummy head or placed in my ears. However, that being said, I know it’s definitely an improvement over Monaural recording.


headonstand-199x300I’ve seen a number of ASMR videos that have lower quality audio, and even in some cases where they are using a binaural microphone, it’s not set up correctly or it is recording at a poor quality as to negate the spatial effect of the audio. On the flip-side, I’ve also seen/heard videos where they do a superb job with audio clarity in binaural (and make use of the fact that left and right are separate). For instance, maybe they lean in close to one ear while whispering, or make it a point to walk around the microphone to create spatial awareness.


My curiosity lies in the question of what would happen if somebody in the ASMR community got ahold of a Neumann USA KU 100 Binaural dummy head microphone system for recording their videos? Sure it’s nearly $8,000 for that setup, but you would think a video production studio looking to capitalize on ASMR properly would make that investment to professionally produce a total library at the absolute highest quality.


Could you imagine the ASMR Roleplay scenarios that could be done with this microphone setup and a high quality video production? Millions of people around the world would be in a tingling coma…







Pretty much everything in block quotes comes from Wikipedia. I’m not entirely against using Wikipedia for a source, as long as there is constructive (and original) material to go with it, and Wikipedia isn’t the entire premise. Listed below are the in-depth sources so you can look into it when you find time.


Alpha Wave State


Mu Rhythm



Additional Media Coverage:


Maine Public Broadcasting |

Latest Social Media Craze: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response



Could a one-hour video of someone whispering and brushing her hair change your life?

Feb 6, 2013

Game Theory

Everything except the blatantly obvious in #SecondLife


I’m not entirely sure I get the point of the strategy for Linden Lab lately. On the one hand, they want to focus on mobile games and offer starter/upgrade packs on Amazon for sale, but then you look at the strategy and wonder if they’re really thinking clearly in the bigger picture.






Take for instance the Amazon packages available. What we have are pre-packaged bundles which are essentially no better than had the person just made a free account and bought the equivalent L$ to go with it. After all, $9.95 in L$ equates to about 1000L in-world at any given time. I suppose this leaves the added value model with the vehicles to justify the purchase, but even then I’m not convinced it is worth the money.


After all, there are far better Hoverboards available as an incentive, and vehicles on the whole to be honest. Just a cursory search in marketplace will tell you that the residents are doing a far better job putting the best foot forward in showing what Second Life is capable of than Linden Lab themselves.


After all, the bigger question is that once you have your hoverboard from Linden Lab, what exactly where you going to do with it? Sure it’s fun to ride around, but there is no added purpose, incentive or community to support having it. Of course, then we enter into the equation the Vetox CS Simboard, which is free, comes with a sport designed around it called Simball, and an active community. If Linden Lab wanted to impress new users with a hoverboard, they screwed up out of the gate.


Adding a “Turbo Mode” version for $12.95 and throwing in a pair of knee guards and a helmet is just adding insult to injury.


This is what they should have been offering/showing the public instead -



Better Hoverboards, Better Community. Vetox delivers.




Then, there is the other vehicle pack on Amazon which offers what I can only surmise is a near freebie of a Dune Buggy as if it is premium content.


Albeit, the specific Dune Buggy in the pack may not be the same, but the bigger question to be asked at this point is “Just how incredibly pissed off is a new user going to be when they find out they just paid 25 bucks for three vehicles they could have found on Marketplace for cheaper or free, and better quality?”



I think the answer to that question would be “Incomprehensibly.”


So why the hell is Linden Lab doing this to themselves? I mean, they can’t possibly be so na├»ve that they are unable to find products in their own community which would put their best foot forward to the public and make them look good, can they?








After all, what’s the point of offering a vehicle pack if you know a cursory search on your own marketplace is going to show those new users that you essentially just hoodwinked them?


In the bigger picture, we have to take into account the target audience and reach for those promotions. After all, a cursory glance at the reviews will tell you that a lot of those purchases (if any) are coming from long time residents. People leaving reviews talking up Second Life, but then saying they’ve been a resident for years now…


If the point of this strategy was to introduce Second Life to a larger audience and bring in new (potentially premium) users, I’m pretty sure this is not the way to go.


Let’s say, for the sake of reason, the intended audience for these promotions was to entice casual gamers, maybe in the demographic of 30-50 and female. Essentially, we’re talking bored housewives here – and we have to admit that’s a huge demographic in SL if the in-world dating circuit has anything to tell.


Let’s go one further and add the 18-30 casual gamer demographic who may also already play other games online like Perfect World. I’ll even give the benefit of the doubt and say male and female subcategory combined, and disposable income.


One thing these two demographics are already accustomed to if they already play other games casually, happens to be the one thing Linden Lab doesn’t apparently have available for them.


Game Cards


Like I said in the beginning, I was out doing some shopping at the supermarket and there was a wall of game cards on display. Everything from Farmville to Perfect World and all manner of games in between. Each of these games has a lot in common with Second Life in that the premise of in-game tokens and items is a big cash cow. Micro transactions fuel their business model and they know it.


This is why you’ll find at most supermarkets a sort of kiosk for these game cards. Ability to pre-purchase, at the point of sale, tokens in-game or upgrades with extra items as bonuses. This sounds eerily familiar to what Linden Lab is attempting to offer on Amazon.


The irony (I suppose) is that even Amazon itself has a host of these gift cards available at point of sale in the real world, alongside Facebook cards for their online games. GameStop is there as well, and on the other two sides of the kiosk were all manner of specific cards for games and services.


Standing there at this kiosk, I was completely baffled that pretty much everything except Second Life was represented. So I did the obvious thing and pulled out my cell phone, taking a picture.



Game Cards



One of the most common things I’ve heard from new users of Second Life who have come from other games is that they ask why Linden Lab doesn’t have those cards available at the stores (GameStop, Supermarkets, etc) when they could buy them for every other game they’ve played so far. Why do they have to buy L$ with a credit card or Paypal and hook up their account to it when they shouldn’t have to?


I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly.


Standing in the supermarket and staring at this wall of game cards, I asked the same exact question. I didn’t know about the Amazon package online until existing residents of Second Life started blogging, posting on social media, and tweeting about it. But here I was in the one place where the average casual gamer would actually be likely to find out about Second Life if they hadn’t heard about it before and didn’t have the benefit of having “somebody in the know” to tell them about it. Those same cards also exist at point of sale elsewhere in more specific shops like GameStop, and even Wal-Mart.


Essentially, the exact place most likely to reach new people and get them interested, legitimately, for the first time. People who play other games or use other services casually, or hardcore, and would see a Second Life card next to their game of choice and think “Hey, that looks interesting… Let’s give that a try.”






I’m not exactly in the mindset to say Second Life is a game, but it shares enough in common with games (at least in fundamentals) that it makes no sense not to play in the same arena. After all, Linden Lab already is busy on that path with their mobile games… or I guess whatever they want to bill them as. So I’ll concede at least on that level that if they want to align it side by side with games, but then call it “a different kind of game experience”, then that’s fine. I’ll compromise on that topic, even though I wholeheartedly don’t believe Second Life is a game (which if you read the reviews on Amazon, most of those long time users are saying exactly the same thing).


But in doing so, they are going to have to explore the common sense of that path which wouldn’t be a second thought to a game developer today. Even EA has game cards, and Zynga, and PlayFish, and pretty much any hardcore or casual online enabled game or social environment.


The underlying premise of all of these companies is that they already acknowledge the one thing that Linden Lab is fighting tooth and nail to ignore. The business model is in micro transactions and virtual items, and less about premium memberships. The business model includes sponsored items from companies for their virtual population in-game.


Essentially, there is far more to be made from the “Freemium” model than by attempting to sell Premium accounts or sell the game itself. World of Warcraft is a full MMO, and thrives on Premium Memberships, but Second Life isn’t World of Warcraft… Therein is the difference between a game in the stricter sense and a sandbox virtual environment. World of Warcraft is a game in that a majority of the content and game world are created by the developers. In Second Life, a majority of the content and world are created by the “players”.


That’s why the motto of Second Life was “Your world, Your imagination.”


Domino Dancing


I used to say there are three dominos to how we can go about making money from a virtual world or a game. Somebody needs to pay the bills, of course, and so we explore where we can add a charge to offset those costs and make a profit. The first domino is the end-user, the second domino is the content creator, and the third is corporate involvement (advertising). In a game, that second domino exists as “in-house developers” whereas Linden Lab has the distinct advantage of outsourcing the entire world and content by default to the users/players. A games developer today would kill to have that situation, and yet Linden Lab apparently squanders that advantage. The reason WoW has premium membership and subscription is because their model is linear whereas Second Life benefits from a non-linear model.


When we look at this set of dominos, they line up from left to right, and knocking one down goes to the left. So if we knock down the first domino, the end-user, it falls to the left and hits nothing else. This leaves the other two dominos untouched (and untapped) as legitimate revenue sources. If we hit the second domino, it falls to the left and takes with it the end-user as well – this is better but leaves out a very big revenue source untapped, that being the corporate involvement who effectively have the most money to spend.


When we take out a domino in that chain, everything to the left of it is automatically covered (or is included) by the domino to the right. So if we focused on the second domino in the chain (the content creator), the end-user is covered freely (or purely through transactions or just using the system). If we concentrated on the Corporate domino, the content creator and end-user is covered freely or at a minimum barrier.


Ultimately, our solution exists in a delicate combination of the three dominos, with the biggest burden on the third (metaphorically), less burden on the second and (if possible) little to no barrier of use to the end-user, save spending their disposable income on what the content creators are making, which in turn could (and should) also include Intellectual Property from the third domino which is our Corporate Sponsors.


Making Dollars (and Sense)


Right now, what Linden Lab has is a scenario where they are trying to independently knock down the first and second domino while ignoring the third entirely. But even then, they are using a rocket propelled grenade launcher on the first domino and a pillow on the second.


Focusing on the Premium accounts and Simulator Sales, while not being entirely sure what the hell to do with Marketplace. In the bigger picture, since it seems like some sort of clusterfsk to them, the strategy is more about making new games and promoting them, along with acquisition of other companies and technologies which support their new games.


In essence, they are trying to recapture the underlying creation aspect of Second Life but this time keep it under tighter lock and key as a game environment so they can have better control. Keeping the genie locked up tight, so to speak.


It seems like the sort of strategy that says: “We have no idea what to do with Second Life, so we’re going to try and recapture that thunder in another game and move on. Try to rebrand the company as something else.”


Essentially, this is the equivalent of quietly getting into the lifeboats without alerting the passengers that the ship is going to sink.




The management would like to inform you that everything is perfectly fine.



What they should be doing, logically, is using the rocket propelled grenade launcher to knock down the third domino, marry the content creator aspect to it in a symbiotic nature, and work on eliminating the premium accounts as we know them, instead rebranding the premium accounts as “Professional Accounts”.


Problem solved. Mostly.


Statement of Vision


If I were to get into more detail about strategy, it would be stunningly simple. The ship is sinking, I agree, but it is premature to write it off and get into the lifeboats.


Let’s take a look at how the domino theory applies in this situation.


I think Linden Lab actually had a great idea with their idea of business accounts and Gold Partners. In-world content creators or service providers that could apply for that level of involvement. The problem wasn’t the idea (as Mark Kingdon came up with) but instead it was the poor execution. So, let’s say we bring that back but this time we marry it to the idea of evolving the Premium Account into a Professional Account to be eligible.


Starting on the third domino this time, which is corporate involvement, we’re not looking to sell them simulators but instead in-world content opportunities as marketing on their end. They can still purchase simulators if they wanted, but we’d deter them and try to make a compelling case for the marketing instead.


The Professional Accounts who are certified through Linden Lab become part of the pool of content creators which are eligible for applying for and winning the right to create the content on behalf of those corporate intellectual properties.


Therein, the best content creators who are involved professionally would be vying for the right to represent and create the content for those corporate names in-world. The incentive for those content creators becomes legitimate brand name merchandise in their stores and on marketplace, and the incentive for corporate involvement is that brand names likely sell better than non-brand names, so the propagation of their brand name in a viral fashion and presented in a natural setting of involvement in-world counts as self-sufficient marketing.


This sort of marketing/advertising does not break the metaphor of involvement in-world, and thus there is no metaphor shear as we (should have) expected from outright selling simulators for brands. In the latter case, it was no different than intrusive and independent banner advertising in a virtual world. Who the hell wants to visit the misguided attempt at a corporate theme park known as Dell Island? Nobody… that’s who.


But a cursory search on marketplace will show you that there are quite a lot of people interested in functional laptops and digital gadgets. So, why not have Professional Accounts who are vying for the opportunity to build those brand name laptops and gadgets in-world on behalf of Dell to put on Marketplace?


All Dell as a company would have to do is authorize it, and the professional Account (content creator) that wins the bid would handle everything else according to the terms set by Dell. Which is to say, a percentage of sales goes to Dell automatically on a split profit, the existing tax goes to Linden Lab on transaction fee, and the content creator is responsible for promoting, presenting and selling the items in question.


Which really shouldn’t be a stretch since it’s a hell of a lot easier to do that with a brand name item than an item that has to make a name for itself.


In the same manner, we utilize the organic nature of content creators as a supplement in that when a brand name (intellectual property) is involved under this premise, other content creators may not be building what Dell may have asked for, but we shouldn’t outright penalize them by default. If there exists other products on marketplace which are covered by an existing IP relationship (corporate account) – for instance, let’s say a third party content creator goes ahead and makes Alienware laptops in-world instead of XPS like Dell would get from the content creator that won the original bid, then the option is up to Dell whether they want to cease and desist that item… but here’s the alternative that didn't exist a moment ago: Dell has the option of authorizing it retroactively, and tagging a profit split to that item.


Now we’re onto something…


If the content creator had sold that item in advance of the profit split, then Dell gets 100% of profits until such time as the difference is made up for what they would have made until that point, and when they make up the difference, the profit split goes back to a normal percentage (15-20%) going forward.


So yes, there is a penalty for abusing intellectual property and content creators would have to pay the piper. But the penalty isn’t an all or nothing scenario, and actually works with the content creator for a good outcome on both parties involved without the nasty DMCA and such involved.


Content creators wishing to create content that isn’t requested from corporate sponsors could go ahead and create the content in advance, and instead of putting it for sale on marketplace, there would be an option for them to leave it unlisted and submit it for review to the owner of the IP if they are on the list already. Once that item is reviewed and cleared, they get an email stating so and their item goes on sale with the typical 15-20% split to the IP holder.


If the item is not cleared, the email should state the reason and what steps the content creator could take in order to resubmit successfully. Maybe a simple “We’d like to see a higher quality or [such and such] ability in the product before we can clear it.”


Apply this scenario to potentially every corporate entity on earth, and now we’re doing something that Morningstar and Farmer stated in 1991 when they said


Work within the system


We’re now utilizing our greatest asset in Second Life to the advantage of all parties involved, and treating it like an ecosystem which should be respected.


Everybody wins with this situation. The content creators now have added incentive to create high quality, brand name virtual products, corporate entities have a zero footprint and high yield entry into Second Life, and the end-users (players) will see a flood of brand names in the virtual environment which they will likely purchase.


Higher volume of sales on Marketplace equals higher profits for Linden Lab, in conjunction with additional fees taken from the corporate entities for marketing.


After all, what the hell is Dell going to do with 15-20% of the profits from virtual items in Second Life? It’s negligible at best to them in the grand scheme, but what if I said the percentage was actually going to Linden Lab as profit?


Instead of charging Dell outright for marketing fees, Linden Lab just says “Let us take the 15-20% automatically and you don’t owe us a dime. You get Scott-free marketing and all you have to do is authorize it. It literally will pay for itself and you get all the benefit.”


Do you know what’s cooler than offering a free generic hoverboard or dune buggy with a new account? Offering brand name virtual items.


Screw the dune buggy… How about a free Aston Martin, Lamborghini, or Bugatti Veyron? Then you set up race tracks on those Premium Sims which have less lag (apparently). All while they’re wearing real world styles, a pair of Rayban Sunglasses, and slamming back a Coca-Cola. Instead of making a walled garden out of “Premium Sims” just make them official Linden Lab sims which are subsidized by the sales of those branded items to begin with.


Know what’s better than that?


Killing three birds with one stone, and making money from every angle while making everyone happy at the same time. For instance, let’s try the following scenario:


Arcade Legends Starter Pack: $9.95

Includes 1,000L$ and playable Pac-Man Arcade Machine






Who benefits from this starter pack?


Let’s trace the logic…


NAMCO authorizes it to Linden Lab, a content creator makes it and agrees to 20% of sales to NAMCO/Linden Lab. NAMCO gets zero footprint high volume marketing for free, content creator gets paid for the work (sales), Linden Lab now has a recognizable asset to offer in start packs, which in turn is more enticing than a generic virtual item on a Game Card or in Amazon.com, and the end-users in-world now have something they wanted all along. In turn, a brand item that now would sell like wildfire on Marketplace, earning Linden Lab (and the content creator) money, and giving Linden Lab a 20% cut, while giving NAMCO the marketing.


Rinse and repeat. I’ve literally just solved every single problem in the food chain.


And now you understand the gold-mine that is Second Life.


I could continue on like this much longer, but this post is long enough as-is. The point overall is that all the things Linden Lab could be doing to turn Second Life around they are neglecting, instead jumping in the lifeboats and arguably firing cannons at the damned ship on the way out. Which is a shame, because they’re arbitrarily taking a short sighted approach in the face of a long-term possible cash cow. A multi-stream revenue model that has the best interest of everyone in mind and still pays the bills.


But hey… who am I to criticize? I guess Premium accounts are doing well and so are simulator sales. They have nothing to worry about, right? It’s not like they’ve lost nearly all corporate involvement from brands, squandered worldwide good-will and press, or driven off the educational sector en-mass….


I do have to say this about the educational aspect: Even Apple Computer is smart enough (or was) to give discounts or educational donations of their computers to get them into classrooms. Maybe it’s a write off (charitable donation?) but in the end the worst you do is write it off as re-investment or marketing. I’d be bringing back those educational discounts, and working with classrooms and universities again.


It only makes sense to work with universities. It’s Business 101.


I know I’m one of the biggest critics of Second Life and Linden Lab. But that’s the underlying point. I’m willing to take an honest look and say we can do better than where it’s at today, for the benefit of all involved, because at the end of the day I’m also their biggest fan and I want nothing more than for them to succeed.


So long as Linden Lab is quietly boarding the lifeboats, it pains me. For every year I watch yet another virtual environment snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after 16 years in this industry, it hurts me to witness it. Each and every time I see a company that doesn’t understand the dynamics of their flagship product and community, and actively works against it or ignores it, when simply enabling them to thrive and grow would benefit the company ten-fold or more, it bothers me to no end.


I want to yell and scream at the top of my lungs – WAKE UP! It’s not over! Get the hell up from the mat and fight like you mean it! It’s not impossible! It’s dead simple! It always has been dead simple.


And yet, each and every time, that voice goes unheard and unheeded. As small as the text that comprises this sentence.


I’ve watched companies come and go, and I’ve raised the flags and told them it was coming from Active Worlds to Atari. I’ve watched them bury themselves time and again… because they thought they understood. Watched them squander good will, a dedicated community, and countless opportunities to reap the rewards…


It’s always been simple. I’ve been saying this to deaf ears since 1998.


But apparently common sense is a super power these days.