THE METAVERSE, 17 June — Legendary Open Source Avatar Skin designer Eloh Eliot surfaced briefly today. So briefly that if it was anyone else it probably wouldn’t even be worth reporting, but for this reporter there isn’t a more important person in The Metaverse. If Philip Rosedale’s insight was the power of UGC, then Eliot’s insight was the power of Free Culture. I am as in awe of what she’s given our little world as I am of what Richard Stallman and Lawrence Lessig have given our larger culture. Everything I think I know about the power of Free Culture in a UGC-MMO stems from Eloh Eliot, so yes, even a brief surfacing is news.
The 2 things I’ve seen today are an email from her including this:
I am still alive—I have just been away for a while XD (although, I have returned to SL—in a limited way!)!
and she posted a single image, the one above, on Flickr. It’s the first frame added to her photostream in 2-1/2 years.
For anyone unfamiliar with Eliot’s work, she designed a number of different avatar skins and gave them away free. Not just Free Beer Free (zero cost) but far more importantly Free Speech Free (Open Source) You could, and still can, grab her “ready to wear” skins in-world, or even more powerfully, she gives away source files at her online repository. You can get Photoshop / Gimp files with a zillion layers or even the Illustrator files that she rasterized into photoshop.
The “Free Beer” in-world skins are nice, but the “Free Speech” layer files allow you to create almost any variation you can imagine. It’s incredibly empowering. That I know of, no one with her level of illustration excellence has embraced such a Free Culture model.
I think the peeps who think that for a virtual world to flourish it needs a vibrant capitalist economy, I think they’re probably right. I get it. I’ve never begrudged merchants their profit. I’ve spent a lot on clothes (and shoes! 😛 and land rentals. But I also worry that capitalism is corrosive and that closed source materials are always a cultural dead end. No doubt about it, a creative person can make lots of money with “dead end” closed materials, but you don’t foster future innovation and new possibilities.
So yes, this is a little bit of a love poem. And yes, when Eliot posts an image on Flickr my heart flutters a little. Perhaps a virtual world equivalent of seeing a majestic blue whale surface briefly for air.
Thanks for the graciousness Ms. Eliot.
E L O H . E L I O T . M A T E R I A L S
• In-world ready to wear SL skins: Schreckhorn 70, 178, 67
E L O H . E L I O T . O N . I R E Z