God is in the detail

The idiom “God (is) in the detail(s)” expresses the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important. Hosoi Ichiba might just be one of the best manifestations of that idiom that can be found in Second Life. I have yet to meet Amiryu Hosoi, but I have been impressed and touched by her work for some time. It was, therefore, with considerable surprise and sadness that I first read about her decision to close the Hosoi Cluster as a result of recent financial losses. These 4 sims cost $1200 USD in monthly tier costs to maintain; all of which has been covered by product sales from its market, until now.

Meditating before the Giant Buddha within the Great Wall of China

I was first introduced to the Hosoi Cluster when I saw this image of Japan Chubu taken by our mutual friend Yordie Sands, who I initially met as a blogger, and who then became a good friend in world. Regular readers of this blog will have already been introduced to Hosoi, in Yordie’s excellent post on the area – the first in her Gimme Six series, published just over a month ago. A well-travelled visitor to these lands, Yordie succintly summarises what can be found there:

Hosoi Ichiba is the creation Amiryu Hosoi, a designer with an eye for perfection and beauty. Her creation includes a grand market at Japan Kanto, a hanamachi (flower town with a geisha house) at Japan Kansai, the great Matsumoto Castle on Japan Chubu and an homage to the Great Wall of China at China Sichaun. Naturally, these regions provide many opportunities for role play, and there are many approved role play groups. There are two okiyas (geisha houses), a kabuki theater group, a samurai clan, a ninja clan and others.

How I discovered Hosoi

Whilst I have lived in Second Life for over 5 years, my first visit to one of Amiyru’s sims was in April of this year. I had just heard the news of my grandfather’s terminal illness, which I am afraid to say set off a complicated catalyst of emotions that I was unprepared to handle at the time.

Before taking a couple of weeks off from Second Life (and much of Real Life, to be honest), I made the effort to spend time alone in Second Life, to just explore and absorb the beauty of new surroundings. Hence my visit, and day long stays, at your cluster of Sims. Not wanting the attention of my friends at the time, I have kept my experiences there private to all but one close friend, who I relied on to keep others vaguely up to date about my whereabouts at the time. It was while I was sitting in Hosoi that I wrote what is probably my rawest, and certainly most public accounts, of what it feels like to be slide into the deep muck of depression.

The Fishing Village, one of the first communities built for use by Second Life residents in Hosoi. It may be one of the most realistic residential living spaces in Second Life. The detail in this place is hard to believe. And it’s not just the visuals. My cat even perks up at the sounds, as he hears the meows of street cats amongst the sounds of residential chatter (in Japanese).

The beauty of what I saw and experienced at the Hosoi Cluster helped to generate a feeling of tranquility and peace that I have before, or since, found extremely difficult to match in all of Second Life. I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to have experienced the restorative effects of this place, at a time when I truly did not care to see the light of day, or even leave my real life flat.

I have only recently returned to Hosoi to share this beautiful place with a new friend. I must admit, it took me some time for me to summon up the courage to revisit, because I was afraid to be reminded of the emotions that these surroundings might raise within me. Fortunately, I was able to experience the richness of Hosoi with a fresh perspective, for which I am now equally grateful.

We must save these sims

Which brings me to the subject of the impending closure of these sims. I am sure that I am not alone when I say that the Hosoi cluster is a vital part of Second Life. If there were such a thing as World Heritage Sites in world, Hosoi would easily be in a top ten list of candidates. From the epic grandness of the monumental structures, to the smallest and most delightful details found in the tiniest of nooks and crannies (both visually and auditorally), it is an environment that deserves to be preserved.

Cooincidentally, I have lately been meditating on discovering a purpose beyond myself and my business in Second Life, and this may just be it. I would like to donate my time to help in that mission – if this is what Amiyru wants. Whilst I am new to cultural preservationism in Second Life, I do feel I can bring significant assets to the table.

Cathedral Grove Trees Cut
“Ancient trees cut,” 8 March 2000.
Photo: Ray Smith/Times Colonist

In my university days in Western Canada, I was a devoted environmentalist and activist that campaigned effectively for the preservation of natural habitats in the rain forests of British Columbia. I wrote letters, canvassed for support, contributed to meetings, presented slideshows at events, raised awareness and even stood arm-in-arm with like-minded people in the very sites that were at risk, specifically Cathedral Grove. Today, that 157 ha stand of ancient Douglas-fir is encircled by MacMillan Provincial Park, which draws visitors from all over the world. The park now provides the only highway-accessible protected old-growth Douglas-fir forest in British Columbia. In 2007 Cathedral Grove made the short list on CBC television’s competition, Seven Wonders of Canada.

In Second Life, I have successfully turned-around a business that was at the risk of closure; so succesfully that by the end of my leadership it was again thriving. I have started and operated my own profitable business in SL. While I run things at a considerably smaller scale than Hosoi, I am experienced in the challenges and issues that are faced by people in that position.

Practical steps are already in motion

As I understand, there have been several people that have come forward to offer assistance. This is excellent news. I too, have since spoken to Akiko Omizu, one of the Managers, who was kind of enough to spend some time with my friend Harvey and me at Kanto, to explain the situation. As expected, she was careful to remain confidential in regards to any sensitive matters, which led to her suggesting a meeting with Amiryu. In this meeting, we plan to better understand the financial challenges being faced, so that we may offer solutions that might help preserve as much as possible of this irreplaceable resource. I hope this can happen soon, because it seems that time is of the essence.

You may ask what is in this for me. I want to make it clear that I am interested in nothing but the preservation of this cultural treasure. I have my own business and personal interests that keep me more than busy and satisfied in both RL and SL.

I truly believe that the Hosoi Cluster is a legacy of virtual artifacts and intangible attributes that are unique in all of Second Life. It is a place that has been inherited by all of us, a place that has been diligently maintained, and a place that might now be bestowed to the community, for the benefit of present and future generations of Second Life Residents.

I want to offer my time and my creativity in helping to organise, and advise on a restructuring plan with no strings attached. My only aim is to do what I can as a concerned Second Life citizen, to help preserve this unique place, the likes of which simply do not exist elsewhere, and may never exist again.

What you can do

I urge you to first begin learning about Hosoi by either visiting it or watching this visually inspiring video if you are not in Second Life. When you come down, buy a few of the beautiful things on offer at the Market or in its MarketPlace store, sales from which are  the main source of income for the entire cluster.

I will be posting updates here on what is being done and how to get involved as developments arise – I’m not even sure at this point if I can do anything at all, but I will report back nevertheless.

I also encourage you to begin spreading the word about these Sims and the risk they face. Share this post in your social media networks. Reblog it. I’m hoping we can begin to start a ground swell of support that may lead to the preservation of this cultural treasure, with a plan that can lead to sustainable cost recovery in the future.

Watch this space.

Author: Canary Beck
Second Life avatar, entrepreneur, club owner, and social media socialiser. I photograph, film and write about the virtual experience: relationships, virtual community, music, art and Second Life.

7 thoughts on “God is in the detail

  1. I am so glad you are trying to help rescue all or at least part of this amazing cluster of sims. If enough people come forward, perhaps there is a way to help Ami continue.

    1. Hi Becky, Hi Yordie — thank you both so much for supporting this amazing piece of culture and creativity.

      Becky, it’s really heartbreaking to hear you describe that this great work might, as other great virtual works have, disappear.

      I suppose all art requires “preservation” and that always costs money. Make a painting… it’s done… but it still has to hang or store somewhere, and it can degrade over time. If you move from 2D to 3D art the problems and costs grow and grow.

      Large museums sometimes do extraordinary, and extraordinarily expensive, preservation work, for example removing damaged threads and reweaving enormous old tapestries. Or taking a giant box full of broken off hair curls from an ancient Greek statue and meticulously figuring out where they go and how to reattach them — a jigsaw puzzle with no picture on the box and where all the pieces don’t fit.

      Still, I think we all feel the pain of virtual creations that can theoretically be perfectly preserved yet more often are not.

      With good video, notes, and a Labanotation score, something as ephemeral as a live dance performance might, paradoxically, be more preservable than a virtual build like this one!? 🙁

      It is easy to say this or that amazing piece of work should be maintained and preserved… and of course, much harder to do it. Linden Lab is a for-profit entity that provides a remarkable platform that runs, all-in-all, pretty well. In fairness it isn’t their responsibility to preserve all, or the top 10, or any of the great work that platform users create but at some point stop renting the servers to keep running.

      So I want to be clear that it is not my intention at all to bash Linden Lab here… still… while not blaming them or us or anyone else… hearing your description and thinking about a server on a rack unceremoniously being switched off, regardless of whatever it represented a moment earlier, reminded me of nothing so much as Heathcote Williams epic poem Whale Nation, in which he describes the whalers who slice through their victims extraordinary sound libraries as “deaf maggots”

      Cetacean oil,
      Cunningly used to protect the whale’s sound-library from the cold,
      Is extracted by hard-nosed, gimlet-eyed parasites
      Who view the whale only as an industrial resource,
      And eat through their musical society like deaf maggots –
      Land-lubbing whale-lice,
      Unable to detect the presence of oil
      In the body of a fellow creature
      Without desiring to suck it out.

      antique selenium toned photograph of Vaneeesa Blaylock at the Hosoi sim in Second Life

      1. What an apt poem you have shared to describe what might just happen! I don’t expect Linden Lab to get involved, as they have already effectively refused Ami’s requests for payment relief. Despite that, I’d rather they didn’t get involved at all.

        First, it would establish a bailout precedent to what is at its basis a commercial enterprise, and that’s a Pandora’s Box that every competitive business owner in Second Life would very much like to remain tightly sealed.

        Second, given the kind of management we’ve seen in their Premium Wilderness experiment, I agree with Inara Pey when she writes that Linden Lab are “far better off doing what (they) purport (they) want to be doing: providing tools and a platform on which to use them. Leave the actual content creation to the experts.”

        Instead, I’d like to see a collective of people join together to help save this place as a first step in a sort of “Second Life Trust Membership Scheme” based on a National Trust model of stewardship, such as the one we have in the UK. This approach would require a the founding of an organisation dedicated to preserving the cultural or environmental treasures found within SL. Such an organisation would necessarily operate as private non-profit organization, without requiring the support of Linden Labs.

        These ideas are still very much in their infancy, but I’m keen to explore them further with Hosoi as a test case.

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