It was inevitable. The silent film era was never destined to last forever. It was only a matter of time before someone invented synchronized sound recording and made it practical. For many silent film stars, it was a career ender. For others, and for many who had never worked in silents, it was a new opportunity. Movies would never be silent again.
The implications were parodied to great effect in the movie Singin' in the Rain. Gene Kelly's sexy silent-screen co-star turns out to have a horrible, squeaky voice. That cute little Debbie Reynolds has to stand behind a curtain to dub in a voice that people can stand to listen to.
So now Linden Lab is testing the integration of voice with Second Life. It was already happening in various ways, such as through the use of Skype. But now we're faced with the prospect of typed chat being replaced, or maybe complemented, by built-in voice communication.
I was fourth in with a comment on this announcement in the official Linden blog (I've since posted several more). The divisions that already exist in SL are apparent in the comments that follow. Those divisions can get pretty nasty, and misunderstanding is rampant.
For some, SL is an extension of First Life. Some of these people are in business. Some are in education. Some are just people who either have no imagination or can't be bothered to use it. Some comments even express hatred or disdain for those who do use their imaginations, who dare to be not "real," who dare to create their own world.
[Addendum: as Mordecai angrily but correctly points out, not all FL extenders fit into these categories. I know this is so. I was not intending this list to be comprehensive, and I was mainly reacting to the disdain and ridicule I was reading in the official blog.]
For others, SL is a way to live a life that they can't live in FL. It's a way to learn about themselves and others, a way to see just how far imagination can take them. It's a way to be free of a FL that might be fine but limiting or might even be intolerable.
I have a First Life already. It's a good life, for the most part, but it is what it is. Why would I want more of the same?
I'm thinking that the "utopia" of Second Life was never unified anyway. If there is any utopia, it's because there is room enough for an extreme diversity to exist without too much confrontation. Voice vs. typing will simply be another thing that divides people, which is kind of too bad but what can you do. Hopefully there will continue to be enough typers so that we will not become marginalized. Hopefully, not too many friendships will be broken.
See you in chat. Imagine that! You can if you try.