Clickable Culture   Official Research Blog of Phantom Compass
  Playing Pedophile in ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2006-04-12 by Tony Walsh
Congratulations to Daniel Terdiman, a stalwart CNET reporter who breaks the seal on Second Life's "age play" scene. In a virtual world where users can adopt just about any appearance, a tiny percentage of users are dressing up as kids and acting out sexual fantasies. According to some legal experts, this sort of roleplay is not illegal, because it doesn't involve minors. Technically, all members of Second Life's so-called "Main Grid" are adults, while teens are walled off in their own version of the online world.

Despite the facts, I predict the "age play" issue will be the source of a good deal of moral panic and dramatically increase outsider interest in exactly what goes on inside Second Life's gated community. This could be a huge challenge for Linden Lab, the world's maker and maintainer. At least a third of transactions in that virtual world are sex-related, suggesting that at least 30% of Second Life's users are engaging in cybersex. If I had to guess, I'd put the number of age-players at a fraction of a percentage of the entire population (currently at 180k accounts).
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Comment posted by csven
April 12, 2006 @ 10:57 am
I have to admit, Tony, I'm curious why you didn't post on this issue much earlier. Given all the discussion on the forum - which was significant - not a peep here. Silence. Yet you pick up isolated threads like the Robo Studios request.

I wonder, because contrary to what you're saying, Terdiman broke no seal here. If no one else, I at least posted on this issue. First hinting at it ( link ) and then posting an entry ( link ) discussing the hot button topic (which you commented on) and the expected C|Net article after some residents finally did what some suggested - contacted MSM. In addition, I have no doubt that there other people who have discussed this on their blogs; probably doing a better job than I.

So why no coverage until now? Why wait until C|Net posts an entry and then say it "breaks the seal"? Whether you realize it or not, that comes off sounding very self-serving under the circumstances.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
April 12, 2006 @ 11:16 am
Who else before Terdiman reported this issue in the mainstream media? Discussion inside the SL forums on this issue, which as we both know has been going on for a long time, isn't breaking any kind of seal, in my opinion. With respect, addressing it on your blog, or my blog isn't either. When CNET reports on it in-depth, the issue has truly broken into the mainstream.

Why didn't I report on this earlier? Well, csven, I'm not a full-time reporter. Reporting on virtual worlds and technology developments earns me zero dollars, unlike Terdiman, whose job it is to cover this stuff. It's not my job. To report on the complex age-play issue required more work than I was able to put in at the time due to paying my bills doing client work. I have no responsibility to you or anyone else to report on X or Y issue.

I'm not sure what you mean by "self-serving," so I can't address this complaint very well. If you can tell me which of the stories on Clickable Culture aren't self-serving, I'll have a better idea of what you're getting at. This blog is for me first, and for my readers second.
Comment posted by csven
April 12, 2006 @ 11:48 am
Then perhaps you should qualify the comment appropriately. At which point imo you almost need to give thought to whether comments on an earlier related C|Net article ( link ) - which prompted Terdiman's interest in this issue - aren't in fact the real seal-breakers, and that those individuals should be properly credited; not some journalist who merely picked up their ball. After all, they became a part of the MSM channel as intended. Just as corporations are blogging and bloggers get hired by corporations and the lines are blurring, you're busy making distinctions. It just seems ... out-of-place to me.

I guess if you had posted something first, and for example, someone over on Fox News was credited with breaking the story afterward, I'd similarly say that the Fox journalist didn't break anything. That a blog in fact broke the story. As I'm sure you're aware, it wouldn't be the first time a blog was given credit.

"I have no responsibility to you or anyone else to report on X or Y issue."

I'm sorry, where did I suggest it was your "responsibility"? Lack of time is a perfectly reasonable answer to what I consider a reasonable question. Although with such a hot-button topic, I'm wondering now what you did find time to cover when this was getting so much attention.

"I'm not sure what you mean by 'self-serving,'"

Simple. By not crediting others (especially the people who raised this over on that other C|Net article) and instead giving Terdiman unqualified credit in the manner you have, it has the appearance of someone skewing the story to gain favor. That's how it appears to me, at least.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
April 12, 2006 @ 12:05 pm
I gave credit to Terdiman for "breaking the seal." What does "breaking the seal" mean? We seem to have differing definitions. I'm fairly comfortable with the language I used and the scope of the blog post, but it certainly wouldn't hurt the intention of my first sentence to say "breaks the mainstream seal." Would the addition of that qualifier satisfy you?

I have little to gain by flattering Terdiman--in fact I have criticized him in the past for apparently basing one or more of his stories on SL blog posts. In his recent effort, he was seemingly tipped off to an issue (we don't know if he was aware of it beforehand) and authored an in-depth story on it.

I am interested in interviewing Terdiman about his efforts in researching and writing the story. You are welcome to insist that my congratulations are an attempt to butter Terdiman up in order to secure an interview. In the interest of complete disclosure, I met him at SXSW this year. He's a friendly guy. I'm not sure he needs buttering up to agree to an interview, but your mileage may vary.
Comment posted by csven
April 12, 2006 @ 2:37 pm
"but it certainly wouldn't hurt the intention of my first sentence to say "breaks the mainstream seal." Would the addition of that qualifier satisfy you?"

What satisfies me is accurate, unbiased writing. But it doesn't matter what satisfies me, does it? As you've already volunteered, you write for yourself.

"You are welcome to insist that my congratulations are..."

I have neither insisted nor intend to insist anything, though I welcome your permission to do so. However, as clearly stated, this is only an impression I get when reading this entry, and am merely using this blog's comments to communicate my impressions reading it and my thoughts regarding its accuracy.

Next time I'll refrain.
Comment posted by Brace
April 12, 2006 @ 4:36 pm
Cripes Csven leave T-Dog alone - feel free to do a blow by blow analysis of MY blog. I cuss and stuff so its much more entertaining...

Anyhow the whole furor over the Age Play thing cracks me up. That should be the LEAST of people's worries. I about died when I saw some event or other proclaiming "Come see some raunchy horse f--king". Yep avies gettin they swerve on with horses.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg - most of the really wild kinky stuff isn't even on the calendar. I'm still not sure what all the fuss is about anyhow.

Are we still carrying on this fake puritanical thing with sex in this country? And its all virtual anyhow. No spreading of AIDS and other STDs, no raping and pillaging.

Things get to much for ya: just click the X at the top of ya screen and go outside for a walk in the sunshine.

Oh well - I'm late for horse screwing event - gotta go! ;)
Comment posted by qDot
April 12, 2006 @ 10:32 pm
All I'm gonna say is this:

This article (the CNet one) did not need to be written.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
April 13, 2006 @ 8:20 am
Brace, thanks for the comments. It does seem like puritanism is on the rebound. There's certainly a huge interest in videogames as the new Devil Music. This whole idea of "hidden sexual content" that surfaced with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas last year still has some people in a real tizzy. They just found an exposed nipple in the soon-to-be-released Tomb Raider. Its release was delayed while they fixed the wardrobe malfunction. Film at eleven!

qDot, I wish you'd elaborate. Probably a lot of SL stories don't need to be written, in a strict sense. On the other hand, there are doubtless a lot of SLers who have never heard of the age play issues (despite the ongoing discussions about it in the forum), and of course zillions of outsiders who have never even heard of SL, let alone the kinds of things people do in virtual worlds when given lots of freedom. The age play situation has interesting legal, social, and even business ramifications--even if age players make up the tiniest percentage of users in SL. The issue seems worthy of coverage, so I'm interested in hearing why you think it doesn't.
Comment posted by Brace
April 13, 2006 @ 3:43 pm
I didn't read the Cnet thing, who has the time? But here's My take on the issue:

All About Age Play
(warning:cussing and stuff - and you might CRY)

Interested also to hear more on qDot's POV too.
Comment posted by Urizenus
April 13, 2006 @ 8:36 pm
Gosh, have we already forgotten Sasami Wishbringer?
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
April 13, 2006 @ 8:48 pm
Argh, my eyes are bleeding... in case anyone hasn't yet clicked on that link, it is most definitely NSFW.

I did forget about this story, despite the fact that you showed a slide from it at SXSW. Looks like the Herald gets the scoop again!
Comment posted by Urizenus
April 13, 2006 @ 11:21 pm
Yer damn skippy! That story went up in Dec., 2004!
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