A recent inquiry on the Second Life Researchers list inspired this post. "...why [do] people feel the need to put walls around themselves in SL when a 'home' is technically not necessary?"
To have or not to have a home in SL is a surprisingly important question and one that many people return to at different times in their SL residency.
When you arrive in SL for the first time, you don't have a home.
Some new residents notice the massive Frank Lloyd Wright houses, towering apartment buildings, small skyboxes, rustic seaside capes and consider themselves homeless. These residents might see home ownership as a goal, and set about raising $L at the nearest camping site. Or they might wear their new found status as a badge for months or years.
Others would notice how frequently these buildings are empty. They might remark on the absence of the effects of weather, and ask themselves, "Why would I need one of those?" These residents might consider themselves free spirits, or practical, or cheap. "I will never spend a $L in SL."
I was proudly homeless for about 6 months. When I was given a gift of SL property, I became an avid homeowner. Now at almost 2 years old, having gained membership in many land-holding groups, working on a university campus, and having favorite sandboxes, home ownership is less important to me.
I now provide a platform for each of my students to call home for the duration of the semester. Here are some of the reasons why:
An SL home is:
1) A place to land when logging in. - Landing at welcome centers gets old.
2) A place to go to change clothes. - As you begin to identify with your avatar this can be important. Later tnew residents will learn other strategies like flying up to change, or keeping outfits in folders that can be dragged onto the body. For others this is not important at all.
3) A place on which to build. - Sandboxes have auto return limits. Being able to leave something out (especially something that has lots of unfinished pieces) can help the creative process.
4) A place through which to express yourself. - My students have set up gardens, music studios, pubs, Martha Stewart parlors, and sometimes just an out-ventory (meaning they have dumped their inventory on the platform).
5) Gives you the sense that you belong. - Many rentals are in communities through which you make friends, engage in community run functions, participate in decision making...
5) Offers you privacy. - This is important if you offer tutorials, counseling, meetings with students/employers/employees or if you are involved in on-line dating.
6) A place to which you can retreat. - Sometimes you need a quick getaway from a griefer or an uncomfortable interaction. Sure you could sign off, but you might just want some privacy in which to regroup.
7) Familiar. - Most of us enter SL and are boggled. It's weird, exciting, clunky, limitless... But what does a person, a resident, know? We know homes. We start with what we know. We buy, scrounge or build the familiar. Then as time passes we explore and expand. Wait there is no rain. And we can fly. No need for a roof. We are in control of three dimensions. Privacy can come from being 300 meters in the sky. No need for walls.
There are alternative solutions for almost every concern on this list. And many residents will be quick to find them.
For others, in a world where the laws of physics are applied in new ways, a home is a desirable bit of sameness. In educational terms it might provide a scaffold on which to hang new understanding and try new ideas.
And then again, if your home is a spaceship, well, it just might be part of the fun.