The usefulness of virtual things, with Kriss Lehmann of Botanical

Basilique Town Center
Kriss and I talking after the tour of Basilique. Image by Kriss Lehmann of Botanical.

It’s no secret that I love traditional, old-world Italian environments, and I’m always on the lookout for things that might improve the Basilique region.

I have many go-to places that deliver low-land-impact, yet high quality, authentic creations – mainly, I go to Post, Dutchie, Apple Fall, Trompe Loeill, Fanatik, e-brink Designs, and Studio Skye for the big stuff like buildings and environmental elements like trees and landscaping.

Botanical Aspen Trees welcoming visitors to the Piazza at Basilique
Botanical Aspen Trees welcoming visitors to the Piazza at Basilique

One of my favourites for natural elements, is Botanical, led by Kriss Lehman. Kriss has been creating landscape, garden and environmental designs in Second Life since 2007. If you’ve ever planted a tree or shrub in Second Life, you probably are familiar with Kriss’s work. If not, this five minute video – the very first in the DraxFiles World Maker’s Series – will be a treat:

After picking up a few of his gorgeous Cypress trees for the facade of my home (Dutchie’s fantastic Utrecht House – see below), I got into a conversation with Kriss about London roads – of all things – in aid of a project he’s currently working on.

Botanical Cypress trees in front of Dutchie's Utrecht Villa
Botanical Cypress trees in front of Dutchie’s Utrecht Villa

Later, I invited him to visit Basilique for a tour. It really is a lot fun for me to give tours of the region to builders; I love hearing their views on my choices, and I find that they tend to see things in different ways than non-builders do.

For instance, as I led Kriss from place to place at Basilique, he commented on many things that only the most observant of my visitors notice. It was validating to see eye-to-eye on so many design principles as well – like how every build has the opportunity to tell a story, the impact of environmental sounds in immersive environments, and how important it is to infuse life (with sound, movement, and props) into virtual places. It was a very enjoyable discussion!

One of the things Kriss liked was my little fish market on the edge of town. “Basilique being an island,”  I explained to him, “it needs supplies. So this is where the boats drop off their goods for the local vendors to buy and sell on to residents.”

Fish market stalls at Basilique
Fish market stalls at Basilique

He loved the idea, that there’s a story behind the inclusion of what otherwise might be considered an unnecessary element that few might even see. When I put things together in Second Life, I like to give thought and consideration to things that would need to be there for the sake of fidelity to the real world. Even if only very few give it any thought, it’s there, subliminally, to add to the ambience of the world we make.

As we walked, the conversation flowed into the “usefulness” of virtual objects. How useful or practical are certain virtual things in Second Life?

I shared a recent discussion I had at one of the Basilique Chat Salons, when we were talking about the concept of “home” in Second Life. One of the participants said that she considered homes important, but that the idea of washrooms and kitchens was a “useless” waste of land impact. Personally, I love Second Life bathrooms and kitchens, so I don’t think they are useless at all. But the idea got me thinking. In a world where every object is virtual, what is actually useful, and what is not?

Botanical Aspen Tree, grate and guard - trunk detail
Botanical Aspen Tree, grate and guard – trunk detail – the grates and guards could be considered useless… but then, where does that idea end?

If a virtual toilet or hob might be considered useless because it’s never really used, then what does that say about things like trees and shrubbery – or as in the above picture, grates and guards for these trees? By extension, why do we sit in virtual chairs when we gather inworld? Are our virtual feet tired?

Why do we even have houses at all? I mean, it’s not as if we need shelter from the virtual cold and rain. Why did I just this morning spend over 2,000 L$ on a Gatcha machine, trying to collect all the items of a virtual tea set of which I’ll never taste the tea? (I’ll be asking myself that question for a while to be honest… but I had to have it!)

Apple Fall Breakfast at Tiffany's tea set and trolley
Apple Fall Breakfast at Tiffany’s tea set and trolley

For that matter, what is the usefulness of a sim? At the logical end of such an argument, isn’t everything we buy just a prop that provides us with a feeling of immersiveness – which has no real practical value whatsoever?

During the same discussion I refer to at our Chat Salon, I remember someone else saying that the very idea of spending $1000 USD to set up a full region in Second Life, and then $300 USD every month thereafter to maintain it had to be one of the most preposterous things he’s ever heard. I really try to stay objective during these discussions, but couldn’t help myself this time, and blurted:

Thank goodness there’s enough crazy people out there that are prepared to pay for the world we spend so much time in!”

Botanical Aspen Trees around the Basilica
Botanical Aspen Trees around the Basilica at Basilique

This reminds me of yet another chat I had with someone who visited Basilique who thought the idea of putting real money into Second Life was bonkers. I asked the person, how did they think the seat they currently sat their virtual butt on, or the table on which they perched their virtual elbows, or the cafe, or the trees, or the island, or anything in Second Life even got there?

Everything, absolutely everything – I said – with the exception of an untextured plywood prim – cost somebody, something, to put there. And it doesn’t stop there, that person is likely still paying, every month, just to keep that thing there, for your benefit.

Can you tell I get a little passionate about these subjects? I’m generally nice to most of my visitors, I assure you!

Anyway, it’s the nature of online communities for there to be a tiny percentage that are creators, whilst the bulk of the members of that community use the things the creators make. Creators make stuff for people to use. There is nothing wrong with this – it’s the way it is, and it makes sense to be so. Due to the nature of the economics in Second Life; however, most content creators do what they do more out of love and passion, than for any significant commercial gain.

I, for one, am very grateful they do!

So bring on the virtual toilets, the digital Aspens, the fake croissants and the tasteless slices of lemon – may the beautiful parade of useless virtual stuff go on and on and on!

2 thoughts on “The usefulness of virtual things, with Kriss Lehmann of Botanical

  1. Great post, Becky. I ask myself similar questions about things like books that I will never read or flowers in vases that I will never smell. And I can also relate to the spending ridiculous amounts of money on a Gacha machine just to get a certain item that I need! We are all creative in SL in our own ways and if some of us get pleasure out of creating beautiful immersive spaces, so be it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. At the root, the usefulness of virtual things is most often the pleasure that we derive from finding, buying, assembling and sharing these beautiful things. It’s just one of those things you have to experience to understand I suppose.


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