As part of the Virtual World Television project, we want to bring you focused spotlights on the various television shows that have been produced in Second Life. This week we showcase the series…
Inside the Avatar Studio is a Metaverse TV series that premiered in September, 2010, with special guest John “Pathfinder” Lester, a former executive at Linden Lab. The series is analogous to a traditional television talk show filmed before a live studio audience. Guests are invited on and interviewed by Kevin Feenan, also known as Phelan Corrimal.
According to Phelan, the series grew out of events that occurred at Rockcliffe University.
One of the things that we were doing on a regular basis at Rockcliffe was we were having these various discussion forums. And they just started morphing into these conversations that were going in one of two directions. They were either going totally towards the technology in terms of how well the technology is working for people, are we getting benefit out of it. And then the other side of it tended to be more toward the psychology side of things, in terms of people’s expectations of the platform and then how they relate to it from a social networking perspective.
At some point, Phelan recounted, Bevan Whitfield suggested recording these forums to expand who can participate in them, who can hear them — to allow for those not on the Rockcliffe sim to be aware of the conversations occurring there.
So we started working with Metaverse TV, and they agreed to come in and start taping, and as soon as we started getting into more of a rhythm on that type of thing, you have to come up with a name. At that point I suggested, why don’t we just call it Inside the Avatar Studio? The obvious reference, Inside the Actor’s Studio. That was just sort of where we had come up with the idea. Of course, as soon as we named it, then we actually had to stick to a schedule. (laughs) It was like, okay, we’ve done it now.
They began broadcasting the series once a month, having heard that those who tried doing a weekly series burned out rather quickly, but soon moved to producing episodes every three weeks. At the beginning, production occurred in the same place the forums had occurred on the Rockcliffe sim. After several episodes, they moved to a new theatre, the Rockcliffe Rotunda, that had been designed to look like the original location.
The show is livestreamed, i.e. broadcast online, during each episode’s recording, with Metaverse TV handling the filming and subsequent post-production to prepare the episode to archived for later streaming. Phelan credited Bevan for doing the lion’s share of the work, from marketing the series to finding guests for it.
To a large extent, I guess I sort of get to be the benefactor of all that hard work that she puts into it, insofar as what I need to do has been take the research information that she’s prepared, read through it, and then figure out how I want to structure the conversation. So quite often what will happen is she’ll find the guests, she’ll provide me the information, I’ll go through it, I’ll take a look to see what the individual’s skill set is and where they seem to be adding the most value to the community, and then sort of structuring the conversational topics from there.
Rather than just create questions for his guests to answer, Phelan preferred creating topics of discussion, allowing for flexibility and the ability to go off on tangential topics to keep the conversation flowing.
Because one of the things that I found is that these wandering conversations are actually more interesting than just doing a series of question and answer. People are a lot more complex than what their resumes or their CVs or their bio or their blog tend to let on. And you never quite get to those aspects of somebody’s personality and how they think and how they view the world in a question and answer situation because a question and answer already pre-supposes that you have a good idea of what the answer is gonna be.
Such a format empowers the guest to speak his or her mind, and for the possibility to explore areas relatively unexplored in the guests’ and the host’s life and experiences. And for Phelan, this explains the show’s success and interest for its viewers — because the guests’ and viewers’ expectations are to expect the unexpected. Who cannot be interested in a program that has the potential to never go stale, as long as the guest is up to having a good conversation with a good friend?
The season 3 finale occurred in July 2012 with Episode 22, featuring Botgirl Questi. But you can find all of the episodes online, at Metaverse TV’s site or at the program’s website. You can also follow Rockcliffe via their Facebook page. And hopefully the Rotunda will soon be host to another season of Inside the Avatar Studio.