The following post gathered some momentum and discord on Facebook, being one of the most commented on posts (to date as of 3/30/21, 70 comments and counting) I've seen in my 8 months of following this group. I will not post any of the comments below, but for preserving my own development and learning as a community leader, I am reposting my controversial words here. While I do not regret the words I wrote, I still wonder if combining my callout with the community #diversityjam2021 photos was a mistake. I posted a PM to most people in these photos within minutes of posting it asking them if they too felt concerned or did not want to be involved in this post. Most responses expressed gratitude and support, and so I decided to leave it connected.
Another Community Jam (#diversityjam2021) just wrapped up yesterday! Here are some photos of the amazing event and so many of the fantastic world creators and collaborators of this diversity centering celebration. In reflecting on the many things I learned working with such a heartfelt and diverse community, I’d like to respond to some of the recent posts I’ve seen in the last few weeks by previous long-time creators who are reflecting concern and confusion about the “Best Creators” tab going away and how this has naturally created a sense of being erased and left behind for some of them.
I can only imagine the pain that these Horizon creators have felt since the "best creator worlds" tab changed to "What's new." I am also extremely grateful to finally see so many diverse creators getting their worlds up at the top of the list for the first time since I've been in Horizon. As a longtime community developer, I must emphasize that I do not miss the hundreds of days previous when I painfully counted 20+ worlds created by males (with mostly white skinned avatars) before I found any obviously female or other diverse creator worlds. Those days are very dark to me and I still feel the crushing weight/grief of everyone I spoke with (especially those I never had the chance to even meet) who felt profoundly confused and even erased by never seeing their worlds even arrive in front of most of visitors eyes. I spent many evenings and months traveling through the whole alphabet, one letter at a time in world searches, trying to find new worlds that rarely had more than a few a visits, and getting my friends to visit them and given them likes. Finally, and I say this with a fearful cringe in wondering how this might step on some of your toes, it is also my experience that many of the most popular worlds had majority white-passing and male collaborators on them.
I invite all of the white-passing male creators to imagine what it felt like to be diverse creators watching dynamic and engaging worlds be repeatedly created and become popular by groups of so many gifted white male artists/coders and never even being invited in to see them in progress, invited to contribute, much less co-create from the beginning.
Just like the seemingly tireless "we-want-beards" conversation that has come up so many times, these abandoned worlds and their absent diverse world creators are another reason I avoid the plaza and being out in public spaces. I am too haunted by all the diverse people who came and never returned. It is my experience that there has been significant unchecked and growing white male privilege in Horizon ever since I've arrived and I feel compelled to call this out with great compassion for all of you who may have never begun your journey to curiously understand your privilege and how you take up space (even in Virtual Reality). While the Horizon community (and VR in general) has increasingly reflected some version of the patriarchal white-male dominated world we all re-emerge into when we take our headsets off, I must ask, does it have too?
My invitation to the former "best creator" world creators whose worlds remained at the top of the list for months and received a constant stream of visitors is to consider the opportunity in your new found anonymity to support those who have their "what's new" worlds freshly at the top and yet reflect a naiveté or lack of development in their presentation. Consider sending them a friend invite and offering to mentor and support them in building more dynamic and diverse worlds. I believe that we veteran and original beta world creators can collectively raise the bar of what might be appearing in this list if we just spend some time, as Ari invited at a recent scripting office hours event, thinking about the moments we first arrived and what made us stay, and become that for someone else who is hoping they will be seen, welcomed, and invested in their own creation dreams.
We do have a large influx of new creators, which can temporarily dilute the pool of what’s being seen at the top of the "what’s new" tab. A lot of newbie worlds will also lower the average quality and collaborator'ness of these worlds, and can sometimes be a disappointment to visit if too many of these new worlds are visited in succession. Many of these creators have great promise however, and would benefit from your wizened mentorship and support. This also serves as an opportunity for me to shout-out to some of the original beta white male community such as MightyQuinn, 5andwich, Mark Birmen, and Spastic Plastic for their increasing outreaches to struggling and stuck world creators and how they have contributed to their world projects. Thank you for modeling community mentorship!
In summary, I would invite us all to consider how we can roll with these beta changes/experiments of how to be recognized for our hard and meaningful effort in world creation and use them to grow stronger and more diverse creations together. Grateful. -Ruth
Below is a meme I created following the storm of turmoil on FB from the above post. Good reminder for me on the tools I use to evoke change. I still do not regret what I said, and I hope to learn better ways to say the same thing over time.
These are reflections on VR community design experiments, collaborations, and my individual user experience. How do we connect through the virtual reality medium in a way that enhances our connection with self and our real life relationships?