Sunday, October 23, 2005

Master and Apprentice

One of my favorite television spectacles was Donald Trump's The Apprentice—particularly the first season. Each episode was a goldmine of The Donald's take on business the American way, and I'm a YUGE fan of his. On a tangent, a favorite aspect of the show was how his weekly reasons for saying "You're fired" would contradict each other. For example, one loud-speaking candidate would be praised for being confidently honest while another would get dismissed from the boardroom for not listening well enough—even though they both interrupted Mr. Trump mid-speech! There's context involved and certain charisma that's ascribed to individuals that's nontransferrable (just like how guys don't usually wear skirts unless they're kilts or something, and as far as personality traits go, I don't think it's obviously realized enough among humans how useful contradictions are to embrace.

Speaking of The Apprentice—or apprentices in general, I come from a history of passing down classical music traditions. I had a very elderly but energetic piano teacher named Dale Reubart. You can google Dr. Reubart if you wish. He was a lot like Yoda, only much taller and not so green. A lot of his catchphrases seemed to parallel, though, like the time he emphasized, "Torley, don't try, DO!" as he pounded the piano harshly and sung the melodies I was playing. He had been a boxer in the military too, so this spooked the crapola out of me. Although I ultimately didn't agree with some of his musical views and I later "went techno", he instilled a lot of discipline and self-confidence in me through his training. It wasn't unlike training to be a figure skater or a gymnast.

I love pointing out missing the obvious in SL, and one of the most ready things I'll aim at is the following: Inworld libraries for reference materials have a long way to go. we have a lot of oral traditions we pass down from Resident to Resi, sometimes on the "clay tablets" that are notecards. Formal documentation is often sparse, though, and a lot of information comes through chat channels. So, even with our advanced technology, we're very primal this way. It's fascinating in a "raves are like tribal dances, only louder" way.

As I often do, I react to what I experience. I reacted to this thread on the SL Forums, and it instantly (like hot coffee mix) got me thinking about my next contri to SLog.

QUESTION: Why aren't there more Masters and Apprentices in SL?

I don't mean "educational classes", I mean one-on-one or maybe one-on-a-few relationships. (Nor do I mean Masters and Slaves in the D/s sense—there's a lot of this already!) I mean this, as an example: being an experienced content creator, and seeing a young upstart light a spark in your eyes—maybe even remind you of your early Second Life!—and taking him or her or it under your wing. As the Master, you could provide shelter on your spacious estate (which is bound to be at least 4096 m2, right? ;) ), helping bolster boarding for the youngster so rent money isn't a worry. In return, while you rest in the security of your oldworld sim, the Apprentice scours the world for new discoveries and shares them with you, so you may both soon head out on new journeys together, learning from each other and bettering each other's Second—and even First!—lives. Eventually, as the Apprentice, you may get to the stage where you are sufficiently skilled to collaborate with your Master on an amazing new project that'll wow SL. You both know it, it just hasn't happened yet.

These terms, "Master" and "Apprentice", are strictesque frameworks for something that happens more naturally. Learning can't be forced. But the focal point is dedicated instruction. I know there are requests for it. I frequently see asking on the SL Forums for teachers, and there are Volunteer programs like Mentors and Instructors, but how long do those relationships often last past a quick building lesson? Yes, there are many "friends made", which is wonderful, and in addition to that, where are our SL Yodas and Lukes?

Torley Torgeson, Sr. under the tutelage of Francis Chung and Kex Godel

I've been around. I've even talked with numerous Jedi and Sith groups, and insofar as I can make out, there's fun roleplaying, but hardly any of the serious discipline I'm looking for. And sensibly, discipline connects to patience. I come across new Resis who are unfortunately so quickly set on asking "HOW DO I MAKE L$???" that they miss fine opportunities to build character over a span of time. If they follow this Platinum Path, not only will they be more likely to earn the money they're looking for, they'll also develop a sense of self-confidence in this online world, AND have fun!

Learning skills in SL can be applied offline too. If we are to consider Second Life as a serious educational platform in addition to all the creative chaos that goes on here, this fundamental element cannot be left out of the pie we're baking! MMMM PIE!


  1. prepare for a meandering response, Torley :)

    I think that informal teacher-student relationships come in and out of being all the time in SL... it comes down to personality mesh between the two participants. There are a lot of generous older players within SL who don't view everything and everyone as a competitive threat, or who enjoy taking the time to answer questions. It is one of the rather nice things about SL -- just how many people who ostensibly compete against each other in the market are actually very friendly.

    [Side tangent: with certain conspiracy theorists out there, it tends to make everyone a little paranoid on how a post might be interpreted .... there are some who might read such a post and think "master-apprentice" is just an FIC scheme to harness the talents of newbies. Not only would this be misreading torley, IMO, but it would be willfully ignoring basic dynamics of SL which would make such a scheme impossible (one important one being low barriers to entry and low startup costs, so oldbies can't keep out new market entrants).]

    The term apprentice makes me think back to early art days when a "master" would have a whole school of apprentices behind him, often doing his work. The talented ones gained the credibility and technical skills to go out on their own, while the less talented ones (albeit still good) earned some security and were given the task of executing lesser commissions. (Part of the reason why this model worked was because of how limited in scope the market was -- the church and a few rich patrons dominated the buyside of the equation.)

    You still see it in the modern art world, although in today's assistant isn't so much out to learn technique as "working for the man" in order to meet the right people.

    In thinking about RL incarnations of a master-apprentice model, you can see where it works and where it breaks down.

    It works if both parties genuinely like each other, and build up a level of trust. (falsity and abuse often exist in these RL art relationships, and thus they tend to fall apart rather regularly... because so many are hell bent on fame, they can't side-step their agendas)

    It works if both parties need to bring something to the equation, but here is one of the challenges. An apprentice only becomes useful once they have picked up a certain amount of skill, but in SL the technical levels you need to achieve before "going to market" are quite low. Thus, just as the apprentice becomes good enough to participate in the master's works, they can hang out their own shingle.

    As you see in the art world today, many more people would rather try to become famous themselves sooner rather than help make someone else famous.

    So does this mean that the only motivation for the teacher is the joy of teaching and of watching someone improve under your tutilage? For many this is enough.

    I think that informal friendships serve to handle the majority of how-to questions. A more formal model could work, but only at the most advanced levels of scripting and prim-crafting.

    just some musings... interesting post.

  2. I have apprentices, and being used to it in rl,.. it feels quite natural.
    If anyone out there wants to contact me: