It’s not about “fear of change” — it’s about identity and control.
In a rather unconventional move of PR penmanship, Hamlet Au took to his blog last month and blamed his entire readership for the future downfall of Second Life. It's your "fear of change" that threatens SL he wrote, guffawing at us all as if we were backwards yokels afraid that electricity might actually be witchcraft. You hate Facebook integration, you hate point-and-click movement, and because you're all such miserable gits the lab are too afraid to do anything innovative. Despite turning a blind eye to the things we do like, such as OpenSim, web-based viewers, and Avatars United (ish, well we signed up at least), Hamlet makes an interesting point - we do seem to hate an awful lot of the changes Linden Lab makes. But he's wrong, it's not change we hate, it's control.
OK control isn't always such a bad thing, sometimes it's great - sometimes we love control. Control is what stops us from breaking our computers, deleting things that we shouldn't, and from making things explode. But it also allows designers to create much more economical and user-friendly interfaces. Just imagine if SL had a button or menu option for every single thing that a user could possibly want to do - the interface would be incredibly cluttered and chaotic. As users, we need to be pushed into doing certain things in a certain way. If it's done correctly, we don't even realise that we're actually pretty big sheep in a rather small field, all we can see is acres and acres of rolling green meadows just dying to be explored. We have control over our own workflows and we're happy, even if that control is just inside our heads.
But Second Life isn't just about workflows, it's also about cultivating multifaceted digital personas and complex virtual cultures. The development of both cultures and personas are directly influenced by the limitations given to us by the Second Life client. We like emoticons and weird expressions because it's hard to convey emotion, BDSM and roleplay thrive because of SL's inherent anonymity. So any change to the limitations side of this relationship has the potential to impact the culture and identity side too. And boy, are we protective of our identities and culture, even if virtual they constitute a real part of who we are. It's really no wonder that we talk about Linden employees more like they're politicians than company representatives.
Within the context of control and identity, it's clear why we're quick to decry one thing whilst being pretty receptive to another. Our virtual identities in Second Life, and elsewhere, shape the way we see ourselves, and it's perceived control over this that we're fighting for.