Thoughts about SecondLife…

A couple of weeks ago I posted a question about SecondLife, and since then I’ve had many interesting conversations about it.

SecondLife has 158,000 users at the moment, and over $100,000 of real world commerce each day. It’s a 3D environment that’s very similar to the Metaverse of the book Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson (a book my entire staff read a couple of years ago). Individuals can alter their avatars and build just about anything in the environment. There is both a teen and an adult “world,” and the behavior in the adult environment is not unsimilar to the unlimited bacchanal of the movie Westworld.

I mention this because there’s little question that there’ll soon be a media blowup about what happens in SecondLife, and as a result the enrollment (free, with some stiff hardware requirements) will likely skyrocket. For an early Wired article, see http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,67142-0.html.

Before going into full panic about the environment, it’s worth noting that some educators are using the online space in interesting ways. (Please note that you’ll need an account to access some of this material):

Educational Program FAQ: http://secondlife.com/tiki/tiki-index.php?page=Campus%3A+Second+Life+FAQ

Classes offered by Colleges using SL: http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=60133

“The Metaverse” BLOG origniating at Elon U. Check out the left sidebar, 4th block down: “The Past: 2005: Virtuality”. This is curriculum for a 300 level class exploring VR based ons SL: http://trumpy.cs.elon.edu/metaverse/

Very rich presentation done at the “Games, Learning, and Society Conference” this last June, Elon U again.
http://trumpy.cs.elon.edu/metaverse/gst364Win2005/handout.html

So, I’d like to ask what others are thinking about this environment. Currently, I see it as a niche for the creative who have strong systems and access, but in the future I could see it becoming the next MySpace.com and/or Facebook.com. The entire environment raises interesting questions about identity and attitudes about society and community. Currently, I find it too controversial to even discuss with students, but in the near future I bet it will be discussed a great deal. Also, I’d be surprised if some of our students haven’t explored it already.

Any thoughts? Thanks!

SecondLife Skyscraper
Copyright 2006, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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