My So-Called Second Life

by kipress

I’ve been on Second Life, but I don’t completely get it yet. I mean, I get the potential, but I haven’t had an ah-ha moment. And I understand why I haven’t. I don’t know anyone there. Like a really, really elaborate social networking platform, SL has pretty much no point if you don’t interact with people.

Here’s my avatar:

Image of Karen's avatar

"Karen" lounging in The Story Mountain Center for Writers. Maybe we can hold the Gemini Retreat here.

My avatar is lame for several reasons. First, I went and named her “Karen.” Second, I tried to make her look like me, only to discover that you have to be skinny in SL or the clothes don’t fit you properly. Third, she is, in this screen cap, trying to read a cup of coffee, because I couldn’t figure out how to make her hold a cup of coffee while also reading a book.

I became interested in SL at a conference on Technology and the Arts a few years ago, where I was introduced to the Cedar Island virtual community. On Cedar Island, a benevolent 3D developer lets out his land for free via a competition for research, artistic, or educational SL projects. (To build your own customized space in SL, you need to buy virtual land.)

The conference presentation featured an SL panel discussion with artists from around the world, during which time the pianist in Italy played for us, streaming live from his studio, while his avatar played away on a custom-made virtual piano. He sometimes played whole concerts this way, advertised in the SL media–but taking real money at the end selling his music online.

I’m only starting to explore the resources and communities for writers. The Story Mountain Center for Writers (it’s American, that’s why the spelling), pictured above, is just one of them.

All sorts of educational institutions have embraced SL, both for promoting their programs and for teaching. The Linden Labs site features several case studies, one of which is Ontario’s Loyalist College.

In general though, SL hasn’t taken off in Canada the way it has in the States and elsewhere. The vast majority of my students had never heard of it before. Does anyone know why?