Attend a lecture

Friday, July 25, 2008

I’ve been chatting with a number of Second Life friends and I am starting to find parallels in our conversations, even though each friend comes from a different background and they don’t know each other. There is a lot of great research and commentary about the social/cultural/economic impact of virtual worlds, especially those with active economies like Second Life.

I had attended Metanomics a few Fridays ago. This was a panel discussion held in the Nokia region in Second Life. The moderator was really good at keeping everyone focused and navigating voice chat with the speakers and audience members. Very sophisticated stuff and done very well. I guess I have to admit that I was more keenly interested in HOW they organized their session than in WHAT they had to saw about economics in Second Life. Both were interesting aspects though.

The Metanomics Web site has an interesting blog entry on boundaries between real and virtual worlds, although I was a little disappointed in the weak conclusion after such an amazing lead-in. Blogger Roland Legrand on 7/23 wrote about trying to apply the deconstruction method of philosopher Jaques Derrida to Second Life. “I speak now to you live but I’m having texts around me. I can assist my words though I see you as avatars, and I cannot see your physical faces and bodies, I am here in this virtual auditorium, and yet I am far away,” wrote Legrand. “Virtuality cannot be understood by using simple opposition such as real versus the unreal.”

The Virtual World entry in Wikipedia has a section on boundaries which is just as interesting, because it mentions the magic circle, which is supposed to be the line between RL and the virtual world. It also describes that line as being quite porous, a wonderful word for the phenomenon. If Second Life gets better integration with open-source Web apps and we start seeing mashups, Google searches, and better social networking capability, that porosity will increase tenfold.

In my opinion that’s a good thing but also a sad thing, because SL is a magic place that most ordinary folks find too difficult or too time-consuming to be worth their effort, which tends to ensure that the ratio of smart to stupid people stays high.

Economics are another good example of the porosity of that boundary: “The fantasy environment of the virtual world is protected from the intrusion of real life by this magic circle, but practices such as the sale of virtual items and virtual currency for real life currency challenges this separation while reinforcing the notion that objects in the virtual world have real life value.”

This is the stuff that gets me excited.

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