I find the challenges of living the dirt world life are very satisfying, but I find virtual worlds to be fascinating. I’m no novice to “Second Lives”. In 1989 I embarked on discovering what the world of BBS’ would bring me and found the WELL. I loved the CONNECTING to folks in the Bay area until my boss discovered my dialing-up from the office was costing the small marketing company I was working for a few hundred a month for me to connect online. After I sadly said good bye to friends on the WELL I discovered ECHO, the East Coast Hang Out founded by Stacy Horn. I learned so much about the virtual world! ECHO was my life savor when I briefly left New York to go to a very remote part of the country – Chandler, AZ back in 1993. For me Chandler was the end of world, dusty, disconnected, not one conversation about politics, lots of conversations about Christian religion none of which I was interested, and of course no flame wars, everyone in Chandler was the same. What was this New Yorker suppose to do? I took ECHO with me and was able to feel fulfilled while living so far away from the rest of the world that being New York.
Virtual connections for me were a way of life. What of these virtual worlds? Of course in 1995 I was fascinated with 3D Worlds of Worlds-Away and 2D World of ThePalace. I lead a life on ThePalace for 2 years. I enjoyed ThePalace because it was easy to use. I could create any kind of avatar I wanted. My avatar was having more fun in the virtual world than I was in real life. I had a family, friends, played chess day and night, among other things. There were very few rules inhibiting this world. We were all turned on by Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” and “Diamond Age”. As with any open society the “freedom” in ThePalace led to a decline in community.
Its 2007, we’re on the third generation of virtual worlds. There’s Second Life, Cyworld, World of Warcraft, and for kids there’s Club Penguin and Webkinz. There are changes to these virtual civilizations economic systems and laws have been added. Second Life has a complex economic system based on Linden Dollars. Commerce is taking place there. Second Lifers are buying property building homes and living there. What else is there to do? Like any society there’s shopping in SL you can shop for latest style in skins for your avatar. Earn Linden Dollars by answering questionnaires. Perhaps attend virtual conference. What else is there to do? Gambling is no longer acceptable and is banned. Perhaps make friends. In the case of Aliza Sherman, who is living in Alaska, Second Life is a great way to keep in touch with the main land and explore. In the case of my avatar I took to flying and really enjoy flying. Right now my avatar is stuck somewhere and I’m having a hard time teleporting back to main areas.
All is fascinating but what about the waste that is found in Second Life? According to TreeHugger blogger, Celine Ruben-Salama, second life avatars consume as much electricity as Brazilians. That’s a lot of power being wasted? There are several corporations who have built on second life and are confronted with little or no community support. I haven’t visited American Apparel, IBM or other corporations who have built on Second Life. I question if corporations are building what they have in dirt world or are creating innovation in Second Life. For instance can I buy American Apparel clothes for my avatar? Is IBM supplying some kind of cool innovation such as enhanced teleporting capabilities in SL? Can I zoom around in a 1964 Mustang by Ford? Corporations always are so caution probably won’t risk being innovated and adding something new to SL civilization this is why dirt world corporations will fail in the virtual world.
I give SL credit for pushing the virtual envelope and moving virtual world into virtual civilization. As this third generation of virtual worlds begins, to take shape, it will go through its own life, dead and rebirth cycles.