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Sluething in Second Life

October 24, 2013

During the last few years I’ve had people ask about Second Life, the 3-D virtual world you can access through your computer. Now, last May I wrote a piece about this unusual environment titled “Sitting Around in Second Life,” and if you’ve never heard of Second Life before, you should take the time to read that article. This week, however, I’ve been spending time at Burn2 – the Second Life “Burning Man” event taking place as I type – so I thought it would be a good time to further inform you about the SL experience.


Walking to the Man in Burn2.

I’ve been in Second Life since 2009 (SL went live in 2003), and have used it as a launching pad to enter virtual communities, attend conferences and university seminars through the SL platform, go to church services (yes, there are churches in Second Life), participate in discussion groups, listen to streaming concerts, watch movies in virtual theaters, and interact with people from all over the planet in diverse virtual settings. Of course, I’ve also spent time simply exploring the seemingly endless array of landscapes and locations found across the SL grid. It’s a very big and strange world indeed.

While Second Life is one of many virtual environments now running, it could rightly be considered the primary example of a working, virtual 3-D reality – complete with its own currency and economy. True, other large 3-D platforms exist such as World-of-Warcraft, a massive online gaming portal. But SL is in a different category, as it isn’t about gaming per se (although gaming and role playing areas exist) but the creation of interactive communities, an outlet for artistic expression, and the exploration of vicarious experiences. In other words, “living” or “being” in an immerse and interactive electronic landscape.

Before we continue with a series of videos on Second Life, it’s important to note that the future of virtual worlds is in flux. This is not to say that Second Life and other similar platforms will disappear (although SL private land ownership is down for 2013), but that in the ever-changing world of computer technology, another level of interaction is coming into view. As noted in one of the videos below, Philip Rosedale, the founder of SL, explains that he’s now working on the next generation of virtual worlds. Moreover, the computer industry is anticipating higher graphic resolutions in the near future, and if brain-computer-interfacing enters the market in a serious way (another anticipated development), then “virtual” may soon look and feel very real.

Two caveats:

– If you are planning on entering Second Life (or any other open grid/virtual platforms), please understand that there is a learning curve. Depending on how much exploration time and patience you have, it may take a little while before you feel comfortable with the software settings, user functions, on-grid locations, and personal interactions.

– SL is an adult platform, meaning that minors are not permitted to have an account. Keep in mind that nudity and “virtual sex” can be encountered, and while “General” and “Moderate” on-grid locations are fairly free of this, it can and does crop up.


So to help you grasp the surreal world of Second Life, I’ve embedded a number of informative videos. Each selection has a short write-up to introduce the piece, and the time-length of the video.

1. Second Life promo (1:19): This is a short promo by Linden Labs, the group responsible for Second Life. As it is a few years old, the graphics are not to the same standard as today.



2. Second Life destination promo (3:58): Although 2 years old, this video shows SL locations and, more importantly, the graphics advancement in Second Life.


3. Living the Dream (2:01): A short piece on how SL is used with people who have physical disabilities, and the role of virtual worlds in nursing instruction.


4. Working in SL (2:37): While this is more of an advertisement for a company using Second Life, it does demonstrate one business aspect of virtual worlds.


5. Chicago Humanities talk (52:19): This is a very interesting talk given at the Chicago Humanities Festival. It’s a bit old, but still relevant. The research usage of SL is brought up in this piece. For myself, I’ve used Second Life as a research tool on different occasions.


6. Philip Rosedale and Burn2 (30:09): Recorded before Burning Man 2013, this is a discussion with the founder of Second Life about virtual realities and how it plays into the Burning Man experience.



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