Saturday, February 24, 2007

Second Life: a flight from First Life

I am a veteran in multimedia of 62 years and text oriented. When I see all the rumour around Second Life, I wonder whether I should study it better or even dive into it, like I did with blogs; but blogs are text-oriented and not part of the visual culture.

Today I read about the Dutch Protestant university, De Vrije Universiteit (VU), in Amsterdam having created a virtual department in Second Life. (The angel in the drawing below is - of course - not part of their site). The university researches the opportunities to teach and do research there. This looks logical as Second life unites students and teachers into a learning community.

Of course we had had companies toppling over each other in order be present in Second Life. The Dutch ABN Amro bank has a virtual branch in Second Life, while its competitor ING Bank will enter Second Life in the company of partners such as Rivers Run Red creating Our Virtual Holland (uncommon nationalism for Dutch people). Philips opened a concept store. Dutch Internet bureaus like Evident, IN10 and Tam Tam are present in Second Life and Evident went out to recruit new employees. Also media companies have created their virtual spot. The Dutch youth broadcaster BNN opened a hang-out. Talpa Digital opened Dropzone.

I am wondering about the hype. It is a very small group of people visiting Second Life and yet even stock quoted companies put a lot of money in a virtual space. ABN Amro bank said that they had every day some 80 people passing by. Endemol had in Big Brother only 6 people passing by. ABN Amro is getting realistic about Second Life as it notes that people passing by are disappointed when they notice that they can not bank in real time or with Linden dollars.

So is it only a hype? I am reminded of the son of a neighbour who created his own worlds. He drew maps, built houses, developed a language and designed a political system. Since he has become a nuclear scientist, he no longer is busy with the virtual world. Will we see the same thing happening in the development of Second Life. Will there be the next interesting thing overpowering this virtual world?

I see Second Life as part of the change in communication, from text into the visual culture of graphics, animation, photographs and movies. This means that veterans like me will have to get used to visuals. So Second Life is and island for the next generation. So do not trust companies like ABN Amro and ING Bank getting into this virtual world. They enter the virtual world to experiment with business; when they notice that there is no business, they will leave the virtual offices. Second Life has also good aspects too. It is a source for gaming, creativity and co-creation.

But also the aura around the hype site is tarnished by attitudes from First Life. A few days ago, the Dutch news broadcasts drew attention to the paedophile sites in Second Life. Paedophiles can design their own victims and take them; of course, for money.

I am still lurking at Second Life and questioning whether Second Life is a flight of First Life.

Blog Posting Number: 674

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