The End of Second Life?

My friend Dzevad yesterday alerted me to a blog piece by Owen Thomas, published in ValleyWag on Sunday 22nd February 2009, entitled “The End of Second Life” in which the author cynically, quite unfairly, but tellingly, writes:

Those who can’t do, teach. Second Life, the most overhyped virtual world, has been abandoned even by its most fervent journalistic promoters, like Reuters and Wired. It’s now pitching itself as an online schoolhouse.

How fitting, since Second Life, a piece of software which allows users to move “avatars” representing themselves around in a three-dimensional space and decorate themselves and their virtual land, resembles nothing so much as a failed academic experiment. …

What’s left for Second Life? Community meetings, underattended cultural events, and education. CNN uses its Second Life “island” to hold meetings with volunteer reporters. WGBH threw a virtual concert with a grand total of 70 attendees. And the Modern Language Association, that bastion of English-department wonkery, is pursuing the idea of using it to hold meetings.

Imagine a dry academic conference enlivened with a few space-alien avatars. Deans with mohawks and tight leather pants! Only compared to the life of a university professor might Second Life actually seem exciting. We look forward to the news that Linden Lab has sold itself to an academic consortium. It’s where the virtual world belongs.

Disparaging as he is about teachers, he’s probably right in his core argument: that Second Life may be consolidating around community meetings, cultural events, and education.  And this was pretty much my point in my previous blog entry … although, unlike Thomas, I see this as a good thing, not a bad thing.  The case for education has, I think, been made beyond dispute–it’s happening and it works; its potential for fostering and supporting new communities of interest is as great as that of Facebook or other social networking web sites.

As regards Thomas’s “Deans with mohawks and tight leather pants”, I must protest: those who know Khoisan Fisher will know that he, at least, always dresses in a smart black business suit, white shirt, and tie, and expects “space-alien avatars” to reflect upon the appropriateness of their appearance before attending lectures.


Owen Thomas, ‘The End of Second Life’, ValleyWag, Sunday 22nd February 2009


About Christopher Hutchison

Museologist, cognitive dissident, political grouch, curmudgeonly bibliophage, and all round jolly nice chap.
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