Second Life: the “Folk Music Scare” of 2006?

I’ve posted here and there (mostly there) about the 3D virtual world Second Life. I’ve tried spending some online time there, creating an avatar and even trying to find my way around Second Life Library 2.0, but each time I’ve given up in frustration. Maybe I’ve reached the limit of my technical horizon, and I’m too old to get the hang of extending my life from meatspace into the cyberworld. But now, I’m thinking, maybe it’s not just me. Says William McGeveran at Info/Law:

I think that Second Life may have just “jumped the shark.” What band is claiming to be the first to establish an island in the virtual world and to design avatars who will live there and perform concerts “in world”? Not some 2006 buzz band like Tapes ‘n Tapes or Cansei De Ser Sexy. Not even a more widely successful but still new act like, say, The Killers. No, it’s Duran Duran….

I have remained somewhat skeptical about the potential for widespread adoption of intensive virtual worlds such as Second Life. (As most readers probably know, Second Life is a 3D virtual world in which individuals create characters called “avatars” and interact in a fairly free-form environment — talking, building stuff, and even running large-scale businesses.) I agree with much of what Ethan Zuckerman said in this characteristically brilliant blog post, wherein he questions the world-changing potential some see in Second Life.

The technology is often slow and most people in the real world lack access to either good enough technology (broadband and a powerful computer) or sufficient computer and graphics knowhow to do much in that other, pretend world. Indeed, it is difficult even to figure out what you should be doing — a lot of the time it seems people are just shuffling around in Second Life somewhat aimlessly (or I suppose flying around, since avatars can fly). My sense is that building anything substantial in Second Life takes hours of patient and dull labor. Finally, there also seems to be, predictably, a surfeit of shopping, sex, and gambling.

In the lost Episode 42 of Check This Out!, Connie Crosby talked about having avoided the cost and problems associated with networking CD-ROMS.  Sometimes it might really be better to wait out the latest hot technology to see if the payoff is worth the investment.


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