Henry Jenkins interviews Wagner James Au (author of the popular Second Life blog New World Notes, his upcoming book will have the same title) in this post and this second post. Highly recommended as it elaborates on some key topics. I like the last part about porting different avatars for different virtual worlds while keeping one identity overall. This pops up a question: how will Google or Spock (the upcoming important and advanced people search engine) relate to this particular identity in different virtual worlds. Do they seamlessly integrate the user generated objects and activities in their search results ?
Below some quotes from this insightful interview. I totally agree with the statements on corporations investing in Second Life while not getting the culture and mindset of the active users. McLuhan said that the medium is the message. I think this applies to Second Life (and other virtual worlds) as well. You simply can't copy-paste successful RL products or concepts into Second Life and expecting success while ignoring the unique features, benefits and especially (transformative and participatory) values of its residents and its environment. Fully integrating all Web 2.0 features is a conditio sine qua non for success I believe. And its culture is perhaps even more non-monetary than monetary/commercial than most other web projects. Example: in my view corporations would be much more relevant and successful if they would supply tools in Second Life which enable and facilitate the user generated content production process by opening up (some of) their data for remix purposes. People like ideas, not corporations and products. Inviting them into creating and evolving ideas is much more effective in my view.
"Is there a tension between the corporate colonization of Second Life and the "gift economy" which underlies a vision of the space as a new kind of participatory culture?
For the most part, there is no tension, because the native participatory culture hardly knows the corporations are even there, or care all that much that they are. Residents have scant or limited interest in their "colonization", which is a strong word for what's really going on: big name brands on dozens of private islands that few visit for any extended period of time. Consistently, grassroots, user-created events and sites are far more popular.
Take the argument that a traditional role-playing game is more compelling than a social game. With Second Life, it's not an either-or proposition. There are numerous user-created roleplaying games *within* Second Life, actually, many with substantial followings. The first, Dark Life, an old school mini-MMO in the World of Warcraft mode, was created by a professional game developer back in 2003, and still has a following. In the last few weeks alone, my games correspondent has covered several-- here , here and here . I'd estimate that 25% or so of Second Life's active users (25% of 1.000.000 active users at this moment, that is) regularly play one or more of the world's mini-MMOs, or engage in other RPG/gamer activity. The quality of these games have gone up tremendously, in recent months, so I expect those numbers to grow.
What do you see as the long term implications of Linden
Lab's decision to open
up the source code of Second Life?
The decision is monumental. Recently, for example, CBS committed $7 million so a metaverse development company could make worlds like Second Life more accessible to mainstream users. Much of this development will almost certainly take advantage of the open source initiative. The decision, I should add, applied only to Second Life's viewer software. However, just last week, Linden's Technology Development VP announced that the company will open-source the back end so servers can run anywhere on any machine . "SL cannot truly succeed," Joe Miller told an audience of executives, "as long as one company controls the Grid." Again, this is a vision of a world that is not a niche product, but the Web in 3D.
There is right now one web with many participants, yet there are competing worlds in the multiverse space and there are apt to be even more competitors. Doesn't this fragmentation of worlds pose a challenge to those who might imagine something like Second Life as a future for the web?
Yes, this threatens to lead to a fork in the metaverse, where user base for online worlds remains divided into numerous, incompatible worlds according to interest/preference: Google Earth, Multiverse, Croquet, Areae, traditional MMOs, revamped Asian online worlds, and the recently announced worlds from Sony and MTV. The one which succeeds most, I suspect, will be the one that's most like the Web, with open standards and interoperability. SL is heading in that direction, as is Areae and Croquet. Most likely, there will be portals between several of these open- sourced worlds, suggesting a kind of multi-metaverse where individuals maintain several avatars and a universal substrate identity."