I admit it; I’ve put off writing about Second Life for a while. Mostly because I’ve gotten very tired of uninformed people making judgements about it based on the hype, rather than the reality. Last year, an ignorant speaker at Computers in Libraries declared Second Life to be “dead.” The only thing that has died is some of the hype…finally. Second Life is actually thriving in many ways. Virtual meetings and educational opportunities abound. So do librarians.
Let’s start defining Second Life (SL) by first defining what it is not; it is not a game. Games have rules, goals, objectives, points and so on. These kinds of parameters do not exist for SL. Rather, SL is a 3D virtual environment or virtual world. What people do in that environment is as varied as the human beings who populate it.
So what can one do in Second Life?
Almost anything one can do in real life (RL), one can do in SL. Activities include (but are far from limited to) concerts, lectures, classes, dancing, shopping, socializing, traveling, historical role play, book discussions, contests, theater and many, many more. If you get bored in SL, it’s only because you’re not looking for anything.
What makes Second Life unique?
Second Life is perhaps one of the oldest virtual worlds (there are hundreds of them!), and it is certainly one of the largest. What truly differentiates SL from many others is the philosophy about intellectual property rights. When one creates something in SL, that person owns it. That means they also have the right to sell it. There is a thriving, real economy in SL. A rare few can make real life livings selling and/or creating custom virtual items, but most do it for fun. Second Life is also a very diverse community; 60% of the residents are not from the U.S. This gives an interesting, international flavor to many areas of SL and gives SL users a chance to interact with people from around the world.
What are libraries doing in Second Life?
A lot! Most libraries/librarians in SL collaborate within the Community Virtual Library (CVL). This project is huge and has many volunteers from all over the globe. Activities run the gamut; lectures, art galleries, book discussions and training are all popular. The CVL maintains a reference desk as well to answer questions from SL residents. The CVL encompasses partner organizations as well, including many college and university libraries and library-related organizations, such as TechSoup, the American Library Association, and OPLIN.
Where can I learn more about Second Life?
OPLIN offers free, inworld classes on Second Life. You can learn more at http://www.oplin.org/secondlife, or feel free to contact Laura Solomon at OPLIN (firstname.lastname@example.org ), also known as Lebachai Vesta in SL. The official Second Life web site is at http://www.secondlife.com and the site of CVL is at http://www.infoisland.org.