Unfortunately, my first experience with our topic Second Life was through an episode of CSI: SVU. A twenty-something aged female had gone missing and it turned out she had an online avatar that she frequently used in a virtual community. Three months later she was reported missing and the suspects were her other avatar friends, I do not remember the conclusion. Thankfully, my second encounter with creating an avatar in a virtual community was a large improvement. For GEO 207: Natural Disasters, a class at ISU my roommate recommends, her instructor used Second Life for the entire online course.
Second Life is a 3D online universe where you live via a personally created avatar. Creator, Philip Rosedale, emphasizes that “Second Life is not a game but rather, a new reality.” There is the capability to do nearly everything possible from simple daily tasks to visiting the Sistine Chapel. Rosedale describes the Second Life universe as, “the average of all the things we dream about.” The user personalizes the avatar through name, appearance, and dress then will choose locations to visit and meet friends. Commerce also happens through Second Life using “Linden dollars”. Using accepted currency, mainly the dollar and euro, Linden dollars can purchase products which will later convert to real money. An estimated $1,000,000 of e-commerce is always circulating within Second Life.
For my roommate’s class, Bill Shields brought students together in a world created specifically for Illinois State geology students. Each student created an avatar and was given a location for their classroom. Entering the virtual classroom, the current days power points were posted on the walls and Bill Shields’ avatar would be waiting at the front of the room. Students would file in whenever they would sign in at home and choose a seat. My roommate ended up sitting next to a friend she knew previously every day in class. The avatar Shields directed would lead class from the front of the room, moving, directing, and speaking from his home computer which the students could hear. Students were able to ask questions in a format similar to AIM or facebook chat. Students could also leave the classroom and explore models and diagrams set up to reinforce concepts.
To better understand Second Life, I made an avatar and by searching for Illinois State University found our campus.
By using avatars people will be able to work from home without losing personal interaction such as choosing a seat in class, dressing uniquely, or asking a question. The design is capabilities are incredible. The ability to replicate landscape and architecture is impressive while equally impressive is the ability to design a completely new scene. This allows schools and businesses the opportunity to provide the perfect environment for an event.
IBM has also implemented Second Life into the way they do business. Employees have created avatars for themselves and use them to work. Meetings with customers take place in large virtual offices filled with tables and comfortable chairs. Internal decisions among employees are made in small informal virtual rooms. One team working on a specific project is lead by Karen Keeter. She meets with three other team members from Brazil, Germany, and Morocco everyday without ever having met together in real life. It is saving the company travel times and expenses. IBM claims it increases communication and is more personal than a phone conversation or e-mail. The virtual locations provide great ways to format data, give presentations, and hold discussions.
Second Life technology is extremely impressive; however, many question about how it will impact the future of education and business still remain. Illinois State has discontinued the use of Second Life but recognizes changing technology and how to get the most productive results. IBM continues to use Second Life with much success. Visiting secondlife.com advertises its entertainment aspects geared towards the general public. Applying the functions of communication used for entertainment need to be promoted in business and education.
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