One of the most interesting immersive experiences I’ve had during this course have been our class visits into Second Life. I have never been a gamer so MUVE (Multi User Virtual Environment) and MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) platforms are unfamiliar to me and learning how to use what seemed like a very complex interface at first was a bit daunting but after a few visits it became much easier to negotiate.
Second Life is a 3D virtual world created by Linden Labs which opened in 2003. It isn’t a game platform as such and there are no quests to fulfil or levels to achieve, however it is possible to participate within Second Life in a number of different ways. Users who join Second Life create an avatar which becomes a virtual representation of themselves in whichever way they wish to be seen and there are many different forms to choose from. Avatars are known as residents and at any given time there may be tens of thousands of residents currently ‘in world’ albeit spread out over a large amount of virtual terrain.
Second Life has its own economy – reputed to be the only economy to have remained stable during the Global Financial Crisis and residents can purchase Linden dollars to buy goods or if you have the time and skills you can also create goods to sell or even purchase your own land and create your very own virtual space. But it isn’t necessary to spend money in Second Life as there are many places to visit or items that you can have for free.
One drawback to using Second Life is that it is necessary to have a high speed internet connection, plenty of space on your hard drive and a good graphics card otherwise it can be impossible to load the program.
Educators and librarians who have a presence in Second Life use it to provide opportunities for students or groups of people to come together for tours and orientations, conferences, lectures, meetings, book talks and exhibitions, some libraries also offer reference services. One of the main advantages to using Second Life is that it is a great tool for bringing people together regardless of where they may be in the world geographically and gives them the opportunity to interact in real time using text or voice. As a distance student, being able to talk to my fellow students and hear their voices in return was the highlight of my time spent in Second Life.