My avatar’s name is AngelMaribella Joles. I created my avatar in Second Life (SL). An avatar, according to Wikipedia, is defined as a computer user's representation of himself or herself, whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) used on Internet forums and other communities…It is an ‘object’ representing the embodiment of the user. The term ‘avatar’ can also refer to the personality connected with the screen name, or handle, of an Internet user. (Avatar, 2008)
SL is a virtual world experience in 3D, created by its residents (people), who can use it for virtual entertainment, experiences, and opportunity. (Linden Lab, 2008). In SL, people are able to use the Second Life Grid, which serves as a platform for the SL world to reside and offers tools for business, educators, non-profits, and entrepreneurs to develop a virtual experience. Organizations can create their own space for communication, collaboration and community engagement.
Phillip Rosedale, who founded Linden Lab in 1999, had a vision, a mission to create a revolutionary new form of shared experience by allowing each person to utilize their imagination to achieve some of the impossible things they cannot experience in real life. If you would like to learn more about the origin of SL and its reaction to real life, view the video by going to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t1XR-LrgyM (Rosedale, 2007)
Linden Lab has over 200 employees in distributed network offices worldwide. (Linden Lab, 2008) The senior management team consists of experts in the field of physics, 3D graphics, and networking. It was interesting to discover that the team members for the company have previously worked at Electronic Arts, Apple, Midway, Disney, THQ, Acclaim, Hasbro, Mattel (all entertainment, gaming and technology companies), as well as many Web 2.0 companies. (Linden Lab, 2008)
Mr. Rosedale believes that innovative success stems from self-directed creation, collaboration, and openness. These are the company’s guiding principles, which steers the employees in their mission to help people realize their full potential by connecting them to a revolutionary virtual universe. (Linden Lab, 2008) Mr. Rosedale’s belief is included in Linden Lab’s mission statement, which reads: “It's our mission to connect us all to an online world that advances the human condition.” (Linden Lab, 2008) His belief along with his imagination has led him to create a virtual world in SL for many individuals to experience opportunities that are out of their reach in the “real world."
For example, researchers from the University of Texas in Dallas are using SL technology to help people with autism. (Tatton, 2008) This technology is allowing them to teach autistic children social interaction in a virtual world. SL allows individuals with autism to create a version of themselves, by selecting an avatar, which allows them to simulate themselves and learn how to behave in a unique 3D world. (Tatton, 2008)
The center for brain health uses SL with its patients, teaching them how to deal with social situations. (Tatton, 2008) Adults learn how to interact with others and how to speak and act. Also, children learn how to interact in the playground and lunch room and learn who to deal with, who to sit with and even how to deal with bullying. Abbi Tatton, a reporter from CNN, explains how second life is helping people with autism interact in social situations, to view video, go to: http://video.aol.com/video-detail/autism-in-a-virtual-world/3721463751?icid=acvsv2
SL is also being utilized in universities to enhance education, help students to interact with their professors, and teach students courses. Students can take courses, such as humanities or art, and have the ability to upload images or textures or even experience a virtual simulation of an ancient culture. To view a brief introduction of the world of SL by Juana Manuel, Librarian at the Texas State University, and how powerful SL is and has enhance education, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6D9I36zsec&feature=related
In the picture above, my avatar is standing in Solaris, listening to music, interacting with others and exploring the land. I visited many places, such as Marbella Spain and experienced a fashion show. I went to the Oxygen Club and interacted with others. While dancing there, I by accident, landed in a sex orientation setting and got out quickly, and went to another place.
At first, my experience entering SL was uncertain. I spent about 30 minutes trying to download the software and figure out how to get started. When I began on the orientation island, I encountered a friendly avatar. His name was SL French Mentor Imagine John. He provided some tips, including how to modify my appearance and how to use Instant Message (IM). I learned how to use gestures, communicate with others, walk, sit, fly, dance and much more.
I discovered I was not able to drive a car and could not purchase items without Linden $ (SL currency). In SL, you can actually purchase land, fashion apparel, alcoholic beverages and much more with Linden $. In Business Week, Inside the World of Second Life, the article describes how SL residents can own their own creations and buy and sell them free with virtual currency. There are more than $5 million worth of transactions, in real US dollars, that are conducted each month among the 165,000 participants. (My Virtual Life, 2006) There is a real economy that has developed in SL, according to Business Week, several thousand of people run real businesses inside SL, some making enough to earn a real-world living. (My Virtual Life, 2006)
At this time, Wells Fargo has built its own branded island inside SL to teach young people how to be financially responsible. Other stores such as Wal-mart and American Express and Intel are considering using SL for their corporate training. (Newitz, 2006)
I met several male avatars, some were cordial, others flirted, and one was totally out of line. SL French Mentor Imagine John told him to escape from SL because he was abusing me. Being abused by an avatar unexpectedly scared me. However, that awful experience will not prevent me from visiting SL. My experience in SL was quite interesting. I was able to express myself and visit places I have not been able to see in real life. SL is more like an animated version of real life, enhanced with the ability to fly.
I found my experience quite incredible and entertaining. I am not someone who would normally play a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). My only previous experience was watching my brother play a MMORPG that had warriors and karate, watching heads fly off with blood. That was not a game for me. I actually lost track of time when I entered SL. I alleviated some of my stress. My focus was on adventure. I enjoyed visiting other places, making friendships, and the company of SL French Mentor Imagine John. Each individual can use SL for their own purpose whether to buy, sell, interact socially, learn new things, entertain themselves and others (even sexually!) and more. SL is a social network environment which, just as real life, each person has choices to make and places to experience. I believe that SL will not only entertain people, but also help businesses training employees, universities to educate students and even help those with disabilities to learn skills they can use in the real world.
As I completed my research, I discovered the most important thing about the SL world is that it is constantly changing and growing. I hope to see you in the SL.
For a list of free wallpaper and avatars click here to view, http://avatardom.net/avatars/Fantasies/ (Avatar, 2008)
Avatar. Wikipedia. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(virtual_reality) [external link] http://avatardom.net/avatars/Fantasies/
Tatton, Abbi. (2008, April 4) Autism in a virtual world. CNN. Retrieved April 4, 2008, from: http://video.aol.com/video-detail/autism-in-a-virtual-world/3721463751?icid=acvsv2
Linden Lab. (2008). Retrieved April 2, 2008, from: http://lindenlab.com/
Manuel, Juana. (2007, September) Youtube. A brief introduction to Second Life. Retrieved April 5, 2008, from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6D9I36zsec&feature=related
My Virtual Life. (2006, May 6). Business Week. Retrieved April 2, 2008, from: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_18/b3982001.h.
Newitz, Analee. (2006, September 1). Your Second Life is Ready. Popular Science. Retrieved April 2, 2008, from: http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2006-09/your-second-life-ready?page=1
Rosedale, Phillip. (2007, April 6). Youtube. The Orgin of Second Life and its Relation to Real Life. Retrieved April 5, 2008, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t1XR-LrgyM