Time magazine on Second Life

Second Life

Time Magazine recently ran a piece on five of the worst websites that mentioned Second Life as one of them. Not entirely sure why – since Second Life isn’t a website, but the article begins:

We’re sure that somebody out there is enjoying Second Life, but why?

and ends,

The corporate world’s embrace of the place as a venue for staff meetings and training sessions does seem to lend Second Life a layer of legitimacy. But maybe it’s a case of some CEOs trying too hard to be hip. 


But perhaps it’s time we recognised Second Life for what it is – (yet another) software platform that fails to leverage virtual reality for serious purposes and also that it has only hitherto been propped up by a multimedia marketing campaign that now shows signs of failing.

And yet there are still some of us who will continue to think that Second Life actually provides scope for more meaningful interactions to take place, say in the world of public diplomacy, peacebuilding or political activism. I’m not entirely convinced, but I would like to believe that perhaps Second Life is ahead of its time. What’s cool today is augmented reality on mobile devices, which seem to hold far more potential in my mind than virtual reality on PCs.

7 thoughts on “Time magazine on Second Life

  1. Nice to hear someone who agrees that as a platform, Second Life could hold much deeper meaning – but I wonder why you call is a “scope for more meaningful interaction” rather than a “current platform for more meaningful interaction”.

    The types of projects currently ongoing in Second Life include brilliant work covering all the domains you’ve discussed. A few examples include:
    * the Alley Flats project, covered at The Arch
    * Virtual Africa and a number of projects including bringing bikes to Africa
    Or the fact that the recent global climate conference included concurrent sessions in SL.

    There are dozens if not hundreds of little projects that put the lie to the Time’s article which, by the way, is from LAST SUMMER and was the subject of extensive discussion including a posting by Torley on the Second Life blog:


  2. Hi dusanwriter,

    Thanks for the links. As you’ll note from repeated posts here over the past 2 years, I am very open to the potential of Second Life to facilitate and strengthen meaningful interactions.

    However, it is a potential largely limited to those who can afford to run Second Life. SL as a platform is hugely resource intensive, both in terms of the local hardware needed to run it as well as the bandwidth required to access it. It is unstable and crashes frequently even on high end machines. There are issues of copyright and in-game ownership of artefacts. Video and sound streaming require even higher bandwidth requirements than the platform needs as a minimum.

    Blogs, mashups and social networking sites can be leveraged to support these same processes. Today, with little or no fuss, they run not just on PC’s but on a range of other devices including mobile phones. They are far more accessible than Second Life, more reliable, run on more languages, are more easily accessed offline, are more accessible for those who are differently abled, don’t require high bandwidth and vitally, are available both synchronously and asynchronously.

    Ushahidi (https://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2008/01/16/ushahidi-testimonies-of-violence-in-kenya-on-the-web/) is the most recent example I’ve covered on this blog, but there is much besides I’ve pointed to over the past two years.

    This is why I specifically said that SL has scope for meaningful interaction (as underscored by the websites you point to), though in most cases, equally or more sustainable, accessible and meaningful conversations can be had through other web and Internet media and frameworks.



  3. Thank you very much for pointing to our project (using the Second Life) as an example of meaningful use of the platform. For Uthango Social Investments, a registered NGO in South Africa, the project is indeed a full-blown experiment at lowest possible cost to see how it could add value to our real world.

    I could not agree more that one needs to explore the BEST possible way to communicate a message and to rally around a cause. In most ways, Second Life is not the ideal platform (in our experience the past 18 months). However, it could (and does!) form a meaningful part of a solution and not exploring its potential for Africa would be short-sighted. We think we are only scratching the surface and from Uthango’s side, we are in for the long run…

    Thank you for pointing out two sides of a multi-angled argument so perfectly. I enjoyed the discussion – more than the one-sided opinion pro or against virtual worlds or new media that one so often reads. Oh, and come visit…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s