nched in 2003 by California-based Linden Lab, Second Life is a website where users create animated cartoon avatars to represent themselves — usually as humans ( often buff, busty, beautiful humans ) , and sometimes as fanciful or furry creatures. Linden sells land in this virtual frontier, and users (a.k.a. “residents”) design and make everything from virtual stores for the land to virtual sweaters for the avatars. They buy things and sell things that exist only “in world” — so many that last month $6.6 million in user-user transactions changed hands. They role-play, gamble, teach classes, make music, open restaurants, push politics — all as they guide their avatars through the elaborate virtual landscapes and cityscapes that give Second Life its stepping-into-Wonderland quality.
“Second Life is no more a game than the Web is a game. It’s a platform,” says John Lester, 39, of Somerville, Linden’s community and education manager. “This feels exactly like it felt when the Web was first coming out. I remember feeling the hair on the back of my neck standing up.”
Unlike such sites as Sims Online , Second Life’s content is created almost entirely by users. […]
Rebecca Nesson has never taught a class like “CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion,” a joint enterprise with Harvard Law School sponsored by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Here she is as avatar Rebecca Berkman, standing outside a virtual replica of Harvard’s Austin Hall before 30 avatars of Extension School students. A wolf sits in front , teaching fellow Buzescu is an android , and everyone can fly, all of which adds a touch of whimsy to even the most serious Second Life endeavors, in this case giving far-flung students a virtual place to meet and work on class projects. Gone is off-site education as simply posting videos of lectures online and communicating with students via e-mail.
“It’s better than anything I’ve seen in distance learning,” Nesson says.
Harvard is among some 80 academic institutions exploring Second Life. […]