Melodie Seble, @Melodie_
Mike Lilly, @MikeLilly1
Shannon August, @ShanAug
February 8, 2012
The first guest lecture of the term was a very interesting experience. Donna Davis, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor at the University of Oregon Turnbull Center in Portland, visited to teach us about virtual worlds and demonstrate Second Life, one of the most prominent web-based virtual worlds.
Second Life is a digital world where players, or “residents,” create avatars to represent themselves. Players can interact in the game much like they can in real life, and may participate in many activities that also exist in real life. Some players use Second Life as an extension of their real lives, but some immerse themselves completely in the virtual world.
According to Davis, the three keys to keeping people engaged in virtual worlds are presence, interactivity and immersion. She shared a quote from Marcos Novak, that “cyberspace is a habitat for the imagination.”
Davis described Second Life and its success over the past few years. In 2007, the site averaged 17,000 daily registrations, and in 2011 that number grew to 20,000. In 2010 and 2011, users spent $30 million US per quarter in-game. According to Davis, video games are the fastest-growing US retail category.
The highlight of the lecture was when Davis logged into her Second Life account and gave us a tour of the game. Her avatar, Tredi Felissimo, started out at the University of Oregon’s virtual land. Objects on the island included a classroom (conveniently located in a treehouse), a beach and a mathematical project involving floating spheres.
Davis demonstrated how some locations in-game are nearly identical to those in real life, such as classrooms, but some places such as a space city are completely invented. Interestingly, Second Life can be used as a type of virtual classroom, with avatars sitting in an amphitheater and watching a screen that contains a PowerPoint presentation or a webcam-facilitated lecture. Many real musicians also perform in Second Life, earning enough “tips” for their work that they can earn a living.
Second Life can be used to fulfill many different needs. Some people use the game for social reasons, such as philosophers and academics networking and exchanging ideas, or people with disabilities talking and interacting normally. Others use it as an escape from their lives. For example, a couple living in a trailer in New Orleans pays for the right to vacation in Costa Rica in the game. The mere act of relaxing in-game allows them to feel more relaxed in real life.
This idea, that people can perceive their actions and surroundings in a virtual world as real, raised some debate on Twitter. Most classmates said they would not be able to believe they were actually on a beach in Costa Rica.
By the end of the lecture, we all had a much better idea about what Second Life is and how it is valuable to the social media landscape.
In-depth log of tweets: