Second Life (Round Three) — ‘Nuff Said

By now, you know the drill. Clay Shirkey, Beth Coleman, and I are going around and around about Second Life.

Round One Henry Beth Clay

Round Two Henry Beth on Clay Beth on Henry Clay on Henry Clay on Beth

Round Three Henry Beth Clay

For some other smart and thoughtful responses to the debate, check out:

Irving Wladawsky-Berger,

Grant McCracken,

Sam Ford,

Ron Burnett,

Mark Wallace,

Jesse Walker,

Intellagirl.

All of this is going to make much more sense if you’ve already read the earlier rounds of the conversation.

Mapping the Debate

Clay began his most recent post with the following:

We agree about many of the basic facts, and that most of our variance is about their relative importance. So as to prevent the softness of false consensus from settling over some sharp but interesting disagreements, let me start with a list of assertions I think we could both agree with. If I succeed, we can concentrate on our smaller but more interesting set of differences.

I think you and I agree that:

1. Linden has embraced participatory culture, including, inter alia, providing user tools, using CC licenses, and open sourcing the client.

2. Users of Second Life have created interesting effects by taking advantage of those opportunities.

and also

3. Most people who try Second Life do not like it. As a result, SL is is not going to be a mass movement in any meaningful sense of the term, to use your phrase.

4. Reporters and marketers ought not discuss Second Life using phony numbers.

The core difference between our respective views of the current situation is that you place more emphasis on the first two items on that list, and I on the second two.

Yes, that about sums it up except that for me, there’s another issue on the table here: whether purely quantitative measures are adequate to the task of meaningfully evaluating an emerging media experience.

Let’s suppose all of Clay’s numerical claims were true, then would they negate the cultural importance or likely influence of the cultural experiment we are calling Second Life? I have been trying across my posts to suggest other levels on which Second Life is culturally meaningful and influential other than those which depend entirely on its head count.

Clearly, there is a need for reliable data points about the scale, composition, and levels of engagement witnessed by various online environments. I share Beth’s call for further refinements of such tools. I am simply rejecting the idea that this issue can be reduced to a single data point and I am certainly rejecting the idea — widespread in the business community — that the only thing that counts is what can be counted.

Relying purely on quantitative data is especially dangerous at a time when things are in flux and when we do not yet have an adequate framework in place to interpret the data that we are collecting. These numbers may answer some of the questions we want to answer but only if we understand how to read them meaningfully.


“Approximately Insane”

Clay writes:

You compare Second Life with the Renaissance and the Age of Reason. This is approximately insane, and your disclaimer that Second Life may not reach this rarefied plateau doesn’t do much to make it less insane.

It says something about how vested Clay is about quantitative language that even insanity requires an approximation. (Yes, I know he was joking — so am I).

So, let me first of all concede that the metaphor in this case has gotten in the way of the point I was trying to make. It would be excessive to draw comparisons between Second Life as a specific platform and something as epoch-changing as the Renaissance. I withdraw the analogy. I don’t know if it is insane but it was dumb.

All I was saying is that quantitative measurements would not be adequate to evaluate the importance of the Renaissance. Imagine what a small, small, small percentage of the people living in Europe, let alone living in the world, during that period were in any direct way participating in the events we now call the Renaissance. By any purely numerical standard, the Renaissance involved earlier adapters and adopters of several then emerging technologies — the most important of which was movable type. Any numerical count of who participated in the Renaissance would be “approximately insane” if it was applied without an understanding of the cultural contexts within which the Renaissance occurred, including things like the class structure and literacy rate of the period, or if it was to use the limited take up of Renaissance ideas and experiences at the time as a means of dismissing their long-term cultural impact.

Clay writes:

Participatory culture is one of the essential movements of our age. It creates many different kinds of artifacts, however, and it is possible to be skeptical about Second Life as an artifact without being skeptical of participatory culture generally. Let me re-write the sentiment you reacted to, to make that distinction clear: Second Life, a piece of software developed by Linden Labs, is unlikely to become widely adopted in the future, because it is not now and has never been widely adopted, measured either in retention of new users or in the number of current return users.

On this point, we do agree, though again, my argument has never rested on whether SL or even multiverses are “widely adopted,” only that they are now sites where important experiments and innovations occur and that they are likely to play even more central roles in the not too distant future.

Mulching Kittens?

Clay writes:

Giving a pass to laudatory Second Life stories that use false numbers, simply because they are “keeping alive” an idea you like, risks bootstrapping Second Life’s failure to retain users into unwarranted skepticism about peer production generally. More importantly, though, lowering your scrutiny of people using bogus Linden numbers, just because they are on your team, is a bad idea.

Clay misreads what I was saying here. I was not saying that we should ignore distortions of the data just because they come from people who share my position. That would be the worst kind of intellectual dishonesty. I have said it before and I will say it again: Clay does us a service by asking hard questions about the numbers here.

So, suppose for the sake of argument, Clay’s critique of the numbers turns out to be essentially correct, then what do we do about it? Clay seems to be adopting a “gotcha” posture, trying to use the data to debunk Second Life, to damage the credibility of Linden Labs, and to dismiss the viability of “virtual worlds” altogether. For Clay, everyone involved is either “a schlemiel or a schuyster” and that his role in all of this is that of the one truly honest man rooting out “corruption.” Hmm, from where I sit, that is “approximately insane,” assuming that egomaniacal paranoia (the idea that everyone around you is either stupider than you are or simply out to get you) constitutes a form of insanity in Brooklyn.

By contrast, we might use that same data set to try to identify more precisely what factors might be resulting in a dissatisfaction or defection of potential members and offer some advice on how we might improve Second Life, seeing it as a worthy experiment in creating a more participatory cultural community. This is precisely the difference between constructive criticism and criticism intended to inflict damage.

To play upon one of Clay’s metaphors, it matters to me that Linden Labs isn’t trying to mulch kittens but rather they are trying to figure out how to construct a space whose residents get to design and build their own world, that they have invested a fair amount of effort into community building and educational outreach, that they have reasonably enlightened views about intellectual property and so forth. Given that, I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, assume they want to improve user experience and customer satisfaction, and roll up our sleeves and figure out how to fix the problems you have identified. That’s what I meant when I said Second Life was worth fighting for.

Are They Coming or Going?

One of the problems with purely quantitative analysis of cultural phenomenon is that sooner or later, the numbers fail you and you end making a leap of faith. (And this is almost always where the underlying biases and assumptions behind the research emerge.) In Clay’s case, he seems to want to move from the data point that there is a low retention rate for SL visitors to a conclusion about why people are leaving. He has a pet theory that he thinks explains why people leave Second Life and remain in World of Warcraft. It is a reasonable hypothesis but his number play gives it the aura of scientific veracity which it hasn’t earned. Readers here have already suggested a range of other hypothesis to account for this same data, having to do more with technical difficulties in the specific applications associated with SL than with a rejection of the idea of a multiverse altogether. If, as Clay suggests, Second Life is simply a single product/platform/service, then why would it follow that not liking SL demonstrates that they were not going to like other 3d immersive environments in the future?

What if we turned this around and consider the opposite question: if people are only interested in game worlds, why are they trying out Second Life in the first place? Are they simply confused about what they are getting themselves into or are they seeking something like a multiverse and being frustrated that this particular one doesn’t live up to their expectations?

Before I can evaluate whether Clay is right or wrong about why people are leaving Second Life, I would need to know what they were expecting when they got there, what role they hoped it would play in their lives, and in what ways they were disappointed in the gap between the motivating fantasy and whatever they experienced after they got there. To my mind, this is an ethnographic question and not purely a quantitative one.

So, let me invite those who read this blog to post their own answers to the following questions:

If you visited Second Life but chose not to remain involved, what turned you off?

If you visited Second Life and chose to remain actively engaged, what captured your imagination?

In either case, what drew you to Second Life in the first place?

And if you have heard about SL and haven’t tried it, is there a reason you haven’t been motivated to explore it yet?

(That should cover pretty much all of our bases there.)

Bad for Business?

Both Beth and Clay at various points imply that it would be bad for business — (or to use Beth’s terms, bad for “shopping”) if it were demonstrated that SL’s population were significantly smaller than the numbers currently being claimed in the most inflated news stories. Maybe but keep in mind that companies are embracing Second Life for a range of reasons, some of them good, some bad, and only some of them rest on the issue of how many members are drawn to Second Life. We might consider some of the other functions:

Many companies are using Second Life as a site of corporate training, allowing their own members to congregate together across multiple geographic locations, to hear a speaker, engage in discussion, or simply get to know each other better. Such activities take advantages of the affordances of 3d worlds to create a kind of shared presence.

Many companies are using their elaborately constructed and beautifully designed worlds as a kind of prestige showcase — a place they go to show clients and demonstrate their own mastery of the emerging language of geek chic. Indeed, this function might be served just as well if there was something exclusive about Second Life than if it was a mass phenomenon.

Some companies are using Second Life as a site of niche marketing to reach the very kinds of early adapters and adopters who are coming and staying. In that sense, Second Life functions the way PBS or Sunday Morning News Shows function for certain corporate advertisers — because it reaches a very specific niche of consumers whose tastes and experiences set them off from the general population.

Some companies, as Ilya Vedrashko has noted, use Second Life to test market new products or campaigns, recognizing that they can do so with limited exposure and low risk in Second Life compared to what it would take to launch a full scale national broadcast campaign. In this case, the value of Second Life depends on whether they recognize the specific quality of its population or confuse it for a cross-section of the population at large.

Some companies are using Second Life to encourage employees to break with their normal ways of doing business, to explore an alternative realm which is more fluid and flexible, and thus to encourage thought experiments and to create a climate which supports innovation.

And yes, some of them imagine that Second Life will allow them to reach hard to reach consumers — the teenaged males who are defecting from television. Frankly, if that’s their goal, they would do better trying to target WOW!

Niches Vs. Elites

A reader, Nick, wrote into the comments section:

If, as you say “it has always been the case that the playgrounds of the rich and the powerful take on a cultural significance that far outstrips the realm of our own everyday lives” Second Life represents the historical continuation of something we are seeking to avoid in an era of networks and relative freedom. Let me put that into less conceptual terms: it sounds as if Second Life is being lauded for having rather elitist principals – if you’re not a programmer then there is little there for you, bar what other people choose to give or sell. When I first heard about it I imagined Second Life to be rather like the ‘Lego’ of software – simple tools made available to all that could be used to build whatever users’ imaginations were capable of.

The reader’s comment mixes together two sets of claims I was trying to make about why SL might matter beyond the population figures:

1. Second Life represents an important testbed for ideas about participatory culture. We have a company here which has adopted a collaborative attitude towards its consumers, empowering them to actively participate in the design of their own world.

2, Second Life is attracting a growing number of powerful institutions (corporate, governmental, educational, nonprofit) who are using it as a site to experiment with how they might adopt a more collaborative and participatory relationship with their consumers/constituents/students/what-have-you.

Given the kinds of people currently using SL, these two claims are certainly related but they are not the same.

Is SL a niche or an elite? Is it a specific demographic, a self-selecting community of those who share a common interest in the experience of building and inhabiting a multiverse, a particular constellation of early adapters and adopters — i.e. a Niche? Or is it a group defined around the exclusion of other potential participants — i.e. an elite?

I will continue to ponder this one.

A Betting Man?

Clay begins and ends his post by asking whether I am a betting man. I think he is trying to call me out. Leave it to Clay to find one of the few statements in my argument which would seem to rest on a quantitative claim (never mind that it comes as an aside) and try to push me to quantify it even further. It’s a pretty good rhetorical tactic because if I agree to a bet, then I have ceded that in the end, it all does boil down to the numbers and if I refuse the bet, then he can claim that I am unwilling to get more specific about what I am claiming will be the future of virtual worlds.

I have been struggling all week to figure out how to respond – not because I am opposed to betting but because I do not think, as I have said throughout, that the quantitative issues are the most interesting ones to be thinking about vis-à-vis SL and the other multiverses which will follow in its footsteps.

Here’s the statement he wants me to put my money behind:

Most of us will find uses for virtual worlds one of these days; most of us will not “live” there nor will we conduct most of our business there.

So, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it all depends on how you define “us.” For starters, most people on the planet have not ever made a telephone call, let alone used a computer, let alone gone on the web, let alone visited an immersive 3d environment. I suppose at the time I made the statement, I was imagining something like most of the people who are currently online regularly.

Then, we would have to specify what we mean by “use.” I suppose what I had in mind was something like the following: given how many companies are using SL (and are likely to use other such sites) for corporate training and community building and given how many educational institutions are beginning to experiment with SL (and other such sites) as a form of distance learning, a significant portion of people are apt to have had at least some exposure to these worlds. (Indeed, it would be interesting to know what percentage of people who visit SL and don’t return came for a special event of this kind. They were, in effect, tourists rather than settlers.)

As Beth notes, the text based world of e-mail is already being augmented by a range of other forms of audiovisual communications (including Flickr, Skype, YouTube, and Google Maps to cite only a few) which are being adapted to a range of different uses. It is not a big stretch of the imagination to assume that there will be occasions when our communication needs are best served by interfaces which allow participants interacting over distances to have a more embodied experience of telepresence or that there may be times and places when 3d modeling is more effective to communicate an idea or to collaborate in the production of a project than either text or audiovideo. So, I do think these kinds of environments — whatever we want to call them — will become more pervasive in our society over time. But we may no more inhabit such worlds than we inhabit Google Maps. We may simply consult or deploy them as needed to serve specific tasks. It may be more of a resource than a lifestyle.

Our current experience of membership or affiliation with a multiverse may reflect the particular needs of early adapters and may or may not be a model which will carry over to subsequent generations of users. We might compare it to the difference between belonging to a discussion group online and using e-mail. Lots of us belong to discussion groups and mailing lists, to be sure, but much of the time we are simply using e-mail to connect to people we know from our face to face interactions in the real world. We use it because it has certain affordances we need. Few of us would self identify as “people who use e-mail.”

Let’s pause a moment to think about terminology: I share Clay’s conclusion that it is not productive to lump together WOW and SL into the same conceptual category. So rather than talking about virtual worlds, let’s adopt Stephenson’s term, multiverse, to refer to 3d environments which are not games and which facilitate social interactions. I am certainly not unique in using the word in this manner.

In the short run, I think Shirkey is right that games will prove more attractive to more people than multiverses will. Yet, we use play to acquire skills that we later deploy to more serious purposes. I think our play experiences with game worlds may accustom us to navigating through digital space and occupying avatars and interacting socially with people we may never meet face to face and all of these constitute the building blocks necessary to pave the way for broader use of multiverses as tools for social interactions and research collaborations. And in that sense, I think Beth is right that SL may turn out to have been an important early prototype for subsequent forms of social interactions online — even if the numbers never come together there as its promoters might have hoped.

I am not sure how we are going to be able to quantify that and I have no idea how long it is going to take for this prediction to come true. I simply don’t think any of us know enough yet about how these worlds work, about what people are seeking when they visit SL and the other multiverses, about which of these applications will reap rewards and which ones will fail.

So, in that sense, I am not a betting man. I am not willing to reduce this prediction to the kinds of data points that could meaningfully serve as the basis for a bet. Clay argues:

I do not believe the portmanteau category of virtual worlds will reach anything like half of internet users (or even half of broadband users) in any predictable time.

The key word here is predictable and I can’t bet Clay because I don’t think the rate of growth, given our current body of knowledge, is meaningfully predictable. And for me, that’s part of the fun. I don’t think there’s anything inevitable about technological development. The future of the web is what we collectively make of it.

But if I were to make a prediction now, based on current conditions, I would bet that some significant portion of the people who are currently using the web will have used some form of 3d environment for purposes other than playing games within the next decade.

In any case, I don’t really think Clay needs me to buy him dinner. And I’m eating pretty well myself these days, thank you. So, instead, let me suggest that in the short run, we invest some of the energy and resources that we are currently deploying to talk about virtual real estate to help those who lack a roof over their heads in the real world. I am happy to send a check for the price of a meal in a decent Boston restaurant to the homeless shelter of Clay’s choice in Brooklyn.

Comments

  1. I’m not at all attracted to Second Life, because it is not clear to me what people actually do there, or what I would do there. I don’t want to meet random strangers; as a Livejournal addict, I already get tons of meaningful interaction from that space.

    The second reason for avoiding Second Life is the attraction it seems to hold for the corporate world. It’s a complete turn-off, frankly. I don’t want to have ‘conversations’ with advertisers or megabrands. In my experience, they have no idea how to talk. I’m sure there must be more people than corporates, acdemics, geeks and journalists there, but I haven’t yet heard the opinions of everyday users.

    Actually, my 10-year old plays Runescape constantly, and Second Life sounds like Runescape without the quests.

  2. Anyone mention how much cross-language interaction goes on? With the Brazil and French populations arriving in droves, it’s rather effortless to communicate in real time. Not seein’ lots of thats with Second Lifes true ancestors: blogs + gaming.

    Alison’s comment– the last line– is so telling. It’s almost like a game… what if the SL methodology and social interaction made it into that 15 billion dollar industry called video gaming?

    Shirky’s not doing his job and seeing the forest through the trees on this one. Most of us aren’t, and it’s a shame.

    On a side note, it’s vital to link SL + WoW, because of how they represent a light/dark side of that thing we do when we blog and that thing we do when we consume. Top-down walled gardens have value, DIY spaces are confusing and a mess. The stars will get pulled out.

    It’s the same old thing, and I fear, this scares us into having different conversations.

  3. SL is WAY too slow to be usable. I have a 1.5Mbps connection to my 2.3Ghz computer. You’d think that would be fast enough, but it isn’t.

  4. Personally, I am one of those that joined SL and “left” … I think that the main reason was that I found it “overwhelming” and somehow “dangerous”.

    SL demands a lot more of you than other on-line communities … I felt like entering a new world and the more I would walk inside the more it would “absorb” me … something like drugs :-)

    Anyway, just trying to think loud hoping that I will help a little …

  5. Russell Holt says:

    I’m suprised to see how much thought is being put into SL. For some it is a game, for some a creative outlet, for some (sadly) a sexual release and for some a way to make money. But for ALL, it is a virtual world. I.E. not real. I respect all of your thoughts and opinions but I believe you are way over the top. SL does not need to be qualified and quantified. Simply put, SL needs participants to make it work. Who cares why? As for those who are not interested, move on. The internet is full of endless possibilities.

  6. I have been using Second Life to teach my class on virtual communities for a few years.

    Here are some quick and dirty notes:

    In response to Russell’s comment about the speed, there are vast, vast differences between what level of detail will render, and I think it differs more on the speed/graphics of the host machine. Running on NYU’s WiFi, during student presentations, one student had a souped-up Dell XPS gaming laptop and SL was blazing fast with amazing detail. Everyone else, myself included, was insanely jealous. But what that also served to do was highlight the different levels of user experience, and thus the different applications that SL has depending on your hardware. For example, there are people using SL to create art galleries, and with poor video (standard laptop video), this really isn’t going to look good. But running on a nice machine, this cultural application of SL seems immensely valuable. As a final note, the speed of SL seems to have improved dramatically in the past year.

    The diversity of linguistic communities is fascinating (something that drives my students crazy actually) and I think needs to be explored more.

    I don’t think that SL represents a pinnacle of any sort, but rather an interesting step back towards the types of environments that were imagined by early cyberspace theorists, a vision that until SL was largely seen as anachronistic outside of MMORPGs. One problem that Clay seems to have is that he downplays the importance of 3D space in the experience of the user- as if the 2D space and relational cognitive maps that are possible with the web are the end-all of user experience.

    I don’t think it’s possible to deny that SL is significant and worthy of study. This isn’t to say that you have to endorse it to study it. But historically, I think it does represent a shift precisely b/c it’s a 3d world that is attracting non-gamers, and the culture there is not oriented around a genre-specific fantasy. One of the amazing things about SL is how many people play themselves. And one of the first things my students respond to is that there aren’t any “objectives”- this means that they then have to create an experience for themselves. And they’re not interacting with a ghettoized population the way they would be in WoW, which makes the experience more appealing to the females in the class (the majority of the students in this case, very few of whom have ever played an online game).

  7. I think there are some unresolved issues about what Second Life is.

    Interestingly, many gamers find that SL does not match their vision of WoW… they find the controls and interface relatively easy to learn and yet when they start interacting the world offers them very little – they seem to have the locus of control posited externally – they need to be driven by some external pressures.

    On the other hand, there are people who find that games are not to their taste, but after an arduous learning curve (and frequent jibes by old time SL users who have a total of 3 weeks existence inworld) they find that SL offers them something different.

    Social and networking opportunities that supplement nicely with their real life activities.

    Educators and business people are part of the community of SL, as are thrill seekers and escapists. The strength of the world in my opinion is the diversity of culture that emerges – the model adopted by Linden Lab is one that accommodates difference.

    It’s easy to poke fun at early adopters of any new technology. And Second Life is not the only MUVE that exists – we hear little mention of ActiveWorlds, There.com, Entropia Universe, or the emerging open-source Metaverse.

    The scope of the discussion is fascinating, although I often suspect that the journalists who drop in for 5 minutes and pass judgement really do miss the point. Like many undertakings, unless you invest something of yourself in the endeavour – time, money, identity, trust, etc – there is often very little in the way of meaningful reward.

    SL is still essentially an experimental platform and most of the big players, researchers and businesses are exploring the possibilities. Investment could be seen as R&D. There is going to be a major shift in the way we use the web.. SL may or may not present a window into the future… but is fairly sure to play a major role in defining the metaphors that will be used in shaping new interfaces.

    While much of the rankling is ill-informed and amusing on some level, I think some of the reporting needs to rise above hearsay and conjecture and move towards a more considered analysis of the entire scope of activity within such worlds.

    SL can serve as a game world – in fact, I’d say most of the non-academic reportage I’ve encountered seems to find users referring to “the game”

    It can serve as a site for games activity – SL has many users who create RPG type environments and approach their engagement with SL via that frame.

    It also serves as an alternative meeting place… a site for meditation and reflection… a social space… a private place… a stage… an auditorium… a picture window… a site for deviance… a site for conformity…

    I think debating a definitive functional space for SL is ultimately going to wind back to a position that is based in far more relativism than many are comfortable with… And what’s more – the frames will also be layered – as more users become more comfortable with perceptual position shifts, the more we’ll be reading about multiple simultaneous frames in operation… all

    subjectively defined.

    The fact that Second Life defies ready categorisation (perhaps there needs to be a MUVE taxonomy akin to the “Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge”) will allow multi-, cross- and inter-disciplinary approaches that have very blurry edges… fuzzy liminality if you will. It may also mean that many will veer away from it because it complicates their perceptions…

    For the time being, Second Life has the potential to be many things to many people and it can easily find itself included or excluded from many pursuits… we can revel in the constant ebb and flow of paradigmatic shifts…

    Vive la différance!!!

  8. I’ve tried to stay out of this debate in general, but there are some points in comments I made elsewhere that you might find of interest.

    http://www.howardowens.com/2007/be-skeptical-of-the-hype-around-virtual-worlds

  9. Florence Gallez says:

    This is probably quite an uniformed comment on Second Life given that I’ve never set foot in it [although I cannot wait until I’ve sorted out the logistics/technical requirements], but I would like to add a word in response to Kim Flintoff’s comment of Feb. 17 on the issue of fast-paced media coverage of SL and the speedy, sometime erroneous deductions that result from it. It said:

    “The scope of the discussion is fascinating, although I often suspect that the journalists who drop in for 5 minutes and pass judgment really do miss the point. Like many undertakings, unless you invest something of yourself in the endeavor – time, money, identity, trust, etc – there is often very little in the way of meaningful reward.” […] “While much of the rankling is ill-informed and amusing on some level, I think some of the reporting needs to rise above hearsay and conjecture and move towards a more considered analysis of the entire scope of activity within such worlds.”

    So if you are a busy editor who doesn’t have much more time than ‘5 minutes’ for testing and studying SL, what do you do? You send several members of your editorial team! That way you multiply the amount of time spent in SL as well as of experiences and viewpoints. Actually I am not sure if this simplistic step would solve coverage issues, but this is exactly what the Russian news and entertainment magazine ‘Afisha’ did in its last issue [Jan. 29-Feb 11, 2007]. The closest equivalent in Russia to Time Out magazine, ‘Afisha’ assigned no less than eight of its journalists to roam about and experience first-hand SL: the deputy editor, an editorial assistant, the St. Petersburg issue editor, the music editor, the arts editor, the shopping editor, and two correspondents.

    Each describes his/her experiences, most notably Deputy Editor Pyotr Favorov, who, upon entering, made a beeline for the ‘Russian Welcome Area.’

    Their descriptions pretty much fall along the lines of those of most first-time visitors’. More illustrative of the Russian experience is the sidebar with statistics related to SL and their comparisons to Russian realities:

    “The main area of Second Life is about 250 square meters, which is roughly equivalent to one fifth of the territory of Moscow,” it says. “The currency of Second Life is the linden dollar [L$]. US$1 is roughly equivalent to L$ 300, that is, one linden-dollar equates about 10 kopecks.”

    The ‘Afisha’ team is showing the way with such experiments, as many in Russia, including computer and new media experts, still have to discover the world of SL. A Mac specialist at Apple’s representative office in Moscow was scratching his head when I mentioned to him this virtual space.

    As for me – my current internet connection [via GPRS/Bluetooth] unfortunately does not meet the system requirements for SL, and the couple of cybercafes that I checked in central Moscow all cite slow speed as a possible impediment.

    In any case, I hope very much to read all about the ‘Beyond Broadcast 2007′ conference events that were held in SL, perhaps in these pages or elsewhere online later on…

    Florence Gallez

    [Moscow-based journalist]