First or Second Life?

First of all, my apologies to all three readers out there for my absence from this space. As some of you know, I’ve recently started a new job that’s been taking a lot of the energy I would typically expend here. Also, when I write it’s about the same kind of subjects as this blog, so there’s some stream-crossing going on. It’s been great, though, and I encourage you to head to Personal Democracy Forum frequently to check out the action over there.

That said, last weekend was my first venture into Second Life, this crazy, wacky virtual place that friends and acquaintances have been mentioning. It’s basically like real life — you spend money, makes friends, have sex, etc. — except you can fly, you don’t die, and, um, it isn’t real.

After reading a great post by Rebecca Mackinnon about issues surrounding Second Life, I I decided to stumble into this world and tried my best to make an original avatar (your Second Life pseudo-pereson). This is what I came up with:

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His (my) name is Spencer Mukerji.

I got kind of obsessed with trying to find Spence some clothes and new hair, which I found strangely complicated. A nice “lady” with an avatar whose name I forgot helped me out.

What I’m interested in is the way some people want to use Second Life to deal with real-world issues, from political campaigning to fighting genocide. People have noted ways that political candidates like Mark Warner from Virginia are campaigning on Second Life, and Ethan Zuckerman has a written a great critique of a virtual Darfur refugee camp on Second Life that few visit. The question is, why put so much effort into activism in a virtual world when the real world is starving for such attention?

Second Life is definitely a fun diversion from the first life. You don’t die or get sick, there are no real consequences to your actions, and daily minutiae like bills and difficult relationships and jobs aren’t there. But is this just a tool for those ill-prepared for the real world, or something more?

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