Sunday, June 1, 2008

My so-called Second Life

I've been spending too much time in Second Life. It started out innocently enough, exploring different islands, reading articles about cool things to see. Then I started shopping. I discovered camping, but that wasn't enough to generate very many Linden$, so I paid to upgrade my account and got some money to spend. But I soon grew bored; I could only travel around by myself for so long before I started looking for people to talk to.

Since I have opened myself up to talking to people in Second Life (SL), I have learned more than I would have ever imagined about how people interact in virtual worlds. Some people are just who they are (or so it seems) in real life (RL). Some people are in it for the full-on role-play. Some come to talk to people, others come to disrupt conversations. I've talked to people from all over the world, and been amazed at the coincidence of meeting people who live a stone's throw from me. I've talked about politics, religion, bathroom habits, raising kids, the cult of Second Life, and what Scottish men really wear under their kilts. I've met a shocking number of actual pimps who use SL to find customers. I've gone dancing, stayed up too late "drinking" and watched the virtual sun rise and set. And, as much as I think you probably can, I've made several SL friends.

But there's a danger of living too much in this fantasy world. People come and go easily, much more easily than in RL. Anonymity can mask reality. Judgment is skewed, risk-taking is not so risky. There's not much accountability for bad behavior. It makes for an intoxicating lure of endless possibilities without consequences. Except the consequence of sacrificing your RL for your SL. It is a balance you need to be mindful of, yet its this blend of attributes is what I believe holds the key to understanding how to motivate people to use virtual worlds for training, engage in the collaborative processes that are possible, and increase the opportunities and outcomes for learning in virtual worlds.

I've just bought an island in SL, and I'm ready to start building our first endeavor for training. I don't know that much about the building process yet, but I'm looking forward to learning. More importantly, I think what I've learned about interacting with others in SL will go a long way towards helping us be successful in this "world."

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