Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Module 4: Second Life

Back in 2007, I remember watching a CSI episode that involved a murder that crossed over into an online meta-world, Second Life.  I had never heard of Second Life before but was rather intrigued by the idea of an online virtual world, but never gave it much thought until recently.  Fast forward five years and I am reading about Second Life references in books, watching a music video produced in Second Life at an ISTE conference, critiquing a fellow student’s technology presentation done in Second Life, and seeing that a Walden professor holds office hours in Second Life.    After doing more exploration of Second Life, I discovered it started emerging into 2002 with beta users and was publicly available in 2003 ("Wired travel guide," 2006).  Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life, do not publish statistics for the public, but after doing some investigating it seems that there are about 49,600 residents online with a total of 31,281,835 residents ( ).  Resident is the term for a Second Life user.  The drastic difference between the two numbers could be indicative of the number of people who have had an account but no longer actively use Second Life.

Joining and creating an account is free for a basic membership.  However, you do have to pay monthly for a premium account.  With the premium account you receive a stipend where you are able to purchase different things including genitalia.  When you join you choose an avatar that you are later able to customize along with a name ("Wired travel guide," 2006).  You basically have the ability to invent yourself.  The Destination Guide featured on Second Life shows a wide range of categories from adults only to education to a wide variety on special interest groups.  It seems that there is a destination guide for you regardless of how common or obscure your interest is.

Second Life is a perfect example of a disruptive technology.  Disruptive technologies have been defined as technology that is brand new and is not a product of an already existing evolving technology (Laureate, 2009).  People have used chat rooms to interact and communicate online for the same purposes that people use Second Life; however the chat rooms were limited by text only.  Through Second Life users have the ability to interact with each other in a more dynamic way and use voice and/or text to communicate with each other.  People who use Second Life invest a significant amount of time in the virtual world with an average of forty hours a month ("Wired travel guide," 2006).

The social benefits of using Second Life can vary depending on the person.  Based off a study conducted at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Dell talks about her own experience with the findings that self-perception affects behavior.  She discovered that when she first entered the virtual world of Second Life she chose a “plain-Jane” avatar and ran away with the slightest prompting of social interaction.  Later on, with more confidence she changed her avatar to be more attractive and began to exert herself more in Second Life.  Dell experienced how her exerted self-confidence in Second Life transferred over to her feeling more confident in the real world (Dell, 2008).  People have the opportunity to explore different sides of themselves and their personalities through Second Life.  This virtual world also brings people together in a completely different way to interact and even collaborate.  It has even been proposed that Second Life could be used as a form of Student Management System and called “Sloodle” – a combination of Second Life and Moodle.


Dell, K. (2008). How second life affects real life. Time, Retrieved from      

Laureate (Producer). (2009). In Emerging and future technology [Audio podcast].
Retrieved from

Wired travel guide: Second life. (2006, October). Wired,14(10), Retrieved from


  1. Great post, Laura! Have you ever used Second Life? Sorry if you answered that, I had a little trouble reading the whole post so I might have missed a few details. But I am curious about Second Life because I don't know anyone who uses it, although I do remember hearing a lot about it years ago. I guess I always thought it emerged and was abandoned- like MySpace! But according to the articles I am reading, it is still popular!

  2. Julie... thank you for advising me about the difficulty reading... I fixed the formatting. It seems to happen when I copy and paste from Word. Anyways, I have not tried Second Life. At first I was against it, but then I got curious. I downloaded Second Life and was getting excited to use it but when I tried to open it I received an error about needing a video card.

  3. Laura,

    Great blog. I too thought of the CSI episode, although I could not quite remember if it was an episode on Miami or Las Vegas, when I began searching and reading about Second Life for this week. You make a great assessment of Second Life replacing the chat room environment. What do you see as potential negative consequences of virtual worlds if any?

  4. Laura,

    Interesting post. What, if any, are the social benefits of Second Life in your industry?

    Thanks for sharing.

    Sarah D.