24 July 2007

I spent a significant part of the weekend exploring the virtual reality environment "Second Life." I'd visited before, back when the first Macintosh client software came out, but I found it excruciatingly slow and buggy and didn't stay.

Some of you will know that years ago I did a lot of work on three text-based virtual educational environments, designing Museums on the University of Pheonix's MariMuse and MIT's MicroMuse, and designing the main classroom objects and programming for an ill-fated Virtual University project. I also taught a class on the Gospels via the virtual environment in MariMuse. It was with an eye to the educational possibilities that I went exploring.

It's a fascinating place to visit. I don't find the system particularly friendly -- with all virtual environments I've been in there is a very steep initial learning curve. But once you're well and truly in, there is a wealth of stuff — the good and the despicable —  to see.

I may be writing more about it -- and virtual environments in general -- later. Second Life is a working economy and some people are actually making their Real Life living by buying and selling virtual real estate and goods. You can exchange real life currency for in-world currency, but also vice versa, so if you make enough LindenDollars, you can cash them in for real money. There are lots of philosophical and theological implications and issues.

If you want to visit the world, it's absolutely free to do so (though if you choose that option, you'll also start out penniless in the world). Wait to start until you've got a chunk of time, though. It's more like learning how to use a software package than like browsing a website. There are a good bunch of Christians on-line already but most "people" are very friendly and willing to be helpful if you don't demand a lot of their time. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, much of what goes on there now concens either sex or making money or both. When you get out into the wide virtual world, you need to steel yourself for that. Oh, and there are a lot of Goths, too -- more Goths than Cyberpunk, though the styles cross. There's also a sizeable SteamPunk movement. And vampires, lots of vampires.
This blog is closed now. I've moved to http://gempf.com