Second Life - Living in a Virtual World

When I first read the subject overview and description on INF506 I was so excited that I was going to have the opportunity to test out virtual worlds. The closest I had come to experiencing a virtual world first hand was a few years ago when my kids started buying Webkinz. Of course, it didn't really hit me at the time that we were actually immersing ourselves in an online community. I mean, it was just a kid's toy, right? Well, yes and no. Webkinz brilliantly combined the cuteness of a stuffed animal and online technology and created a Marketer's dream: a tangible product with online capabilities, and better still, one is just not enough. You have to have friends! Eventually, my kids began collecting a number of Webkinz that began interacting with each other in the real world and online.

I had not delved much further into virtual worlds since the beginning of INF506. I was very excited to download Second Life and create my Avatar. What should she look like? A person, animal or vampire? I decided to remain relatively similar to my real life self although it appeared that all that treadmill work at the gym was starting to pay off.

My first attempt at Second Life was disappointing. Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised with the amount of 'pink' content I was getting. At the time I wasn't aware that this is common with users whose internet connections are weak or slow. Nevertheless, pink or no pink, I decided to investigate the CSU's virtual campus. I practiced moving around; walking, sitting and even flying. Being there on my own lacked the 'social' in social media so I decided to transport myself to another location. I transported to a few different locations but as a newbie found myself unsure of what to say or what to do when approached by a stranger.
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My next foray into Second Life was with Cas Geordie and LenaLotus Latte on a tour of virtual Libraries such as Stanford Library, Community Virtual Library and Healthinfo Island. Having a group to explore with was a welcome change but unfortunately I still had the pink problem. Nevertheless, I wanted to join the group eventhough I couldn't really appreciate a lot of the content. There was some frustration during this session as I was having a difficult time moving my avatar and accessing the information in each library. Although I couldn't see a lot of the information I could appreciate how each of these organisations utilised the virtual world platform in presenting information and archived material.

Not being satisfied with the pink version of Second Life, I decided to try a different computer to see if there was any improvement. I downloaded Second Life onto my husband's laptop and to my amazement it was a whole new wonderful 3D virtual world. I decided to revisit the libraries to check out what I had missed the first time around. It was so satisfying to see the applications that the libraries used to present their content. I can appreciate how useful this could be for students studying particular subject areas such as history and wanting to view particular items that normally would be unavailable because of their location. The possibilities of using virtual libraries are countless. Going back to the libraries really motivated me to try and see more places in Second Life.

Now that I had full use of the site, I felt more confident signing up for the next group tour to the Art Galleries with Cas and Lena. After meeting at the CSU campus we were all transported to our first art gallery: Renaissance Gallery. What a wonderful place! Art and 3D virtual worlds just seem like a natural fit. Viewing famous paintings like Botticelli's Prima Vera and Birth of Venus in a 3D world was quite surreal. Imagine, an avatar virtually viewing Renaissance paintings? What would Leonardo D'avinci think? He'd probably think it was pretty awesome and wish he'd thought of it first! The galleries on the Art tour were amazing; Artropolis and the UWA 3D Art exhibit were so innovative in their presentation of art installations. Again, the possibilities...endless. I'm looking forward to the next one: History (I unfortunately had to miss the Science tour but will make a point of visiting the locations on my own).
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Just got back from a trip down history lane. We started off at the Renaissance and viewed the Sistine Chapel which had amazing detail and beautiful tapestries. We were even able to take photos which was great because you're not allowed to at the real Sistine Chapel (although I have to admit I did sneak one about 20 years ago!). After we were off to Tudor England. Walking off the plank of the ship was a bit risky but I made it in one piece. I liked this destination a lot because it really had the feel of an old English town, complete with horse drawn carriages and snow. There were many places to visit, including the The Globe Theatre. This would be a great way to introduce the plays of Shakespeare to students. It would be a very engaging way of bringing the plays to life as would our next destination, Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters - an interactive destination dedicated to Macbeth, Shakespeare's spookiest of plays! This one was very interactive; wonderfully set out to engage with, and inform about the play.

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I will definitely return to these destinations and investigate a little further. As history buff with an interest in Renaissance art these Second Life tours have been an amazing experience. It has made me aware of the possibilities that virtual worlds can offer. I also really loved the social part of visiting virtual worlds. Basically, it's fun to go with other people and share the experience. 3D Virtual worlds are not just for kids and Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. They are sophisticated, innovative and informative venues for likeminded individuals to share, learn and have fun while doing it.