Temporal Virtual Worlds

cdb_170.jpg Although being rather involved in NMC’s Second Life and Virtual Worlds endeavors, I’ve yet to find or blog much on the experience there over the last 9 months or so. My SL namesake will turn 1 year old in a few months, though in many ways I feel still like a puppy (“In Second Life, everyone knows I am a Dog!”).

This is not one of the foaming praises of SL as the Web 3.0 nirvana That Will Solve Many Problems and Transform Education As We Know It– yet at the same time, I am not interesting in the pissy dart tossing from the opposite sidelines where the naysayers guild hangs out. Over the last XX years in dabbling in technology, I have stuck with a strategy of not being too decisive on something that is new and offers potential. And in the last year I have had more powerful experiences in terms of extending my professional network, discovering new technologies, new people, via events, activities, and networking with others in and around SL. And when that has happened, be it over the years via flame tossing listservs, twsting Gopher holes, the emerged blogosphere, my interests are peaked.

But inspired by some sweeping visions cast by Bryan of the Northeast on Towards Third Life I am compelled to put keypresses to the blog. While I may not be ready for this vision, I applaud Bryan for putting this out there, and stirring up some good dialog.

My tiny observation that has been swimming and whispering, “Blog me, blog me…”, is that the things that take place in SL and other virtual spaces are very temporal; so if you miss something, or arrive late, there are really no records. This is very different from the focus for me of the last 10 years of web, web, web. Oh there are things built, lavish structures, cool script bound gadgets in SL, but a significant difference is that the things done in the web space leave a trail, a record, while in Second Life, things flow in the moment and move on. What has happened than is passed by other means, be it word of mouth (“Did you see that guitar performance of Johnny99 Gumshoe last night?”, “What the heck is with that crazy fur she was wearing at the meeting?”). And that there is a major role for the outside of Second Life/ virtual worlds tools of blogs, podcasts, archived video clips on GoogTube, wikis, etc to document, keep a record, etc. So I see them as symbiotic, maybe. Or connected.

So to that end, there needs to be more connections, apps that bring web content into and out from SL/VWorlds, not that Second Life becomes Web X.0, but that is does a much better job of being able to communicate to/from the web.

I’m extremely far form having true expertise in this arena, so am just sniffing around with my curious ears up. I don;t even have much time to wander around SL besides the NMC related things that take me in there (I had to laugh when Bryan Alexander actually thought I built the NMC Campus, hah! My building schools are in the realm of piles of plywood cubes). And next month, I am in North Carolina for the EDUCAUSE/ELI Focus session on “Immersive Learning Environments”, actually even more scary is that put me on the programming committee and I keep asking, “What the heck is an Immersive Learning Environment?” But it’s a great crowd of colleagues and I’m eager to see how it unfolds.

Enough blabbing, I have to go shopping for some new Second Life clothes.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. The ephemeral nature of Second Life is something I’ve thought about before.
    On the academic side, if you right a paper and refer to a location in Second Life, how can you know it’ll still be there by the time your article goes to print?

    How do you even cite a build!
    Will we find papers ten years from now littered with references like this:
    Webber, A., et. al., (2005) Midnight City. secondlife://midnight&20city/128/128/30/

  2. This is a *huge* issue.

    It’s part of/related to gaming. Cliff Lynch and others have been talking about problems in gaming preservation. Think about saving records of World of Warcraft raids. How much Eve do we need for future generations to see?

    I suspect that the Lindens’ response would include the suggestion that this is a business opportunity. MySecondLifeDrive as a HUD, for $100L?

  3. Hmmm – speaking as a fan of ephemeral environments, I’m not sure that (by and large) I want to see MySecondLifeDrive or WoWArchive.org as default options. A large portion of what makes SL work is its ephemerality – how many people, do you think, would be willing to experiment with alternate personas if they knew that everything they did in the world had been archived for all eternity?

    On the academic publishing side, I see working with SL constructs as being no different from working with ephemeral items in the physical world. If you wanted to document something ephemeral in the physical world, you would take photos, record events on video, register interviews, etc. – SL is no different. Granted, objects tend to be more ephemeral in SL than in the physical world, but that does not alter the basic mechanics of the process.

    This topic reminds me a bit of the discussion in museum curatorial circles about the preservation of some forms of installation art – nothing more fun for a museum than to be charged with the preservation of works that were designed to decompose or otherwise self-destruct…

  4. Good points, Ruben… I was not meaning to advocate a need to change anything about the ephemeral-ness or Sl nor a need to auto archive it all. It was just an observation about the differences in web land and virtual world land.

    Documentation is key as you say, and is what I’ve been doing for the last year. What it calls for is a richer set of tools for information to flow from SL to blogs, photo archives etc- yes there are some like BlogHud, and the ability to send photos to SLPIcs, but they are not fully leveraging the web APIs; and it is not trivial to bring web content into SL. I want more flow!

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