Saturday, June 23, 2007

Happy birthday, Second Life!

I celebrated the fourth anniversary of Second Life's creation by hanging out in my skybox while I manned the Reading Room desk here in Real Life. Of course the client kept on crashing because I was running the program off my flash drive on a CPU barely able to keep up with my normal multitasking ways, let alone run Second Life in the background, but I persevered... Blue Screen of Death be damned!

It's been six months since I jumped on the SL bandwagon - six very weird months during which Second Life went from being a curious distraction on my computer to something that has staked a claim on both my personal and professional lives. Who knew that when I logged in as Oodja Fadoodle back in January that I would be taking a class in virtual librarianship taught entirely in SL by one of the country's most well-respected library schools (The Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), and that I would have become fast friends not only with people I've never met in Real Life but also colleagues whom I barely exchanged more than a few pleasantries with in the course of working with them before meeting them in the "metaverse"?

Speaking of metaverses, the most recent issue of Technology Review has a fantastic article about virtual worlds such as Second Life, virtual simulations of the real world such as Google Earth, and the inevitability of these two entities meeting in a mashup that promises to transform how we interact with both the Web and the world. I had blogged about this a few months back, so I'm gratified to see that all of this isn't just idle futurist speculation but something that people are actively working towards both inside and outside Google and Linden Labs (creators of Second Life).

But here I am, reading Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash - which incidentally didn't just coin the term "metaverse" but has also served as one of the chief sources of inspiration for the people behind such virtual world creations as Second Life in a bit of self-reinforcing prophecy that can make your head hurt if you can think too hard about it - and realizing that just fifteen years after this book's publication we are rapidly converging on something that is eerily close to what he envisioned. Of course it would be nice if we could have Mr. Stephenson's virtual Street without all of the other dystopian trappings to go with it, but I suppose that remains to be seen in the end.

In the meantime, though, let's say happy birthday to this metaverse that the Lindens built and wish it many happy returns!

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