The creative, immersive and innovative opportunities proffered by Virtual Worlds (VW) such as Second Life(SL) has been impeded by “the failure of VW’s to take off amongst mainstream Internet users” (Poynter, R., 2010, p. 110) and its scale remains “insignificant at both global and local levels” (ibid., p. 154). Hovering at around one million monthly users between 2009 and 2011 (Linden Lab, 2011), a geographical land size just over 2,000 square kilometres (ibid) and an anecdotal increase in abandoned land, the 3D immersive environment of VW’s are better suited as niche gaming technologies for users content to invest real life monetary currency in exchange for Linden dollars, for recreational purposes.
Since inception in 2005, bricks ‘n mortar businesses invested in SL real estate, advertising products and services on the predication that the SL destination would continue to grow in user numbers. Peaking in 2008, companies such as IBM are reducing their presence contributing to an increase in abandoned SL land.
Demanding bandwidth of ½ mg/second between individual users (Rosedale, P., 2010) poses challenges for educational institutions to establish, create interest in and sustain SL as an online learning environment. NASA eEducation in SL is the best example of Education Practices in a Virtual World. Outcomes of the 2012 Annual Conference (March, 2012) may reveal ways in which the future of SL and its exhibition of resurging “Signs of Life: networking, friendship, references to personal lives in conversations” (Wenger et al., 2009, p. 87) can overcome major barriers to widespread uptake, significantly:
· Reducing the steepness of learning curve
· Reducing user-requirement for hi-end hardware and accelerators
· Increase in reliability of broadband speeds and Internet connectivity, particularly in rural and remote locations.
The importance of “Virtual co-presence” (Wenger, E., White, N & Smith, J., 2009., p. 66) is critical to communities “exploring the use of these environments as places for meetings, as repositories to store artefacts, and as informal social spaces to build relationships” (ibid). In a class of forty five INF206 students, less than five were present simultaneously, even during tutorially arranged meeting times. This hindered shared problem-solving, collaborative advice, direction and/or mutual discovery. Sarah Smith-Robbins (2011) summarises personal considerations about SL in the article Are virtual worlds still relevant in education?
Despite these obstacles, locally, the ABC is confident in the future of SL and the creative spaces offered through the virtual environment, forging ahead with ABC Island claiming “it is important to explore this rapidly growing virtual space. Second Life – and other 3D virtual worlds – allow the ABC to present content to audiences in new and different ways, create social spaces for visitors to interact with each other and the content, and showcase Australian talent and creativity in an innovative way”.
|The librarians discussion on ABC Island (Source: ABC)|
To quote Philip Rosedale, Creator of Second Life “We are smart enough to know we are not smart enough to know where virtual worlds will end up”. Despite a decline in Daily Completed Registrationsand user hours (Linden Lab, 2011), optimistically, perhaps the evolution, as with many Web 2.0 technologies may “become so relevant that what goes on in the real world doesn’t matter” (ibid).
If SL is part of the Lego kit of the Internet, it is then, in itself, worthy of its contribution to the connected world’s evolution; an online evolution offering valuable, time-efficient, synchronous (and asynchronous), collaborative learning with intuitive easier-to-use interfaces.
Linden Lab. (2011). The Second Life economy in Q3 2011. Retrieved from http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/The-Second-Life-Economy-in-Q3-2011/ba-p/1166705
Marshall, G. (2011). Whatever happened to Second Life? Retrieved from http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/whatever-happened-to-second-life–1030314
Poynter, R. (2010). The handbook of online and social media research: tools and techniques for market researchers. UK: Wiley
Rosedale, P. (2011). Philip Rosedale discusses the birth and the future of the virtual world of Second Life. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C04wwLjJ0os
Smith-Robbins, S. (2011). Are virtual worlds (still) relevant in education? Retrieved from http://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=2078479
Wenger, E., White, N., & Smith, J.D. (2009). Digital habitats: stewarding technology for communities.USA: CPsquare