Monday, October 16, 2006

Real News, Fake Life

Not satisfied with being one of the most identifiable news sources on this green and blue floating rock of ours, Reuters has announced the opening of a virtual news bureau in Second Life, one of the newest of the new online explosions.

For anyone who as of yet is unfamiliar with Second Life, think SimCity meets The Sims meets an e-commerce playground…. sort of. Second Life describes itself as “a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents.” The virtual world has a thriving REAL economy based on Linden Dollars (named after the creators) that can be changed into US currency through a number of online currency exchanges. It’s nearly four hundred thousand residents interact with one another, purchase land, and can even hock their goods in their new virtual surroundings. Sounds like the equivalent of an entrepreneurial techie’s wildest fantasy.

Companies are starting to take notice to this fantasy world. Coke, adidas, Toyota, Sony BMG… these are just some of the big guys playing in this small world. And now they have somewhere to advertise.

There are plenty of fake news outlets out there that provide fake news to the real world, and often even the real news outlets end up pushing the fake stuff out. But it’s interesting that now a real news outlet is going to push both into the fake world of Second Life, which to be perfectly honest, might not be as fake as it might seem. The interactions are real. The transactions are real. Sure, the 300 pounds banging away at the keyboard, trying to rack up e-t-shirt sales (and I’m not talking about that cute little alien that may or may not have prank called me) might be set up with a bodybuilder avatar, but all in all his activities are all real. Where do we draw the line?

But I’m getting away from my point.

I’m still sitting here in my first life, gazing curiously at Second Life, but I don’t imagine for much longer. It has nothing to do with not understanding the concept, although I still find myself confused at some of the dynamics of this new ones-and-zeros universe.

My concern: one day I’ll wake up and realize I’m more successful in my Second Life than I ever could have possibly imagined in my First Life. How terrifying is it to think that one day your online personality might be so distinguished that, if they were a part of real life, they would have none of you?

What if this fake world turns out to be based on more reality than our real world?

So many questions. It would appear that this Second Life is no less confusing than the first one. Maybe Reuters will do an editorial that will answer some of these questions, which will help to soothe my thoughts while I’m sipping away at my e-coffee and gazing into the virtual sunrise’s reflection over my own private ones-and-zeros lake.

Sounds relaxing.

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