[iDC] Second Life as educational tool

patrick lichty voyd at voyd.com
Thu Feb 22 23:00:56 EST 2007

Very Interesting conversation...

As a researcher, teacher, (and until yesterday - just a hiatus) an art
center administrator in SL, I have the following reflections:

I think that SL is part success, part Ponzi scheme.  If you read the
Official Guide, there is pretty exaggerated optimism across the board,
and it is inherent across the media, website, etc.  Linden has done a
great job of evangelism.

This is not to say that, phenomenologically speaking, that SL is not a
significant moment in net society.  In many ways, SL mimics the early
Web and art community the early Rhizome list, with a fairly tight-knit
bunch of early adopters (I have had an account for 4 years, but only
active on since November).  There are interesting possibilities going on
out there, and whether it is lasting isn't really mo concern.  The fact
that SL has hit a Gladwellian Tipping Point is important itself.

As one of the co-founders of the Second Front (of which Scott is as
well) performance group, we have been doing very interesting things with
gestalt, happenings, and identity manipulation.  The tension between
people and their avatars is something amazing to look at and manipulate.
In many ways, I feel very Duchampian about recontextualizing my own
identity in terms of avatar and location.  It's very strange that at one
moment, I'm talking to people like Alan Sondheim and folks connected to
groups like General Idea, and then on the next breath, you have a horny
newbie soccer mom who is asking for a quick romp in the hay.  Really

As an educator, I think that I like to stick closer to things that SL is
especially good at, like Machinima, spatial narrative, algorithmic
experiments.  Although I am learning a lot of new tools, like scripted
podiums and viewscreens, the thing tha I think has the most potential
are things like live videocasts, avatar performance, streaming audio,
and external links.  In this way, I think that people do get a better
haptic feel for 3D space, and once you get the hang, it's really
intuitive.  I do think having a concurrent distance environment can be
really useful, but there is no way I want to have a solely SL-based

Overall, I think that SL has mastered the micropayment, has integrated
scrioting, animation, real-time navigation, and so on in a way that has
gotten compelling enough in its open-endedness to make it really robust.
The thing that I wonder about is why it took off and not There.com or
AlphaWorlds - perhaps toolset.  And although Second Front members first
met in places like The Palace and OnLive Traveller years ago (therefore
not the 'first' of its kind, even if you consider There) SL is at a
convergence point, and is at the right time, with a robust enough set of
tools, seamless economics (that get a little too ubiquitous at times),
and a really compelling social component.

Two major beefs with SL are that it can be an immense money/time sink,
and that I feel like the time dilation in-world is pretty toxic.  What I
mean is that a week feels like a month - so much tends to happen.  I
went in to talk to a friend one night, and she chided me that I had not
said hello for weeks, when it had been 5 days.  Secondly, people tend to
want you to IM Immediately, and if you're buying property, doing a
performance, we need to do it tonight, tomorrow or the next day - next
month is unthinkable.  It creates an environment in which the virtual
world takes increasing parity with the physical, and I personally do not
want to sit in front of a monitor all my nights chatting - keyboarding
day and night is just not healthy.  It promotes the Partial Attention
problem, and further chains us to our chairs.  

I want to go bicycling once in a while.

Therefore, SL has a great set of tools, an amazing PR campaign, but the
big argument I have with any 'early adopter' story like mine is that I
have found that we keep hoping that the next technology will solve our
problems.  I feel like technology often begets more technology and
although it has true use value, it's still the human equation that makes
the difference.

Activism?  As far as dissemination of info, in a multi-modal way, SL can
be incredibly compelling.  Possibly, due to its current visibility, it
could be a tactical media tool (the National Front has a zone, o_0 ).
But as far as activism is concerned, I think that feet-on-pavement is
still superior to just about everything.  To say that we're going to be
terribly effective on a fairly elite private net with fairly specific
technical and educational requirements leaves that project rather
circumspect - more so than protestors negotiating with the police in DC
about where they could protest.  I feel like protest in SL is too much
in the Fishbowl.

The real power of it is when it starts bleeding out into RL.  That might
seem like a contraditction from my last sentence, but I'm already seeing
memes pop out here and there.

I'll leave it at that.

Off to RL-heavy New Orleans for the weekend.\
Welcome to the crash zone.

Patrick Lichty
- Interactive Arts & Media
  Columbia College, Chicago
- Editor-In-Chief
  Intelligent Agent Magazine
225 288 5813
voyd at voyd.com
"It is better to die on your feet 
than to live on your knees." 

-----Original Message-----
From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net
[mailto:idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net] On Behalf Of Chris Byrne
Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2007 4:52 PM
To: Eric Goldhagen
Cc: IDC list
Subject: Re: [iDC] Second Life as educational tool

Looks as though your post and/or Nicholas Carr's original blog entry  
caused a ripple in the blogosphere and the Lift 07 conference a few  
days later, courtesy Julian Bleecker.


Lift presentation slides here:


I'm intrigued by Bleecker's suggestion that Nintendo's Wii provides a  
way to reconnect with the materiality of our '1st Life' as he puts  
it. He admits this is just a start.

Where can an interface like Wii lead if applied to, say, mobile  
networks? Will it reduce or increase the carbon footprint of an  
avatar or increase it?


On 2 Feb 2007, at 16:22, Eric Goldhagen wrote:

> At 8:09 PM -0500 2/1/07, Skawennati Tricia Fragnito wrote:
>> This Mohawk/Italian chick, who considers herself fortunate indeed  
>> to have a university education, is now going to her Second Life  
>> where she meets up with other artists, nerds, Indians, and Others  
>> to chat, have fun, make art and (dare i day it???) change the world.
> have you thought about the real world impact of your Avatar? What  
> is the energy requirement to keep second life alive? Is the payoff  
> worth all that carbon and soot?
> I've not checked the math on this, but the following post suggests  
> that your avatar uses as much power as you do. That's a pretty  
> large footprint for limited gain, in my opinion.
> --Eric
> from http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2006/12/avatars_consume.php
> He quotes Philip Rosedale, the head of Linden Lab, the company  
> behind the virtual world: "We're running at full power all the  
> time, so we consume an enormous amount of electrical power in co- 
> location facilities [where they house their 4,000 server  
> computers] ... We're running out of power for the square feet of  
> rack space that we've got machines in. We can't for example use  
> [blade] servers right now because they would simply require more  
> electricity than you could get for the floor space they occupy."
> ...
> If there are on average between 10,000 and 15,000 avatars "living"  
> in Second Life at any point, that means the world has a population  
> of about 12,500. Supporting those 12,500 avatars requires 4,000  
> servers as well as the 12,500 PCs the avatars' physical alter egos  
> are using. Conservatively, a PC consumes 120 watts and a server  
> consumes 200 watts. Throw in another 50 watts per server for data- 
> center air conditioning. So, on a daily basis, overall Second Life  
> power consumption equals:
> (4,000 x 250 x 24) + (12,500 x 120 x 24) = 60,000,000 watt-hours or  
> 60,000 kilowatt-hours
> Per capita, that's:
> 60,000 / 12,500 = 4.8 kWh
> Which, annualized, gives us 1,752 kWh. So an avatar consumes 1,752  
> kWh per year. By comparison, the average human, on a worldwide  
> basis, consumes 2,436 kWh per year. So there you have it: an avatar  
> consumes a bit less energy than a real person, though they're in  
> the same ballpark.
> -- 
> -------------------------------------------
> Openflows Community Technology Lab, Inc.
> New York | Toronto | Montreal | Vienna
> http://openflows.com
> People are intelligent. Machines are tools.

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