Saturday, April 7, 2012

Virtual World Believers

Dear Linden Lab,

      I understand your argument about how Second Life transformed IBM's technology elite into virtual world believers, but I feel that you only expressed one point of view, which is the benefits of the working environment in Second Life. I can definitely see that meetings in Second Life can produce everything one can imagine at a traditional conference at one fifth the cost without a single case of jet lag, and I can definitely agree with the fact that Second Life's space is purpose-built to encourage presenters to try more creative and interactive approaches, encouraging users to take full advantage of what virtual worlds have to offer. Also, I too love the fact that the kiosks that were set up in the reception plaza allowed participants to click and teleport directly to the sessions that most interested them because that is quite difficult to perform in the real world.
      However, with all of these amazing opportunities that Second Life has to offer leads to many consequences. In Edward Castranova's article called “Synthetic Worlds,” he discussed the business and culture of online games, which I think offers another perspective of the incorporation of virtual worlds in our daily lives. I think he would say that the use of Second Life in companies leads to many vulnerabilities, like the exploitation of knowledge about any place on Earth simply by recreating it in cyberspace and living there or the possibility of toxic immersion of losing consciousness in a place that we were free to consider things we might not want to be. But most of all, users may be vulnerable to the fact that in most synthetic worlds we build up assets but have no ability to hold anyone liable for what happens to them. For example, the owning company can all of a suddenly turn off the machines and walk away, in which millions of hours of accumulation would be destroyed without a trace. “Not only that, but an entire web of relationships-friends, enemies, lovers, is destroyed. I tend to think that the community ought always to have the right to buy the world and run it if the original owner goes bankrupt or just wants to quit” (Catranova 253). But the court does not enforce this because there is no rule that protects the owners the right to maintain policies at odds with those of the outside world. I think Castranova definitely makes a statement when he considers the standpoint of the user who might invest her entire mental being in this space, in which she may be vulnerable to many consequences.



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