Monday, April 9, 2012

Virtual Worlds

Dear Linden Labs,

I thought your article was quite an interesting one. It is true that virtual worlds are expanding and offer a myriad of benefits, particuarly towards larger corporations. The case of Second Life being used as a platform in which IBM can host larger domestic meetings is a perfect example of that. They are afforded the luxury of saving time and cost on travel, and in one case you mentioned an impressive figure of $320,000 being saved by a single meeting. Furthermore, as your article pointed out, in some cases so little is actually lost through Second Life. Free social interaction was often cited as being prevalent among workers after the meetings, and even some cases of workers heading there for leisure and relaxation. Finally, your article seems to implicate that virtual worlds offer a setting realistic enough that people are able to have vicarious experiences through Second Life, with some workers going so far as to claim that the day after meetings, they would remember the meetings as if they had actually happened in the real world.

While your article offers some insight into the benefits of Second Life, it fails to mention some of the potential issues that users may face. As mentioned in Edward Castronova's article "Implications and Policies in Synthetic Worlds", these issues are almost endless in scope. Anything ranging from security to compromising of life quality. Admittedly, I found some of the examples of Castranova's articles to be extreme, but when following the logic behind his article, I found myself pretty convinced. The different case studies he cleverly includes from Korea were a particularly eye-opening portion of the article, when noting that some people have not left their houses in 2 years due to virtual worlds, or a national election campaign being deployed through synthetic worlds. For this reason, I believe your article was somewhat biased towards the benefits of virtual worlds, while Castranova's was a more extreme, yet somewhat paradoxically, realistic depiction of what virtual worlds can really mean both now and in the future.

Elliot Yoo

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