The Alternate Universe of Second Life Essay
The Alternate Universe of Second Life
When is the last time you used your head and not a calculator to do math? When is the last time you walked to the corner store, instead of driving the two blocks up the street? I mean some people would be lost if they didn’t have their cell phones. Is the world coming to rely on technology for everything, even happiness? Are people using technology as an escape from the real world? Isn’t that why people take vacations? People don’t read books during their leisure time anymore because that would be boring and not to mention time consuming.
We live in a fast paced world and if you don’t keep up you’ll be left behind with the AM/FM hand radios. That is why we have our expensive computers, I Pod’s, flat screen televisions, and fast cars to take us anywhere our minds desire. Jessica Bennet and Malcolm Beith wrote an interesting essay called “Alternate Universe”. The essay is about a 3-D virtual world called Second Life. You can do anything you want in this world, even fly. You could be a doctor, a dancer, a designer, what ever makes you happy.
You can even find true love on Second Life by dating other avatars, which are what your characters are called. The possibilities are endless with what you can do in this virtual world. You’re sitting on cloud nine and all you need is your computer. All you have to do to be part of what some would call their dream is sign up, create a character to your liking and start living your second life online with millions of other people around the world. This is not just a game to pass time for some people. People are taking this game very seriously, they’d bet their lives on it.
The authors give an example saying that one person actually said, “I’d rather panhandle on the street than leave Second Life. ” (Bennet and Beith 15). This person would rather beg on the street than ever leave Second Life. How dependent have we become to the satisfying elements of technology? There are eight millions users on Second Life, all of them living what they wished their real life really was, online. Bennet and Beith tell us that by “2011 four of every five people who use the internet will actively participate in Second Life, or some similar medium,” so that mean that “1. billion out of 2 billion internet users will have found new lives online”. These users are spending between eighteen to thirty hours a week playing, or living, Second Life. They tell us that users typically spend their time running their business, partying, and meeting new people. If you can actually make real money in Second Life, who needs a real job anyway? Bennet and Beith give us examples of how two people make their money on Second Life. “Anshe Chung is a virtual land baroness with a real life fortune. (Bennet and Beith 3). They tell us how Chung has a business called Anshe Chung Studios run by her avatar called Ailin Graef. Her company builds homes and then sells or rents it to other avatar for a pretty penny. She even has sixty people on her staff that works for her. She was Second Life’s first millionaire. The other example is of a real life Pathmark department manager doubling his daily salary by opening up a clothing store where he designs clothes for other avatar to buy with real money.
The authors make it seem like you haven’t had a real job till you’ve had a Second Life job, it’s that easy. No set hours, or boss to answer to just “click and drag”. Imagine waking up in the morning, still in your pajamas, you sit in front of the computer for say two to three hours, check how much money you’ve made off your Second Life, maybe design a new virtual wedding gown, or a build a four story mansion and then put it in the virtual market, go back to sleep and then do it all over again in a few hours. The authors make it seem as though this is the perfect alternate life.
You can make friends, and make all the money you need without ever leaving your house, but they fail to mention the things that you will be losing by living this life- social skills and life outside your house. They are promoting this virtual world with a big red banner that says “Pick me! ” They tell you how one woman became a millionaire, and they put the idea in your head, “well maybe I could do that too, that sounds awesome”, but they very briefly mention how much money she had to invest to make that million.
People are so easily swayed, especially with the way the economy is, they will try anything to make money. People hear money and dollar signs light up in their eyes. If that’s what they authors were trying to do they were definitely successful. The authors also tell us that some companies are also using Second Life as part of their work environment. “Some are holding staff meetings where avatars representing employees can discuss ideas via instant message, email, or Skype, in a souped-up virtual office. ” ( Bennet and Beith 17). Some companies are using it connect to customers.
Like IBM, Sears, Circuit City, and Nissan all connect to customers through Second Life. Nissan even lets you “test-drive” a car on a “virtual track” so you never have to leave your house. What has happened to face-to-face interaction with employees and customers? It’s not that they can’t do it or don’t have the time, it is just easier to use the computer. This way we can be participating in our business meeting and making dinner. Why do the authors make it seem like that is such a good thing? How could it be in any way better test driving a car online than actually doing it in real life?
I think that the authors go a little overboard in trying to convince their audience that Second Life is great. I can’t see that many people agreeing with it being better to test drive a car online than in real life. Are we so bored with our lives that we feel we need to buy virtual things (i. e. clothes, cars, houses) for a fictional character that is supposed to represent you. I don’t have the money to buy a real car and people are buying virtual cars for their avatars. Although the money ratio is not the same, it is still money spent on something that you will never be able to touch, or hold.
Money that could have been spend filling up your gas tank, or on groceries. One US dollar is worth 270 Linden dollars. The authors tells us that “on a typical day customers spend $1 million buying virtual clothes, cars, houses, and other goods for their avatars,” and that “by the end of the year users will have spend about 125 billion Linden dollars in Second Life (about $460 million). ” I really don’t think that my money would be well spent if I bought a virtual island for $1,395 as the authors tell us that one person did on eBay.
The authors write so freely about money. They talk about money like everyone has so much of it to just waste on this fake life. Who has one million dollars lying around? They do make it a point to say that one US dollar is worth 270 in fake money (Linden dollars). Yes, that is a big inflation from one dollar to 270 but its not real money, so why not one dollar per every 1000 Linden dollars? In the end it is all fake things that you are buying with this fake money that you are using REAL money to purchase, which the authors do not make it a point to mention.
If I can’t feel my feet in the sand, swim in the ocean or drink a real martini on it, I am not buying it. It crazy to think this virtual world, filled with virtual things, is making us happier people. I wonder what less fortunate people who don’t have a computer do? I think some are just happy to be alive and well. So a computer costs about say $1000, or more if you want a really nice one. Maybe get a portable one for a little bit more and then you we can carry our second life with us. Our whole life is beginning to revolve around this little box that spits out information.
People are starting to rely more and more on it for their connection to the world. I mean why work, date, or socialize with friends when you got your computer in a little carrying case that contains your Second Life. I think that the authors do a good job in advertising all the iced up things that Second Life has to offer but they forget to mention what Second Life could do to a world if everyone relied on it. People wouldn’t need a job, or friends, because Second Life provides that all from the comfort of your home.
Bennet and Beith do say that “Some critics are uneasy with the idea of people getting more and more social activities online,” but they say four sentences about it and then move on to the next topic. They don’t make it a point in their essay to mention the negatives things. They do this because they are pro-virtual life so they trivialize what is happening. All their good things outweigh the bad, so they decide to briefly mention it. They make it seem like who needs social skills or a real job when you have all this money? Imagine a world where no one leaves their homes and Second Life becomes their real life?
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 May 2018