Monday, April 24, 2006

Connecting the real and the unreal

A post today via DigiCMB about connecting avatars inside Second Life (SL) to libraries, both the brick and mortar kind and to certain online services (note I cannot read the post on TheShiftedLibrarian right now as it seems to be down). This may open an entire new realm of using SL as more than just a 3D chatspace and being able to engage in RL business, teaching, and learning. Will I soon be able to order a book from my local library (or, how long before you can pay your bills for RL in SL?, or jump into Amazon and order a book?).

I'm waiting for the time when you can pay for and take classes at a prestigious institute like MIT in SL (for those who don't know, MIT releases most (all?) of its course content (lecture notes, handouts, problem sets) at OpenCourseWare). Imagine watching some scientific or political leader pontificate on weighty subjects by watching in SL. Forget taking notes on my laptop (or heaven forbird, with a pen and paper), I just want to download the notecard!

I suspect, however, that these great ideas that we have for SL, or just about any virtual space, will soon be surpassed by commercial aspects. I remember reading an article where a journalist had asked a number of people what they thought the internet would eventually be used for (this article took place around the same time that Mosaic, the web browser, was just taking off), and many thought it would be used to educate and inform. Very few of them predicted the massive commercial interests such as Amazon's or the giant networking sites like MySpace were mentioned whatsoever.

(Note, I'm writing this while listening to SecondCast, episode 15, at the point where Hamlet mentions that so far the outreach he has been engaged in with news organization almost always focuses on how people can make money in SL).

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