Week 12 – Online Worlds

Katie Freund
Email: fanthropology@gmail.com Twitter: katiedigc Scribd: nushana Blog: Fanthropology

Definition
• Castronova 2005: Synthetic world: “An expansive, world-like, large-group environment made by humans, for humans, and which is maintained, recorded, and rendered by a computer.” • Boellstorff 2008: “A place of human culture realized by a computer program through the Internet”

History
• Predecessors: ▫ Role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons ▫ Self-contained virtual worlds like Sim City (1993)

History
• 1978: ▫ MUD – first online, multi-user environment • 1986: ▫ Habitat – first graphical chat world

History
• 1990: ▫ LambdaMOO
 Text-based Still online today Emphasis on imagination Infamous: “A Rape in Cyberspace” essay Community reactions

History
• 1996: ▫ First visually immersive synthetic world released, Meridian 59 • 1997: ▫ Ultima Online
 200,000 subscribers

History
• 1998: ▫ Lineage
 First online world to hit 1 million subscribers.

History
• 1999 ▫ EverQuest  77th richest country in the world Higher GNP per capita than China and India

History
• 2000 ▫ The Sims  100 million copies sold by 2008 Expanded audience of gamers – 60% of players female Online version not very successful

History
• 2004: ▫ World of Warcraft
10 million subscribers Holds 62% of the entire MMOG market

Second Life
• Released in 2003 • 15 million registered users as of Sept. 2008 • 88,000 concurrent users on April 2009 • Average user age is 33 • Heaviest users age 45+ • Largest virtual economy: $500m USD per year ▫ Source: Linden Labs

Second Life
• 1,700 virtual square kms = larger than metropolitan London • 18,000 servers in the United States

Why Look at Second Life?
• Largest and most significant virtual world • Focus on user-generated content
▫ “Your World, Your Imagination.” ▫ More than 100 million user-created objects ▫ Intellectual property rights retained by user

• Extensively used by media, marketers, educators, governments, and businesses • Diverse global population

Methods of Communication
• Text
▫ Public chat ▫ IM

• Voice
▫ Public ▫ Private

• Visual
▫ Appearance ▫ Proxemics & body language

Strategies for Communication
• Text vs. Voice • Public vs. Private • Friend structures • Group structures

Methods of Communication
• Profile
▫ Creating your own identity ▫ Avatar versus user

• Search • Meta-texts
▫ ▫ ▫ ▫ ▫ News services Avatar blogs Commentary Fashion Machinima

Language
• Slang and jargon
▫ BRB, AFK ▫ “I love to fly because it’s NPIRL.” ▫ “There’s so much lag in this sim because of all the prims that nothing will rez properly.”

• Speech styles • Cross-cultural and global

“The Earth is very nice, but there are experiences we can imagine in our minds that we cannot have here.” – Edward Castronova (2005, p. 25)

Exploration

Exploration

Education
Interactive Learning

Education
Virtual Lectures

Business

Business

Media and Entertainment

Health and Medicine

Architecture

History

Socialization

Fashion
• Thriving fashion and appearance customisation industry • Everything made by Residents • Popular designers extremely profitable • Check out fashion blogs:
▫ Shopping Cart Disco ▫ Vain Inc.

Image: http://shoppingcartdisco.com/?p=5238

Subcultures
• SL extremely diverse • Home to many subcultures such as Furries, medieval, fantasy, and WWII roleplay • Cyberpunk & steampunk

• Sexual subcultures: ranging from burlesque to Goreans to BDSM

Virtual Intimacy
• Hyper-personal connections • Long-term friendships • Romantic relationships
▫ ▫ ▫ ▫ ▫ Partners Weddings Sex Moving into RL Media scandals
 BBC Article Watch documentary Read SLers response Criticisms

Identity

Readings
• Meadows, Mark Stephen. I, Avatar: The Culture and Consequences of Having a Second Life.
▫ Personal and subjective account of SL ▫ Connection to avatar: isolation, addiction ▫ Bending traditional values: age-play ▫ Is virtual socialisation as “valuable” as RL socialisation? ▫ Is “age-play” wrong if both participants are over 18 in RL?

Readings
• Boellstorff, Tom. “Place and Time”, from Coming of Age in Second Life, 2008.
▫ Actual world versus “real” world ▫ Tries to complicate the understandings of place, time, presence, and immersion ▫ Virtual but authentic places ▫ Lag and synchronicity – the flexibility of time ▫ “afk” and virtual presence ▫ Voice and the border between virtual and actual

Blog Assignment
• Choose one of the following and reflect on your blog:
1. Respond to one of the issues brought up by Meadows (addiction, socialisation, or age-play/pedophilia, etc.) How does the virtual world effect how we think about these issues? (See slide.) 2. In your SL profile, you have 500 to describe yourself. Think about what you might write here. What kind of person will you be in SL? How is it different or similar to your RL self? How did you choose your avatar’s name? What, if anything, will you put in the “First Life” tab?

Group Work Task
• Get into groups of 4 and do one of the two tasks below:
1. Task One: Choose a company (either one that already exists, or create your own). Your boss wants to expand the product or services of your company into a virtual world. Think about some of the different possible uses of SL, and how you might use SL to help your company. What sort of virtual world tie-in would you create? 2. Task Two: You are a virtual world entrepreneur, and you want to create a business in Second Life. What sort of service would you provide? What purpose would it serve? (Social service, building specific item.) Who is your demographic?

Resources
• http://delicious.com/nushana
▫ Tags: digc101, secondlife ▫ Slurl = Second Life URL. Will take you directly to a location in Second Life.

• “Search” function within SL

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