A journalist’s voyage of discovery in Second Life

Second Life has again been getting some fair press coverage, both directly and directly, of late. I’ve already written about the platform either being the focus of, or looked at as part of, two interesting articles published in Motherboard. Also during the week, Second Life was written about on this side of the Atlantic, as first reported by Ciaran Laval.

On April 28th the on-line edition of France’s Le Monde carried an article focused on Second Life, written by  Morgane Tual.  Carrying the delightfully French title Absurde, créatif et débauché : dix ans après, « Second Life » est toujours bien vivant (Absurd, creative and debauched: ten years later, “Second Life” is still alive), it weaves a wonderful introduction to the platform which cannot fail to have those of us immersed in this digital world smiling and / or nodding in agreement.

Morgane Taul: an engaging article on Second Life

Morgane Tual: an engaging article on Second Life

 

This is very much a hands-on, through-the-eyes look at Second Life, good and bad, written with an unabashed honesty and wonderment. Opening with a description of her initial time in Second Life and a (first?) encounter with another resident, Ms. Tual quickly informs her readers where she is and why she is there – and hints that what she has to say might come as a surprise for who might have heard of the platform at some point:

Like me, some haggard and clumsy beginners landed on this strange beach to discover what remains of this game that occupied the headlines there about ten years. I expected to find, a decade later, a deserted world, ageing technology and a few cobwebs in the corners. It was exactly the opposite.

From this set-up we are lead on what is very much a personal voyage of discovery through Second Life. In it we encounter the realities of the platform – good and bad in equal measure,  each presented to us as they are encountered.

So it is we share in her wonder as she hops from place-to-place; her confusion (and that of others newcomers) in finding herself unceremoniously dumped at an infohub; the embarrassment that can occur simply as a result of clicking the wrong button, or in awkwardly accepting the help of another. We share in her delight in her discoveries of the music scene and in finding a place were she makes a new friend, Patti, a fellow French woman. From here we join her on a whirlwind tour of Second Life which take her to Hogwarts and thence via Star Wars, 221B Baker Street and a nightclub, to the Petit Trianon, Tatiana Dokuchic’s wonderful build in the Duché de Coeur, and a conversation with Tatiana herself.

Petit Trianon by Tatiana Dokuchic, featured in Absurde, créatif et débauché : dix ans après, « Second Life » est toujours bien vivant

Petit Trianon by Tatiana Dokuchic, featured in the Le Monde article by Morgane Tual

Interspersed with this are the assorted facts and figures from the Lab – the 900,000 monthly log-ins, the broad demographic, the economics of the platform, and so on, together with the usual potted history of the platform, all of which paints one of the clearest pictures of Second Life I’ve had the good fortune to read; one with a personal narrative free from the need to fall back on cliché or dogged by mocking observation.

Such is the narrative, we’re drawn directly into Ms. Tual’s experiences, all of which are related without judgement, but often with a real sense of joy and / or wonder. Of course, the sex is also there, but so too is the discovery that contrary to belief, Second life isn’t necessarily “all about the sex”, a point of view Ms. Tual fully embraces.

The breadth of possible engagement in Second Life is touched upon in other ways as well. Through the conversation with Tatiana, readers are introduced to the richness of opportunity for creativity in Second life. Art and entertainment are referred to – the latter supported by the inclusion of some hand-picked videos.

We also witness the tales of others, such as the guy who initially mocked the activities of SL users, regarding them as “losers”, only to himself become engrossed in the platform and all it offers. We are also – movingly – introduced to the way in which Second life bridges the physical / digital divide, very genuinely bringing people together when entire continents might otherwise separate them.

With videos and in-world images, personal tales, a frank narrative, Absurde, créatif et débauché : dix ans après, « Second Life » est toujours bien vivant is one of the most engaging pieces on second Life it has been my pleasure to read. Recommended.

 

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