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CBC News - Second Life

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CBC Television [Busy office noise] Like a lot of newsrooms, the Reuters office in London has its mandatory collection of stressed-out writers monitoring a wobbly world. But Reuters has something, someone no other newsroom anywhere else on the planet has. It has Adam. "So, I'm flying in to work . . . " Far from messing around with a computer game, Adam Pasnik is working. ". . . a nice soft landing . . . " Assigned to be the very first bureau chief for the virtual world known as Second Life. Complete with his own virtual character, or "Avatar", and his own Reuters offices modeled after the real thing, he follows the goings on in a cyber-community growing so fast, generating so much money and talk in this life, that Reuters thinks it's an important enough phenomenon to assign him to write about it full-time. "Strangely, the more time you spend in there, the more you get past the weirdness." Interviewer: "When you first explained to your mom or your grandparents, what your new beat was . . . ?" "It's a hard thing to explain" "How did that go?" "It's something that's much easier to show than to tell." [Background music] That it is. So here's a peek at the world that a million plus people are now a part of. Thousands more sign up every single week. What do they do? Pay a subscription fee, design an avatar for themselves, supply it with clothes, teach it to fly, purchase virtual property, meet people, flirt, you name it. It is strange, and strangely addictive. Interviewer: "Do the avatars come naked and the you have to find clothes for them?" "No, they come with beautiful clothing, but nobody wants to look like a newbie" "so you go and buy yourself clothing so you stand out." "Buy" is the operative word. In Second Life almost every experience you have, like skydiving, and everything you buy your avatar, like those fancy roller skates, costs something. And you pay for it with a currency called "Linden Dollars." 300 Lindens works out to roughly one Canadian dollar so, want those headphones? [Guitar music] Well they're a bargain at 50 Linden dollars. That's just a few cents to you. Not much. But, if tens of thousands of avatars buy them too, it adds up incredibly fast for the lucky soul who designed them. And, because you can cash in your Lindens for the currency of your choice any time you want, this is big business. About $600,000 Canadian dollars are spent here every single day. Some of that money going directly to the likes of Allison Childs. She now earns a real living designing clothes and contact lenses for avatars. Interviewer: "They're not real, these things they're buying, but they're paying real(ish) money for them." Allison Childs: "It's as real as buying a DVD and watching it." "You're not actually there in the movie but you're watching it. So it's real enough." These are real-world profits to be had and that's attracting big names. This is Rivers Run Red, a design firm that now spends most of its time marketing products in Second Life. Some of their clients include Reebok and Adidas. "What does a company like Reebok get out of being on Second Life?" "What it offers Reebok the chance to do is to give the consumer the chance to try out the trainer or their avatar to try out their trainer. They can customize the trainer see if it goes with their outfits, see if they really like the trainer, and then they can go and actually purchase the trainer in real life. Again comes the advice: you won't really get the draw of Second Life until you try it. So, claiming he took a picture off the CBC website and tried to match it, Nick made an Adrian avatar. Strangely, he called her "Truly Magnolia." Then he introduced us. "Oh wow! She's, uhhh . . . , she's stacked Nick!" A curious thing about avatars: they all tend to be taller, slimmer, better equipped versions of us. They can be and do whatever you want. That's if you can figure out the mechanics of navigating your way around. "It gets easier with time, honestly." "You promise?" "Yeah, I promise" [laughs] "Okay this is harder than I thought." "Oops!" But Truly Magnolia's first spin around the planet was a bit treacherous. I got tangled on the keyboard and so she didn't get far. "Euuaua! She's falling!!" It's awkward at first and the virtual world sometimes feels a bit slow. "Ooh, right through the tree." [Electronic dance music] Her first visit was to a dance club where she spent most of the time as a wallflower. All those avatars represent other people logged on to Second Life too. And she got bored and started browsing in a mall. The most popular products in Second Life, by the way, are shoes. [Night music] A little later, a little further away, she became a wary wanderer, remembering a caution from the Reuters reporter that there's crime in Second Life as well. There are prostitution dens and scam artists lurking in the pixels. There's even a list of the most wanted avatars: Stalkers, extortionists, some considered cyber-terrorists intent on crashing the whole planet of Second Life. It's real enough to feel a bit dark which raises the question: why are people so keen on this? Sure enough, Second Life has its equivalent of a philosopher, Tim Guest. And in this life he's writing a book about it. "We've kind of conquered the two things that people say are constant in life: death and taxes. Neither of them exists in Second Life." "So we've kind of conquered some of the biggest challenges that face humanity in some ways." "They seem at least to offer a world where we don't die, and there's no loss, and there's no gravity or friction" "You can fly. It seems to be a way to transcend all of the difficult things about the real world." [Electronic music] And the most poignant demonstration of transcending the tough, Guest says, is what you see happening with the disabled communities. He directs us to one of many Second Life sites for people with disabilities. This one, a nightclub called "Wheelies" [Disco music] There's a party going on when I send Truly Magnolia to peer in. While she's there she spots a giant portrait. It's of the Wheelies founder, Simon Stevens. He is an ambitious young man and, in this life, he's living in a modest flat in Coventry. [Disco music continues] His cerebral palsy hasn't stopped him from building a business, but it's not always easy. Second Life is. It means making a connection. [laughs] Interviewer: "Now you can go out and socialize." "Yes. Meet new people and be with people and be away from home." "Can my avatar interview your avatar at Wheelies?" "Yeah, that's fine. We have a nice comfortable area with comfortable chairs." "You've got a spot for us to do it?" "Yeah." "Okay, it's a date." So Simon is here in Wheelies. So is Truly Magnolia. We're just going to ask him a question. And you talk by typing. It's just like instant messaging. So, here we go. "Simon, what is it that Second Life gives you that real life doesn't afford you?" Okay, so Simon is answering now and he's saying "It allows me to go out while staying in." "It's a platform where I can be more myself than I am in real life. I love it." We chat a bit more and he explains that his favorite thing to do in Second Life is dance. He's a showman of sorts and so he lets his avatar loose. Simon Stevens is free here. And so we leave we leave him and his friends to dance the day away. People he only knows in Second Life, has never actually met in the outside world. But it doesn't matter. For the moment, this kind of living is real enough. Adrian Arsenault, CBC News, London.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 33 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 369
Posted by: noankmedia on Jan 16, 2008

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