Monday, July 30, 2007

Second Life - how about a virtual revolution !

Now I spend too much time on the Internet as it is, so I have avoided Second Life. I have enough trouble sorting out my first life and keeping my imagination in check as it is. Recent reports though have caught my attention. But first for those who have not heard of it, a little introduction :

Second Life (abbreviated as SL) is an Internet-based virtual world launched in 2003, ... developed by Linden Research, Inc (commonly referred to as Linden Lab). A downloadable client program enables its users, called "Residents", to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a metaverse. Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade items (virtual property) and services from one another.

While Second Life is sometimes referred to as a game, this description is disputed.
... It is a semi-structured virtual environment where characters undertake activities for the purpose of personal enjoyment.

In all, more than seven million accounts have been registered, although many are inactive, some Residents have multiple accounts, and there are no reliable figures for actual long term consistent usage. Despite its prominence, Second Life has notable competitors, including There, Active Worlds, and Red Light Center (albeit more "mature" themed).

I'm curious about this, though not enough to pop over and get caught up in it. Is it escapism, is the real world so crap for people they want to inhabit this virtual world? How much does the real world impinge on it? Well on the last one it seems more and more. I read a few weeks back about the business community, the large corporations, buying up islands and space there.

So no escape from the business world, and now no escape from god bothers . Yep, the Catholic Church sees it as a chance to snap up some new recruits . A report in The Times (via New Humanist Blog) states :

Roman Catholic missionaries must reap a virtual harvest of cyber-souls in the kingdom of Second Life: this is the new instruction to the faithful.

It appears in the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, a Rome-based publication approved by the Vatican Secretariat of State, in an article by the academic priest Father Antonio Spadaro.
Father Spadaro urges Catholics to go out into the simulation game of Second Life, to lead the cyber-embodiments of their fellow men and women out of the many temptations that exist there.

Amid the virtual towns, however, sin has flourished. Freed from the constraints of their real lives, many occupants indulge in random fornication, and prostitution is flourishing. Gambling is widespread and, although occupants are free from the ravages of alcohol and drug abuse, they are vulnerable to mindless consumerism.

“It is not possible to turn a blind eye to this phenomenon, or offhandedly pass judgment glorifying or condemning it,” says Father Spadaro.
As in any society where sin flourishes, so does religion – of every kind. There are already hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples serving the faithful, many of whom regard it as their latest virtual mission to save Second Lifers.

Father Spadaro cautions the uninitiated that “the erotic dimension is very present” in Second Life.

While the virtual world might be a refuge for some people seeking to flee the real one, it is also full of people seeking something more from life, including, possibly, religious enlightenment, Father Spadaro says. “Deep down, the digital world can be considered, in its way, mission territory. Second Life is somewhere where the opportunity to meet people and to grow should not be missed. Therefore, any initiative that can inspire the residents in a positive way should be considered opportune.”

Admitting that the anonymous nature of the site means a person’s virtual appearance can be open and honest, he adds: “On the other hand, one can also get caught up in a spontaneity that knows no limits or discretion.”

So one sniff of people having fun and there they are, butting and in preaching. Pah, is there nowhere the puritanical god bothers won't go.

So, where is the left in all this? Perhaps we should all pile in there and recreate all the sectarianism and infighting.We could recreate all the groups, sell virtual papers and have virtual meetings. Would we ever all agree ?

Hey, wonder what the line is on Second Life?