While taking the course Organizational Communication Dynamics Online last semester, I was exposed to a glimpse of what you can expect from a virtual workforce. We did not, however, use any type of platform such as Second Life to demonstrate this and I am surprised that SL was never mentioned in class. In this course, we focused on virtual meetings mostly, and not about ways you can make real money on these platforms. I had no idea that people could actually make a living by selling things on SL and that this “game” could be so relatable to real life. According to Sanchez, “Second Life is a prime example of the co-evolution of virtual world technology and user experiences” (p 12). It seems as though the online virtual world is rapidly expanding and according to Bans, “We’ve yet to fully discover how meaningful relationships will fare in such a world, but if Second Life and other virtual universes become as prominent as their hype promises, we will soon” (p 62). Bans anticipates a Real World decision to legally marry people in virtual relationships.
After reading Bans’ article, I was shocked to learn about how lost in the SL world people can actually get. The example of the grown man posing as a teenager and the mother posing as her cheerleading daughter blew my mind. “It was a fantasy romance that was both entirely fictitious and undeniably real” (p 57). What both amazes me and horrifies me is that many Real Life issues such as rape, prostitution, underage sex, etc. are carried into Second Life. I love that there is a cornfield prison somewhere that holds offenders!
The readings provide a shared understanding of the nature and significance of online worlds because they all seem to be in congruence with the fact that online worlds are rapidly growing and thriving with the anticipation of even more developments and enhancements to these games. They also make it clear that Second Life is not really a “game” but is a place where individuals need to be careful while interacting with other individuals online. Real Life relationships that exist outside of the “in-world” can be threatened due to online affairs or excessive playing time. As Baym puts it, “For many, the increased amount of mediated interaction seems to threaten the sanctity of our personal relationships. For others, new media offer the promise of more opportunity for connection with more people, a route to new opportunities and to stronger relationships and more diverse connections” (p 1).
I am excited to indulge in this world! Although people can get too wrapped up in Second Life, I don’t think that I will be having that issue. I could not imagine dating someone online who I have never met or realizing that I have spent 8 hours on SL with no motivation to log out anytime soon. I feel as though these articles made communicating with strangers on Second Life to be daunting, so I am happy that I get to investigate the “in-world” in the comfort of my own classroom.