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  Media Landscape in ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2006-10-15 by Tony Walsh
Renegade avatar Prokofy Neva has posted an exhaustive examination of the media landscape inside and surrounding Second Life. Neva makes some excellent points--primarily, that the two major sources of mass media in the virtual world are Linden Lab (maker of Second Life), and "griefers" who execute denial of service attacks against the system. Linden Lab has at its disposal system-wide messaging capabilities, as do griefers, who recently broadcast through rapidly-self-replicating objects "Terror will rain down upon the unfit gods and the flock that they govern, from now until the End of Days." I'd add that there's also a method to write over top of Second Life's world map that is visible to all avatars. Aside from these three methods, there aren't many ways I can think of to demand the attention of most of the roughly 11,000 avatars logged in at peak times.

Ironically, the media outlets that are the most embedded inside the virtual world have the least amount of reach (this is something I don't think the business community really understands yet). Media inside the world are distributed through specific locations (meaning you have to go somewhere to get it), or via attachments to group messages (reaching potentially dozens, but not thousands of avatars). Even if the in-world media outlets could "broadcast" to a subscriber base, my gut tells me we're talking about hundreds, not thousands, of avatars. It's arguable that in-world media outlets provide more an immersive experience, as opposed to outside media outlets (blogs), but I'd present The Second Life Herald as an example of an immersive outside outlet (your mileage may vary).

External blogs, such as Linden Lab's recently established official blog, and those that cover Second Life as journalists, prosumers, or amateurs, have more reach and influence by virtue of the open, web-based medium through which they broadcast. When businesspeople and journalists want to learn about Second Life, they turn first to bloggers--the web is just easier to use for research at this time. The web is more accessible, reliable, browseable and searchable than Second Life, which is probably one of the reasons Linden Lab is trying to integrate its virtual world more closely with the outside world.

Media Landscape in SL: Further Reading
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Comment posted by Secureplay
October 15, 2006 @ 8:40 pm
Tony -

You've nailed the fatal flaw of virtual worlds for marketing - they aren't broadcast, they aren't narrowcast, they require the potential customer to come to them. Even worse, they can't handle a lot of interest if they manage to get it. Running a virtual world, as Disney does, is something different.

If we move beyond today's Second Life, what point is their to a shared, continuous virtual world? Is there any advantage to avatar-based motion (if so, why did SL add teleporting)? A virtual currency that can support micro-transactions is handy if you need micro-transactions (conversely, one could view this as a problem that people don't see virtual assets as valuable enough to spend real money on them?). Avatar-based communication doesn't seem to offer much - even if you could get expressiveness implemented adequately and solve the "uncanny valley" problem, you still are stuck with typing "/grin" to drive the system... and if, somehow you can capture the expressiveness of a face directly, then... why not use video?
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
October 15, 2006 @ 9:48 pm
What I didn't discuss in my piece is groups -- I don't think of them as "media" (I was focusing more on periodicals) but as "communications". And that's really how most people get news around. News (gossip, distorted facts, tendentious statements?) travels something like the OBS network of Russia ("Odna Baba Skazala," or "An Old Lady Told Me"

Groups help people keep up with events and discuss them and adjust to them -- and some groups are as large as 500 or 1000 people and talk daily. For example Anshe Chung's Dreamland residents group has about 750 people in it now. The topics discussed are obviously mostly limited to very narrow inworld concerns like "is this lag my own personal lag or is the entire grid crashing" -- but people have also been known to discuss questions in them about everything from the advisability of mass bannings to the appropriateness of allowing "ageplay".

I've found that if you deliberately make a large discussion group, it only gets griefed and people tend not to discuss in it -- but people will spontaneously discuss all kinds of things and pass around news and views even in more specialized groups like the Concierge Group for island owners.

I was hopeful about SL Business Magazine but the PDF file is impossible -- just spent another 15 minutes trying to get it to download and open -- a real chore -- FINALLY I get it open only to find an utterly predictable cover story about SL branding featuring Aimee Weber -- the mascot LL has always featured for the last few years, an avatar who tends to replicate across every news article or think piece (like Betsy Book's piece on branding in virtual worlds) until you begin to wonder -- what is possible to do branding-wise in SL when LL's marketing and media departments *don't* give you a boost?

Tony, since you saw fit to put in a reading list about media this story about Metaverse Justice Watch again, I'm also going to take this opportunity to refute this story.

Why on earth can't a group of people with special interests form a lobby and petition to meet with the authorities? This is perfectly normal, legal, and desirable behaviour in a democracy -- hey, even in Canada? Can you distinguish between a lobby, and parliament, and government? Of course you can.

Why is it that the content creators who have lobbied LL for years escaped your wrath, but as soon as a group of people with land came along and called themselves stakeholders (and never claimed they were the only such entities with stake), you object and begin holding them to some absurd standard or "transparency"?

And your notion that this meeting somehow took place in secret away from the press is ludicrous. The Metaverse Messenger was present. And this collective forums-posting avatar -- anonymous -- talk about unaccountable! -- named Editorial Hare also crashed the meeting. After this meeting, the people in it, including myself, held a public meeting to answer questions. What, every time you try to have a meeting with the Lindens you're supposed to bring along the press? Why? The press can do its own homework. Lindens can and should meet with all kinds of people -- and they do.

Gosh, the world has sure grown up a lot since that day in September 2005 -- and I wonder if you'd cover this differently. Metaverse Justice Watch or any group isn't parliament; it isn't obliged to go around publishing its transcripts of every single working meeting -- especially when it is in the process of negotiations.

I feel your comments on this matter were simply based on a political ideal you hold on the left that business is always something to be distrusted and always tending toward evil. To be sure, businesses should be socially responsible, accountable, and transparent -- but in RL, the press doesn't get in on every single meeting everywhere, it works the sources. BTW, the outcome of these two meetings with the Lindens back them were entirely laudable, and didn't involve the corruption and graft you imagine: what we achieved was getting the Lindens to publish their ethics guidelines for themselves (such as it was)and to buy back telehub lands that they had sold as having greater value even as they had quietly planned to retire telehubs in favour of point-to-point teleportation. This lobbying -- like inworld and outworld press -- is all part of making goverance more transparent and accountable in SL.
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