Second Life is bursting at the seams - the immersive world is due to reach 2 million residents next week and has a burgeoning economy transacting over $650,000 worth of virtual goods and services EACH day.
More and more people are starting to learn about Second Life and there is one repeatedly recurring reaction: that people are affronted, even insulted that others would spend time in an immersive world.
This reaction has been expressed at least twice on NPR, recently when there was a commentator from Harvard's Berkman Law Center for Internet and Society and earlier from a Columbus OH caller on the October 24, 2006 Talk of the Nation segment
"I’ve never called in before ... I’m pretty disgusted by the whole thing ... there are so many real problems in the world ... this creative energy could go towards solving a lot of the basic problems and things that are going on in Africa ... I’m sure there’s some good coming out of it ... like new car designs ... but I’m very surprised at the amount of energy that people spend on things like this when there are people that can’t even have clean water …"Ignoring the conflicting presuppositions and logic breaches, the key point is that something is different about spending time in Second Life versus with those other uber-productive activities that people might be doing in stead. There are several levels on which to examine this conflict.
1) What is objectionable about being in Second Life as compared with other leisure exploits like watching TV, watching YouTube, reading a novel, or playing video games?
2) What is objectionable about spending time in Second Life as compared with other creative exploits such as painting, carving wood in the garage, programming software or designing a video game?
3) What is objectionable about making a living in Second Life (which requires developing and using advanced technical skills) as compared with other remunerative efforts such as being a corporate drone, pornographer or gambler?
The response is so quick, visceral and negative that it is as if people are feeling personal rejection. Second Life is somehow different than other activities, even different than video games such as World of Warcraft (despite World of Warcraft racking up far more hours per user), perhaps because of the story of what Second Life offers, an alternative reality, and that people who spend time there are in some part rejecting the physical world and by extension its participants, non-SLers.
However, like the book, one of the original immersive alternative worlds, and in fact like most technologies (e.g.; radio vs. records) most people will probably come to realize that online immersive worlds offer more not less and supplement rather than replace the reality they experience.
Real-time 3D weather data visualization from NOAA