In the last month I have been spending a bit of time among the archipelagos of Linden Lab’s Second Life. This sprawling network of shared 3D space is becoming a popular topic for researchers and tourists alike. I have been exploring the architecture. I have stumbled upon several so-called sex clubs (think chat with video streams and still images negotiated by high-res cartoon – often naked – characters). As well there are huge areas of empty space where houses are left often open and shops empty. A sort of “Day of the Triffids” aura relocated to a tropical climate zone. My favourite spot so far is the New Media Consortium campus, but it is pretty empty when there are no activities on.
What I have been thinking about a lot in regards to SL is if it is a network, what is exchanged there? This has come about because I have also been getting active again in Flickr, the photo sharing network that is busy busy busy at the moment.
The thing is that in Flickr I really enjoy looking at photos that First Life friends all over the world are posting. In Flickr we exchange and share photos. The network structure of Flickr is broad; based on images, comments, linking, groups, favourites (using RSS and tags) and the Flickr blog. However, the physical presence I have in Flickr is composed only of my site. Navigation in Flickr is between individual and group sites.
SL is a network in the sense that a Mall is a network or indeed a campus is. Access to interaction is based on shared understanding of the space in a similar sense to genre. If I am in a gambling club in SL it is inappropriate to remove my pants. But what are we exchanging here? I think rather it is about participation and visibility. Much of this is based on how many Linden Dollars (L$) one has. I have not yet moved up from a Basic membership so I therefore have no $L- and few friends.
I was thinking if the image economy of Flick (or something similar, such as the link economy of del.icio.us) could be made to compliment the L$ economy of SL things may get more interesting. Maybe there would not be so many conversations in SL that begin with “Do you know anywhere good to go?”