Wednesday, January 10, 2007

about SL (again) & capitalism

Some weeks ago I blogged about Second Life as seeming to me a digi expression of a capitalist ethic, a là "...merely some digital instantiation of a capitalist ethic. yeah, let´s call it "EXTREME CAPITALISM". the fiscal equivalent of extreme sports!? "

So, imagine my surprise (though maybe "surprise" is too strong a word) when I saw the below in an online newspiece:
"Second Life is a subscription-based, 3-D fantasy world devoted to capitalism — a 21st century version of Monopoly that generates real money for successful players." (my emphasis).

This is from the story titled: IBM to build virtual stores in Second Life (9 Jan, Assoc. Press)
The story starts as follows:

"International Business Machines Corp. didn't throw a lavish casino party or set up an over-the-top booth to mark its return to the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) after a decade away. Rather, the company reserved its most ambitious consumer initiative for the virtual world. On Monday, IBM announced plans to build virtual stores for Sears Holdings Corp. and Circuit City Stores Inc. in the popular online world Second Life. The partnerships could help IBM expand its consulting services to corporate clients interested in the growing number of people who belong to immersive online environments, also called the "3-D internet.""

The piece then goes on to describe the nuts-and-bolts of these online virtual stores:

"At the Sears Virtual Home, avatars of IBM architects greeted guests with glasses of merlot and invitations to sit in recliners and watch flat-screen televisions in a fantasy home theatre.
The idea is to help consumers see how Sears refrigerators, televisions, counter tops, garage doors, storage cabinets and other products look in a 3-D environment. Visitors can swap cabinets and counter tops to determine which combination they like most, and they may follow links to purchase items from the main Sears website."

What the story highlights for me, apart from the devotion-to-capitalism bit, is this blurring between the virtual and the real. (See my earlier blog re this matter.) To me it is that the virtual becomes subsumed in the real, and so is "real-yet-different". Does that make any sense? I mean that digital reality is still reality, but just different by degrees. I guess that´s why we´ve had the coining of the term "virtual reality".... Interesting question, I can´t recall the history of the term.
So, let´s go over to wikipedia:

The origin of the term virtual reality is uncertain. The Judas Mandala, a 1982 novel by Dan Brodes where the context of use is somewhat different from that defined above. The VR developer Jaron Lanier claims that he coined the term [1]. A related term coined by Myron Krueger, "artificial reality", has been in use since the 1970s. The concept of virtual reality was popularized in mass media by movies such as Brainstorm and The Lawnmower Man (and others mentioned below), and the VR research boom of the 1990s was motivated in part by the non-fiction book Virtual Reality by Howard Rheingold. The book served to demystify the heretofore niche area, making it more accessible to less technical researchers and enthusiasts, with an impact similar to what his book The Virtual Community had on virtual community research lines closely related to VR.


At Fri Jan 12, 06:29:00 PM GMT, Blogger ana guerrini said...

Hi Jennifer! Great blog...
I was looking through the OII's page and found your (and the other Dphil students) blog. Funny to read your post on Second Life... my partner uses the same background theme (tequila??)in her blog and is also currently posting about Second Life. We are both doctorate students at the IN3 (Open University of Catalunya) - will you be taking that online course given by Prof. Castells and Prof. Dutton?

At Mon Jan 15, 09:02:00 PM GMT, Blogger jenniferdebeer said...

Hi Ana,
Thanks! yes, I do intend to be taking that course, so I guess if you´re there, we will meet up. cheers.


Post a Comment

<< Home