Monday, February 26, 2007

Beijing Bubbles: Punk Rock in China’s Capital

I went to see Beijing Bubbles at MoMA on Wednesday. It’s a documentary made by a German trio, Susanne Messmer, George Lindt, and Lucian Busse that chronicles the lives of several Beijing bands rocking their rebel yell. The documentary includes Hang on the Box, the riot grrls of China, who are truly wonderful (and, sadly, have broken up). The documentary’s sister label, lieblingslied records has put out the CD of Joyside, another scrumptious band profiled. Destroy 2000 years of culture ;-). Look for theatrical release in Europe and DVD in US.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rock vs Classical from our guest Wei

When a friend got to know I was going to England, he said, "After one year there, you will be an expert on Rock music."

Now I think he is quite right. England is the dreamland for rock music. Even a person like me, definitely not a fan, could list a long list of musicians and band of rock of England: the Beatles, Oasis, Cold Play, Muse... All my friends of England would put rock music in their "interest" on their facebook profile (Facebook is a recently very popular on-line alumni network.); Their favorite birthday present would be the CD of their hero of rock music; I even heard that before Tony Blair became the prime minister of England, his biggest dream was to have his own band. While in England, the young people, especially high school and university students are big fans of the rock music, the audience of classical music are quite of another age bracket.

There is a free lunchtime concert on campus every Thursday afternoon, mainly about classical music. I attend it whenever I have time. I still remember when I entered the concert hall for the first time, I found myself the only black-haired person there. Others were mostly elder people. I thought that it might be the wrong with the time, which is inconvenient for most of the students. But several times after, I still did not find many young people other than me. I came to understand there is a invisible but clear division of the music taste between young and elder people in England.

Yet I still have no idea how a rock fan will turn to be a classical music lover when he reaches 60.

February 23 Metaverse Meetup With 3pointD

I went to meet some of the people I’ve been talking to in virtual space face-to-face at the monthly Metaverse Meetup. Frank Dellario of Ill Clan, members of Electric Sheep Company, Adam Pasick among others were there. Fun mix of people. Yes, there were women among them ;-). New media literacy, life-logging, social 3D space versus game 3D space, BBS history, hacker art, designing for usability…many things on the table. Look for Mark Wallace’s announcement on 3pointD or We the Sheeple for next month’s date.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Battelle “wonderful” video: human communications

see John Battelle’s interview with cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch. Wesch talks about connectivity in a very deep way that is super smart in relation to mediated networks.

Wesch: My friends in Papua New Guinea are experts in relationships and grasp the ways that we are all connected in much more profound ways than we do. They go so far as to suggest that their own health is dependent on strong relations with others. When they get sick they carefully examine their relations with others and try to heal those relations in order to heal their bodies.

Thanks how2 for the linker.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Machinima Prints @ Fountain Art Fair

The glowlab gallery, director of the wonderful conflux festival, will be showing my work at the fountain art fair that opens today. I am showing a print series called “Tiny World” from a machinima project I did for MiT 4conference 2004. Info for the fair here. Come by the opening tonight if you are in New York!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Animus Rising: Furry Fashion, Furry Home Vids

The cult of Furries is one on the more famous virtual world “tribes” that has flourished in Second Life. They are avatars who represent as furry beasts, often foxes. Fairies, werewolves, mermaids compose just a short list of the metamorphic creatures who have obsessed our imaginations for millennia. Well the neighborhood just got bigger and more animated.

Take a look at the tiny world impact on real world (RW) in fashion, thanks to Regine at
WMMNA and live-action home video care of Second Life Herald.

CAUTION CREEPY CONTENT: The line between the child’s play of fantasy and the adult play of animal-tranny erotica is rather porous.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wallace Reports Linden Lab Signs of Trouble

Uh, kaboom alert.

Check out 3pointd reporter Mark Wallace article “”Linden Lab Approaches A Crossroads” on the signs of trouble at Linden Lab, makers of Second Life. Major issues are:

1. Scalability
2. Relationship with metaverse services groups such as like Millions of Us, Rivers Run Red, and the Electric Sheep Company
3. As well as corporate/news groups, including Cisco, IBM, Reuters
4. 2D Web interface development
5. User retention in light of potential “unverified users” policy

Wallace writes:

First off, while the locking out of unverified users on weekends may not come to pass, it certainly looks like Linden Lab feels it will be needed. It can’t be a good sign that this solution, described as a “contingency plan,” was cooked up after the problem arose that it’s designed to solve. Nor can it be reassuring to investors that the Lab’s best solution, at present, is to lock out potential paying customers.

He concludes:

Linden Lab’s apparent goal has been to become the gold standard of 3D virtual world platforms. They’ve been successful in that so far in large part because there has not been a competitor as free and open as Second Life. What the Lab looks like doing now, though, is putting up more barriers, rather than pushing further into the openness that has been their biggest comparative advantage.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Chinese New Year SMS greeting collection

Hi, friends. Chinese New Year, our traditional festival is coming. Project Good Luck hopes to bring you, our Blogger Breakfast group, best greetings! At the same time, we invite you to send us the favorite text message greetings you receive on this Chinese New Year. It can be in Chinese or translated to English or in both languages. With your help, we hope to closely look at the effect of text message on the ways people greet on this traditional festival. You can either leave your favorite text messages here in this post via comment or send it to our researchers, both Liwen and Song. <<liwenjin@MIT.EDU>> <<songshi@MIT.EDU>>

These are some text messages frequently used as common greetings on Chinese New Year.

Peace all year round岁岁平安

Safe trip wherever you go一路顺风

The god of wealth is in your doorway! 财神到,接财神!

May you come into a good fortune! 恭喜发财!

Good luck, good health, good cheer. I wish you a happy Spring Festival. May the season's joy fill you all the year round.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shall we go for a drink? By our guest bloggers Shen Wei from Britain

Shall we go for a drink?

One thing I still could not understand is English people's passion for a drink. Of course, people do drink in China, and quite a lot. But Chinese usually drink with meal at home, or in the restaurant. And generally speaking, drinking is men's thing. Women tend not to drink or drink very little. In England, however, everyone seems to like a glass of beer. And there are even places for drinking. I have just learned to distinguish pub from bar. They are quite similar. Both are places for drinking, but pub is more traditional. Its target consumers are maily the residents living nearby. Bar is frequented more by young people. Therefore it is easier to find bars in big cities or around universities than in some small villages. An English friend told me that he likes drinking, but he always goes there with friends or family, never alone. "You only meet your classmate once a week on class. If you feel you want to know more about this person, you might probably ask him or her to the bar to have a drink. That's a natural way to make friends." "Why don't you drink at home? "I asked."Maybe I could meet many people there. I like to see people around me all talking happily; though I probably will not talk with them...It is a dispressing thing to enter into a pub, only to find few people sitting there." Here I come to understand the pub culture of England. Drinking is a social activity of English people just like eating in the Chinese culture. We share food, they drink together.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Shen Wei, 18-year-old Chinese blogger goes abroad

In the next month or so we will have a series of guest bloggers posting about the ideas, events, and experiences that are important to them. The subjects of national identity, media use, and globalization seems to have already begin to emerge as micro-themes.

Please welcome Shen Wei, an 18-year-old student our group met in Shanghai during the blogger roundtable. Shen is currently studying as an international student studying sociology in Great Britain. Here is the link to Shen’s Chinese-language blog.

1. An introduction

I am now studying MA Sociology at University of Warwick, not far from the town centre of Coventry, in the middle-west of England. Compared to my home city Shanghai, Coventry is really too quiet. It is sort of cut off from the outer world, but I really enjoy the life here. The air is fresh. People are friendly. Trees are all around you. I could even hear the birds singing from my dormitory in the morning, which makes me imagine of living in a park. In respect of the food and the Weather, i would say it is tolerable, though it is sometimes a bit depressing walking alone in a chilly winter afternoon around 4 o'clock, when the sky has already darkened.

And the English people, as I see, they are quite different from Chinese, American and French. (I try to be objective from a foreigner's perspective.) You could tell their character from the way they talk. They tend to speak in a courteous and roundabout way. They seem to avoid the emotion going to the extreme and always set a limit upon its expression. You could hardly expect a straightforward answer of 'yes' or 'no', in stead you might hear 'Probably' or 'I am afraid the possibility is very low.' And the English jokes are the most typical English. 9 of 10 jokes are a bit ironic and need to be understood in an opposite way. The listener should be careful. Otherwise yourself might be the next one to be laughed at unconsciously.

I need to add that English people are not always English these days, as there are a lot of migrations living in the English society. You could meet people of different skins. And people told me that when you walk on the road of London, you could hear languages from all over the world but not English. One flatmate of mine, who was born in England, holding a English visa, and speaks perfect English with no accent, told me that she would say she is a British Asian when being asked about the nationality. An English friend (he is 'native English') told me that England now is facing a problem of losing their cultural identity. What's England? What's the English way of life? A gentleman in dark coat, always taking an umbrella with him, eats Fish and chips every meal?

Anyway, I am happy to find a lot of Chinese here (6 of 12 of my flat are Chinese). We cook together and enjoy typical Chinese meal. That's why I could live in England and well keep my Chinese identity at the same time!

To be continue...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Blogger breakfast report: Starbucksgate, Chinese blog censorship, porno sms + dumplings

Delightful is the word that best describes our first blogger breakfast. For those of you who haven’t figured it out it is actually dinner EST and breakfast Shanghai time. We met in the lounge of Tang hall, an international graduate dormitory at MIT. Liwen had ordered dumplings, scallion pancakes and some crazy rice dish from a restaurant that specialized in the food of her native province. By 8pm we had eight MIT bloggers and five Shanghai-Beijing based bloggers online, all networked into an MSN IM session. Most of the participants were computer scientists, Media Lab or media studies, or journalists. I’ve never had a group conversation in this manner that was live but not direct (not face-to-face). Much of it was very funny. Some how we cracked each other up across space and languages. There was one level of joke telling going on in the room then another with the online banter. says: (8:21:33 PM)
this color belongs to me says: (8:21:42 PM)
so bright one says: (8:21:51 PM)
is it too girly? says: (8:21:58 PM)

Starbucksgate incident was raised as an example of where the China blogsphere has arrived and where it is going. Rui Chengang, a TV news anchor, wrote a blog post (January 11, 2007) criticizing the presence of a Starbucks in the Forbidden City.

From Wall Street journal, Friday Jan 19, 2007:

“Rui writes, It is ‘too inappropriate for the world’s impression of the Forbidden City. This isn’t globalization, this is the erosion of Chinese culture.’ Mr. Ruui said he liked Starbucks ¬¬just not inside a national landmark.
In the space of a week, Mr. Rui’s post has been viewed more than half a million times, according to the blog’s counter, and his demand to shut the café has turned into a national cause.”

Everyone , of course, had heard about it. Some joked they did not drink coffee, which meant the protest was not relevant to them ,-). Some of the jokes touched upon issues of nationalism and an American consumer imperialism.

“Is there anyone who want to build Chinese restaurant in Jing Guo Shen She (Japanese war memorial).”

“Like say, we Chinese can open the Quan Jude (featured the Chinese roasted duck all over the world) inside the museum that keeps the Independence of Declaration.”

Web 2.0 was the second big topic of discussion: what is it and has it already developed in China where there are an abundance of bbs/social network sites (of the 120 million China-based Internet users,
43 percent are using online message boards such as QQ) and we as video sharing sites and collective net-organized actions (See group shopping or “Tungou”). Yet concepts such as “participatory” or “user-generated” do not have the same resonance, despite the fact that video-sharing sites have been in strong rotation for over a year. Perhaps this is a difference of attitude not magnitude.

Roger, one of the MIT Computer Science students who is researching search technology, talked about how the same tools will have different ends depending on the cultural context.

Media platform was final topic.

How well does IM work for group discussion? Could we do VOIP? The decision was “no,” primarily because much of the conversation is in English (for my benefit) and many of the participants who graciously agreed to work in a second language have greater ease with writing than voice. Group seems keen to do it with a virtual world platform. This of course is right up my alley ;-)

The post today from Hong Kong-based blogger
Rebecca MacKinnon on allegations of censorship by (the top Chinese blog site) made public a subject that has been discussed behind closed doors or off the record.

She writes:

Thus the protest is helping to call attention to the way in which China's blog hosting companies like Sina and Sohu (as well as all the others) are all censoring their users' content. What's more these companies are doing it without any advance warning or negotiation with the blogger about his or her content, without any recourse to appeal, without any explanation, without any notice of what laws are being violated by the content or what laws are being complied with by erasing it, etc.

Having spoken with social media entrepreneurs, activists, and users in China, I know this will certainly make for lively conversation at the next “blogger breakfast.” The issue seems black-and-white to an American audience, but as several Chinese industry and researchers pointed out to me, “Everyone country censors something.”

There was some discussion of “porno sms,” text messages designed for titillation that are wide spread in China. I have asked the group to post examples for next time.

Many thanks to all participants.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Virtual World Debate 3x3: responses to Clay Shirky & Henry Jenkins

My replies to last week’s 3x3 Second Life/Virtual Worlds posts below: Clay Shirky: “evidence of unpopularity” and Henry Jenkins: Benchmarks of Civic Participation. Look here for Clay Shirky and here
for Jenkins replies. For backstory see my prior post

Clay Shirky: “evidence of unpopularity”

This post is 2 of 2 in the 3x3 discussion on Second Life and virtual worlds between Clay Shirky, Henry Jenkins, and myself. Click here if you want to go to the top of the responses or here for Shirky’s full-text post. I have also included a response to Prokofy Neva’s hilarious and insightful reply to my post below.

Clay Shirky: A hypothesis which is strengthened by evidence of popularity, but not weakened by evidence of unpopularity, isn’t really a hypothesis, it’s a religious assertion. And a core tenet of the faithful seems to be that claims about Second Life are buttressed by the certain and proximate arrival of virtual worlds generally.

Beth Coleman: I guess this is a question of what you’ve signed up for. I was not interested in Second Life because it was reported to have 2 million some residents. When I heard those numbers I was impressed but also glad to have you and others question directly how those numbers were generated. I think we all agree on that. That does not mean that it is phantasm or a “religious assertion” recognize the interest in virtual worlds that exists at the moment. The breakthrough numbers and international popularity of World of Warcraft was based on precedent of other Massively Multiplayer Online games. Whether of not Second Life survives its “85% abandonment rate after five years of development” will be up to the choices the company makes now that they have our collective attention.

CS: Many people writing about Second Life make little distinction between ‘Second Life as a particular platform’ and ‘Second Life as an exemplar of the coming metaverse’. I would like to buck this trend, by explicitly noting the difference between those two conversations. I am basing my prediction of continued niche status for Second Life on the current evidence that most people who try it don’t like it. My beliefs about virtual worlds, on the other hand, are more conjectural. Everything below should be read with this caveat in mind.”

BC: I agree, Second Life, the platform, has been made to stand in for virtual worlds as a whole, and I will post on other platforms such as Multiverse and Croquet. They present very different scenarios. The high points and the failures of Second Life are specific to the Linden Lab platform. I try to keep the specific of Second Life and the general of “virtual world” separate. That said, looking at the 300,000 + regular users of Second Life and it’s short-term drop-ins is the primary test drive for how virtual worlds will last and grow or fizzle. The Second Life buzz has brought to the attention of non-gamer demographics the prospects for avatar socializing, the accompanying bells and whistles of a real-time spatial interface, and a nascent v-commerce. Shirky writes, “[M]ulti-player games provide an existence proof of millions-strong virtual worlds, and the only remaining question is simply when we arrive at wider adoption of more general-purpose versions.” It seems naïve to suggest that a simple build-out of “general-purpose” virtual world based upon game world precedents is the magic bullet. The design and use and intention of an open-ended virtual world are not necessarily quest oriented in a direct fashion, as one would find in a game world: what is the “quest” for you’re Myspace page or Flickr account?

CS: Jaron Lanier is the Charles Babbage of Our Generation

This is funny and great if it means that virtual reality, as it was conceived in the 1990s and Lanier being the pathfinder, was primarily concept as opposed to execution (as were Babbage’s analytical engines, which Shirky notes). Virtual worlds as currently existing have very little to do with the body-armored, primarily individual, and expensive procedures of historical virtual reality. Virtual reality of the ‘90s was rather anti-social because of all the hardware.

The goal for a virtual world is not perfection of simulation but an augmenting our channels of communication.

Second Life (SL) and World of Warcraft (WoW) are both very social because of the software AND the cultural shift of expanded user participation (Web 2.0). Yes, SL & WoW are social in different ways. Venture capitalist and Creative Commons bon vivant, Joi Ito has been cheerleading for WoW as a training tool for entrepreneurs with very little push back. Why? It is ordained a force of nature because there are “8 million users.” WoW has been held up in the debate about virtual worlds as the exemplar of success. Shirky writes, “games will continue to dominate the list of well-populated environments for the foreseeable future, rendering ineffectual the category of virtual worlds.” As a Second Life user, Ito has made the point that the two kinds of worlds work in tandem not in competition.

The stakes are not the same for emerging virtual world design and use and game worlds. The industrial uses of a virtual world fly through in flight simulation or architecture are already well used and well advanced. The “immersion” of this kind of platform for other users is not reliant on a perfect simulation of presence, but rather the funny, dorky, hubba hubba real-time exchanges that currently exist. Even
Neal Stephenson did not describe the metaverse as a substitution for reality. That was William Gibson whose space cowboys lived exclusively on the nets.

Limits of connectivity

Prokofy Neva, an early Second Life landlord and activist, wrote in response to my previous post, “There's a limit to how much connectivity people really want…. People will want Worlds for Windows, only if they are safe, immersive, discreet, and hold the value of their user-made content. That's why there are 8 million in WoW.” (see Neva’s full comment

BC: I agree that one of the big adjustments from the early years of Web 2.0 will be moving from “my 4,000 friends” to greater filters. Yes, this will also include better-filtered porn. But if “better filtered porn” remains the dominant content for a platform then that world will remain niche, like an XXX shop. The model for greater use, which industry and individuals alike are experimenting with, is still largely fan based, whether it is the L Word, fairies, libertarians, or furries. They represent different but very devoted “users.” Peer-to-peer networks based on enclaves or “invitation only” do not necessarily preclude large use. We are seeing the emergence of Neal Stephenson like “franchelettes” or many this is just part of Chris Anderson’s Long Tail. Your WoW example above or danah boyd’s analysis of Myspace as p2p network used primarily by small clusters of friends makes that point. Open source in the case of Second Life might mean more private worlds.

Henry Jenkins: Benchmarks of Civic Participation

This post is 1 of 2 in the 3x3 discussion on Second Life and virtual worlds between Clay Shirky, Henry Jenkins, and myself. Click here if you want to go to the top of the responses or here for Jenkins’ full-text post.

Henry Jenkins: …Second Life may have cultural importance even for people who have never been there because it embodies a particular model of civic participation and cultural production.

Beth Coleman: At the most reduced level, one can understand Jenkins stating that people with no direct experience of Second Life are justified in having an opinion about it. That might seem like a crazy talk, but Jenkins tenders such an analysis artfully. User numbers, subjective experience, as well as a cultural “it” factor are all part of a barometer of value. In other words, he suggests that “civic participation” in the discussion of Second Life offers something to the culture as a whole. This greater design function of a computer-based platform is what Sherry Turkle might describe as an “object to think with.” Jenkins’ gauge is not contingent on popular adoption for a certain kind of viability (perhaps not the kind of viability that interests businesses, but that’s a different discussion). That said, one of the particularities of this medium, the Internet, and more specifically a virtual world, is that things and events can be counted. OK, we are not robots. The relationship between clicks of a mouse and an understanding of human behavior is not a one-to-one. Yet, “cultural production” here is network production, which calls for parallel processing of modes of distribution, interactivity, design, adoption, and “it-ness.”

HJ: The numbers matter if we are asking whether Second Life represents "the future of the web" but personally, I have never believed that SL is going to be a mass movement in any meaningful sense of the term. As I stated last time, I do not buy the whole nonsense that immersive worlds represent web 3.0 and will in any way displace the existing information structures that exist in the web, any more than I think audio-visual communications is going to replace written communications anytime soon.

BC: Notwithstanding
Benchmark’s investment and the rumors of Google’s interest in consuming the platform, Second Life has light years to traverse before it becomes an operating system of sorts, before it becomes Google in fact. We, as a network commons, have got time to wait on this. We still have WoW and Facebook and IM, etc., etc.

Rich-media and avatar-oriented platforms are already large sectors of Internet use. Korea has made the case for what happens when ubiquitous broadband is combined with a rich-media connected populous. If Tim Berners-Lee’s
Semantic Web is the what we will inherit with Web 3.0 that does not preclude a metaverse-like Internet à la Stephenson. Audio-visual communications with not “replace” written communications. They have already altered the status of written communication.

1. Audio-visual communications broadened the spectrum within which we communicate
2. Audio-visual communications are the basis of popularly used site. Does Flickr or Youtube ring a bell?

The hegemony of email is long gone. It is one system among many. Call me crazy, but there is no reason the continuously evolving system that is the Internet and the people who populate it will stick with a priority of text-based information. We are animals who sign, and emoticons are fun. Jenkins is missing his own message of convergence in under estimating what the graphical-spatial dimensions are of human communications.

HJ: Some have dismissed SL as a costume party -- I see it more as carnival in the medieval sense of the term -- as a time and place within which normal rules of interactions are suspended, roles can be swapped or transformed, hierarchies can be reordered, and we can step out of normal reality into a "magic circle" or "green world" which can be highly generative for the imagination.

BC: The
Bakhtinian carnival analysis is strongly limited here. If a platform such as Second Life is an augmented reality to our daily lives then the transitory nature of carnival and the “performance” of upending power hierarchies do not have so much to do with what is going on here. The social currency must have a sustainable value that translates between spheres of influence, particularly if such platforms are going to make it to maturity. “Fantasy life” does not quite cover it either. As Tim O’Reilly posted on Google Earth vs. Second Life: “Real and virtual are definitely on a collision course. I'm hoping that we can get more interoperability between the two, so that the streams of innovation merge like hydrazine and liquid oxygen, fueling a rocket to the future.”

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Beyond Second Life Toward V-Economy

In light of the groundswell in interest and argumentation around virtual worlds, especially Second Life, Clay Shirky, Henry Jenkins and I decided to do a 3x3 posting. The first round is “blind”––we riff on what we are thinking. The next round will be in response, so check back in for that next week. Here is the first offering from Clay, Henry, and see mine below. For the background on this conversation see my post from a few weeks ago here.

1. Count

The time has come. Virtual worlds need a standard of measurement and protocol across platforms. In roughly a year, the field has gone from Wild West outposts to a place of accounting on all levels: politically, procedurally, and economically. The recent
Le Pen Front National conflagration and the announcement of a virtual Swedish consulate mark a new level of seriousness to this format. The tiny worlds are growing bigger and more real. Of course, Linden Lab, the Second Life (SL) creators, have been able to track every avatar gesture, in-world instant message or digital purchase from day one. Exhibit A: Second Life CEO Philip Rosedale and CTO Cory Ondrejka in a Google TechTalks 2006 talking about use and design of SL. It’s for everyone else that a standard needs to created.

Dmitri Williams, among others, is working on a Standard Metrics of Use for population gauge. In a peer-to-peer gesture, Williams has offered up the following categories of measurement as a start:

Economic activity
Active users

Marketing designer
Mario Menti of GMI has developed with the recently open-sourced Second Life client an automated data-collection system for surveys (consensual, I’m sure). This is not trivial.

In a recent Reuters video interview, when asked what most people do in the world, Second Life’s Rosedale responded, “shop.”

2. Shop

I guess mutant-indie-minority culture is not what it used to be. OK, perhaps the future tense of virtual world development will not be dominated by radical experimentation in nation building and identity play. The cyber-strip joints will get moved to the periphery of town as it were. There is a civilizing mission going on, but it is not from the top down.

These are worlds made by user-generated-content. The “world gods” have provided the code, servers, and procedural aspects. On these collaborative grids, world building is done in the image of its users: us. This stage of open-ended development parallels, in many respects, the early moments in the popularization of the Internet. The shift from multi-format Internet to World Wide Web, with its html code, coincided with a population of net citizens represented by an explosion of individual Web pages.

In the mid ‘90s, people had doubts that this “e-commerce thing” would work. Uh, guess it caught on.

At present,
IBM is reportedly investing $100 million dollars in 3D-Internet development (that’s U.S. not $Linden). V-commerce, if one follows the lead of IBM’s Irving Wladawsky-Berger, is the natural evolution of e-commerce. Wladawsky-Berger suggests that the success of the 2D-Web page for commerce is based upon the common experience with mail-order catalogues. This makes virtual shopping a long-standing American tradition invented by none other than Founding Father Benjamin Franklin in 1744 to distribute scientific books. Direct marketing proceeds from that point to the heyday of the Montgomery Ward catalog at the end of nineteenth century. In the virtual world model, the 3D Internet exploits a form of distributed marketing that looks, feels, and smells a lot like…a real store. Actually, the tactile is lacking, but the social and spatial aspects are robust.

Let the wild rumpus begin in earnest. On February 1, 2007,
Reuters reports “$1,033,762 US Dollars spent in Second Life over last 24 hours as of 11:00am PST.” In analyzing gaming worlds, the economist Edward Castronova developed the terms of semi-finite virtual economies. We now get to see how this works with a much more porous economy. The first rogue Second Life server was announced on Tuesday.

Until now, land had been the highest valuable commodity in Second Life because it was scarce–virtual space based upon actual server space. The open-sourcing of the world promises to destabilizes an economy based on real estate, as some have already complained. Linden Lab board member Mitch Kapor makes clear in his “
billion dollar business plan,” that Second Life’s business model in the near future will not be in land owning but transactions and software.

3. Be @ home

A virtual world plan for Net domination calls for a merger of the experiential with universal standards––amongst worlds and even across media genre. Yes, I want my Blog to talk to my Webpage, which should, in turn, be in close communication with my avatar…who skips merrily ‘cross portals. That said, let’s keep some perspective on why this is interesting in the first place. What virtual worlds promise is an augmentation of human-to-human communication. We seem to yearn for synchronous connectivity and virtual worlds promise to deliver exactly that. Looking at the 150-year build out of telecommunications capabilities, what we find with many of the current platforms from text message to instant messaging to virtual worlds are designs for simultaneous connectivity. Putting a human face to things is a lot of what this is about, even if that human face is a codebot. These platforms are not simply to facilitate shopping but to develop further (or perhaps more massively) the ways in which virtual and “portable” spaces can be inhabited as a home. Hello worlds.