Thursday, 11 October 2007

Second Life products - fake or virtual? (Is there a difference?)

A geeky start to last night's presentation to the Certificate of Direct Marketing students at the Marketing Association: I took their photo.

(Well, two photos - my MacBook Pro doesn't have a wide-angle lens.)

We talked about what is becoming my usual schtick:
  • blogs are changing the world, but not for the reasons you may think
  • yes, some blogs punch above their weight, but more importantly...
  • the live web is changing the way humans process information
(For that slide I had a video of We Feel Fine as the background ... hypnotic, compelling!)

Afterwards we had a bit of a tour around Second Life, courtesy of my avatar Gerontius Wunderlich.

When I explain that people buy and sell in this virtual economy, I always get someone asking, "why would people buy something that's fake?"

It's a question that goes right to the heart of our perception of value. Is it fake, or is it virtual?

For instance, we watched a couple of people having a dance-off outside the ALM Cyberchurch. Suddenly one of them started throwing off bright shiny lights. Oohs and aahs from the audience.

"That's what people will pay for," I said.

Is it tangible? No. Does that flash of light belong to that individual? Yes. Is it valuable to them? Yes, because it makes them (or their avatar) look cool in front of their friends (or potential friends).

Fake? Or Virtual? It may seem like mere playing with words, but there's more to it.

If you want to go way too deep into this conversation, start with the presentation we saw at Auckland University's CODE last month on "Time, Space, Consciousness and a Second Life". I never knew (and still don't really) about "vitalism and post-structuralism as a counter-metanarrative to the traditional logic of reductive scientific materialism".

After that presentation, Marie and I wandered back to the office, pausing to touch a tree in Albert Park and say to each other, "How do you know this tree is real?" It really does your head in, this philosophy/virtuality stuff. But it is fun.

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