Second Life in 3600 seconds

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An overview of the strengths and weaknesses of Second Life, with particular reference to its use in education. …

An overview of the strengths and weaknesses of Second Life, with particular reference to its use in education.

This presentation was used to support lunchtime seminars for IT staff in Bath and Manchester, UK.

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  • Excellent. You've shown your credibility on presentation with this slideshow. This one deserves thumbs up. I'm John, owner of . Perhaps to see more quality slides from you.

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  • Great demonstration about the require to innovate company models; tips on how to represent them succinctly; along with the need to make development initiatives actionable. Superb use of photographs along with easy to understand illustrative examples.

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  • Very interesting presntation. It seems that at first you're most focused on the technical possibilities and the use, but finish on a dark note, mostly because of 'too much hype' (and some technical complexities). Well, with hype totally dying down in mid-2007 or so, and Second Life continued growth, I wonder what you current opinion is?

    Granted, the technical difficulties still exist :)
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  • There's an audio recording available of this talk from when Andy came and presented it to our University of Manchester eLearning Technologies Group back in April 2007. You can get this from or directly from our podcast at

    Cheers, Adrian Stevenson
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  • 1. Second Life in 3600 seconds or “My life in the bush of avatars”
  • 2. Second what?
    • 3-D virtual world
    • run by Linden Lab
    • ‘ proprietary’, but public commitment to open standards and OSS
    • populated by avatars, aka residents
    • a ‘metaverse’ (from the book: Snow Crash)
  • 3. So it’s just a game right?
    • can use SL to build games – including shoot ‘em ups
    • but such activities frowned on in public spaces
    • looks and feels like a gaming environment
    • but no purpose as such
      • use it to buy / sell, entertain, learn, collaborate, …
    • do not approach it simply as a game – you’ll be disappointed!
    image by J0@nn@ @
  • 4. Ain’t you got a first life mate?
  • 5. Joining SL
    • two steps
      • register
      • install client software
    • note technical requirements
  • 6. What does it cost?
    • basic accounts are free
    • need to pay monthly subscription ($10) to own land
    • land can be quite expensive
    • ‘ land use fees’ for owning more than smallest plot
  • 7. Naming / identity
    • every avatar has a name
    • chosen at registration
    • can’t be changed
    • though can have ‘Alt’s
    • mine is Art Fossett - not an anagram!
  • 8. Identity / appearance
    • on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog
    • in SL no one knows you’re a bloke
    • appearance can be changed instantly
    • wings and tails (‘furries’) seem oddly popular!
  • 9. Communication
    • chat
    • IM
    • group IM
    • IM <-> email
    • no in-built support for voice
    • promised soon
    • but residents have added Skype integration
  • 10. Getting around
    • walking
    • flying
    • teleporting
      • locally via scripted objects
      • longer distances via ‘landmarks’
    • in-world search engine
    • locations exposed to Web as SLURLs
  • 11. Virtual land
    • rent or buy
    • needed for permanent buildings
      • shops, galleries, universities
    • mainland areas
    • private islands (~$1000 for non-profits)
    • issues with ‘land barons’ buying up available land and selling for profit
  • 12. Building stuff
    • anyone can build
    • in sandboxes or on own land
    • objects made out of basic building blocks – prims (cubes, spheres, …)
    • prim limits usually apply
    • prims can be textured for realism – but uploading costs L$10
    • objects as HUDs
  • 13. Scripting
    • scripted objects
    • C++ like, event-driven language
    • move, change shape, etc.
    • interact via clicking, chat, sensing the env.
    • modify avatar behaviour
    • in-world physics engine
  • 14. Multimedia
    • limited integration of audio and video files
    • SL client has built-in support for Quicktime
    • can play anything that QT supports
    • pulled in from URL associated with land parcel
    • however, significant limitations currently
  • 15. SL and Web 2.0
    • scripting language can issue HTTP GET and POST requests
    • can integrate with Web 2.0 services
    • but significant limitations currently
    • no built-in HTML, XML or JSON parsers so need to parse externally
    • SLURLs can be bookmarked in
    • some good examples – Second Talk, SLoodle, SLtwitter, BlogHUD, RSS readers
  • 16. IPR
    • IPR on in-world objects rests with creator
    • e.g. rights to game designed in-world subsequently sold to Nintendo by its creator
    • however, objects essentially remain locked in-world
  • 17. Money
    • in-world currency
    • Linden dollar (L$)
    • $1 = ~L$280
    • fluctuates
    • but supply influenced by Linden Lab
    • currency market to buy and sell L$
  • 18. Commerce
    • many big brands in SL
    • hype => presence
    • some criticism from older residents that SL is becoming a ‘brandscape’
  • 19. Entertainment
    • hard to tell hype from reality
    • some experimental use of SL to host events and/or mirror RL events
    • e.g. BBC One Big Weekend
    • but significant problems with scalability
  • 20. Machinima
    • the use of SL to create movies
    • application in film studies and related areas
    • of interest because the techniques are the same but costs significantly lower
  • 21. Crime
    • not a significant issue (yet!)
    • some anti-social behaviour
    • some reports of people pretending to be shop owners when they are not
    • some reports of fraud around land sales
    • one major incident of hacking into SL databases
    image by ay1ene @
  • 22. Hype
    • SL very over-hyped
    • significant complaints that stats are misleading
    • i.e. worse than Web stats
    • LL have improved the way they report usage but…
    • SL also (inappropriately) touted as Web NG
  • 23. Demographics 0.61% China 0.88% Denmark 0.95% Sweden 1.29% Japan 1.29% Switzerland 1.48% Australia 1.93% Italy 2.63% Belgium 3.30% Canada 3.77% Brazil 3.83% Spain 6.55% Netherlands 8.08% United Kingdom 10.45% Germany 12.73% France 31.19% United States % Country 15   11.61% 45 + Average Age on Teen Grid   21.13% 35-44     38.88% 25-34     27.16% 18-24 33   1.23% 13-17 Average Age Adult Grid   % Age 58.93% 41.07% February   2007 58.89% 41.11% January   2007 58.58% 41.42% December   2006 57.86% 42.14% November   2006 57.35% 42.65% October   2006 56.24% 43.76% September   2006 M F      
  • 24. Time
    • SL runs on US West Coast time (GMT-8)
    • many events tend to run on that basis
    • SL tends to be empty during our working day
    • actually, SL tends to look empty, full-stop!
    • in-world daylight hours run on 4 hour cycle
  • 25. Gambling and porn
    • both exist… in abundance!
    • as with early Web, both areas quick to exploit the technology
    • indicative of flexibility?
    • causes problems because of load on ‘sims’
    • not possible to choose who your neighbours are!
  • 26. SL rules
    • code of conduct in public spaces
      • no griefing / hassling of other residents
      • no use of offensive language
      • no nudity
      • no public sex
    • no police as such
    • but breaches can be reported to Linden Lab
    • areas can be explicitly marked as ‘mature’ (or for gaming)
  • 27. Politics
    • RL politics surface in SL every so often – anti-war, anti-NF, …
    • SL politics also feature – pricing, land policies, IPR, open sourcing of SL software
  • 28. SL and learning
    • widespread interest in use of SL in education
    • explicitly encouraged by Linden Lab
    • not clear that people really know how to use SL yet
    • but some interesting examples of use
    • arts, social sciences, law, psychology, archaeology, languages, …
  • 29. Teen Second Life
    • note that SL is segregated
    • Teen SL (14-18) and SL (18+)
    • no cross-over allowed except in limited cases (e.g. teachers)
    • well enforced
    • presumably to prevent threat of legal action in US
  • 30. SL and research
    • even less clear what is possible here
    • but note that Nature Publishing have an island (‘Second Nature’)
    • speaking at our symposium in May
  • 31. SL in context
    • SL is one of many virtual worlds
    •, World of Warcraft, Entropia Universe, Active Worlds, …
    • not clear that SL is the answer
    • SL client now released as open source
    • clear demand for server to made OSS also
    • some commitment to this by LL (partly because people are reverse-engineering the server anyway)
  • 32. Conclusions…
    • too much hype
    • no clear best-practice (or even much practice) around e-learning
    • high technical requirements
    • no voice integration
    • but… useful experimental environment
    • building and scripting environment very powerful
    • seems likely that 3-D virtual worlds of some kind will be part of the future
  • 33. Four examples…