_web 2.oh my_

June 8, 2007

Second Life has, unintentionally but inavoidably, taken over my thoughts in the last couple of months – I see avatars and chat-bars, even though the summer has just begun, and I should probably be frollicking around a May Pole or something. It’s like an inescapable place you’re only allowed to leave when you stop thinking about it for too long, which doesn’t happen that frequently, but probably might have to at least for a bit, soon. SL, forums, blogs, messaging, emailing. We’ve never been so interconnected! It’s Web 2.0, it’s 3.0. It really looks like it has to reach breaking point soon. But why should it?

I took the job on the Second Life newspaper. I thought it would be a good idea, despite its brash and in-your-face tabloid style, the lack of any real substance, or genuine wit. Despite too, that I thought, as much as anyone, that virtual worlds were for the more bizarre members of our race. Nerds, if you will. And I feel like a real fool now. Maybe there are alot of bizarre folk there. A lot of pretenders, fakes, scammers, sociopaths, over inflated egos and probably paedophiles too. But that isn’t the point. They’re all learning.

I’m a convert, now. It takes a month or two full time. Eight hours a day, nine to five , on Pacific Standard time – Sl Time, in my case. I’ve seen what the hell is going in. A bit – like in any small community, to be fair, but not that much. There aren’t seven million people ‘in’ SL. There are usually 20-30,ooo, if the grid isn’t playing up, interferring. But it’s growing pretty fast. And the brands are coming too; Adidas, and Sky News, and Vodafone, and dozens more global giants, all cramming in (or not exactly, in a world where you could build your own plot too), and doing not much.

There’s hype, but if you go to the Vodafone or Channel 4 sim, you will see they’re virtual graveyards, already; they’re offering basically nothing new, most of them. A company like IBM, not to mention hundreds of SL start-ups, use it for meetings and R&D. This is bright. But if someone opened up a big empty air hangar with a logo on it in my town, and said you can ‘come have a look’ I might not waste my time. ‘We’re crossing boundaries they say’. They aren’t – it’s too late to be the first now. The reason usually given by firms is that they need to be where their customers are, and this is crucial. They might not be making any money now, but they are learning how they will need to make money in the future. In no time at all, we will be that one step closer to the ‘singularity’ as some in cyberspace like to call it – it’s not science fiction, it’s science very bloody likely.

Any individual, or worse, any marketing manager, who thought a company could go without a website when the 2D internet exploded in 1994 was better off denying they ever said it. It would be defy common sense to not think that SL’s decendent worlds will become the social, economic, and perhaps, bizzarely more than worryingly, spiritual hub of the lives of individuals, companies, charities, church or terror groups, in much greater numbers, and in not too great a time.

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Writing this from Berlin, it’s hard not to be surrounded by news and coverage from the G8 conference taking place in the north of this semi-willing host of a country.

 Leaders of the wealthy world are meeting, discussing, in no uncertain terms, how to run the world. How to maintain their far from democratic grip on poorer nations, and whether this status-quo needs to be maintained. Undoubtedly, some are getting hotter under the collar than others. Despite the public facade, Blair will be annoyed that Bush is a non-budger on certain issues – even if he makes occasional grand claims on global warming.

The problem with this meeting, though, is that these self-proclaimed leaders of the free world are holding their meeting far, far from the thousands of diverse protestors who are opposed – not unfairly – to their way of doing things. Freedom of speech is, without a doubt, being supressed, as protestors are forced to gather behind a giant security fence located kilometres from the conference area. This is not acceptable. Each and every time the media condemns ‘stone throwers’ or ‘anarchists’ they refuse to accept that it is plain wrong that it’s been made illegal to protest the actions of this unelected quasi world government.

 The protestors have a right to protest the gathering, and at the same location. 911 did not change the world that much. If they cannot get to the location, then what can the authorities expect? They can expect rocks to rain down on the police deployed, and they can not be suprised by it.