BY STAFF WRITER FERAL MOSSRIDER
Take around 20 million people from wildly divergent backgrounds and every corner of the world, from every social strata, academic, business and artistic persuasion. Throw them all together in an environment that encourages creativity, networking and sharing of resources and you get unlimited potential for the achievement of pretty much anything conceivably possible.
One of the most fascinating facets of Second Life for me is that provides an environment where the pooling of knowledge and the sharing of things learned are implicit to the structure of the virtual ‘society’. Whether it’s the noob taking those first faltering footsteps – aided and encouraged by more seasoned residents through the sharing of landmarks, notecards and good old-fashioned advice – or the multi-national learning institution with its virtual campus inworld, the sharing of knowledge is fundamental to the success of Second Life and those who partake of it. Then there are the more esoteric, ‘higher’ forms of learning: those places in Second Life that cater to the spiritual, philosophical, carnal and artistic needs of the heart, mind and soul. It is all there to be found – an holistic and all-encompassing wealth of knowledge and wisdom, (and occasional foolishness, it must be said), that spans all of human experience.
Unlike many other virtual or ‘gaming’ environments, there are no levels to complete or quests to fulfil in order to unlock knowledge or abilities – it is there for the taking. Unlike in the real world, time zones, distance, sex, ethnicity or educational achievement rarely stand in the way of those who wish to learn in Second Life and even the lack of financial resources – real or virtual – need not necessarily be any barrier to the accumulation of knowledge.
When you consider the sheer wealth of resources at our command and the eclectic mix that we residents make up it’s not difficult to see the extraordinary possibilities that lie in our hands. Where else can a rocket scientist and a burger-flipper hold equal standing: being able to mix socially, and even ‘professionally’, without prejudice and preconceptions? Where else, but Second Life, can the burger-flipper teach a rocket scientist new skills and enable them to achieve even greater potential?
There is however a caveat to all this utopian musing… The skills and learning fostered within our virtual environment are of limited use if they cannot translate into real world situations. Learning how to create a sculpted prim will be of little use to the vast majority of us in our everyday lives: its usefulness is essentially limited to the virtual world. Although, I grant you, there are some skills which by their nature can enable us to develop useful real life expertise – the Second Life fashionista will be developing their real life designer skills, whilst extending their knowledge of tools like Photoshop, in the course of creating clothes for avatars and there are certainly mainly real world applications for talents and abilities developed in the course of inworld pursuits.
There are of course other, perhaps more important, things that we can learn from Second Life which may be of inestimable value in our day-to-day real life existences. These are the social and interpersonal skills which develop naturally in an environment that is fundamentally based upon sharing, co-operation and mutual benefit – qualities that in real life may elude us or which we may struggle to master. Just suppose we were able to bring those positive aspects of our Second Life fully into our daily dealings with the world around us – what would be the impact… could we, in fact, contribute towards creating a better, more tolerant and more enabling society?
What if we applied the same collaborative effort and contribution to our real world as we do in Second Life? – just imagine the possibilities!