For Jonathan West, manager of communications at the American Association of
School Librarians, and other staff and
members of AASL, the virtual world Second Life was a natural fit for celebrating
School Library Media Month. Many
libraries have online land in Second Life,
which minimized the learning curve.
AASL also was able to use existing setups
in Second Life that belonged to the American Library Association, AASL’s parent
organization. And with tech-savvy members, West was sure those who weren't
already "residents" of Second Life were
ready to learn.
With a land area roughly equivalent to
San Francisco and millions of residents,
Second Life is the best representation the
Web has of a virtual world. Basic profiles are free to users. After downloading
the 21 megabyte program, creating your
avatar (the virtual you) and registering a
user name and password, you are ready to
explore the virtual world.
Associations, businesses, colleges or
any other organization interested in building an island first has to create a premium account, which range from $6 to
$9.95 a month. A premium account
allows the organization to own up to 512
square meters of land, but parcels of
land still must be purchased at the current market rate using Linden Dollars.
GO VIRTUAL FOR EVENTS
IMPOSSIBLE IN PERSON
Events in Second Life have all the trappings of similar in-person events, including chairs, podiums and projectors.
One of the most popular events for the
School Library Media Month was a presentation by Doug Johnson, a well-known
library and technology expert. "We set
up for 40 avatars, and we maxed that
out," West says. All 40 chairs were occupied, so the session ended up with a
standing room only crowd.
Associations considering hosting events
on Second Life should look to the program to supplement their current lineup
of conferences and events. The School
Library Media Month events didn't replace
an in-person AASL event; it allowed the
organization to have events that would not
have been possible in person. Most mem-
bers will prefer in-person events, but some
events, especially month-long events, make
virtual events the only feasible option.
With all its interactive features and
customizations, Second Life generally has
either avid users or strong detractors, with
few people falling in the middle.
PROS V. CONS
The avid users appreciate the ability to
show off individuality and creativity by
customizing their avatars. Linden Dollars,
Second Life’s currency purchased by real
dollars, can be used to upgrade from the
free avatar wardrobes. They also like the
interactivity, especially the more reserved
users. Second Life gives users an environ-
ment where they can interact at ease with
other attendees, something they might
not otherwise do during an in-person conference. If shy conference-goers find it
easier to network though Second life, they
also find it easier to cut loose on Second
Life's dance floor."Dancing is a very common form of entertainment in Second
Life," West says. "People love to dance."
Shedding those inhibitions, however,
has led to some of the criticisms of the
program. Critics talk about slow system
response time, the loss of authentic,
in-person communication, and lax oversight that gives way to users potentially
stumbling across pornographic content.
During a presentation for the AASL
MARCH 2009 FORUM