What is Second Life?

SL is a 3D, computer-generated social networking tool. SL is a virtual world where you build your own avatar (or multiple representations) to represent yourself and transport yourself to any of the 30,000 plus “islands”.  Why? To engage in meetings, projects, concerts, movies or just hang out. You communicate by text chat or use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to verbally chat.  Today there are well over 13 million users.

Is SL recognized by academic institutions as legitimate?

Today, hundreds of colleges, universities, and other learning organizations- -from nearly every country–are either augmenting their current curriculum with a virtual learning component or they are holding classes and entire programs exclusively in immersive learning environments in Second Life.  I am currently taking a class held in SL. Immersive Worlds, Avatars and Second Lives

 An ever growing number of universities are represented in SL. As evidence of academic acceptance, check out Metaverse Creativity, a refereed journal focusing on the examination of creativity in user-defined online virtual worlds such as Second Life® and edited by a University of Austin professor.

The University of Delaware has created a Ning site for Second Life users.  Ning is a social network site that allows for a number of feeds- twitter, for example, and communication tools, such as video, sound, slides, blogs.  For an example check out the Ning site I built for a workshop at Sam Houston State University, Moving Social Media into the Classroom .   

Linden Lab, the business creator of Second Life, has strong support tools and use concepts for educators, as seen in the brochure  Second Life Education: The Virtual Learning Advantage. . 

How does SL apply to business and marketing?

Mitch Wagner, in Using Second Life As A Business-To-Business Tool,  provides one example:

Cisco has a few hundred employees in Second Life. They have several  avatars that they use for user-group meetings and meetings among their own international staff. They do customer education and training in Second Life, get feedback from customers on products, and do presentations using PowerPoint, video, and streaming audio. They hold events that combine people in the real world with avatars in Second Life — a type of event that Second Lifers call “mixed reality.”

From Toyota to Adidas to Sun Microsystems, adventurous, trend-conscious companies are starting to see the 3D, computer-generated world as a virtual community where they can test-market future product lines or host events to foster brand loyalty and generate buzz among avatars and, more important, their flesh-and-blood counterparts.

 For further reading, check out  The Immersive Internet Make Tactical Moves Today For Strategic Advantage Tomorrow 

 What are some possible SL uses at the university level?

Prospective and current students will use print media, but more in the form of internet web sites and Face Book than print brochures.  And print media- posters for rooms, brochures and the like- are all downloadable.  They no longer requires Face to face to access.

 They will use social tools to learn about the institution- read blogs, tweet, read their Google Alert.  SL is another social too and it allows for social collaboration and the wisdom of the crowds.

A key communication principle is to present the same message in multiple ways to attract the widest audience and to recognize that new communication tools are constantly emerging.

Check out this video from  The Ohio University

Ohio University Second Life Campus

What say you?  What other specific uses have you seen for SL?