Archives For second life

Talk to the hand

December 17, 2008 — 3 Comments

Last week, I posted on how the study of online gaming, specifically interactive multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft, could lead to new insights into how to best minister on the Internet. As part of that research, I have just finished reading I, Avatar, a fascinating book about just what happens when someone spends more and more time in a virtual world and focuses specifically on the concept of the avatar.

The author, Mark Stephen Meadows, defines an avatar as “an interactive, social representation of a user”.  And here is where it gets interesting: while we may think of an avatar as something that only exists in a virtual world such as WoW or Second Life, he also points out that anytime we create an interactive, social representation of ourselves we are, in effect, creating an avatar. So that Facebook account you keep where you present the most interesting side of yourself to your “friends”: avatar. That blog you write where you put all of those highly intelligent posts: avatar.  Even that car you drive that tells everyone something about you: avatar.  The way I see it, all of us have multiple avatars, whether we use them in interactive online games or not.

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Interesting article in the OC Register today. The article discusses how a researcher at UCI is using Second Life as a virtual “testing ground” for software that controls a rapid transit system. She is able to use Second Life to simulate something that will eventually be used in real life. I previously mentioned in this blog that Christians should be in Second Life as both a way to reach others who are there as well as for the experience of using virtual worlds for spreading the gospel. This story made wonder if it would also work the other way: can we use Second Life as a way to “test out” different methods of our work (marketing projects, youth activities, acts of charity, etc.) that can then translate back into the real world? I’m not sure, but there may be certain circumstances where this may be profitable.

I have visited the topic of the virtual world Second Life before, and I am still planning on incorporating into my research on the use of Internet by the Church. One use of Second Life that I have been following particularly is that of the Anglican Church. According to the Church Advertising Network:

“The Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island was built to support the Anglican Group in Second Life, which was founded in November 2006 by Bill Sowers, who is a member of St David’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Kansas.

The services are led by Mark Brown, who is licensed as Deacons Assistant by the Bishop of Wellington in New Zealand. You can see a video of their first service here. Mark also has written a good article on ministry using web 2.0 tools that complements much of what has been written in this blog.

The title “Should churches be in Second Life?” was prompted by the latest entry in Mark Brown’s blog. It seems that the web site Anglicans Online has taken issue with doing church in Second Life, comparing it to the phenomenon of televangelists in the US. They raise issues with how “real” Second Life experiences can be (also raised by me in response to LifeChurch’s SL presence). The overall tone of the article is that Second Life is at the very least not important and at the very most to be avoided altogether.

I disagree. As a church, we need to go where the people are – and there are people in Second Life. I demonstrated SL to my MIS class last week and someone asked me what I thought it would look like in several years. I said that I didn’t know whether SL would even be around in a few years, comparing it to the experience of old BBS services that were the precursor to today’s social networks. But something will be around in a few years, and the more we understand about how to be effective in Second Life now, the better we can minister in that new environment. Mark Brown, as you might expect, also disagrees; read his well thought response here.

Other Christian ministries have also begun using Second Life. Besides previously blogged about LifeChurch, the Church Advertising Network has created an online town modeled after “Bible Times”, where you can explore and find answers to questions about the Christian faith. Now that’s creative.