I’ve spent a few sessions in second life now, and am keeping a reflective diary (as I did with the previous Warcraft study) plus grabbing videos of what I’m up to. Which will, I’m sure, be compulsive viewing. So far, I’ve made it off of the starting island (a saga in itself – this nearly turned into a new season of Lost… I should never have logged out once I’d completed that first task…) and have spent some time customising my avatar so that it when I bump into other people I don’t feel so embarrassed – like I’ve made no effort to present myself well. That, plus a little modest playing around with prims in a sandbox.

I got to wondering about how to start trying to explain this to people, and how it might develop. I think there’s some useful analogies with the notion of risky practices in Communities of Practice theory. The idea there is that people start off by doing safe things, and are allowed to take on more and more risky things as they grow in experience and people start to trust them. This movement often follows a kind of curriculum – in the classic examples, it’s a curriculum of apprenticeship. Here, there seems to be a similar sort of curriculum – learn to move, learn to talk, learn to wear things, learn to find things, learn to make things… But so far, there’s no community to practice in. I can do all this stuff, but it’s like a rehearsal; it’s vacuous. I think it’ll only start getting interesting – only start to be meaningful – once there’s some other people who might take some interest in what I’m doing.

So, pretty soon I’m going to have to go looking for people to hang around with. No obvious groups, though (in the way that Warcraft organises you in relation to people seeking to complete the same quests, etc), so I think it might just be a case of seeing which groups I bump into first.

Martin Oliver

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