Second Life Commerce

Real people making real money in virtual world

A recent article put out by Columbia (University) News Service, by Christy Nicholson, documents the stories of some real folks plying their trades entirely Second Life, and getting U.S. currency for it.

Some of the stories:

Dr. Craig Kerley, a licensed psychologist, leads a virtual therapy group in Second Life. He says he has 400 patients using this forum.

Tateru Nino, an avatar, is considered a social celebrity in Second Life. Her creator says the game has helped her overcome the debilitating shyness caused by Asperger’s syndrome.

Baccara Rhodes, whose avatar is, shall we say, healthy, is considered one of the best virtual wedding planners in Second Life, according to Nicholson. Her real life creator, Nanci Schenkein, was a successful events planner before multiple sclerosis forced her to retire.

Munch_SL_RL.jpg

Shannon Grei, left, a single mom who makes real money selling digital fashion designs through her avatar Munchflower Zaius, right, in Second Life. (From Columbia News Service, courtesy of Shannon Grei).

According to Nicholson, Grei, through her avatar, has created new looks for the likes of the singer Suzanne Vega, the author Kurt Vonnegut and Sen. John Edwards. Grei is a 29-year-old single mother from Medford, Ore., according to the story. Selling virtual fashions, she has made enough real money to pay off her debts, leave her husband and, as Nicholson notes, actually start a second life. She says she is making more money than she ever dreamed of.”

>>much more on Grei on the Second Life blog

Nino’s story is equally compelling, and it has me thinking about pedagogy. I have a student with Asperger’s — at least I think she has Asperger’s. Her social skills and ability to meaningfully contribute in the classroom are very limited, and I’m understating the situation. I’m not saying we ditch the classroom, but I am thinking that Second Life offers potential supplement to the classroom for certain applications and for some students. It’s worth a try. I’ve been using blogs in my classes for some time, and it really does give voice to those who do not share inside the physical classroom.

I will contemplate this virtual world’s teaching applications. If you know of any, please let me know. One of my students, Andy Donnan, in a previous post identified a photography class being conducted in Second Life. I’ve got to check it out. Visual design and media design would seem to have natural applications.

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5 Responses to Second Life Commerce

  1. Anslee says:

    It’s somewhat difficult for me to wrap my mind around the Second Life e-commerce concept. For years, I was an AOL Instant Messenger fiend, making online friends with strangers from different countries and across the United States, so I can understand how Second Life would catch on for a lot of people. What I am having trouble with is figuring out the satisfaction that people would gain from spending money on something that isn’t tangible. Call me “old fashioned,” but I like to make some sort of physical transaction, especially on the receiving end. To me, this sounds like you can just click, click, click and all of a sudden you’re ten or however many dollars short, but you’re left with a new outfit on the internet. It is an adult form of playing with Barbie dolls, but with more interaction and the dolls represent the people who are dressing them. I don’t see this as a good thing on one hand because with people becoming addicted to online shopping through eBay with PayPal, etc., and with the average personal savings for Americans dropping down to -0.5% last year, it creates more of an opportunity for people to get into debt even further. I’m sure that a lot of us know the feeling of buyer’s remorse when we find out our account balance before we make a big purchase and think, “Oh my gosh! Where did all my money go? Oh, right. I forgot about that (insert “it” here) I bought on eBay last weekend.” The Second Life e-commerce holds up a red flag for me because it seems unnecessary that people would spend money on things that are not even real at a time where people spend more than what they make and where many have addictions to e-commerce. I see it as facilitating disaster waiting to happen.

  2. Anslee says:

    Where did “fiend” come from? I didn’t write that.
    I wrote “junkie”. Maybe “fiend” was the better word for the people on the other end in reality. Interesting. Don’t know how that happened.

  3. [...] One more roundup post. Several students reacted to the SL phenomenon with a mixture of curiosity, discomfort and unbridled fear. As Bill Clinton was wont to say, “I feel your pain.” The fast growth should be troubling if for no other reason than the fact that the environment fostering that growth is entirely synthetic.  When we choose that much artifice over the real, we really should contemplate the choice we’re making. [...]

  4. Sarah says:

    I’m wondering how the whole thing with Dr. Craig Kerley works. The idea of therapy isn’t too far fetched considering there are online support groups for various causes. However, how can a single psychologist effectively handle 400 people? Is there a way to find out how that actually works? Is he charging for his sessions or advice? What happens if/when Dr, Kerley’s “patients” use his group as a substitute for real-world therapy? I love the idea of finding an innovative way to assist those in need of support, but in my opinion, you can end up in pretty sticky situation.

  5. Elizabeth C. says:

    The thing that worries me the most about Second Life, is the fact that people in general want it to be their “First” Life. Turning a game into your reality is a scary thought for me. I’m reminded of “Fahrenheit 451″ when Guy Montag’s wife becomes completely absorbed in her ‘family’ that lives in the television set. Interaction with other people is so important. But, I think that people want to have things easy, and instead of overcoming social problems they can just avoid them through a program like Second Life. It is too easy for a person to hide behind an alter ego they’ve created and avoid themselves. Second Life is interesting to look at because I think it a place for people who normally wouldn’t be able to, to interact. However, the biggest problem that I have with Second Life is that I can see some people let it become more important to them than their real life.

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