Can there be “news” worth printing from a virtual world?
(forgive all the quotation marks, but something has to demarcate virtual from real . . . or does it?)
Two recent developments inside Second Life makes my head nearly explode. First, Reuters has assigned a reporter to the virtual world, a reporter whose avatar covers its beat for the rest of us here in the real world. That’s right, Adam Pasick’s beat doesn’t physically exist, yet it has 1.6 million “residents.” It is the first known instance of a real-world news organization assigning a full-time reporter to a virtual world or online game.
Reuters’s Adam Pasick, a.k.a. Adam Reuters He has chronicled how real people are making real money in and off SL. More recently, Pasick reported on the SL developers who collectivelyl are making more than $10 million a year in U.S. currency (not the Lindens that are the coin in SL).
In between reports, Adam is busy building a bureau for Reuters on one of SL’s islands, aiming for a look resembling the New York Times building in New York City.
Second, the publisher of Germany’s No. 1 Bild newspaper is getting ready to launch a weekly newspaper for Second Life’s virtual population. Called “SL News” and written in English, the “paper” will “publish” “news” from SL as if SL were a physical place. Bild will build an editorial office in SL, which will be used to solicit contributions from SL’s residents.
What do you call citizen journalism submitted by avatars on news from a virtual world?
I think I know what these moves say about SL. It’s big, and it is going to get a lot bigger. It combines social networking with game-quality graphics and the ability to interact with other people in new, exciting and even troubling ways. I’m not sure what it says about journalism, though of course if people are making news in SL, and they are, then journalists need to “be” “there”.
One important factor: Second Life is privately owned, by Linden Labs in San Francisco. It’s not Central Park or the public square. Norms and rules are only now being negotiated, so let’s watch how SL sorts itself out, but a real-world analogy would be DisneyWorld. No journalism in there, a locked down, commercial dictatorship. So how freely will Pasick and Bild be able to roam and report?
More to come. Much, much more.