Edited by Christoph Beat Graber and Mira Burri-Nenova
Chapter 5: Second Life: Game or Play? Sociological Analysis of Avatar Diversity in Second Life
Sabina Misoch* Internet phenomena are described by a variety of metaphors that range from positive attributions like ‘a realm of unlimited possibilities’ to negative ones such as a ‘realm unrestrained by laws and norms’ where deviant behaviour thrives. Both descriptions fail to take into consideration that the Internet does not exist as a coherent entity in this global sense. Rather, it is a conglomerate of starkly different virtual areas, which only in their entirety build the virtual space that we call the ‘Internet’. Depending on the perspective adopted, academic and policy debates yield a variety of viewpoints and results. It is thus important that each analysis first defines the specific virtual environment it is referring to in order to adjust its approach to the specific framing and conditions that characterise the virtual area chosen. In this sense, it is appropriate to note at the outset that the following analysis deals with the virtual environment of Second Life, and all considerations relate exclusively to this specific area. 1. SECOND LIFE: GAME OR PLAY? Second Life is a three-dimensional, virtual, multi-user environment operated by Linden Lab,1 which enjoys great popularity (with over 12 million ‘residents’2 in 2008). This persistent virtual world is a programmed universe that * This paper is the revised, extended and thematically newly focused version of the article ‘Avatars as User Visualization and Their Social Function in Virtual Environments’ (2008) Studies in Communication Sciences 1, pp. 51–66. 1 See Second Life’s own description at http://lindenlab.com/ 2 ‘Resident’...
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