“Second Life is Web 2.0 more than anything else”, says Castronova

ted-castronova_ga_300x300Edward Castronova is believed to be the world’s leading researcher on virtual world economies. Recently, in a post on Terra Nova, the ultimate blog offering news and opinions regarding the social, economic, legal, psychological, and political aspects of these worlds, Castronova, reporting on the recent security breach in SL, asked himself the question: “Is 3D internet something that Terra Nova should cover?”

Put into other words — if Terra Nova writes about virtual worlds, that are almost exclusively some form of games, and Second Life does not fit any of the “usual” classifications of MMOGs, should Terra Nova talk about Second Life at all?

The comments on that section are most enlightening. It seems quite clear that Second Life is breaking all paradigms. Suddenly, we got a virtual world with all the characteristics of a MMOG — immersive experience, persistent 3D content, social interaction, and so on — but with a tiny, tiny difference: it’s not a game. The economy is real, not virtual. The content is created by the users. The rules are made by everybody, not the company that designed it. SL works as a front-end to application servers that run somewhere on the Internet.

No “game” does that.

So, I find it quite interesting that in the same week, Second Life gets added to the list of countries on a website, and that the academics that study virtual worlds are at a loss to describe what Second Life is or isn’t.

I feel excited 🙂 The last time this happened to me — paradigm shift — it was around 1993 and I had a grey screen in front of me, mostly with black words, but some (the interesting ones) were in blue and underlined. “What is it for?” I asked my colleagues. “Everything,” was my colleague’s very enlightened answer. The tides of paradigm shifting at the time were immense and unbelievable (I couldn’t imagine that in a year or so after that mystic experience I would be leaving my comfortable job as a researcher, get a loan, start a company, and tour the country telling people on presentations that “One day, people will use this Web thingy to buy books online” and getting laughed at).

I just got that strange feeling about Second Life this week. Again.

Mitch Kapor recently quoted at the SLCC Andy Grove’s famous words: “Any technology with a 10x (or more) advantage over the current is potentially disruptive.” Uh-oh. It might be true, after all. It’s still slightly early to tell, but, in any case… the academics are confused, the real world is confused, nobody is certain about anything anymore.

This is good. Let’s keep them confused.

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About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I’m just a virtual girl in a virtual world…

  • Prokofy Neva

    I don’t know why these tekkies always gloat so over the word “disruptive”. They love the idea of disrupting everything and destroying it, inconveniencing or even harming people in the process. Why is that progress? Why would it be “reactionary” to oppose such anarchy and nihilism?

    Oh, I quite realize that their uber-sophisticated use of the word “disruptive” in this narrow context has a special meaning, that it will “paradigm shift”.

    Castranova and the other Terra Nova eggheads don’t think SL is a place worth talking about — there’s some sort of machismo thing going on here.

    I challenged them to get an island and convene inworld.

    They need to realize the real disruptive force is the extinction of the game dinosaurs and the erosion of the game-god powers of companies that have been paying them as consultants and funding their conferences all these years.

  • Hmm, an island for Terra Nova… that would be something! But didn’t you also get the feeling that the people of Terra Nova are completely missing the point somehow?

    I can’t hardly blame the academics. When things change so much, it might mean for them to “move and adapt” — or be forgotten in the ruthless game of academic politics. So it’s far easier to grab a floating log and abandon the sinking ship 🙂

    Well, I can’t hardly say that all MMORPGSs are a “sinking ship”, of course, since every week or so, another 3 or 4 new MMORPGs get announced. Many even survive 3-4 months of being online. A few make it to a whole year. And giants like World of Warcraft will keep growing and growing — but perhaps not exponentially so. We’ll see.

    In the mean time, we’ll watch them from our window set in Second Life 🙂

  • iain

    So the definition of Web 2.0 is….? Alright, so we all have some vague understanding of that phrase-to me it means social networking. SL has that but 10x disruptive? No way.

    Teleporting in RL would be 10x disruptive! SL is a MMORPG with enough twists and turns to intrigue more than just the early adopter but intrigue isn’t enough.
    Lots of things have to happen to entice more ‘feet on the ground’ folks to a unique MMORPG like SL–things like contractual obligations to back their L$ to start with.

    SL certainly demands study though-lots of potential potential!