In Second Life you create a digital self (an avatar) so that you can walk, run, fly, dance your way through an ever-changing 3D landscape. You can chat and socialize with others from all over the "real" world as well as the world of SL.
You can build homes, skyscrapers, vehicles, a chair - practically anything. It looks like a videogame, but it's not one.
By the time you read this entry, there will probably be 5 millions residents there. And they are spending real money.
It was developed by Linden Lab, a company founded in 1999 out of San Francisco. They provide the technology, but residents build the world.
In the beginning, it required a credit card account to join in, but not anymore. You pick your SL name. The first name is whatever you like & the last name can be selected from a drop-down menu. You once you enter, you have "relatives." You'll need a date of birth and an email address. Join here.
You will have to download the application and install it on your computer (works with Windows and a Mac, but I've heard it's smoother on Windows).
Then it's time to explore. Like some old computer game, you can use the arrows on your keyboard to start walking. You start out on "Welcome Island". There's some info there about how to change your appearance, how to move around, interact with objects and IM people. My favorite part is flying. I've wanted to fly over houses since childhood and now I can.
Click and you can take a screenshot for your memory book.
I'm really behind on this whole SL world. I've been collecting bookmarks and articles but I only recently actually created an account and started actually flying around.
The learning curve for using SL was steep for me. Especially since I am not a gamer, it was not intuitive. In a few hours I could do basic moves: click rather blindly on places on the SL map, navigate buildings without crashing into walls, sit at a bar.
Still, without adding my credit card to the mix, I'm still walking around in clothing that reeks "newbie" and without possessions. Stranger in a strange land.
Linden Labs recently decided to open the source code
for the Second Life client. It will be interesting to see what comes of that. Users may build an improved graphical engine themselves.
To find out the news from SL, many people turn to New World Notes at http://nwn.blogs.com
What about educational uses?
â€œTop 20 Educational Locations in Second Lifeâ€: is a wiki article from SimTeach, â€œa place for university instructional designers, faculty and administrators to find information and to share their own experiences designing, teaching and administering classes in immersive environments.â€ SLurls (SL URLs or direct links to locations) are provided. A good place to start your exploration.
There's information at the Second Life Education Wiki.
The New Media Consortium is deeply involved - check out their own SL Campus Observer and watch a short video.
Teen Second Life is an international place for residents 13-17. There are some Linden Lab staff (Linden Liaisons) there to try to keep it a safe place. I've read that an occasional teacher is brought in for "special educational projects" but I have no further information on that.
Karine Joly wrote about â€œShould your institution hold virtual open houses in Second Life?â€ last summer.
And I recently saw a presentation by Danielle Mirliss & Heidi Trotta from Seton Hall University about teaching teamwork in SL for a course in Industrial & Organizational Psychology.
SL is being used in classes and colleges, marketers, businesses are getting in there too.
There are virtual conferences in SL.
How about a SL open house for your campus?
If you're catching up on Second Life, you might try these 3 overviews: