Well, if only I had a first life I'd be happy. But, yes, I have tried Second Life and lived to tell the tale, although huge problems with downloads and other technical irritants totally put me off. I did have a great name though which I miss terribly.
Some museums have also dabbled in Second Life. A comprehensive review is reported in this paper A Second Life for Your Museum by Urban, Marty and Twidale. For those interested in museums and Second Life (SL) it is a must-read.
Main points for me were:
- Increase in mainstream activities are occurring in SL and the ideas around SL as a concept are not new
- There is a lot of museum-like activity occurring in SL [suggesting to me that we could perhaps use SL as another way to investigate what people understand museums to currently be and how they'd like them to be??]
- "The social nature of Second Life is a critical component of understanding what it is and how it can, and should, be used." (p.2) – issue for me here is that museums in real life (RL) have also always been about the social experience. One outcome from a (marvellous J) thesis I read recently was that the findings strongly supported views expressed in the literature about the significance of social learning in museums.
- Early museum worlds were developed specifically by the museum, for the museum and carefully structured and controlled.
- SL as a third place for "serious leisure", engaging adults in a collaboration rather than as a consumer. Again, museums in RL are about this too. The thesis mentioned before also looked at the relationship between entertainment, learning and education and found that they were linked in visitors' minds in positive ways. Further info can be found on this wiki - audience-research » Museum Learning
The authors detail characteristics of museums in SL:
- Different scales, with new opportunities to display objects (e.g. vertically, in places where you can fly to them)
- Some duplicate RL and some not
- The evolution and change in museums in SL can be surprising for visitors in SL who expect to 'take up where they left off'
- Rich multimedia opportunities are available – yet this will increase visitor expectations
- Encourage repeat visitors and build on communities
- Opportunities for social engagement [yet, that what happens in museums in RL, see above]
- Can display objects that don't lend themselves to physical display
- Hard to work out the audience, and any attempts to do audience research in SL may be limited [not sure I agree...]
These characteristics led me to wonder why are museums dabbling in SL, as they seem no different to museums in RL. Given my technical problems there is also a huge point about access here...
The paper ends with some examples of museum in SL and interviews with those who have been working in this medium.
Overall, the conclusions are that we need to understand the museums' role as collaborative partners with communities in SL – well, this really isn't new. This is what happens in museums in RL! Seems to me that museums are not really thinking outside the square and using SL as a totally experimental platform. Perhaps that's the next step??