MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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The Next Step After Second Life??

In keeping with the feel of Second Life and creating “online” identities: Is this the direction we’re heading? I hope not! Cool interactive site though if you have time to play around with it. Choose your Surrogate.


June 21, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | , , | Leave a comment

First Life versus Second Life

It seems that the general concensus about second life is that people prefer their first life.  I have to question whether this is because it’s a new world and sometimes we’re hesitant to “new” or if it’s because they genuinely value face-to-face communication.  Personally, I can see how Second Life could become so addicting it actually because your First Life.  I spent so much time worrying about whether the tint of my skin was right or the tilt of my eye that I completely lost myself in the “game” for lack of a better word.  I wanted to shop, I wanted to sit in front of night clubs and make money for it, I wanted to meet on the beach and grab a tan while we discussed how we were going to help the MSVU Grad program through social media.  And then I realized that I wasn’t real.  It was a very strange sort of epiphany. It made me realize that just as my world can sometimes revolve around facebook, my world could very easily begin to revolve around Second Life and how well my avatar is living.  And I don’t necessarily thing that’s a bad thing, to a certain extent of course.

I have friends who are really huge World of Warcraft players.  Quite literally their worlds revolve around. She is a registered nurse who worked at the QEII, he was in school to become an actuary.  They were married, living in Clayton Park West, had a great car and thriving.  She called out of work and no long has a job, he failed 8 out of 10 classes and they spent their entire day and night on WoW.  It sounds made up but I swear to you, it’s 100% real.  They spent so much time living in the virtual world, worrying about their avatars’ world that they forgot to worry about the real world and how their own life was going.

But then I started to think about it from an organizational point of view.  I’m preparing to help launch a new pyromusical competition in the USA and as I thought about what Second Life could do for us I started to get excited. I don’t know a lot about the logistics of it yet but I’m fairly certain it’s possible to open your own business. And I’m fairly certain that I would be able to reach an entirely different audience on Second Life that I may never have been able to tap into other wise, people like my friends who rarely leave their computer rooms let alone have the ambition to venture out and experience the real world. If I  could hook them on the idea of pyromusical fireworks via Second Life, how could they refuse the real thing?  That’s if I can figure the game out long enough to actually succeed though.

I guess all in all I’m on the fence. I absolutely see the addiction, both for personal reasons and professional.  But I have not only imagined the draw backs but seen them. Ultimately I suppose the old addage is correct, “everything in moderation.”

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Teen Second Life

Given that everyone had such strong opinions on Second Life, I decided to do a bit of research on it and discovered that there is also a Teen Second Life (TSL).  It’s basically the same idea as the original, but targeted towards 13 to 17 year olds.


Many people posted blogs saying that they were a bit uncomfortable with different aspects of the Second Life world. I originally thought that introducing this to the adolescent world create a whole new set of issues and concerns.


However, as I learned more about TSL I discovered some articles listing some positive aspects of the program. One of the more in depth articles can be found here –


The article is written by a school librarian and talks about how her and other educators have ‘taken up shop,’ on TSL and really shows what a huge phenomenon this virtual world really is.

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | | Leave a comment

Second Life, Last Choice

In one of my Introduction to Public Relations classes, we had a brief introduction to Second Life. Our professor seemed pretty into it and from that brief introduction I could see that it had potential to be a great social tool if not a professional one. The video she showed us lauded it as a great business tool and the way to communicate for the future. At the time (only two years ago) it seemed so futuristic and beyond anything I might do in my PR career. I don’t feel that way anymore.

 After getting to try it out for myself in class this past week I have formed some new opinions on this unique social media tool. I feel like Second Life isn’t quite “there” yet in terms of being a great business tool. Perhaps I merely need more experience with it or something. However, upon first inspection, I don’t think I would enjoy or feel very professional meeting with people through this portal. Especially since there are other technologies today that could substitute using Second Life. For example, video conferencing and Skype are better alternatives. With such alternatives one can better put a name to a face and the meeting becomes more personable though the group may physically be miles apart.

Growing up with two brothers I was exposed to many video games. My least favourite of these were role-playing games. Starting out in Second Life I was immediately turned off because it felt like just another RPG to me. I can see this being great for someone who is into those kinds of games, but I could not get into it. I do understand that there are benefits of Second Life for PR professionals. If my job called for this type of communication I’m glad that I’ll be able to have a background in it, but it definitely would not be my first choice.

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , | Leave a comment

Living (With) A Second Life

It is three days later and I’m still thinking about Second Life and trying to decide how I feel about using it socially and professionally. As I ponder the social ramifications of Web 2.0, I can relate to a few other comments that have been made.

When we finished our class experience on Second Life I sort of felt like I do when I sit down and watch a reality TV show. In a world where we all have so many REAL issues to contend with every day, there is obviously a societal cry for an escape from our own reality. So we’ve created TV shows where people are on display 24/7 and we are told that they are ‘real’ people living ‘real’ lives. Deep down I don’t think we have ever believed this, but yet, reality TV has not gone away. In fact, it’s become more popular.  Often we pretend not to enjoy it, or talk about how fake and unbelievable these shows are. But don’t we still watch them? Isn’t it sometimes easier to watch Jon & Kate Plus 8 and make up our minds about their lives, their insecurities, their relationships, their ‘reality’, instead of addressing our own?

So then I think about Second Life. We are creating avatars in a world where we know that we are always on display. We pretend that it gives us freedom to be anyone we want to be, but judgement prevails and stereotypes are often perpetuated.  

At the beginning of “The Electric Self: Doing Virtual Research For Real In Second Life”, Julie Rak cites an interesting quote:

In one way or another we all have this hope. The yearning to transcend, to reach up, to let go of our skins and find a new place without sorrow and loss. Virtual worlds have the capacity to promise that redemption, to entrance us, to make us forget ourselves until it’s too late.
—Tim Guest, Second Lives: A Journey Through Virtual Worlds (351)

I guess I feel the same as I do about Facebook, Twitter and other social mediums. Second Life can be a good tool when it is used to enhance and not escape reality. Second Life is innovative and promotes creative communication. But it also provides an opportunity for people to mask their real life issues and live within their very own virtual bubble. If we don’t understand how to live a first life as confident, intelligent and compassionate individuals who promote equality and acceptance, we certainly won’t get it right in a second life.

May 30, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , | 1 Comment

Beauty is [such a] Pain

What does my Second Life usage say about me in “real life”?

Today’s Second Life tutorial class with Denyse Rodrigues was an eye-opener for me. One of the SL benefits we talked about in class was the opportunity it provides its users to drop the physical limitations of person-to-person interaction. Without these limitations, users can transcend gender and age biases. Persons with physical disabilities have the opportunity to walk, run and even fly. The way we look in real life is no longer a factor in socialization.

But what about the way we look online? SL gives users the oppourtunity to design their avatars, with customization options for hairstyle, body shape, clothing and even facial bone structure. Want higher cheekbones? No problem. A smaller butt? Just a few adjustments and you’re as slim as you want to be. The best part is, if users get tired of their avatar’s look, they can change it anytime with just a few clicks of their cursor.

Clearly, this is not how it works in “real life”. (I put “real life” in quotations because I don’t want to undermine the realness of online life.) For those of us who chose to socialize in person, our saggy cheekbones and big bums are far more permanent. When SL gives us the option to adjust and perfect our look at the click of a cursor, are they liberating us from physical limitations? Or are they placing an even larger emphasis on physical appearance?

I can only speak for myself, but I was far more concerned with my avatar’s appearance than I am concerned with my “real life” appearance. (And I’m a girl who likes to spend an hour on my hair and makeup when I go out to socialize.) In fact, I’m ashamed to say that I spent the entire class period tweaking the shape of my eyes, augmenting my breasts and applying makeup. I was so concerned with my avatar’s look that I forgot that the purpose of the exercise was to get out of the virtual beauty shop and socialize with my classmates online. Before I knew it, the class was over and all I had accomplished was a really bad digital smokey eye makeup job.

I can only chaulk my behaviour up to one of two things:

a) My makeover madness was just a manifestation of who I am in real life: self-conscious and image-obsessed. SL simply emphasised my vain tendencies.

b) By providing so many avatar appearance options, SL creates an unrealistic environment where appearance is valued over character just as much–if not more–than it does in “real life”.

So is it me? Or is it SL? Maybe me and SL are a just a bad combination for eachother. Either way I think I’ll stick to being self-conscious and image-obsessed in real life. Worrying about my appearance in one realm is enough for me!

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Be Me, Or Not To Be Me…That is the Question

After reading Julie Rak’s paper “the electric self: doing virtual research for real in second life®”, I have to say that I’m quite excited to venture into second life. There was one point in my life where I was completely obsessed with “the Sims”, so I can see myself enjoying setting up my own avatar in second life and exploring the virtual world that it offers.

I found it interesting that Rak’s grad students who lived in second life for a week said that it was easy to stress about appearance. No one wanted to be seen as a “newbie”, so they asked others around them for advice and tried to look as good as possible very quickly. Scarily close to real life…

I think it’s interesting to see which avatars in the virtual world choose to look as close to their real life selves as possible, and which ones choose to be something completely wacky and funky. At first I thought I would probably make an avatar to resemble me as closely as possible, but then I got to thinking that in the virtual world you can literally be ANYTHING you want to be and choose to look however you want to look! So why not get funky with it? I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for a “furry” or anything…but maybe some pink hair would be fun!

Do you think there is a correct way to convey yourself in the virtual world? I get the feeling that sometimes the wackiest characters online are quite possibly very shy and quiet in real life. The virtual world is a great place for people to express themselves however they want to.

Bye for now!


May 26, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | | Leave a comment