I, this project's fearless moderator, first became interested in massively multi-player games not as a player, but as an observer. My imagination was sparked by Edward Castronova's "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier" and later by accounts of an emergent player Mafia in The Sims Online that the game's designers couldn't stop but that forces within the game's social system naturally tried to balance. Prior to this I'd also read a book by David Gelernter called "Mirror Worlds: The Day Software Puts the Universe in A Shoebox : How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean" that had me thinking about how real world environments might one day be digitized, tracked, recorded, annotated, searched and made virtually navigable at a high resolution.
In 2003 I attended the first State of Play conference at the New York Law School. This was my introduction to Second Life, and the venue where they announced that everything built in Second Life would be legally owned by the user who built it, not by Linden Lab, SL's operator. They would also encourage the translation of their virtual currency, the Linden dollar, into real money via secondary markets.
It was hard not to notice that something significant had happened: We now had a 3D virtual world, with all the powerful visual modeling and interactive functions inherent, that was open to for-profit entrepreneurs and cross-overs from real world businesses and intellectual property and vice verse. Where other virtual worlds are mostly narrative-oriented games that shun real world influences as a disruption, Second Life is left to its users' creativity and human nature to build a complex world from the bottom-up with real world influence, interaction, and all.
So as for why we chose to start a Future Salon meeting in Second Life here are a few bullet points:
•As a real world nonprofit organization, we can accurately extend our identity into Second Life (logo, organizational info, copyright and all)
•At only $9.95 to join for life, the cost is low enough to attract speakers and attendees who are not yet in SL
•Second Life's allowance for user created content via the Linden Scripting Language puts SL at a nexus point of many exciting digital worlds pursuits (now at varying degrees of advancement in SL): designing games, rapid prototyping of objects and functionality, 3D file interoperability, education through simulation, projecting nuanced identity into cyberspace, graphical tele-communication, "synthespians" and new models of animation and entertainment media, and the list goes on
•Second Life's communication channels allow for effective group discussion and presentation-making. We can form an organized Future Salon group with group management tools, utilize open text chat and private IM channels, stream audio and video, and import images and slides which can be toggled through in PowerPoint fashion, etc.
•Second Life currently has around 25,000 subscribers and growing. There are ambitious plans to extend the platform's functionality, including conjoining Second Life to the wider Web by bringing HTML into the world. At that point Second Life becomes a tool for extending and networking many new things into a graphical 3D world... So it's a good time to learn the ropes, get involved, and light up your imagination with the many possibilities of that
•3D is a growing frontier. Few people in the world are used to building, modeling, and navigating in 3D. In addition to being fascinating, this is also a serious skill-set that may become next to essential in the years ahead. SL is a great stepping stone for that