Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Real-world, Game-world "Mash-up"

Along with many of my spring-semester students, I, too, am now discovering new “worlds” of online doings and beings. Though I’ve known about virtual worlds in which one might take up residence in life nearly parallel to “real-world” activities, taking a look at Second Life was a first for me today. Here’s how the online introduction reads:

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by nearly 100,000 people from around the globe.

• From the moment you enter the World you’ll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you’ve explored a bit, perhaps you’ll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.

• You’ll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow residents. Because residents retain the rights to their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other residents.

The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the in-world currency, the Linden dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online currency exchanges.

It’s this last bit that caught my interest as it coincided with a report posted by Jamais Cascio last week on World Changing. Cascio points to an exchange rate of approximately $250 Linden (the currency of Second Life) to $1 U.S. in noting the sale of real-world goods for virtual-world money – a practice that Cascio suggests could lead to new layers of tax laws as notions of “real” and “virtual” continue to entwine.

Attention given in the report to “complementary currencies” introduced me to yet another bit of something new. I was surprised to learn from the map provided by the Complementary Currency Resource Center that there are currently 8 alternative currency systems operating successfully in the United States – one as close as Madison, Wisconsin. With Cascio I wonder what the implications of virtual money systems will be, how the intersections of real and virtual worlds will play out, and along what lines complementary currencies will continue to develop. For now, I write the chapter as an introduction and a next complexity emerging with the increased flows of code.

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1 comment:

Winston said...

Too bad they do not have a short freebie tour.

From here, it may not be a terribly long jump to the holodeck of StarTrek. I can hear the feeding frenzy of politicians and bureaucrats fighting for control of the taxation issues. Oh, and how will they split up the added territory and population for census purposes? Can you imagine a real-world person being elected to Congress to represent a virtual-world territory and populace? Get's interesting...