Second Life Herald

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Book: The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid that Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse. by Peter Ludlow and Mark Wallace. The MIT Press, Cambridge, 2007



From Leonardo Reviews, John Barber:

"Ludlow relocated to Second Life, where his avatar, Urizenus Sklar, continued his muckraking as publisher of The Second Life Herald. Ludlow/Sklar investigated and wrote about the unknown aspects of the online culture of Second Life, lauded by many as the harbinger of a 3-D environment that provides a richer, more expressive interactive environment than today's Internet. He provided vivid portraits of the settlers, politicos, griefers, entrepreneurs, and con artists who were the early adapters of Second Life. He exposed the power struggles that defined the online politics in Second Life, as well as, like he had in The Sims Online, the underworlds of sex, crime, and other opportunistic endeavors that formed the foundation of this online community. For all his efforts, Urizenus Sklar was "murdered." Second Life administrators pulled the plug on Ludlow/Sklar, erasing his avatar and his newspaper.

The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid that Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse chronicles Sklar's "murder" and then proceeds to backtrack, providing a step-by-step account of how Ludlow/Sklar's muckracking efforts caused such a stir within Second Life.

Part investigative report, part memoir, part travelogue, The Second Life Herald details the larger forces behind the "murder" of Sklar and raises issues about still evolving rules and censorship in online environments where people gather, do business, and form relationships with as much complexity as anywhere in the real world. As a result, The Second Life Herald is an important book, especially for those who feel they understand online worlds after reading the breathless pronouncements of real-world, mainstream press touting the social, cultural, and commercial potential of online interactive environments. What is not apparent in these reports, but that The Second Life Herald makes quite clear, is how both the noble and tawdry aspects of virtual worlds are necessary for their existence and continued development, and how continued conflicts across the client-server divide will decide who writes the rules governing these new worlds.

Ludlow and Wallace (a freelance journalist with experience writing about virtual worlds and online games) conclude that developers of online, virtual worlds have little control over how people use (or abuse) content placed in those worlds. Users/players/interactors will not abide by the monolithic software rules established by unimaginative corporations. Instead, they will continue to agitate for, if not demand, more open source models for the rules that control their world." (