If you want to criticize the digital world, start by criticizing our wishes and desires - not the technologies
The beta version of “Second Life” was published ten years ago this fall. Five years later, the game (which allows users to navigate through in a virtual world and interact with other avatars) had reached its peak. As the number of users grew rapidly, Second Life became a topic of public discussion and was examined by journalists, psychologists, teachers, sociologists, economists, and criminologists. They discussed the Second Life phenomenon and warned - not surprisingly - against the tangible consequences of virtual reality: Second Life would spawn new forms of dependence and addiction, they said, and the “residents” of the virtual world would gradually lose their sense of reality. Pornography would multiply and violence would be worshipped. Throughout the Western hemisphere, a whole generation would be lost to the evil and fake world of “Second Life,” spending their days in dimly lit rooms in front of bright monitors. In the end, the new reality would surely become exploited by an overpowering corporation, which would enslave the users and exploit them at will.
Today, Second Life has almost been forgotten. The number of active users has declined for years, investigative journalists have canceled their accounts and wire services have turned elsewhere, too. Only the prophets of imminent doom - who warned that the youth would only be the first to get swallowed up by the digital bog and that the rest of us would soon follow - haven’t quieted down. Their works still fill the shelves of bookstores and the pages of literary journals.
Second Life is a good case study for the idea that our thinking and our actions will be radically changed by the internet and mobile communication.