Friday, March 16, 2007

You Only Live Twice?

When my nephew asked if I had discovered the Second Life yet, I almost clocked him with my handbag. But it turns out he wasn’t being rude about my advanced age after all. Second Life is apparently the name of an alternative online world where people can live, make money, build houses and even attend concerts, not as themselves, but as self-created characters, or ‘avatars.’ Such is the popularity of this virtual world (four million people belong to it, with as many as 200,000 strolling its virtual streets at any one time), that businesses are starting to get involved. The main reason for this is that any intellectual property you create in this online world remains yours, and it’s an interesting way of market testing and even promoting your brands. Thus, Penguin UK already has a resident Second Life publisher, while a ‘live’ reading from a virtual Dean Koontz heralded the opening of a Second Life Bantam Dell bookshop last month (selling only Bantam Dell books, of course). I hear we may have our own Australian inhabitants in Second Life before too long. The (surely not cash-strapped) University of Queensland has apparently purchased (with real money!) some real estate in Second Life. I shall therefore look forward to greeting the avatar of a virtual Greg Bain on a virtual Second Life golf course before too long. Those of us who don’t have enough time to live our First Life can only marvel. Or despair.

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