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For a guy who was a journalist embedded in Second Life’s virtual world, this whole metavers is a ride on the carousel again.
Also Wagner James Auwho previously wrote a book about his Second Life experiences, now writes a book called Why Metaverse Matters: From Second Life to Meta and Beyond, a guide by its first embedded journalist.
Wiley plans to publish the book in early to mid-2023, around Second Life’s 20th anniversary. Au is in a good position to write this book, but let’s hope for him that the metaverse will still be a super hype thing, or maybe a reality, at this point. The metaverse is imagined as the universe of virtual worlds, all of which are interconnected, as in novels such as Snowfall and Loans play one.
In an interview with GamesBeat, Au said that he focuses on the user communities in the meta-verse, especially the core cabinets, which make these platforms meaningful. It will explore Second Life’s continuing influence on the development of metaverse platforms and uncover the mystery of Second Life – how it managed to inspire so many but was unable to grow beyond a niche of passionate users.
And he will also investigate whether blockchain is a good fit – especially with the new company, Neal Stephenson, who has just co-founded Lamine1, dedicated to making the open metaverse.
“I want to talk about Second Life’s impact on current metaverse platforms,” Au said.
For example, the fight and the design of Fortnite seem to share similar DNA with Second Life.
“But why has Second Life, despite its influence, never really reached the mass market? It is successful as a niche and still quite profitable, and it was at its peak when the meta-verse hit the public consciousness, ”said Au. “But he never left the niche. And for me, one of Silicon Valley’s biggest mysteries is how can a company that advertised so much between 2006 and 2008 not come to light.
The book will also focus on the lingering problems that metaverse platforms have not been able to solve, around content moderation, toxic users and (yes) the inevitable virtual sex. He will summarize what he has learned over the last 20 years of reporting and developing metavers, to hopefully fully realize the vision over the next 20 years.
These experiences included covering the workers’ protest on IBM’s Second Life business campus; writes about the Second Life protest against the Front National, a French right-wing extremist political group; and his discussions with Syrmor, an embedded VRChat journalist on YouTube.
I contacted Au after he started writing his New World Notes blog about the Second Life virtual world in 2003. For two years he was under contract with the company an on-board journalist. This meant that he himself wrote for Second Life as a character who imitated an avatar named Hamlet Linden. Inside the world, he used his avatar to do chat interviews with other avatars in the virtual community, encouraging people to create a new world based on how they want to experience their “other life”.
He spent hours inside the world and reported on the development of the new world as a participant in it. He explored the world and distilled his blog posts into a book, “The Making of Second Life: Notes from the New World” (Collins, 2008).
Now the concept of metaverse has made people excited again, starting with the VR revival in 2016.
“When I first worked at Linden Lab, I noticed that they literally had Snow Crash on their shelf in the office. It’s like one of their reference books. There is a lot of confusion about what the metaverse is at all. And it’s a little funny to me, because companies like Linden Lab, Roblox, and Epic are directly influenced by the novel. I would like to talk about the original type of design and how it applies to these different platforms, ”said Au.
Other metaverse books are already at. Cathy Hackl, Dirk Lueth and Tommaso Di Bartolo wrote Navigation the Metaverse: A Guide to Limitless Possibilities in a Web 3.0 World. There will be other books coming too.
Au hopes to capture human stories, as a story about one of Ukraine’s best content creators. And she was eight months pregnant, and the Russians had occupied her city. She therefore had to flee and always tried to find a stable WiFi connection in order to download her sexualized content.
“What fascinates me is how these terrain creators come from all over the world. And they take their life experiences with them while she creates content in the middle of a war. And I have, I have come across countless stories of that kind,” said Au.
Many people, including some disabled people as a memorable character in Snow Crash, are addicted to online connection and have high hopes of living in the metaverse where physical barriers no longer matter. It is strong to believe that you can be who you want to be, Au said.
Au will investigate whether the blockchain will be needed as a building block for the metaverse, and whether the boom and bust cycle around Bitcoin and Ethereum will have anything to do with the metaverse boom or turn into just a speculative bubble.
“One of my things will definitely be about the importance of community and building thriving communities,” he said. “After doing this for 20 years, I see that it is the community and the content creators of the community, but also a kind of social leaders who become known figures in the virtual world. They shape what happens to the platform and whether it succeeds or not. And then I want to tell their stories. And I want to explain to the wider readership, including companies and corporations, why this is important.
It will also focus on the negative aspects of the metaverse such as content moderation of extremely sexual or violent content, and how it will be the double-edged sword of user-generated content. It will also take into account deep skepticism that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg will support an open metaverse.
Au still hopes to interview many key people on Metaverse.
“I was talking to a woman who turned her Second Life business into a seven-digit business,” he said. “It has been more successful than most companies that have tried to succeed in the virtual world.”
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