26 March 2008

Teen Second Life


The highlight of New York (besides hanging out with Kumar) had to be the Teen Second Life Virtual meet-up we did. Now, some of you, like me, may not have heard of Teen Second Life (or the adult version, aptly named “Second Life”). Even at 23 I feel way to old to really “get” this whole thing and found myself for months saying things I never thought I would ever say. “Why are kids spending so much time cooped up on a computer? They should be outside playing in the sun.” 60 minutes in this near perfect world and while I’m not in love, I do have a newfound appreciation for the concept.

Well then, what’s it all about? Basically, it’s your own “second life.” You create an avatar (that’s TSL lingo for a virtual version of you), eat food, build a house, go shopping, make friends, make enemies, work and yes, even buy stock (the market is doing a lot better than the “real” market, though I’m not sure if that’s saying a whole lot…).


Yes, it’s just as bizarre as you’re thinking it is. Honestly and truly, it’s like living life, only nothing bad happens (it’s impossible to die), you can look like whatever you want to look like and you can even fly, which is – no doubt – something we all want to do! With this freedom to be whoever you want comes a certain universal equality and equity. Yes, things cost money (and it’s real money – you ACTUALLY buy things in this artificial world) but at some level, if you can program and compute, you can play big-time. In fact, one can even make money! You can sell a trade, a good, or a service that is within Teen Second Life.

On that same note, you can help “change” Teen Second Life by launching NGOs, starting advocacy projects, hosting virtual rallies and protests and even launching a virtual venture. Ashoka’s Youth Venture just entered this arena and wow, is it taking off.


I did my same song and dance only it wasn’t me, it was a little virtual version of me sitting in our perfect DIDI Café (Dream It Do It Café) on our ideal Youth Venture Island, which is also home to The DIDI Institute, the DIDI Resource Center and the DIDI Amphitheater. Ten “people” showed up to listen and following the presentation, entered a workshop room to do a virtual simulation (if you’re virtually simulating, is that like, an entirely different dimension altogether). They sat on cushions, raised their hands, brainstormed; all online in this land. If you can’t tell already, I was thoroughly overwhelmed.


I think it’s wonderful what we’re doing – reaching young people where they are, helping them use their unique passion (in this case, computer programming) to solve problems they see in whatever dimension they love. Still, on a broader societal level it leaves me wondering a few things – has this world gotten so bad that we need to completely escape it by going to a virtual one? If that’s the case then should we be attempting to recreate the ideals within that virtual world right here in reality? To me it all stems from consumption of things. We can’t have them in the real world so we go to a virtual one where we can create any reality we want – great clothes, great friends, great places (our amphitheater is SO COOL).

The strange thing is, when I was 13, I don’t remember craving so much that I wanted to escape entirely and recreate myself somewhere that I could have everything. So maybe, rather than up the ante so much that kids are reinventing themselves in another realm, we increases resources and lower the “celebrity standard” in this one. I don’t know, just an idea…

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