The Second Life Herald
The Virtual Tabloid that Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse
- Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2008.
312 pp., 6 x 9 in, 21 b&w illus.
- Published: October 19, 2007
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: September 18, 2009
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How a virtual journalist in the virtual world of online gaming landed on the real-world front page of the New York Times and how his virtual newspaper chronicled the emergence of the next generation of the World Wide Web.
When a virtual journalist for a virtual newspaper reporting on the digital world of an online game lands on the real-world front page of the New York Times, it just might signal the dawn of a new era. Virtual journalist Peter Ludlow was banned from The Sims Online for being a bit too good at his job—for reporting in his virtual tabloid The Alphaville Herald on the cyber-brothels, crimes, and strong-arm tactics that had become rife in the game—and when the Times, the BBC, CNN, and other media outlets covered the story, users all over the Internet called the banning censorship. Seeking a new virtual home, Ludlow moved the Herald to another virtual world—the powerful online environment of Second Life—just as it was about the explode onto the international mediascape and usher in the next iteration of the Internet.
In The Second Life Herald, Ludlow and his colleague Mark Wallace take us behind the scenes of the Herald as they report on the emergence of a fascinating universe of virtual spaces that will become the next generation of the World Wide Web: a 3-D environment that provides richer, more expressive interactions than the Web we know today. In 1992, science fiction writer Neal Stephenson imagined “the Metaverse,” a virtual space that we would enter via the Internet and in which we would conduct important parts of our daily lives. According to Ludlow and Wallace, that future is coming sooner than we may think. They chronicle its chaotic, exhilarating, frightening birth, including the issue that the mainstream media often ignore: conflicts across the client-server divide over who should write the laws governing virtual worlds.
The Second Life Herald reads like the missing link between All the President's Men and Alice in Wonderland, but make no mistake: Ludlow and Wallace have written an essential introduction to the peculiar challenges of civic life in today's increasingly populous virtual worlds. It's an engaging, and eminently teachable, crash course in the power struggles that define online polities, and its lessons will serve us for decades to come.
Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money: Or How I Quit My Day Job and Made MillionsTrading Virtual Loot
Peter Ludlow and Mark Wallace offer a fascinating frontline perspective on life in the emerging multiverses—rich, immersive multiperson game worlds where people live, conduct business, engage in politics, and struggle with crime, corruption, and other forms of moral transgression. The issues that The Second Life Herald examines will be ones with which society will be grappling for years to come, but they come alive here through vivid portraits of the settlers, politicos, griefers, entrepreneurs, and con artists who are the early adapters of these online worlds.
Henry Jenkins, Codirector, Comparative Media Studies Program, MIT, and author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
A lively and worthwhile insight into the development of this alternative universe.
Anyone with even the slightest curiosity about online virtual communities will find it engrossing.
Part investigative report, part memoir, part travelogue, The Second Life Herald pulls back the curtain between our world and the virtual worlds that have become increasingly popular actors on the cultural stage. Going beyond the pollyannaish accounts of these worlds as the future paradises of commerce, Ludlow and Wallace also explore the underworlds of sex, crime, and flimflam that form the foundation of online communities. This book is a must for anyone who thought they understood Second Life or The Sims Online or any other virtual world after reading an article or two in the mainstream pressnot because it will disabuse them of a false hope, but because it tells a fuller story about both the noble and the tawdry aspects of virtual worlds, and how one can't exist without the other.
Ian Bogost, School of Literature, Communication, and Culture, The Georgia Institute of Technology
There are any number of books explaining how to make money in Second Life or how to 'win' in the various game worlds, but until now there were only three seminal works... The Second Life Herald is a worthy addition to this small group and provides a useful readable guide to the recent past and potential future of online worlds.
This is a long overdue and truly superlative effort to bring an understanding of online culture to the general public. Beautifully written, it floods light into what for some may be an unknown aspect of our culture and gives it meaning and depth by illustrating real-life effects. This is an essential book for the humanities, social sciences, and technology collections of academic and public libraries.