‘Red-light district’ makes virtual world safer

By Anne Collier

San Francisco-based Linden Lab, which runs Second Life, has sequestered adult content and activity in the virtual world onto a new continent called “Zindra.” Residents of the virtual world have to verify that they’re adults before they can search for anything on Zindra or go there (here’s the page that explains how the age verification process works). The entire “world” is now classified as either “Adult,” “Mature,” or “PG.” As Linden Lab explains these, “Adult” is what most of us think of as adult content or activity – sexually-themed or explicit, inappropriate for minors. “Mature” seems to be more about the shopping and socializing, or non-serious, side of virtual life, where there’s nothing really inappropriate for kids to see but also where grownups don’t particularly want to mix it up with 13-to-17-year-olds (who themselves would probably prefer Teen Second Life for socializing). Linden Lab describes the “Mature” classification this way: “Social and dance clubs, bars, stores and malls, galleries, music venues, beaches, parks (and other spaces for socializing, creating, and learning) all support a Mature designation so long as they don’t host publicly promoted adult activities or content.” “PG,” obviously, is for everyone – the label for all educational and business activity (virtual classes, meetings, talks, etc., where only time zones are a barrier for gatherings of people planet-wide).

“The other day, when I logged back in after quite a few weeks,” writes digital-media maven Chris Abraham in AdAge.com about checking back in after all this happened, “Second Life told me so in so many words that if I want to party, I need to explicitly commit myself to that lifestyle; otherwise, I had better just be happy with PG-13. Second Life didn’t kick out the brothels and porno theaters, it just put them on a different plane of existence.” All of which makes high school classes and other educational programs (see links below) in Second Life much safer and more feasible now (e.g., this from ABC News Brooklyn on science class in Second Life).

For visual aids, here’s a 3 min. video interview with Second Life creator Philip Rosedale with little clips from in-world and a PG13-rated look at Zindra (on its opening day, 7/4/09).

Related links

* Machinima of Rochester Institute of Technology’s virtual campus in Second Life (machinima is video taken in-world, so it looks like animated film)
* “US Holocaust Museum in Second Life”
* “The Virtual Alamo” museum in Second Life
* A video at Teachers.tv in the UK about student projects in and with virtual worlds and my post about it
* “School & social media”
* “Young practitioners of social-media literacy”

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