Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mainstream media in an alternate universe (literally)

Well, if this isn't an illustration of the decadent west, I don't know what is.

Reuters is opening a virtual news bureau in Second Life, a three-dimensional online world inhabited by hundreds of thousands of users and one of the world's most popular virtual economies.

... Starting Wednesday, Reuters will publish text, photo and video news from the outside world for Second Life members and news of Second Life for real-world readers.

Reuters is one of several real-world corporations that has a presence in the virtual world on the internet. Organizations such as Harvard University, American Apparel Inc. and CNet.com are among those opening operations in Second Life, while musicians such as Duran Duran and Suzanne Vega have broadcast virtual concerts there using the world's lifelike animated characters.

The parallel universe was created in 2003 by San Francisco-based Philip Rosedale, chief executive officer of Linden Research Inc. It has more than 800,000 inhabitants, of whom more than 100 are earning a real-world, full-time living there...

Unbelievable. A major newswire service investing valuable resources to report on reality to grownups playing pretend. But then, it's just "business as usual" in an industry where all the big players jump on the same bandwagon.

... While objects are bought and sold using Linden dollars, the Second Life currency, Linden dollars can be exchanged for U.S. dollars, so users can make real money. ... It would have an annual gross domestic product of about $150 million US if it were to stop growing today, according to the Associated Press.

The weird thing is, this "alternate world" is pretty poverty-stricken... 99.9875% in fact (if I did my math correctly). But Reuters must believe there is real opportunity in this la-la land, more than in real countries where real people struggle with a lack of real money. Countries like Ukraine, say.

Still shaking my head. Has the Twilight Zone morphed into reality? Or maybe it's just something in my morning tea ...

Then again, this shouldn't come as any surprise. Reporting on reality to a fantasy world is way easier and more profitable than doing it the other way around.

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