My Independent review of Second Lives, Tim Guest's journalistic account of a year spent in the Second Life virtual commuity. The book puts reportorial flesh on Edward Castronova's more analytical account of Synthetic Worlds, also reviewed in this blog. An extract:
Even though many millions now have enough resource and leisure to lose ourselves in virtual worlds, we do not seem, by Guest's account, to be particularly developed as players. All the scams, routines and even work-ethics that might compel someone to become a digital escapee get lazily reproduced in Second Life. Mafias extort and coerce, dodgy traders find ways to counterfeit goods, and people labour away at their houses, or trades, or roles, in ways that often seem indistinguishable from "first life".
Guest's honest and intelligent account makes comprehensible a phenomenon which seems, at first glance, like science fiction made reality. But one awaits a "third life" that might become more – more politicised, more rigorous, even more daringly utopian, than the mildly restorative therapy that Second Life has become.