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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. Peter Ludlow, Professor of Philosophy and James B. and Grace J. Nelson Fellow at the University of Michigan, is the author of Semantics, Tense, and Time: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Natural Language (MIT Press, 1999), among other books, and the editor of Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias (MIT Press, 2001) and High Noon on the Electronic Frontier (MIT Press, 1996). A freelance journalist, Mark Wallace has written widely on virtual worlds and online games for a variety of publications, including Wired and The New York Times. He is the editor of leading metaverse blog 3pointD.com, and an author of Second Life: The Official Guide.
"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." Library Journal
It shouldn't be a surprise that online virtual communities like Second Life-where recently the hows and whys of having a unicorn baby were all the rage-have their own virtual newspapers and blogs. The very real world constraints such organs have come under, however, may surprise more than a few readers. University of Michigan philosophy professor Peter Ludlow has written and edited various monographs on language and cyberspace; under the name of his online avatar, Urizenus Sklar, Ludlow muckraked within the Sims Online community and was later publisher of SL's Herald. He here teams with freelance journalist Wallace, who has had his own adventures covering online virtual communities, to give a blow-by-blow account of how Urizenus Sklar's writings caused a big stir online, with ramifications that are still unfolding. With wit and a real sense of suspense, the two dramatize the "killing" of Urizenus ("Uri") in late 2003, and then work backward, giving a history of online multiuser environments, providing a vivid sense of what it is to participate in them, detailing the larger forces at work in the conflicts that killed Urizenus, and urgently raising still very unresolved issues about law, censorship and cyberspace. Anyone with even the slightest curiosity about online virtual communities will find it engrossing. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Ludlow (philosophy, Univ. of Michigan; High Noon on the Electronic Frontier) and journalist Wallace, the editor of a highly acclaimed blog trace the trajectory of a "virtual tabloid" that deals with many issues now confronting virtual worlds like The Sims Online and Second Life, such as ethical responsibilities of the service providers, rights of the avatar, virtual crime, intellectual property abuses, and, of course, cybersex. This journalistic work has met with stiff opposition from some of the corporations that host these virtual worlds, and Ludlow and Wallace are more than happy to comment on their tribulations, including being banned from The Sims Online. 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.