Second Life, one of the online virtual economies, has developed from earlier models such as Norrath, and what made SL unique is that its platform consists of one contiguous reality with streaming architecture that allows for “dynamic, collaborative creation” on a single world, as opposed to many copies operating independently on various servers.

Second Life has so many similar features as does an Earth-based economy: land-scarcity, copyright, labor strikes, monopoly, xenophobia, real wages, deflation, you name it. I have been in-world in SL here and there. Once I gave a tour of SL to a group of college first-years taking a class called “The Post Human Future”, which was taught by Paul Loeb. Given that this is an area peculiarly interesting to researchers, especially in economics, I would ask the following questions about Second Life.

  • People are making insane amounts of money in SL markets. What kinds of barriers to entry exist in the SL market? That is, if you join today, is there are skill set and a knowledge of the market in SL that creates a kind of barrier? Does SL easily lend itself to monopoly market structure?
  • What is the ratio of users with net profits to those with net losses? Are most users making money, or are some just in it for the fun and therefore losing money? Does that effect peoples’ decision to join or not to join?
  • SL is sometimes a very baron place. But it seems that no matter what island you are on there is always something being advertised. Is this kind of advertising particularly effective? What kind of research has been done to show that it is or isn’t?
  • Because Second Life has been remarkably more successful than other virtual worlds of its kind, what can we attribute to that? Someone has probably suggested before that Second Life has property rights in a way that no other virtual economy did before it. Second Life could be the perfect experiment for how studying how effective property rights in capitalism is. On the other hand Second Life is not as much fun as other worlds, so does this mean capitalism is not very fun? etc.

Currently reading:

Ondrejka, Cory. Aviators, Moguls, Fashionistas and Barons: Economics and Ownership in Second Life. Social Science Research Network: 2004.