Archaeogaming Expedition I: Abandoned Metaverse

second_life_logoI’d been thinking about returning to Second Life for a while, and at the suggestion of fellow Punk Archaeologist Bill Caraher, actually did it (and blogged about it) yesterday. I was curious to see how things had changed in the Metaverse since I last logged in in 2015. I was shocked. And now I want to go back for an extended look. In April, before the Society for American Archaeology (SAA, #saa2015) conference in San Francisco, I’ll be teaming up with four other archaeologists to explore what has become of Second Life‘s Mainland. At this stage, it’s a matter of planning teleport locations (really) so we can maximize our time on the ground. In playing with time and geography between this world and the virtual one, it’s a bit like Interstellar, and I’m curious to see where we end up, and if we have chosen our locations wisely.

So what do I hope to find? (I’ll let the others on the team articulate their desires and questions once the group is locked in.) I’d like to see if the Mainland is abandoned. If it is, what has happened to the plots and sims? Have they decayed or atrophied? Have they been tagged with graffiti and advertisements, or left alone in pristine condition? Or perhaps they have been repurposed into something completely unintended by the original builders? And if the sims/plots we visit have not been abandoned, who is using these and to what purpose? Are these the same builders and residents from five years ago, or has the torch been passed to another generation of makers and users? For some of the sims (such as Roma SPQR that I visited yesterday), how does the current state of use and construction differ what I can remember from 2010? How permanent is that memory, and how accurate? Can we find images from five years ago from other sims we explore, and match the topography five years on?

I’ll begin to identify plots in Second Life for us to explore — hopefully a mix of ancient and modern sims, popular ones from the Old World when Second Life was new. I want to visit old, in-world excavations, and previous reconstructions that builders imported from Maya 3D. I want to find and talk to current Lindens to ask them about how they use the space now, and how (or if) that usage is different from earlier. Is there now sprawl, or was plot-planning deliberate? My colleagues on the expedition will come with other questions, too, and I look forward to sharing our experiences here and elsewhere. Watch this space for names, date(s), and time(s). -Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

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