Throughout the Beyond Broadcast conference there have been fleeting glimpses of a replica of the Beyond Broadcast conference: a virtual Ames Courtroom filled with virtual people. This replica conference is taking place in Second Life; a world where every character is controlled by a real person. All objects, buildings, trees, cars and light poles are also created by users. John Lester, working for the creators of Second Life, Linden Lab, explained the founding principle behind Second Life. John says, “We [at Linden] don’t want to make content, we want to give people tools to make their dreams and shape their world.” Every resident (Linden’s term for user,) has a powerful 3d modeling kit and scripting language, which enables them to build their fantasy. Lester further describes Second Life as a, “Waking dream environment not completely surreal or mundane, but smack dab in the middle.” He illustrates this point with a slide of a concert taking place inside Second Life. The musicians are streaming their live (real world) music into a virtual club; the band member’s avatars play their instruments to a virtual crowd. John points out that there is something cohesive about a bunch of people hanging out in a club listening to music, but, he says, you realize something is up when a member of the crowd seamlessly hovers into the air. Second Life is set apart from most online games and simulations in that residents retain intellectual property rights to all their virtual creations. Some residents release their creations as open source, while others retain their rights and make money off their work. Residents earn L$ (Linden dollars), which can be converted to $US on Second Life‘s currency exchange. The exchange works just like a real market, where residents post offers to buy and sell money. Residents can even resell their Second Life creations back into the real world.
BIO: John Lester
John Lester joined Linden Lab (the creators of Second Life) in 2005, bringing experience in online community development as well as a background in the fields of healthcare and education. Previously, John was the Information Systems Director for the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he pioneered the use of the web in 1993 to create online communities supporting patients dealing with neurological disorders. As a research associate in Neurology at Harvard Medical School, he also created online collaborative education environments for professors and students to advance the case-based teaching method in medical education. John leads Linden Lab’s customer market development in education and healthcare. He acts as a strategist and evangelist for people using Second Life in teaching, academic and healthcare research, medical education, simulation, and scientific visualization. He also acts as Linden Lab’s Boston Operations Director, having founded Linden Lab’s Boston-area office and helping it grow successfully. John lives in Boston and is commonly referred to by his avatar’s name in Second Life - “Pathfinder Linden.”