Building a life without restraints via virtual platform seemed like the way of the future, that is until internet trolls and popular culture ‘taboo’ crept up on Second Life, a personal avenue of virtual reality that was once so promising.

In 2006 Reuters opened a bureau inside the virtual world of Second Life, embedding reporters in a place that didn’t exist: foreign correspondents reporting on a strange land, its people and its customs. That level of coverage from a serious news organisation marked the high- water point of the mainstream media’s fascination with Second Life, but a year later the waters receded.

After peaking in 2009 with 88,199 concurrent users, the active population shrank to 54,000 a year later, after which Linden Labs stopped providing figures. Reuters eventually closed its bureau and the job of reporting on Second Life was left to its users. But while the media attention dried up and the flow of new users trickled, fascinating things were still going on. Among them was education, with virtual spaces being used for immersive language learning, as well as specialist training.

 Words: Jody Macgregor

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This story appears in the May 2014
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