What is Second Life?
Second Life is an immersive 3D virtual world, with its own currency and economy, which was established in 2003. Users of Second Life are represented by avatars and can explore the virtual world, interact with other residents, and create and trade virtual property and services.
Although better known for its social uses, Second Life has a significant academic research and educational community and offers opportunities for collaboration and education free from the rules and limitations of real life. Rather than replicating real life, Second Life is most useful as a place to try things you could not do otherwise, such as exploring a virtual mine, the inside of the heart or the solar system. For some examples of existing sites with academic relevance, please see our Second Life location guide and JISC's useful beginner's guide to using SL for education.
How to start using Second Life
The following provides a step by step introduction to creating your Second Life account, with some academically relevant virtual locations to visit.
With millions of active members contributing to this virtual environment every day, it is a constantly changing landscape. Fortunately the educational community on Second Life is close-knit but highly committed, with many members actively supporting new arrivals and openly providing guidance on a host of issues.
Checking your computer can run Second Life
Firstly, consult this site to check that your computer has the minimum technical requirements to be able to successfully run Second Life. It will run a short assessment of computer’s hardware capabilities for running a number of different web based resources.
Creating an account
If your computer is capable of running the Second Life viewer, you can proceed to the main website, where you can create your own avatar and user account as follows:
- Click on ‘Join Now’
- Register by choosing a username (this is limited to available names and will also be the name of your avatar) and password for your account, and a starting appearance for your avatar.
- For the basic set up information, you need to register an active e-mail account, add your date of birth, choose a security question and answer and pass the simple anti-spam test.
- Once you agree to the terms and conditions, you need to download the installer and run the Second Life viewer program. The time to complete this will vary depending on your internet connection and your computer’s technical specification.
- Once installation is complete, you can begin running second life by entering your username and password and clicking ‘OK’.
- Please note that on campus, some users may experience difficulty connecting to Second Life because of the nature of the internet connection. If you experience problems, try downloading the VPN network connect tool available on the University’s main website and follow the instructions.
- Once SL has loaded, your avatar will appear on the ‘welcome island’ as your starting point.
- You may experience a sense of disorientation at this point, if you are not familiar with virtual environments or video games. You can use the arrow keys used for scrolling documents and web pages to explore this new virtual world. Some find it helpful to think of the full-bodied avatar you see in Secondlife as a more developed version of the cursor that your mouse controls on the computer.
- Use the direction buttons and your mouse to look and walk around your new virtual environment. This takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have mastered it, you can also try flying!
- Further information and help are available in the Second Life report by Darren Davies of the Web Innovation Project and in posts on the Web Innovation Project blog and a useful guide to SL is published by JISC.
Please be aware on some computers you will not be able to install the Second life software without administrative privileges. Please log a call with either central helpdesk or the CEMPS helpdesk, as appropriate, to have the viewer installed.
Linking with other academics in Second Life
To visit academic educational or research sites in Second Life, please see the examples in our Second Life location guide
If there are areas of research you wish to explore, you can sign up to this mailing list to share ideas with an academic community using Second Life. If you wish to use it as an educational tool, there is another useful mailing list with a more active list of educators from various locations; however, beware of sending ‘spam’ messages to the whole list.
Second Life environments are prone to changing owners and being transformed, sometimes into unrecognisably new areas with new audiences in mind, e.g. when funding for a project ends. It is therefore worth using social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook to stay in touch with the organisers of any sites in which you are particularly interested, so that you are informed about developments.
You can also search for locations in Second Life.