HENRY JENKINS ON (AND IN) SECOND LIFE
So if you come across an avatar wearing a Hooters outfit drinking Absolut vodka while smoking Marlboros, keep in mind he could be a griefer--
or he could be the director of the Comparative Media Studies department at the Massachussets Institute of Technology [see update after the break]. For nearly a decade, Henry Jenkins has been among (if not the) leading intellects on popular culture, especially computer and video games, and after speaking on their value to academics and the mainstream media (he's usually the go-to guy for sanity, when yet another controversy over violence in games erupts), he has his own blog. (And a highly recommended one.) I was honored to speak about Second Life at a 2004 Games in Education conference he convened in LA, but up until now (unless I've missed it), he's written about SL only in passing.
His latest entry, however, "Experimenting with Brands in Second Life"-- extensive, observant, and fascinating-- makes up for lost time. While much of it's based on recent articles and themes that emerged around Harvard Business Review's "Avatar-based Marketing" article, at least some of it's based on first-hand observation. (Hence the Hooters clothes and branded alchohol and tobacco.) Some of Henry's points strike me as over-stated or out of date, but as with most anything he writes, they are all trenchant, far-reaching, and unwise to ignore. So read it all here.
Update, 11:55am: Professor Jenkins e-mails me to say that the bulk of his post on Second Life is actually taken from the thesis paper written by his graduate student Ilya Vedrashko. I originally missed Henry's introduction to the Vedrashko excerpts (which are still well just as worth reading), but he's clarified that distinction in the updated post. That also means, of course, that it was Vedrashko in SL with the Hooters costume, not Professor Jenkins. I apologize for the mistaken inference.
It is still true, however, that Professor Henry Jenkins was once a high school teacher to Hollywood star and hardcore Halo fan Julia Roberts.