Coming into this discussion and class, I feel like I have some strong opinions regarding the topics of secondlife and mud's. Although reading the various articles has introduced me to many new ideas and issues which i previously haven't thought of, i still maintain my original opinion of skepticism towards these virtual worlds. To me second life and MUD's seem like their main appeal to people is based on the fact that they provide an environment where users will be able to do things they either cant or dont do in the real world. It is a place where users are able to create an identity, either similar or completely different from their real lives, and live vicariously through this reflection of their self.As mentioned during our class discussion, even though these characters may appear to be quite different from the actual user, it is still the user who is making the decisions of what the avatar will be doing.
Another interesting topic which we discussed was whether second life is more or less beneficial to people working towards developing their social skills, using participation as a form of communicaiton. I do see the benefits which can be had from participating in a virtual world like second life but I think that there is a great risk involved as soon as that user begins to substitute real interactions with people with the virtual ones they are having on line. Although i understand that the interaction which is happening between individuals is a form of communication, and it does provide an opportunity to meet and talk to people one would never normally meet, i still think that the most valuable, important and rewarding form of communication must always be considered to be actually talking face to face.
This leads into the issue of distinguishing the difference between second life and sites such as facebook and myspace. I see the profile version of sites to be the superior form because although you do have the ability to portray your self in any way you wish, the main goal (at least for me) is to enhance real life relationships and networks as opposed to creating new and completely virtual ones.