The third place in Second Life: real life community in a virtual world

Peachey, Anna (2010). The third place in Second Life: real life community in a virtual world. In: Peachey, Anna; Gillen, Julia; Livingstone, Daniel and Smith-Robbins, Sarah eds. Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds. Human-Computer Interaction Series. London: Springer London, pp. 91–110.



In June 2006 The Open University (OU) purchased its first land in Second Life. Over a two and a half year period, the OU presence evolved and grew to a point where an average of between 150 and 250 unique users in any 7-day period are active in an OU area. This chapter charts the history of the development of the OU Second Life social community and considers the nature of that activity at a point of critical change, in January 2009, shortly before a new island is developed to provide a permanent home for the community. In order for the community to continue evolving it is necessary to understand the nature of the core activities of these users, and to consider this in a context of sustainable development. Through reference to aspects of socialisation and physical community, the author proposes that a virtual world environment can be described using the physical world concept of a Third Place in the information age, and considers the value of virtual space to a learning community. From a perspective of ethnography, this chapter captures a community development within SL and proposes that physical world concepts of community and Third Place are exhibited in a virtual world, and that there are equivalent benefits in the sense of support and belonging to a virtual world community.

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