Second Life has been sitting in the Trough for a while now. A post from PBS's MediaShift blog remembers the boom-bust cycle: "How did the media go wrong in coverage -- and participation -- in SSL, and what went right? It was a typical hype-and-backlash scenario, as I detailed in a previous post on MediaShift. Some journalists simply tired of SL, as so many people tried it and then bailed because of its steep learning curve and high technological requirements."
But there are a few encouraging signs that we might be seeing the upslope, to where Second Life becomes a useful tool, a means for communication, and not just a topic for breathless "isn't it shiny" stories.
First, there's what isn't happening. Reuters and Sky News have pulled their reporters. CNN remains, but with user-generated content. I haven't heard of any recent campaigns getting attention like Coca Cola's or CSI's. Second Life has largely been left to its residents, rather than having large outside organizations try (with more or less success) to make it a vehicle for advertising.
So what is happening still in Second Life? Well, business students in INSEAD's EMBA program are visiting classrooms that let them network with each other whatever their physical location. Second Life events are being used to extend the reach of real-world events. Distance-learning students are getting a traditional graduation ceremony by non-traditional means. (Interesting thread of education running through all those examples....)
Most importantly, we're no longer talking about Second Life residents as "those weird people, aren't they funny?" Newsweek's article last week, "Love and Desire in the Digital Age," profiles a couple who met in Second Life and focuses on how virtual worlds, webcams, and internet phone calls enable their relationship - while making them sound pretty normal. "Before they met in Second Life, neither Lillie nor Hawkins had dated on the Internet before. They weren't gaming addicts. They weren't even especially tech-savvy." They enjoyed each others' company, and technology made it possible for them to meet and to maintain a relationship (if not one without strain).
Here's to the upslope, and letting technologies and the communities around them grow organically. Got a good story about Second Life after the hype? Would love to hear it.