La Reserva now has a home in Second Life, the extraordinary online world in which three-dimensional, virtual scenes can be created for people from all over the real-life world to visit as ‘avatar’ personas and interact together.
Our place in Second Life is an exquisite representation of La Reserva as you can see from the photos, and has all the sounds of the Costa Rican forest. It was created for us by our volunteers Rick from North Carolina, U.S. and Philip from England who have collaborated together in Second Life for over three years. Philip’s avatar in Second Life is pictured in the photos.
Rick and Philip offered to build a scene (or ‘sim’ – simulation? – in Second Life terminology) after Philip had interviewed Roberta for The Love Foundation’s video series ‘Love Begins With Me’. Both he and Rick were so inspired by La Reserva’s work that they immediately recognised the potential that Second Life offered for educational and promotional activities for La Reserva.
Rick and Philip’s experiences in Second Life have shown them that when people gather together as their avatars in Second Life they have a real sense of presence, of ‘being there’ together. It’s possible for avatars to communicate individually to one another through one-to-one typed messaging, to everyone through typed messaging, and even by using their own voice into Second Life, though that is best used by someone giving a presentation into Second Life.
Giving presentations into Second Life is exactly what La Reserva can do. There are two main ways of doing this, firstly by showing videos to an audience sitting in La Reserva’s visitor center, which you can see in the photo below; videos can be streamed into Second Life from YouTube with all the quality of the YouTube originals. Secondly, Roberta Ward-Smiley, who now has her own avatar in Second Life, can, as her avatar, stand before a seated audience in Second Life and speak to them using her own voice, transmitted live from wherever she is in the real world.
Second Life has over 16,000,000 members worldwide, so clearly the potential is enormous.
From the moment of the opening of La Reserva’s visitor center in Second Life it has been possible for people to learn about La Reserva’s mission, view photos of our work and some of the animals and birds in our forests, and purchase planting trees and the indigenous masks from our website.
Now La Reserva can offer presentations in Second Life to, for example, school groups from around the world who may be doing a course or project with La Reserva and this would be a way for them to have direct, personal interaction with Roberta or another representative of La Reserva without having to travel to Costa Rica to do that!
There are many other ways in which people can interact with La Reserva in Second Life. For example, there is a Carbon Calculator in La Reserva’s visitor center in Second Life which visitors can actually type into to calculate their personal carbon footprint and discover how many trees they could plant to offset it. And then they can go ahead and purchase trees for planting at La Reserva! There could be other, similar means for people to directly interact, such is the extraordinary, often amazing, nature of Second Life technology. In these ways, ways that would otherwise be scarcely conceivable, Second Life offers the potential for La Reserva to reach out to the world, and for people across the world to reach into La Reserva.
If you’re already a member of Second Life, you can use this link to teleport there: http://www.slurl.com/secondlife/Gemini/133/133/803
People who are not yet members of Second Life can join free.
If you’d like to join and go to see and interact with La Reserva in Second Life, here is what to do:
1. Go online to Second Life at www.secondlife.com
2. Click the ‘Join Now – it’s fast, free and easy!’ link
3. Choose a first name for your avatar and a password
4. Choose a ‘starter’ avatar appearance (you can change it later), male or female human as appropriate
5. Complete the personal information boxes
6. Submit and await an email request for confirmation
7. Go to your email and click the confirmation link
8. Click ‘Not Now’ if you do not wish to become a Premium Member (which costs money and which you can do later if you wish, but for most purposes it’s never necessary)
9. Choose to go to one of the reception areas, which is a place to start from
10. Download the Second Life viewer software. To run Second Life you will need an up-to-date computer or an older one with a fairly high specification. Also you will need broadband download speeds of at least 2Mb/sec at peak periods. Without these, you may find the performance of Second Life disappointing or even unavailable.
11. Follow the download process as illustrated, and click in ‘Start Second Life when install finishes’.
12. Enter your online name and password, and log in.
13. You will find yourself arriving at the reception place you can choose from a list, probably at the same time as other new members (‘newbies’) arrive.
14. Wait for your surroundings to ‘rez’, that is, when your surroundings and objects and avatars come clearly into view.
15. Take it easy if things seem very unfamiliar. No-one’s going to make you feel uncomfortable, and generally everyone is very helpful in Second Life though if you’re talking to other ‘newbies’ they may not be able to help. Usually there are experienced helpers on hand there, so simply ask whatever you want to know. When you’re ready, open this link in your browser to teleport to the La Reserva sim: http://www.slurl.com/secondlife/Gemini/133/133/803
16. Do a ‘search’ (bottom of your screen) under the ‘People’ tab for avatar Philip McGillivary, who is our volunteer Philip who helped create La Reserva’s Second Life sim. Click on his name to open his profile. Click on ‘Add Friend’ and when he receives your request to be a Friend he will contact you and introduce himself to you and give you whatever help you want or need.
17. From that point on, enjoy yourself! We’re sure you’ll have a great time!
Important Special Note: As with any online activity or social network, discretion and prudent practices are essential. Never give out any of your personal information, credit card or any other identifiable information unless you clearly know who you are interacting with. Likewise, only “friend” people you know and recognize. It is completely free to participate and nowhere do they ask for additional information beyond your initial signup with Second Life. Please contact Philip McGillivary on Second Life if you have any questions.