Summary by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida
The purpose of this article is to introduce the engaging 3-D virtual world of Second Life and to briefly describe the economic implications and opportunities for public accounting.
Second Life is referred to as a metaverse1 (coined from Neal Stephenson's 1992 book Snow Crash) and was introduced in 2003 by Linden Research Inc. Second Life is a user defined world where people (represented by avatars) interact in various ways. Free membership allows one to develop an avatar, who may walk, fly, and teleport around the Second Life environment. Destinations are found with a map, or by entering specific coordinates. Avatars communicate by chatting, and group presentations are provided with slide shows and streaming videos. You Tube has an introductory video of Second Life, and a video that illustrates its communication, education and collaboration possibilities. (Currently there are hundreds of videos listed under Second Life Text 100. See the links at the end of this summary2.)
Public accounting is represented in Second Life on CPA Island. To visit this island, or any other destination, you have to join Second Life. During this process you choose a Second Life name, enter your birth date, e-mail address, real name and password, and choose an avatar style. You can activate your account after you receive a verification e-mail, download and install the Second Life program. Log on with your avatar's name and password and you become part of the metaverse. Then join the Second Life Association of CPAs with the group option in the viewer menu. Type CPA Island in the Second Life map search box and the teleport button will take you to the island.
There are six main buildings on CPA Island. The Maryland Association of CPAs is in one of those buildings where a Power Point presentation is provided on the first floor that describes various aspects of the CPA profession. An Apple Quicktime video is provided on the 3rd floor that highlights a variety of opportunities for CPAs. A second building contains the Business Learning Institute Conference center and headquarters of the Second Life Association of CPAs. A computer on the reception desk provides a link to their SLCPA blog that is dedicated to exploring the possibilities of CPAs in Second Life. A third building houses the Second Life headquarters of KAWG&F, a real world CPA firm. Other buildings include a pavilion for new professionals, a CPA of the Future Center, and a CFO of the Future Center. CPA Island 2 was being developed when this article was written and contained some university information kiosks with links to their accounting department's web pages.
More information can be found on Robert Bloomfield's web site including videos that demonstrate the voice capability recently added to Second Life, and the basics of the Second Life economy where Linden dollars are used as currency. (See Bloomfield's You Tube Video, Cornell University's e-clips, and Metanomics for archived speaker series broadcasts related to studies of business and policy in the metaverse.) In addition, Steven Hornik's web site Really Engaging Accounting provides Second Life applications for financial accounting education (Hornik's Second Life location). Search "Second Life Accounting" on You Tube for Videos of Hornik's 3-D objects used to demonstrate basic accounting principles.
1 The metaverse is a user-defined virtual world of general use in which people can interact, play, do business, and communicate.
2 Some additional Links:
Kaplan, A. M. and M. Haenlein. 2009. The fairyland of Second Life: About virtual social worlds and how to use them. Business Horizons 52(6): 563-572. (Summary).
See Second Life Text 100 for hundreds of You Tube videos.
See the Second Life Links section for more Web Sites.
See the Second Life Bibliography section for other articles and books related to Second Life, Avatars, and the virtual world.