Once upon a time, back in the age of Duran Duran and A Flock of Seagulls, MTV stood for “Music Television.” Now, it stands for … well, that’s a good question. It doesn’t stand for much. Music videos have, for the most part, been exiled to a subsidiary channel, MTV2, and the channel now seems to specialize in reality-esque shows about attractive people behaving stupidly. That doesn’t differentiate MTV much from other stations, which is the point. There have been a number of initiatives inside MTV to create music services (the store Urge, a YouTube knockoff called Overdrive, and a fistful of “portals,” none of which have had much impact.
In the new Wired, Mark Wallace reports on the network’s latest attempt to “get its groove back”: avatars. A new initiative, Leapfrog (well not that new, we reported on it in September, see “Related” below), launched a virtual world based around the network’s Laguna Beach show (called, natch, Virtual Laguna Beach. The back end is courtesy of There, a virtual world that launched around the same time as Second Life but hasn’t enjoyed a similar hip cachet. VLB has many of the expected virtual world features, though not the level of overcustomization we’re seeing at Second Life. There’s not much of a music angle (and it’s hard to tell whether players are buying premium memberships or in-game items), but at least the old Moon-man network is trying something semi-new (even if — see related article below — Viacom’s young-skewing network is trying the same thing). As with the early days of The Sims Online, it’s difficult to see how many people are playing.
As for the, er, real Second Life, let’s not let a day go by without comment on it. Second Life population skeptic Clay Shirky is one of three high-profile bloggers tackling the virtual world. (The others are Henry Jenkins and Beth Coleman, both availably via Shirky’s “Many2Many” page.) Turns out Shirky has thought even harder about the numbers Linden Lab is offering and what they mean. It a wide-ranging essay (How wide-ranging? It contains this observation: “visual representation of voluptuous womanhood predates the invention of agriculture.”), Shirky steps back from the business side of virtual worlds and considers the cultural import of the form, which may be easier than figuring out how to make money in it.
— Nickelodeon Jumps on Virtual City Bandwagon
— MTV’s Online Avatar Play