Canary Beck has done a great research piece on whether or not Second Life’s reputation is that of a home for sexual perverts or not. Her research provides objective data on how Second Life™ is perceived by the Google Search Engine, which is about as objective a source as one can find.
The short answer is, no. The research and proof is rather convincing, but not totally definitive. It is the best I’ve seen to date. I think it is worth a read and it got me thinking. As you read you’ll be exposed to the concepts of confirmation bias and illusory correlation as a possible explanation for why some believe Second Life has a reputation problem.
I think Canary is also being tactful in an effort to be convincing, may be not. I think projection and transference are also likely factors in one’s perception of anything. But, it is difficult to quantify and identify whether projection and transference are significant factors in an individual’s case and more so in groups’ cases. While I tend to see and suspect most people that form an opinion without doing due diligence as projecting, that doesn’t make it so. It might be my projection. Whatever the case, Canary stuck to what she could objectively point to and anyone could check out for their selves.
Canary knows the information she collected and presented is not the final proof needed to substantiate her hypothesis. But, it goes a long way in supporting her hypothesis. I accept her work and that it suggests the Jo, Drax, and Au mindset people of SL may be wrong and there truly is nothing to worry about. But, I also think there is a part missing that might be a rational reason for concern. So, let’s take a look at that.
In broad terms Canary was looking to see what people think of Second Life. The evidence is a machine’s analysis of how we talk about SL on the web. The Google spiders collect and index what we write and algorithms rank the most common comments to provide search results that people are mostly likely to find pertinent.
What we have learned from Canary’s analysis is essentially the majority of people have no opinion or knowledge of Second Life. But, if they go looking for a virtual world, what will they learn? What will their first impression be?
I wasn’t totally happy with how Canary searched, but her searches were to determine how search engines see SL as an objective proof of the perception of SL.
Let’s take that a step farther and think about asking people about SL that know nothing about it, what they associate with SL? Think about that. What do you associate with the things you know nothing about? (Don’t click) For instance: Ackee. Do you associate it with sex? What do you associate it with? Go ahead and click now.
OK… the picture looks a bit phallic and I associate it with a banana now that I’ve seen it. My point is that there is a basic answer to the question of what people think about Second Life. It is initially simple. If they don’t know of SL then nothing much.
Now comes the Jo, Drax concern. That old cliché that first impressions only come once and are important. But, first and often subsequent impressions are often misleading. Consider. If you are a prison guard and only meet illegal immigrants at work… you probably think of them in Trump terms; criminals, murders, and rapists. If you are a Catholic priest or evangelical pastor you meet an entirely different group of legal and illegal immigrants and extremely few if any that are criminals, murders, and/or rapists. Trump seems completely out of line to this later group experience.
So, concern about what first impression Second Life make seems a reasonable concern. The precursor question is, how does one get a first impression? Then we can look to see what they may get. Since we assume here they don’t know of Second Life, they won’t be using that term to search. Canary covered what they would find if they did.
We reasonably assume a person will search on something that leads them to discover Second Life. These days that is probably virtual world or virtual reality. Try a search on virtual world. Second Life comes up second… we can safely assume a large percentage of people will click that result, along as they will some of the others.
On the term virtual world you will see VirtualWorld.com come up in the number one search result position. Clicking that result takes you to a VirtualWorld.com landing page, a page designed to receive people coming from a search.