Very sad indeed I am to learn of the death (at just 34) of journalist and author Tim Guest. (More about him here.)
He was one of the who authors (the other being Wagner James Au) who opened a window for me on the anthropology and history of virtual worlds. More than 35 million people around the world were resident in a virtual world in 2007, and the number is growing exponentially.
Three dimensional internet is the way of the future so it is important that we learn to understand where we are going and how best to use this exciting new medium - as tool for creative expression, for education, for business, for social networking and - damn it - just for fun (think - the toybox you didn't dare dream of, as a kid).
Guest's Second Lives is as much the story of a personal journey as of a global digital phenomena, and I loved his stories of the characters he meets, both inside his computer and in "meatspace". He meets builders, content creators, a Mafia boss, griefers, the king of one virtual world, and an extraordinary character called Wilde (the avatar of a group of severely handicapped individuals in a day-care centre, who may not be able to talk or care for themselves in real life, but can run and fly and build and communicate with their fans in Second Life.)
I now very much want to read Guest's first book My Life in Orange, an account of his growing up in religious communes (an experience which provides him with some very interesting parallels with his virtual existence).
Wagner James Au (Second Life's best chronicler) has a tribute to Guest on his blog. And here is a video of the author in both realities :