Scholars have been thinking seriously about the legal and social implications of virtual worlds for a number of years. Because virtual worlds allow for nearly complete abstraction from society, they are a wonderful environment for theorists. Now these virtual world issues are beginning to break into the mainstream.
Ilya Vedrashko, Games Brands Play: "This paper suggests advertisers should experiment with in-game advertising to gain skills that could become vital in the near future. It compiles, arranges and analyzes the existing body of academic and industry knowledge on advertising and product placement in computer game environments. The medium’s characteristics are compared to other channels’ in terms of their attractiveness to marketers, and the business environment is analyzed to offer recommendations on the relative advantages of in-game advertising. The paper also contains a brief historical review of in-game advertising, and descriptions of currently available and emerging advertising formats."
Henry Jenkins, Experimenting with Brands in Second Life: "We might think of Second Life as a platform for thought experiments -- a place where we can test ideas that might not be ready for prime time, where we can experiment with new ways of being on both a personal and communal level. If you can think it, you can build it on Second Life, and so far, if you build it, they will come."
Terra Nova: Second Life: "There's apparently all this enthusiasm about Second Life today, as opposed to other VWs, in the mass media and among the digerati."
MIT Advertising Lab: Two Ad Agencies Announce Second Life Branches: "Following hot on the heels of Adidas, which recently became one of the first global brands to create a presence in the online virtual reality world, Leo Burnett has now set up shop in Second Life with a virtual agency - the Leo Ideas Hub. The idea is to create a global creative community where creative ideas can be shared and briefs honed. It's a neat alternative to the usual company intranet and gives Burnett the option to leverage any commercial opportunities that might come out of the Second Life economy."
This month's Wired magazine has a long feature on Second Life (which is not yet online) which discusses the Second Life economy and culture.