Maybe it was just coincidence, but I ran across two separate articles on Second Life today, the virtual reality "game" that has turned into its own society. So much so that one "player" has become a millionaire here by becoming a real estate tycoon there, so much so that Richard Posner is giving a lecture there, according to Prawfsblawg, presumably coming back here when he's done. I've never played the "game" but I've read some accounts of it that make me wonder if maybe we could use it or something like it to run experiments in testing crim theory that we'd never get by an IRB here in First Life. If you can buy, improve, and sell real estate there, why couldn't you be faced with possibilities for crime (not Grand Theft Auto kind, the kind we have here in the "real world")? And, if you could, could we simulate many of the contexts we have here, allowing us to take two matched "twins" and run one through prison and the other probation to see who recidivated and why, whether longer sentences worked better than shorter? Could we put offenders into the game with non-offenders and see if changes in environments produced changes in criminality? I'm serious. I'm an old fossil when it comes to this stuff, so I'd appreciate it if someone with experience in Second Life could tell me where I'm completely goofy and where only my usual partly. Is someone already doing this somewhere and would like a place to discuss results (since peer review on a Second Life simulation might initially be a little, shall we say, skeptical?)?
Come on. Let me know. Let's play.