It’s always fun to see the footprints that the virtual world leaves in the real one. Friendships, marriages, selling of virtual objects for real money, and virtual-to-real money conversions offer us bridges between reality as we know it and fantasy, which make them endlessly fascinating.
Now another of these bridges has been found – the electrical footprint of the servers involved in maintaining these avatars. In an Institute of the Future blog posting called “Second Life avatars consume as much electricity as Brazilians” they quote Nick Carr as saying that the wattage consumed per avatar is about the same as a Brazilian. While this was widely quoted, it was deflated in a commentary at the Guardian’s web site that correctly says it’s unfair to assume the end user’s computers are used solely for Second Life and that most users have multiple avatars on each PC. He comes up with about a third of a Brazilian. Again, it’s not the number that’s of interest as much as the bridge that can turn something from a virtual world into an actual, measurable impact in this one.