Portraits: The New Working Class

“Portraits: The New Working Class” explores new models of digital labor and emerging virtual economies through a series of portraits of worker avatars in the virtual environment of Second Life. Jobs vary from unskilled to skilled with wages ranging from a few extra dollars to help with weekly groceries to a small part time salary to a full time virtual world business. The compiled profiles created are based on interviews with workers in Second Life and information obtained from personal and corporate blogs and online business periodicals. Avatar names have been modified to protect privacy.

“The Workers,”MASS MoCA, 2011
(curated by Carla Herrera-Prats and Susan Cross)
“En Cada Instante,” Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City, 2010

Here is just a sampling:

Avatar name: Sweetmuffin Lane
Second Life job: personal escort
Real life job: telemarketing and virtual call center work
Approximate wages in Second Life: As a “newbie” to Second Life you can make between $500-$3,000 Lindens per day but as my skills have increased I make anywhere between $10,00-$15,000 Lindens per day. Pole dancing and custom skins and shapes are a must if you want to be an upwardly mobile escort.
Effects of economic recession in Second Life: Demand is slightly less predictable on a daily basis but the more time you spend in Second Life networking at adult entertainment areas and self-promoting in the Second Life classifieds and word of mouth the more sustainable your business is. Escort type business from other social networks can also be ported into Second Life for an “enhanced” virtual experience using avatars. Pole dancing is a must.

Avatar name:
Informaddicts Applebaum
Second Life job: museum docent
Real life job: University librarian/information technologies
Approximate wages in Second Life: Job is an extension of real life job at an educational institution and therefore not monetarily supplemented. More than 40% of work time is now spent in Second Life creating educational programming, promoting the museum to Second Life residents and networking with other educators for future collaborations.
Effects of economic recession in Second Life: As more and more educational institutions are facing budget cuts, virtual environments are being leveraged to extend educational opportunities through the creation of virtual classrooms. Training simulations for a variety of fields including medical, space and engineering and business are becoming more popular.

Avatar name: Kira Prideborn
Second Life job: Creator/builder of custom designed avatar body skins and shapes.
Real life job: graphic designer/photo retoucher
Approximate wages in Second Life: Approximately $6 USD per skin or shape package averaging about $3,000-$5,000 USD per year.
Effects of economic recession in Second Life: Due to increase in competition, shifted business to focus more on the “adult” market specializing in exotic and erotic avatar skins and accessories. Builders who are good at self-promotion and create unique virtual items can earn part time income up to $10,000 USD. In addition, there is an increase in builder jobs for Second Life corporate projects such as virtual conference centers and educational simulation training centers that can lead to real world full time income bringing in $50,000-$75,000 per year.

Avatar name: Frankly Alright
Second Life job: owner of virtual architecture studio that designs commercial and residential architecture for both physical and virtual worlds
Real life job: 3D modeler and architect for both physical and virtual worlds
Approximate wages in Second Life: Designs in Second Life range from individual buildings to entire interactive urban complexes and environments. Pre-fab buildings usually don’t earn much income with maximum price approximately $1000 Lindens ($3.75 USD). Custom designs are more lucrative and can cost clients up to $25-$30 USD. Commissions from real life clients to create virtual environments for research and/or prototyping are becoming more popular and can cost clients between $30,000-$50,000 USD, usually created in partnership with an outside media-based company.
Effects of economic recession in Second Life: Luxury residential builds and commercial centers for Second Life residents started to decline whereas architectural designs for physical world research and simulation in Second Life (virtual hospitals, educational campuses and training programs) has been on the rise due to lower costs in prototyping and more sophistication in realism.