To contextualize Cyber Zen ’s investigation, this chapter analyzes Second Life’s media practices. I logged on to Second Life on December 12, 2009, after a Gmail “ping” pulled my attention out of the Microsoft Word document from which this very text would eventually evolve. Just a few minutes before, in an attempt to reboot my lagging fi eldwork, I had contacted the resident Mystic Moon about a possible interview. 2 The ping marked the arrival of Mystic’s positive answer and disentangled my awareness from my computer screen. I became conscious of my offi ce’s background noise: the jazz pianist Cedar Walton playing on my earbuds, the minor cord humming of the furnace, the large black cat in my lap, and a slight trembling from the train rattling by a half block away. In real life, Mystic was a twenty-six-year-old German who was fi nishing up his apprenticeship as a digital designer. In Second Life, Mystic was already a wellrecognized builder , who had created the Buddhist garden of Gekkou, one of the most stunningly beautiful sims in Second Life. 3

Second Life is a virtual world, a type of digital media practice that differs from other forms because it is a shared immersive cyber-social environment. In our interview, Mystic described Second Life as a “sim[ulation], or a multi-user platform such as World of Warcraft in which you take on an assumed persona and interact with other players.” Second Life differs from fl at digital media, such as the World Wide Web and email, because of a high rate of “immersion,” which describes the feeling of “being in” a virtual world that occurs when a user’s awareness no longer focuses on real life but has moved inworld . Many forms of media, from books to cinema, are immersive. Users often lose themselves in the narratives that media practices construct. Digital virtual worlds differ, however, because users share their immersion with others. As Mystic’s partner, Fae Eden, who had come with him for the interview, added, “Second Life is a world because there are people.”