If there was any question that the virtual world of Second Life was being taken seriously by academics (and those who provide grants to them), the recent $240,000 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant to Indiana University's Edward Castronova should put the question to rest.
Castronova, plans to create Arden, a Second Life environment and multiplayer game that introduces students to the world of William Shakespeare. However he also plans to "use it as a Petri dish for testing out economic theories by creating controlled experiments within the game’s population."
The MacArthur Foundation recently launched a five year, $50 million digital media and learning initiative http://www.digitallearning.macfound.org/site/c.enJLKQNlFiG/b.2029199/k.BFC9/Home.htm "to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life."
To read more about Castronova's grant project:
Prof gets funding for virtual Shakespeare world