Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Storms + Second Life

Although I am unsure of the potential of virtual worlds and multi-user virtual environments such as Second Life, I remain convinced that there is potential to be had here. I am an early adopter of new developments and my approach is, “What does this mean for the disciplines I work in, for my students?”

Like most new technologies, there is a slow ramp- up: people doubt and resist and do not understand it. Then there is a flurry of activity: people just getting on the bus because the bus is there. Then a slight decline in interest: “Oh, I have to figure out how to use this and what it means?”. Then sustained activity and building: this is the role academia plays in developing new directions. This pattern is true for Second Life as well as other VWs.

In the last year or so I have seen the appearance of more than one venture capital investment firm investing in the production of virtual goods. In investigative studies of social networking the sale of virtual goods is attributed to large sums of revenue generation. [Think Zynga games.] Combine this with true success stories of people making a living through the use of Second Life- the cover of Inc. magazine, Filthy Fluno. Keeping my finger on the pulse I ask, “What does this mean for the disciplines I work in? For my students?”

If you missed Digital Nation on PBS [public broadcasting system], I encourage you to look it up. I believe you can watch it online. Warning: you might feel like you are behind.

I have been snowed in, with the exception of walks in the neighborhood, since Friday, 5 February due to the record-breaking snowstorms in the mid-Atlantic region. This is not to say that things have been at a stand still or even quiet at my house. Yesterday for example it felt like a regular day at work, juggling multiple conversations at once, the To Do list growing with each bing, attending meetings, structuring projects, and time slipping away all too fast. [I am grateful for electricity!] While many people’s activities came to a halt more-or-less for a week so far [you have not been to the studio to advance your projects/coursework; local businesses lost a week’s worth of revenue] the weather did not stop virtual work. We held our scheduled office hours on Monday nigh. Rachel learned how to build and by 10:30 pm she had images of her work up in Second Life in a cool installation. By Wednesday she had recreated the installation format with more images. By simply adding a price tag to her work she creates a potential revenue stream. It cost her nothing but time. Around 11:30pm last night Suzi FB’d me asking for Lindens: I look forward to seeing the latest addition to the Suzi empire in the Towson Innovation Lab. Follow in their footsteps.

Work is progressing on the international, collaborative project I am working on. So far we have interest from Scotland, Thailand, the Czech Republic, as well as North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Minnesota, Marquette University, The University of North Dakota, and Bradely University. I have high hopes that we can find some partners in China and Korea as well. I hope you will get on board with this project and opportunity. Many things feel uncomfortable and strange when we first encounter them. I encourage you to push through and be on the leading edge.

I will post some links from my work in Second Life yesterday- student projects, other university islands, and leading thinkers on virtual worlds. It’s a big world out there, won’t you check it out?

I have been invited to give an audio interview about this international collaborative project in Second Life by the New Media Consortium, which I will be recording later this afternoon. I will post a link when it is available. But right now, I need to go do some kind of snow removal/control so maybe I can leave the neighborhood for real some time soon.


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