First up, the Virtual World’s discussion (lead by Expara) talked about the potential of virtual worlds overtaking our current Internet as a predominant online platform. Unfortunately, they reiterated that “it is the future”, without providing any usable evidence (yes, the “iffy” SL economy data was cited). Participant were solicited for views on what they thought about their claim, but since the question was superficial to begin with, most of us had little to go on and agreed that it was just hype.
I joined in by explaining how 3D virtual spaces should be viewed like any other media, where they don’t replace one another, but rather used according to a one’s needs. In the case of Second Life, I explained how for the first time on the Internet, shades of identity, spatial presence and non-verbal communication could be experienced in a very rich way. This allows for SL to be a great socializing medium, which I see as a serious application of such services. We use particular media for particular needs, and no one needs to dominate over another. Judging from the Expara’s take on this, I doubt they fully grasped what I meant.
From a later conversation I had with them, I learnt that they were actually trying tap into virtual economies. Thanks to people like Anshe Chung, Second Life has been invaded by new residents hoping to make a quick buck, without truly participating in the existing culture throughout the lands. These gold-rush residents exploit the goodwill that could have persisted in SL, since they use all means (including scripts/bots) for economic gains. For example, they sometimes use multiple accounts to buy over cheap First Land meant for new residents, and reselling them for a huge profit. On the other hand, there are metaverse marketing companies such as The Electric Sheep Company and Millions of Us who seem to be doing a decent job establishing SL presence for real-life companies, yet incorporating them well into SL social/technological ecology. The bottomline is that one really has to see where the difference lie, and to use such metaverses according to their advantages over traditional textual spaces.
If only the Expara group were less guarded with their ideas, participants like ourselves would have reciprocated in kind. Granted in a user-generated unconference anything goes, but the same dynamics of giving and sharing still needs to exist for everyone to happily co-operate.