Taking Second Life to the Next Level: From Monologue to Dialogue
6.15.07 | June 22 marks a turning point in the history of virtual worlds. No, it’s not a turning point because a major foundation is entering this space, as has been addressed elsewhere. It’s a turning point because a recognized leader known for a keen ability to identify and encourage innovation is coming to the virtual world community for a conversation. What’s key about this conversation is that it will be two-way—not a monologue, but a dialogue. Not a conversation to sell people on a brand, market a new product, or to make money on ideas, but a conversation to ask the residents of virtual worlds a fundamental question: What matters here?
Second Life is in the throes of some heady days: an astonishing rise in visibility cast across a dizzying international media landscape; blooming into the darling of just about every major publication in print; and lots and lots of talk about how to make money, market and advertise to the burgeoning Second Life audience.
This “commodification” of Second Life has not come without a price: The community has reacted, sometimes violently. Most importantly perhaps, Second Life community members have reacted by raising their voices, demanding to be heard, in a chorus of blogs.
The December 2006 issue of The Economist expounds on the (declining) art of “The Conversation” and cites American essayist Stephen Miller, who worried that “neither digital music players nor computers were invented to help people avoid real conversation, but they have that effect.”
If the MacArthur Foundation’s vision is a success, this year of conversation will result in a better understanding of what it means to be a part of a new, global community and of what it needs to be a success in it. It will not avoid real conversation, but engage, facilitate and, most importantly, listen.
People in virtual worlds are already talking; it’s time we started listening. The MacArthur Foundation is taking that first step, and I look forward to hearing what the community has to say.
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