Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Roland Legrand Analyzes Second Life's Emphasis on Communication & Education vs Content Creation

"It is about the sharing of ideas, stupid! - I am catching up with some conferences and panel discussions I missed these last days and week. Fortunately video and transcripts are rather mainstream for those events, for instance for the Metanomics panel discussion about Possible Futures of Virtual Worlds and Society (February 11).
I will not try to give a kind of a fair and balanced resume of what has been said, but just focus on what struck me as interesting. First of all, I should point out what I found was lacking. CFO John Zdanowski of Linden Lab talked a lot about creativity, but once again I was left into the dark about how to reconcile some elements of the ToS of Second Life with the property rights the residents of Second Life have. How to combine the freedom of the company (Linden Lab) to throw out residents for no reason at all, with meaningful property rights? I still could not find out. What was interesting though, is the emphasis on the sharing of ideas as content creation. Zdanowski explained: "…people getting together and sharing ideas is content creation. And I think, in the Real World, certainly a portion of people who build buildings is very low. But the proportion of people, like no other time in history, people all over the planet have the potential to create ideas and share ideas, and I think that’s where Virtual Worlds become an unbelievable amazing medium for people to create and share ideas. And ideas as content is really kind of what’s most exciting to me about the space in general." And here is another quote, making this point on a personal level: "Personally, I look at it as an amazing educational tool and communication tool, much like we’re using it today. And I think, at the end of the day, they’re not content creations sort of, for example in Skype, but there is idea sharing, but that all platforms and all virtual worlds can enable." The other participant in this discussion was Chris Klaus, CEO and founder of the social virtual world Kaneva. Now, Kaneva is very much focusing on entertainment, and the folks of Linden Lab like to remind us that in the earliest days of any new media, it is basically entertainment which drives its success, like professional wrestling during the earliest days of television. Kaneva does certainly agree with this, and they try to offer entertainment while integrating social networking (think MySpace or Facebook) into their world. So it is about the social thing, and Kaneva also has more restrictions compared with Second Life, for instance all avatars have to be humans and they want constraints in order to have a safe environment. Kaneva is also involved in emerging micro businesses. The community itself is paying for DJs to play real music and hire dancers and recruit other people into the social sim club environment (I don’t know how Kaneva handles property rights). Entertainment for KLaus it a great hook to pull people in, but he is clearly looking beyond this:
"And then, as people are exploring these worlds, I think we’re going to see it morph into a lot of other goals. I think this conference has been great, in terms of having the discussion way beyond just just entertainment." So, the worlds of education and collaboration on ideas and concepts seem to interest the virtual world people a lot as potential killer applications. This seems logical to me, but maybe it also explains why in the end the rights of the individual avatar producing textures or scripts are not that important. Which, I believe, is wrong. Because maybe that kind of production is not as flashy as meetings organized by Stanford, Harvard or Cornell University, but it really helps to create something like a Second Life, with its bewildering variety of objects, buildings and animations. Without it, a virtual world would be a sad institutional environment, with no fun and hence no creativity." A fascinating analysis Roland! http://www.mixedrealities.com/ Who is he? "I am a journalist living and working in Belgium, born in 1959, married. I work as a multimedia newsroom manager for Mediafin, the publisher of the business newspapers De Tijd and L’Echo. I consider myself to be a kind of facilitator of new media projects. I studied economics and philosophy in Antwerp and Leuven, and specialized as a financial journalist. As a financial journalist, I looked into the topic of electronic communication networks, which are of course heavily used in the financial world. Financial markets are moved by worldwide realtime information (quotes, news, rumours). Markets are of course also an interactive environment. So a lot of the features of new media (realtime information, always on, interactive applications, community building) existed already in proprietary systems used by the worldwide financial community. I got even more interested when those features became mainstream in the gaming community, where games such as World of Warcraft became a kind of massive worldwide realtime gatherings of players. Communities like Second Life expanded this notion even outside the gaming realms, creating an open ended vitual environment. I am convinced there are a lot of issues at stake here, and I hope to share some of my ideas on those issues with you here on MixedRealities. Contact: My avatar in Second Life is Olando7 Decosta, he runs a bar for people interested in new media at Reignier (151, 68, 21). You can find me on Twitter as Olando7 or you can just mail me at legrandroland@gmail.com."

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