As chic as it can be to jump on the bandwagon of a new technology, there is an equal and opposite chic reaction for skepticism. So what’s a boy to do?
By the end of 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users (and
Fortune 500 enterprises) will have a "second life," but not
necessarily in Second Life, according to Gartner, Inc.
The second part certainly makes a lot of sense. All one has to do is think back to the birth of the 2-D web. Tim Berners-Lee essentially gave away his invention of the web. The web is the way it is today largely b/c of open source and common standards in HTML, protocols, and all that business that goes on under the hood of the Internet. One of the coolest things about Second Life is that everything that is there has been built by users, so it shares that with the web. But it seems to me that if SL were to expand to meet the point where 80% of users interacted in virtual worlds, it could only happen by opening up the system.
This is the really tricky part within our marketplace logic. Let’s say you’re Ford Motor Co. Sure you could have dealerships in SL where people could get a virtual look at new models and so on, just like you have a 2-D website now. But you don’t want to have a dozen or hundred different sites in different virtual worlds with different standards etc, etc. You could almost imagine a crippled web like that, right? One where each net community had proprietary standards.
How useless would that be?
On the other hand, no one is going to hand over the whole business to Linden Labs either, not anymore than one would hand over the browser business to Microsoft. So I suppose we’ll see what happens.
Now that said, the basic concept of virtual worlds is very hot. Part of it is the 3-D, immersive experience I guess and all the activities from prosaic to kinky to kinky and prosaic that are possible there. However, what really interests me (and I don’t think this is a stunning revelation here) is the potential of communication, collaboration, and networking.
An example? OK. In my class this semester, I might post a video or podcast or write something for my students to read. Though they are all interacting on the course sites, they have no real sense of interaction. So let’s say that instead of watching a video on a browser on their desktop, now they are in SL, watching the same video on a screen in the environment. Yes, they are watching the same video, but now they are in a virtual room with the avatars of a couple classmates, watching it together. They can converse while watching the video. They can do nearly everything they might have done in the physical classroom.
Yes, this activity require real-time interaction. So the question might be, why not do it in a physical classroom? Why go to SL? Well, this post is getting long, so some of these questions will have to wait for another time. However, one obvious answer is the possibility of collaboration at a distance. Another answer is that we can broaden the times when synchronous collaboration might be possible. And a third possible answer is the SL might allow us to undertake activities not possible in RL. But that I really will have to address at another time.