Thursday, September 18, 2008

WMA 2008: Live-Blogging Paul Doherty of the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium is one of the first museums in Second Life to have simultaneous events in real and Second life. They also have "ride-able" exhibits in Second Life. Of course despite the fact that it is "virtual," you still can actually get motion sick.

One of the big questions: even though there are controls you can exercise if you own your own space in Second Life, however, does that require a 24 hour presence moderating? Is it okay to let go and see what happens without controls or moderation? Where should the boundaries be--between taking a hands-off approach and letting people interact with your space as they will and structuring their experiences in order to ensure consistency and maintenance of the image that your museum has worked to establish?

(It goes without saying that virtual worlds offer many opportunities for growth in the legal profession...)

WMA 2008: Live-Blogging Jeff Clark of the Rasmuson Foundation

As with all aspects of marketing and programming, and one of the keys to a good branding strategy, when creating a presence in Second Life, you *must* integrate and coordinate it with your "real life" presence. One of the values of using Second Life as an extension of real world working life is "meeting people where they are."

"Second Life is an incubator of creativity encouraging new levels of social networking and interaction."

The Rasmuson Foundation Gallery of Alaskan Artists is definitely a front-runner/early adapter with a beautiful space in Second Life that is well integrated with their mission and their website and their physical presence.

WMA 2008: Alternative Spaces for Programs and Marketing in Second Life

"If you are offended by flying genitalia, you probably should leave the room."

[EDIT: I should have mentioned (and I do apologize) that our intrepid guide through this virtual space--and the source of that memorable quote--was Springs Coronet, aka Melissa Rosengard, Museum Consultant (and serious advocate) and former Executive Director of the Western Museums Association.]

All giggling aside, MMOGs are now becoming so well-recognized and acknowledged that AAM is now in the process of developing their own MMOG through the Center for the Future of Museums in conjunction with the Institute for the Future. The game will be "Superstruct." Email by Sept 22, 2008 in order to join Oct. 6, 2008.

Perhaps one reason why museums are becoming interested in virtual reality MMOGs--or should be--is that content creation allows for economy to develop. Virtual fundraising is even more in its nascency than the virtual worlds themselves, but even so philanthropists, foundations and economists have been expressing an interest in the philanthropic value of virtual worlds for at least a couple of years.

There actually two overlapping economies: the real economy in which the game designers make money and then the economies within the games. There is a $15 billion annual goods market.

eMarketer predicts the number of teen Internet users visiting virtual worlds will jump to 20 million in 2011.

Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Verizon are all conducting job fairs and interviews in Second Life. For-profit and nonprofit organizations are holding meetings in Second Life (often on "Conference Island"). Classes are held in Second Life. This is why it is important to maintain boundaries and retain a certain degree of professionalism--unless you have an "alt" avatar as well (that cannot be traced back to you).

Perhaps one of the most interesting uses for museum purposes is illustrated by the Van Gogh Museum in Second Life, which is not affiliated with the real life Van Gogh Museum, where you can actually enter the paintings and explore those spaces.

The social value of these alternative realities have given rise to whole new research disciplines and research specialists, including ludologists and narratologists. What's more, these realities are a valuable outlet for those with disabilities, for example providing the opportunity for a wheelchair-bound man to dance with his wife.

Although there are many, many MMOGs in existence, many have already folded and many, many more will in the future. Eventually these worlds/games will consolidate until a few have risen to the top.

The data is not great right now, but there are currently 30-60 million active MMOG users (this includes 10 million in WoW and 15 million in Second Life). These numbers are all little tricky to decipher because there are some users who play everyday and others who login once a year, however, these numbers are all for people who are actively engaged in the MMOGs. On average, there are 42,000 people logging in to Second Life at any given point in time.

Who's in Second Life?
Harvard Law School
Mormon Church
H&R Block
Ben and Jerry's
Amnesty Int'l
Illinois Alliance Library System
Major League Baseball
Rasmuson Foundation of Alaskan Artists
State Library of Kansas

What's in the future? Multiverse Places makes use of FaceBook and strives towards interoperability.