Monday, April 9, 2012

Flying Purple Horses

Dear Linden Lab,

Your case study "How Meeting In Second Life Transformed IBM’s Technology Elite Into Virtual World Believers" does fulfill its purpose in highlighting the positives and successes of holding a conference online as with IBM from a marketing standpoint.  However, the article does not say much about the workers except "Attendees raved about the conference and thoroughly enjoyed the experience." then later describes users gathering together and chatting.  I may have a skeptical eye, but I would have appreciated more feedback from users or some type of evidence (charts, surveys, quotes, etc.) to bolster these claims.  Moreover, just because an event may have seemed to go well online, does not prove the event to be effective in the long run.  What did attendees have to say a week after the event? Were they maintaining communication and building relationships with the people they had met?  There is no point in holding an event that does not give the results that were sought.  The event may have, but the lack of evidence in your article hurts your case.

On the other hand, Edward Castranova discusses cybermarketing in his paper "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier."  His ideas show the positives and negatives to the virtual worlds and are bolstered the may surveys he conducted, charts, and figures.  It is clear that a virtual world can be profitable and obviously save businesses money.  But, they will alter the earthly world forever.  He wrote "Telecommuting, which now involves working on the home computer and emailing reports to the boss, will eventually become 'going to work' in a virtual office and holding face to face meetings with the avatars of coworkers. Families living thousands of miles apart will meet every day for a few hours in the evening, gathering their avatars around the virtual kitchen table and catching up. And the day of driving to the store may well be over. Earth roads will be empty because, instead of using them, everyone will be sailing across the azure heavens on their flying purple horses, to shimmering virtual Walmarts in the sky." Sure, this sounds ridiculous and over the top, but stop for a minute and think-- this is life.  Castranova's entry is not meant to give hope, but to awaken to what virtual worlds are doing to our real world interactions and way of life.  People are losing themselves in virtual worlds every day.  Yes, virtual conferences can save money, but at the cost of our selves and relationships.

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