Monday, April 9, 2012

Virtual Worlds and the Pros and Cons of Working In Them

Dear Linden Labs,

I recently read your case study on “How Meeting In Second Life Transformed IBM’s Technology Elite Into Virtual World Believers” and it’s evident that you make a grand statement related to the pros of working in Virtual World. You go into depth about how employees of IBM meet on Second Life for their conference, rather than in person, and how the attendees are very pleased with the logistics of the conference overall. You even quote one of the participants as saying: “Second Life provided an opportunity for us to have a positive social and technical exchange, addressing most of our collaboration objectives.” The article also mentions that large costs were saved on travel and venue costs, as well as additional productivity gains. In my opinion, there are many things that Second Life can be used for in a positive way, like letting people live out their fantasies by looking a different way, living in a much bigger house, or just to socialize with other users for fun. When bringing a major conference to the table, especially of such a large, well-known company, I feel that the conference should instead be held in person. Yes, an infinite amount of information can be shared on the web, but there’s nothing like physically being in the same room as someone else and being able to look them in their actual eye (not their avatar’s eye) when they speak. Also, by transferring large meetings like these to the virtual world, things like airlines, hotels, and venues, just to name a few, are also losing revenue.

In “Implications and Policies in Synthetic Worlds,” Edward Castranova takes a stance similar to my opinion above. As people become so entangled with virtual worlds, the actual world around them may start to crumble, in various ways. Since a great deal of the content produced online is offered to consumers for free, I found Castranova’s section on “economic activity” to be particularly interesting. He writes that “If transactions, production and consumption increasingly occur in synthetic worlds, the corresponding measures of economic activity on Earth will fail.” He also brings up a good point about how people must be able to differentiate between virtual worlds and the real world, and be sure to not lose themselves in the virtual worlds, writing: “As with any great migration, the wounds of separation will only heal when all people are able to comfortable step back and forth across the synthetic divide.”

Thanks for reading!

Blaine Schoen

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