Today I joined Second Life, a virtual 3-D world built by its residents. At first I really didn't want to. I already spend way too much time online, but then there started to be events that I wanted to check out. Like in January when Mia Farrow spoke in Second Life about Darfur at a virtual event sponsored by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience. And this Friday the President of the MacArthur Foundation will discuss the role of philanthropy in the virtual world with the Founder and CEO of Linden Labs (the creators of Second Life).
Plus, Tech Soup (who I work for) is spearheading a Nonprofit Commons in Second Life, "a virtual community of practice for nonprofits to explore the opportunities and benefits of Second Life." Some of the 31 tenants at the Nonprofit Commons include Idealist.org, International Rescue Committee, FightHunger.org (UN World Food Programme), and CARE USA. The photo is of me in the CARE office in the Nonprofit Commons.
I think Jonathan Fanton, the MacArthur Foundation's President, summed up the potential for Second Life for positive change when he wrote in a blog post, "I believe that the importance of virtual worlds may be less about their growth as economies, and more about their capacity for collaboration and human development. "
The main obstacles I see to Second Life having an impact for positive change are that you have to have a relatively good computer, a strong Internet connection, and it isn't intuitive how it works, at least it isn't to me. The barriers to entry need to be a lot lower for it to be the collaboration tool that it has the potential to be.
I will say that it is a lot more fun than I anticipated, and very addictive. How often do you get to fly?