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Virtual Worlds are Alive and Kicking


Recently Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, blogged about Second Life striving for a second wind and posited that corporate participation in key.

I had the good fortune on April 3 to join other corporate, non-profit and educational leaders on a panel at the McCombs School of Business and the Center for Business, Technology and Law at the University of Texas' "New Ventures and Leadership in Virtual Worlds" conference to talk about Dell's participation in Second Life. We not only addressed the participants in Austin, Texas, but also in Second Life at the Stockholm School of Economics' island there.

During our panel titled "A Platform for Commerce and Collaboration," Anne Lange, director of Public Sector WW operations and Media at Cisco presented virtual worlds "as a prefiguration of the web of the future and the next frontier of interactive, multimedia, global collaboration." She spoke of Cisco's work with a new type of avatar that can act as a virtual personal assistant.

David J. Neff, director of Web, Film and Interactive Strategies for the American Cancer Society's High Plains Division spoke about their Relay for Life event in Second Life that last year raised more than $200,000 real U.S. dollars. Robin Teigland, associate professor at the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden spoke about the commerce opportunities within Entropia Universe, a virtual world that was recently granted real life a banking license by Swedish banking authorities.

And, I used the following slides to illustrate just a few of the activities that Dell has done in Second Life:

If those real life illustrations of virtual world uses still aren't enough to convince you that this technology is indeed more than a fad, consider that our panel discussion came on the second day of this conference and that during the first day a large group of academics were presenting papers to be considered for publication in an upcoming special issue of the scholarly journal MIS Quarterly.

"What people have been calling Web 2.0 (or are now calling Web 2.1 or Web 3.0, indicating that the floor is moving fast) is a promising are of Internet development.  Some are even surmising that it could dramatically change the way people communicate or interact with their social and work environments," noted Detmar W. Straub, Ph.D., D.B.A., FAIS, editor-in-chief of MIS Quarterly. "MISQ wanted to be at the forefront of research in this exciting new area of interactive computing where the world itself is being represented in cyberspace."

Such research will could help move virtual worlds from the fringe of new online communication environments to the mainstream one day. And, The University of Texas will continue to be a part of this exploration, when it again serves as the real world location for a virtual world conference in September that will cover "wide-ranging topics based around Second Life, OpenSim, Open Croquet, Activeworlds, Open Source Metaverse, and Project Wonderland, everything to gender studies and education to advertising and technology applications."

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