Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Virtual Revolution

The Guardian carries an article today about the virtual revolution, which it suggests may be as important as the industrial revolution in terms of the changes it is making to the way we work and do business.  I know that a large proportion of the people I know in real life think that I am involved in some sort of game... they don't understand what the virtual world is, and what is more have little interest in it.  They aren't into Computer Games, they tell me, as though this explains everything.

I have been in Second Life for over six years, and as soon as I arrived I could see the potential that the virtual world has for collaboration, creation, making links between people.  At that time, SL was tiny - a grid of around 100 sims and no more than 1000 people online, many of them from Linden Lab, the owner and creator of Second Life.

The virtual world has changed a lot over the past six years.  Big business has come and gone and come back again, educational institutions have dipped their toes in the water and then plunged into the world, only to jump out again.

Until recently, there didn't seem to be any viable competitors for Second Life, and so much of the development and content available in virtual worlds was on the Second Life grid.  Over the last year OpenSim has made such a lot of progress that more and more companies and institutions are using it for their corporate sims.  It has become possible to run your own OpenSim and to offer access to others - and to link your world with others on the Hypergrid.  Things are progressing at a breakneck pace, to the point where even people who are immersed in virtual worlds are beginning to have to work very hard to keep up with developments.

As for the rest of the world, who have gradually adopted the hideous echoes of the virtual world which are available on Facebook - like Farmville - which seem to offer all the timewasting drawbacks of virtual worlds and virtually none of the advantages - they are on a different planet altogether.  I find that the majority of my real life friends and family lack the vocabulary to discuss virtual worlds, lack the shared understanding of what I mean when I talk about a virtual world, and lack the inclination or motivation to change that.

Consequently, I have stopped even trying to explain what it is all about any more, and wait for articles like that in the Guardian to come along and explain things for me.  Eventually, they'll get it.  By that time, hopefully, I will be Queen of my own virtual world, and in a position to dispense land and virtual bounty to them.  At the moment I am struggling to get to grips with my own local OpenSim, fighting with the terraforming and trying to cope with running a server.  That's one thing I can say for virtual worlds... the big thing for me is that they have presented a constant intellectual challenge, and there is always something else to learn.  How much there is increases with every passing day.

1 comment:

  1. very interesting response - no one got email when it first happened!


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