Communicating in Virtual Worlds

Christian Renaud, who heads up the Second Life initiative for Cisco (full disclosure, I worked with the group and events), lead the panel on communicating in virtual worlds. On the panel were Dave Kamalsky of IBM, Matt Smalls of Millions of Us, Paul Steinberg of Intel and Achim Muellers of BMW.

Smalls: The magic of physical proximity is slowly becoming less and less relevant with virtual worlds, where you CAN meet face-to-face and have interaction. With the imminent launch of voice in Second Life, it is going to be more

Renaud: First time I was in Second Life, a person came up to me and introduced himself as the head of our user group. I offered him access to the island, and it has developed into a group where they are sitting together and meeting and talking in a Cisco clubhouse on our island.

Kamalsky: With Second Life, you can build a greater sense of intimacy than just a Web page, and it is less expensive than putting together an event. There are social norms, though, that are not kept up in Second Life, but you hope that they are going to become a bigger part of the environment.

Smalls: The upside is that there is more intimacy, and it can be quite safer than an actual real world event. You can have one-on-one interaction, or group interaction, where an executive would not get that opportunity otherwise.

Muellers: The interactive part of Second Life is what we have found very popular and valuable. We can interact, and become more involved, with people in Second Life in different ways than we have before.

Kamalsky: The Web of 1994 is analogous to Second Life - it was the Wild West, and that's replicated in virtual worlds right now. We love SL right now, and we are exploring worlds that can be used for the enterprise, behind a firewall. We wouldn't mind standardizing virtual worlds via PR.

Smalls: For PR, it's a great opportunity where you can communicate with groups and people. It's direct interaction with avatars, in a way to do community relations that are dispersed across the world.

Steinberg: We have a great relationship with Linden, and enjoy working with them. What Second Life has been great about is building new networks and communities within Intel itself. It is creating more networks, and more community, within the company. People are meeting colleagues - organizational flattening - where they are finding out what others are working on, and becoming part of it.

Muellers: Right, we do have some control of the experience, but it depends on how we integrate consumers in the future for BMW. A consumer today, but maybe a prosumer in the future. Virtual worlds can potentially work in that sense - potential customers on board in the development process, something that does need to be looked at in the future. Virtual worlds are like a 3D wiki, where we get to test out ideas and share viewpoints.

Steinberg: The ability to model a mutable way in a virtual environment is exciting. It is easy to get carried away with it, and it's hard to say where it is going to go.

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