Saturday, August 30, 2008
Setting Up in Second Life: A Guide for Federal Agencies
Federal agencies increasingly are curious about and are exploring virtual worlds. Some, like the State Department, are using them to interact with people they might not already be reaching. Others, like NOAA, CDC, and NASA, are doing public education, promotion, and even some collaborative work there.
Given the growing interest, I thought it would be a useful experiment in virtual journalism and virtual government to tell the story of one agency's experience establishing a presence in a synthetic world, in this case, Second Life. Above you'll see the first in a series of Webcasts I am creating to tell the story of how the National Defense University's Information Resources Management College bought islands, designed an environment, built buildings and now is hosting students in Second Life.
The three main characters hardly are the type of folks most of us imagine as denizens of an online world, yet they all had established in-world identities as avatars before they embarked on their official journey into Second Life. In my series, you'll hear of the challenges they faced buying virtual land through the very real federal procurement process, their personal struggles with creating appropriate appearances for their alternate Second Life personas, the communications hurdles in getting synthetic world designers to create space for a very serious institution. The stories are sometimes funny and frustrating, sometimes insightful and encouraging but always useful for anyone thinking ahead to a future when the real and the virtual aren't nearly to separate..
Second Life might not end up being the virtual world where most federal work is accomplished, but it's a sure bet that more and more of that work soon will be done virtually somewhere.
I hope you enjoy the first in the series, and if so, I hope you'll share the url with others. Either way, I invite your comments and suggestions and urge you to come back to see the next episodes of "Setting Up in Second Life."
UPDATE, Sept. 2: While I remain skeptical about the extent to which agencies and businesses will be able to use virtual worlds such as Second Life for "real" work, there's some pretty impressive evidence in new statistics from Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency is conducting training for border-crossing guards in Second Life and reports that in 2007 without using Second Life, students' average grade for interview skills was 58 percent. In 2008, after using the Second Life simulation, the average interview skills grade rose to 86 percent. More extensive coverage can be found on New World Notes. Here's a look at how the Canadians are doing it:
Hat Tip: Virtual Worlds News