Attending the Second Life Community Conference was like standing with a group of people on the edge of a cliff looking down on a city, knowing that in the morning it would be ours.
The context for this is a user base which has grown from 15,000 two years ago to 536,000 and continues to grow at 22% a month. It is a context that includes the arrival of major companies and universities at an increasing rate.
Mitch Kapor gave the keynote address. He compared skepticism about Second Life (he is chairman of the board of owners Linden Lab) to skepticism about the internet and personal computing. But he also sees the bigger picture and that is the potential of virtual worlds to impact human consciousness. I don’t believe he is overstating the long-term impact.
The diversity of applications within Second Life was clear during the conference. From the whole-hearted participation of the charity American Cancer Society to the US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the arrival of the first Auto manufacturer, a cross-section of American society now sees the potential of this platform.
I am bound to report that Qdot Bunnyhug stole the show however with a very funny talk about teledildonics. How do I phrase this? Given the active virtual sex environment present in Second Life, his product is a very good fit.
As for our own participation, (this is a new paragraph now) we had a very enthusiastic response to both of our new businesses (watch this space) and the many universities we spoke to were excited about our development project which involves a pioneering use of streaming into Second Life.
The education sector is abuzz with the possibilities. 20% of conference registrations were from educational institutions.
There were many outside-the-box presentations, for example, Sarah Brooke Robbins’ presentation on Image Slippage in which she described a subversive undermining of the traditional teacher/student relationship. She and the students decorate their houses in Second Life and then visit each other. The result is an unusual familiarity and a high trust level. In doing this, she is taking advantage of one of Second Life’s great strengths; the tendency of people to bond very quickly in the environment.
Larry Johnson of the NMC Campus summed up the feeling among educators, describing Second Life as an “important part of the future of education”.