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    Posted April 3, 2008 by
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    Stories from Second Life

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    First Congress Hearing in SL


    I was offered the opportunity of attending the first congressional hearing in Second Life on 1st April 2008. I teleported to a Second Life location in Rayburn, which was to be video linked to The House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, in Washington DC. The video link was set up by 'Machinima by Silver and Goldie' The topic was 'Online Virtual Worlds: Applications and Avatars in a User-Generated Medium'


    The meeting was opened in Washington by Congressman Edward Markey, who also had his avatar chairing the meeting in the Second Life virtual room. As well as the congressmen, four witnesses were present, these were Philip Rosedale, founder and Chief Executive of Second Life, Larry Johnson, Ph.D, Chief Executive Officer at the New Media Consortium, Susan Tenby, Senior Manager, TechSoup and Colin J Parris, Ph.D, Vice President, Digital Convergence, IBM.


    It is considered that 3D virtual worlds such as Second Life will become the cutting edge of the future replacing 2D internet applications. Mr Markey said that the hearing was designed primarily to be educational. Virtual worlds would become commonplace for communication, business, education, health care and cultural interests.


    Second Life is already being used by town halls to hold meetings on line. Many colleges and Universities have their own 'in world' campus's for teaching purposes. Technology giant IBM use the virtual world for meetings (cutting the cost of travel expenses) and using Second Life to show their staff low cost simulations, as well as being able to familiarise them with designs at an earlier stage of production.


    The American Cancer Society has raised tens of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions in Second Life. Education for health training as well can be held 'in world' The scope for people with disabilities is tremendous, such as a group of individuals with Cerebral Palsy who set up their avatar to run, fly and communicate with others in a whole new way. People in the Autism spectrum are able to join numerous groups in Second Life to seek information and share their experiences with other people with the condition (see http://edition.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/03/28/sl.autism.irpt/index.html )

    Philip Rosedale's vision of the 3D virtual world started in 2003 with a virtual patch of land measuring 1 square kilometre and 500 users. By 2006 there were 100,000 users, growing to 9,000,000 by 2008 with 50 to 60 thousands servers making 309 square miles. There are 15,000 businesses, 14,000 islands for education and approximately (and still growing!), 4,000 education projects taking place. Mr Rosedale, himself, a self made businessman, is proud of the fact that approximately 50,000 people are making real life money from Second Life.

    Asked about how secure Second Life is against criminals laundering money there, he said that any transaction over $10 is checked for unusual spending patterns. Child protection too is paramount in Second Life. Verification checks are made on credit cards, telephone numbers and the on line agreement when people register. When it was pointed out that the on line Sunday Times had reported that Islamic Terrorists had used Second Life for recruiting, he said there was no evidence of this and that the Second Life Community itself is very good at reporting any wrongdoings. He did admit though that agencies such as the FBI had been 'in world', although nothing untoward was found.


    Second Life, along with other similar virtual worlds is a type of communication that has grown dramatically over the last few years and the possibilities within such worlds are endless for businesses, education, culture and enjoyment. I for one, can only hope that the enjoyment side of the virtual world is not spoilt by the growing commerce and business infrastructure it is now making room for.

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