Topic 7: Virtual Worlds

June 1st, 2010

Virtual worlds are not just for fun, they are also apparently very useful for business purposes.  For example, Second Life offers a virtual world for companies to hold meetings, brainstorm, and make decisions. Communicating through avatars rather than through face-to-face interactions is supposed to give members an experience that is adventurous and productive at the same time. During meetings, employees can conduct power point presentations just as they would in a real-life setting, but with avatars that say whatever they command them to say.  After a meeting, members can unwind by taking advantage of the various amenities included in the virtual world, such as ice skating or clubbing ( ).

The sense of community formed in the virtual experience mimics that of a real-life company conference and retreat. However, it offers a whole new dimension to the pre-existing company dynamics. Members are brought into a new world and given a new identity through their avatar. Living vicariously through their avatars could inspire them to come out of their shell more and try new things. Employees may be more likely to take on more imaginative approaches to their run-of-the-mill meetings as well as renew their interest and commitment to their jobs.

Personally, I was very turned off at first by the idea of conducting business virtually rather than organically. I find face-to-face interaction more stimulating than communicating with another person’s avatar. However, I can see how this fad can bring new life to a management team. Besides this, it is more convenient for employees who would otherwise have to commute long distances to work. A virtual world also offers members an opportunity to spend time with their colleagues outside of work and gives them something to bond over.

To get a summary of the benefits of a virtual experience for companies, check out this virtual world video:

To see what Second Life in particular offers for businesses, go to:

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