Just received word from my good friend in Australia, Dr. Chris Thorne, that the members of our panel at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference in New Orleans will include Philip Rosedale, Founder and Chairman of Linden Lab; Doug Twilleager, Wonderland group, Sun Microsystems; Peter Schickel, Founder of Bitmanagement Software GmbH; Chris Thorne, and yours truly. Some of you may remember my post on last year’s conference, where I described to the audience the magic of my first year in Second Life, only to suddenly discover that not everyone on the panel wanted to hear what I had to say.
It seems the virtual world industry was heading in another direction at that moment, and the others on the panel, all CEOs of virtual worlds (including google Lively, ironically) were basically describing their efforts to find the holy grail: web-based virtual worlds. There.com, Twinity, Lively, etc., were all attempting to establish what would essentially become the first 3D facebook; they were dumbing down the software, lowering the bar in hopes of bringing in much larger numbers of subscribers; unwittingly, I was describing the opposite approach. I was emphasizing the beauty and wonder of the fully immersive experience of Second Life in emotional, aesthetic and experiential terms.
So, this year, the theme will be How do virtual worlds effect hearts and minds? and some of the heavy hitters that participated in the last one will not be there this year. Google Lively, for instance, will not be there for obvious reasons; but I can’t help wondering whether some of the others declined because the topic was such a sensitive one; one which many business leaders have not addressed directly in their pursuit of greater numbers, and therefore greater profits. Nothing wrong with making money, imho, but we are talking about the birth of a new paradigm here; one which, for better or for worse, will play an increasingly important role in our culture and bring about changes we cannot yet imagine. Seems to me we oughta be talking about these things now, in hopes of getting at least some of them right.
It should be an interesting event, though; not just because I will be there (jk), but because a few avatars will also be there: the meeting will be videocast live into Second Life, and SL attendees will be projected onto a wall throughout the presentation. The event will last two hours; the first hour for the speakers, the second for Q&A. Get those pencils sharpened, guys.
Photo above: Alice In Wonderland Dark Ride in Second Life,