8 August 2007

Second thoughts on Second Life

Be the first to share
Media
Business
Services
Social Issues

Second Life
Lately a lot of people seem to have had second thoughts on Second Life.

A wave of articles was published recently on how marketers are not getting the returns they were expecting, how deserted it is, how it is all about sex and pranks, how it has become a virtual nanny state, and even how terrorists are using it to plan attacks.

Leaving aside for now the discussion to what extent this is just negative hype, it does make sense to see Second Life as an experimental environment where we can prototype new interaction and communication paradigms. Experimenting in these virtual worlds can also help us understand and imagine a future where a mix of real and virtual worlds will become increasingly prevalent.

I can see four good reasons for businesses, institutions and experience designers to be present in Second Life.

1. Prototyping of new participatory communication paradigms often involving very targeted and selected communities
A lot of lectures take place in Second Life. In fact, more than 300 universities, including Harvard and Duke, use Second Life as an educational tool. Some educators conduct entire distance-learning courses there; others supplement classes. Also big companies such as IBM and Intel use these graphics-rich sites to conduct meetings among far-flung employees and to show customers graphical representations of ideas and products. IBM went even as far to take the unusual step of establishing official guidelines for its more than 5,000 employees who inhabit “Second Life” and other online universes. Philips Design uses Second Life “to gain feedback on innovation concepts, engage residents in co-creation and obtain a deeper understanding of potential opportunities in this virtual environment”. And the Italian bank BNL and others are using virtual worlds to create communities to recruit some of their future employees, especially for more creative or technical job openings. Even something simple as chat is an entirely different experience on Second Life, with the other person’s presence is no longer communicated through an MSN-style presence icon with a small photograph or drawing but instead through a full three-dimensional moving avatar.

2. Prototyping of new interaction paradigms
Researchers at MIT are building realistic training simulators in Second Life, often controlled through a Wiimote. Some are even creating simulations for companies, such as a medical-devices firm, a global-energy company focused on power-plant training, and a pest-control firm — all looking to reduce training costs. In the words of one researcher, “the ability to easily integrate a wide range of psychomotor activities with simulations running on standard computer platforms will change the ways people interact with computers.”

3. Experimentation in an unconventional digital environment
These virtual worlds may be primitive still, but if we think of it, we are already living in an enriched world where our interactions with companies and banks, institutions and universities, cities and public services, are no longer just based on a physical communication paradigm. Instead they have become highly mediated by technologies. This will continue to grow. Our interactions will not only become more mobile but also more involving, more three-dimensional, and more experiential. Virtual worlds will be important, no matter what. There will be new types of interfaces – as already alluded to here and here and here – and new types of feedback, and it makes sense for forward looking companies to explore these new ways of reaching out to and involving their customers.

4. Virtual laboratories to understand human behaviour
Also researchers are exploring Second Life and other virtual worlds. A recent article in the journal Science addresses how researchers are getting insights into real life by studying what people do in virtual worlds, suggesting that virtual worlds could help scientists studying ideas of government and even concepts of self, while other researchers are looking at how behaviour peculiar to online worlds differs from that in real life. Also our colleagues from Adaptive Path are involved in this type of research.

Be the first to share
17 July 2019
The digital lives of refugees [Research report]
There is growing recognition among donors and humanitarian organisations that mobile technology and mobile network operators (MNOs) have an important role to play in the delivery of dignified aid. This includes providing digital tools that …
5 April 2019
The story of Spotify personas
Spotify's product designer Mady Torres de Souza and senior user researchers Olga Hörding and Sohit Karol explain how they developed their personas tool, how they use it today and why it’s so useful for an …
4 April 2019
When ethnography becomes a joke
For a number of years, we have witnessed a diminishing appetite for ethnographic work among commercial clients, writes Patricia Sunderland, PhD and founder of Cultural Research and Analysis, on the site of the Qualitative Research …
4 April 2019
Old, online, and fed on lies: How an aging population will reshape the internet
Although many older Americans have, like the rest of us, embraced the tools and playthings of the technology industry, a growing body of research shows they have disproportionately fallen prey to the dangers of internet …
31 March 2019
Research findings send automated sentiment analysis to the trash bin
The age of social media has opened up exciting opportunities for researchers to investigate people’s emotional states on a massive scale. For example, one study found that tweets contain more positive emotional words in the …
31 March 2019
Time Change: How the UX of Time Begins Below the UI
The user experience of most web-based applications begins well below the interface, all the way down to fields in a database. Examining how systems and users experience time prove this point dramatically. Think about how …
9 March 2019
Innovation is about understanding culture
Jay Hasbrouck, Founder of Filament Insight & Innovation, argues that ethnographic thinking is an overall innovation strategy that can strategically guide large organisations in how they innovate, can drive their efforts to build innovation capacity, …
24 February 2019
Ten arguments against algorithmic decision making
Against the Dehumanisation of Decision-Making – Algorithmic Decisions at the Crossroads of Intellectual Property, Data Protection, and Freedom of Information by Dr Guido Noto La Diega, Senior Lecturer in Law at the Northumbria University Law School Published …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

5 July 2019
Experientia on addressing vaccine hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy is a top10 global health threat. Dealing with it successfully requires understanding it as a behaviour and generating a holistic view of people’s perspectives & ecosystems. This way we can identify the best opportunities for intervention. Here is Experientia’s position on vaccine hesitancy and our tailor-made support for the vaccine industry.

2 May 2019
MacArthur Foundation’s “100&Change” competition now calling for applications

100&Change is a MacArthur Foundation competition for a $100 million grant to fund a single proposal that will make measurable progress toward solving a significant problem. 100&Change will select a bold proposal that promises real progress toward solving a critical problem of our time. And it will award a $100 million grant to help make […]

19 March 2019
Interested in a career with us?

Then we are interested in hearing from you. We have several positions available for talented UX/UI and service designers who are passionate about creating world-class user experiences. Please see the job descriptions on our website for more information, and send us your CV with a cover letter statement about yourself, your experience, and what UX […]

22 December 2018
Our very best wishes for 2019! / Auguri da Experientia!
4 October 2018
Bringing​ ​patients into focus at the Roche Innovation Summit

Experientia is proud to have been a key participant at the Roche Innovation Summit, held at Roche headquarters in Basel Switzerland on 19 June 2018. Themed “​Transforming the Healthcare Experience Together​”, the summit aimed to galvanize the Roche community around the future transformation of healthcare and diagnostics. With 800 attendees from Roche and Genentech global […]

13 June 2018
Invito: DesAlps design thinking workshop per la tua startup

Hai una startup? Hai mai pensato ai benefici che potrebbe trarre dal Design Thinking? Questa è l’opportunità per scoprirlo! DesAlps Workshop #2: Il Design Thinking per la tua startup! Giovedì 28 giugno 2018 – dalle 9:30 alle 17:00 @ I3P | Corso Castelfidardo 30/a, Torino —– Nell’ambito del progetto europeo DesAlps, un team di esperti […]

See all articles