Sally S. Cherry, MT (ASCP)
shared her virtual world experiences with us.
A virtual world
is an immersive, interactive 3D-computer-generated environment. Users take the form of an avatar and interact by text and voice. Popular virtual worlds are Second Life
, and OSGrid
- Second Life is owned and controlled by Linden Labs. This is the platform most people think of when "virtual worlds" are mentioned. Second Life gets more traffic than any of the worlds. The basic account is free, but you have to pay to own property. Nonprofits can get free office space at the Nonprofit Commons. Second Life has a currency and a stock market. Over $800 million is exchanged for virtual content. (See Virtual Currencies Gain in Popularity.)
- JokaydiaGRID and OSGrid are OpenSims, open-source versions of Second Life. A lot of nonprofit and education groups are moving from Second Life to OpenSim worlds because they are less expensive.
- Kitely is a service for virtual worlds on demand. You can access your Kitely worlds through Facebook.
To enter a virtual world, you have to sign up, download a viewer, and create an avatar. You can personalize your avatar, which can walk, run, swim, fly, laugh, smile, and dance. Things, like buildings, can be made by running scripts. (You can pay people to create these scripts for you.)
Sally started experimenting with virtual worlds out of curiosity. She wanted to understand how she could use technology to do her work better. Virtual worlds seemed like places where she could set up an online laboratory.
Virtual worlds should be thought of as another social media outpost. You are building a community and interacting with other people. A few examples of what nonprofits are using virtual worlds for are
- Advocacy and Education. You can do almost anything in a virtual world that you can do offline, and sex is a very popular activity in virtual worlds. HIV-prevention advocates hypothesize that people having sex in virtual worlds are also having sex offline, so they are working to educate these people about HIV and how to prevent it.
- Fundraising. The American Cancer Society holds a Relay for Life of Second Life, which raised $375,000 and involved 144 teams and 2,140 avatars in 2011. In 2012, they'll hold their seventh event. (More information about the event is available online.)
- Exhibits. Museums use virtual worlds to exhibit delicate collections that people couldn't otherwise interact with.
Materials from this session are available online: New life for enterprise virtual worlds
Edited by Kate Bladow on May 18, 2012 3:05 PM