Thursday, April 23, 2009

Depth of Information: I. Mistakes of the Past

Written 23 April, 2009

Depth of Information

I. Mistakes of the Past

In late 2006 the media feeding frenzy around Second Life (cf here) caused a lot of big corporations to rush in world, buying and building sims to which nobody ever came. Most have since pulled out.

Second Life is an actual world, a place quite different from Earth, with its own physical laws and limitations, its own economic system, and its own social mores. Many of the early business presences here didn’t realize that or, realizing it, didn’t acknowledge it. They built faithful recreations of their first-world stores with faithful copies of their first-world products and waited for a rush of residents eager to purchase from them.

And waited.

And waited.

Nothing happened.

Well, some of the corporate sims did get nuked.

It seems the Second Life Liberation Army took offense at the presence of corporate mundanity in Second Life— just as I take offense at corporate mundanity on Earth.

Eventually, most of the corporate entities closed up shop and left Second Life. The press, picking up on this, was happy to proclaim Linden Labs’ impending demise.

Early in my virtual life I visited American Apparel’s sim.

American Apparel, it would seem, is the largest manufacturer of clothing in the United States. I didn’t know this when I arrived at AA’s island, and I didn’t know it when I left. I knew only that I had seen a lot of boring clothing in a boring store.

Now, American Apparel could have used their virtual space to educate visitors about the company.And to be honest, perhaps a portion of the store was dedicated to informing the putlic and I just didn’t notice or don’t remember. But clearly, the purpose of their build was to sell virtual clothing that looked as much as possible like their real-life clothing. And clearly, avatars weren’t beating a path to American Apparel’s door to buy their clothing. I was the only person on the sim.
So—where did the corporations go wrong? Were they wrong to come to an unproven virtual world? No, of course not. Were they wrong to buy and develop sims? No. Were they wrong for eventually pulling out of Second Life? Considering they were without a clue and too arrogant or stupid to realize that new technologies require new ways of doing business, perhaps not. But by not playing to the strengths of SL, by not adapting to their new world, they were missing a great opportunity.

Many colleges and universities—and many businesses—are realizing Second Life is an inexpensive and convenient place to do business and impart information. They’re adapting their ways of doing business and developing new ways of doing business.

More on this in the next post.


Peter Stindberg said...

Actually the AA store was a very expertly built building, and one of the better known SL builders (forgot her name - might have been Pavig Lok) built it. It was one of the first buildings that used especially "baked" textures and it observed the SL sun, casting proper shaodws (via means of exchanging textures) at any given time of the day.

I thought that was just worth mentioning :-)

Cheyenne Palisades said...

Peter, I never said the place wasn't competently built. It was just incompetently conceived.