– Second Life? No – Get a Life!

Seattle's Space Needle in Second Life

Seattle's Space Needle in Second Life

Original post:   31 May 2008
The Governing Magazine “Managing Technology” conference just concluded here in Seattle today, May 29th, 2008.
Among many other topics, we discussed the phenomenon of “Second Life” and similar virtual reality web-based universes. I learned that some governments have established a presence in “Second Life”, including the State of Missouri, which uses their Second Life presence to recruit Information Technology professionals. It’s also been widely reported that the government of Sweden and the City of Boston have second life embassies or city halls.
My initial reaction to governments’ presence in “Second Life”. Let’s just say I’m … ah … not supportive. Those government officials messing around creating “Second Lives” on government time need to … ah … “get a life”. The folks from Missouri said their second life presence only cost $112, but that cannot count all the employee time and staff time spent to create the presence.
People demand a lot from their governments – parks, utilities, cops and firefighters to name a few. Real “boots on the ground” to address the real issues of medical emergencies, crime, clean streets (or even just “streets”), parks, water and electricity. Given all these demands – and public safety needs, frankly – for government in our First Lives, it seems quite absurd to spend any amount of taxpayer dollars on a virtual life. That’s my initial reaction.
But I do admit to being “fair and warmer” on the concept of Second Life in general.
My Mayor – Greg Nickels – has been a national and world leader combating Global Warming (no puns intended). In his speech at the Governing conference on Thursday, May 28th, he talked about excessive and conspicuous consumption, and such consumption’s insidious side effects.
This consumption ranges from buying plastic-bottled water to using plastic or paper bags to six block automobile trips to the grocery store to needless purchases of clothes, toys, and all variety of stuff – much of it made from plastic which, in turn, is made from precious oil.
My theory is that much of this consumption is impulse driven – we see a bottle of water at the 7-11 or we see an advertisement for a new “thing” in the newspaper or in a store check-out line and we impulsively buy it, whether we need it or not.
Down with plastic bottles!  Click to see what Seattle is doing.But, suppose we indulged our “conspicuous consumption” by buying stuff in Second Life and outfitting our virtual second lives with all those trappings of conspicuous consumption? We satisfy our impulse and craving to buy stuff.
Then we show our “stuff” off to our fellow second life avatars. And we live frugally and wisely in our First Lives. Seems like a great trade-off to me.
So, Second Life on the taxpayer dime for a government presence?  Naw, I don’t think so.
Second Life in your personal life to satisfy those consumptive urges?  Absolutely.

2 Comments

Filed under internet, web 2.0

2 responses to “– Second Life? No – Get a Life!

  1. schrier

    Original Comment Date: 4 June 2008 – 7:13:57 PM
    AUTHOR: Pam Broviak
    EMAIL: p.broviak@lasalle-il.gov
    URL: http://lasalle-il.gov

    Bill
    Although in my job as city engineer/director of public works I am very much a “boots on the ground” employee, I am also very involved on my own time in exploring how virtual worlds like Second Life can enhance my work in engineering and public works.
    So far, I have discovered a place that I can access at any time with little to no expenditure in order to research, train, and network with other government employees. Based on what I have seen in Second Life, I am expecting that we will eventually see the day that we will purchase public works supplies by visiting virtual stores.
    In Second Life, I have also found a tool that has helped me create 3D representations of projects and then show them to people in my community for feedback. Others are also using Second Life to plan and design projects. A group of us are recreating in Second Life a 3D representation of the Building Code.
    I offer these examples in order to illustrate that beneath the surface of all the hype over Second Life, there is a powerful tool that is already being used in a very serious fashion by many government employees to enhance delivery of services to the public.
    As one of the front line employees in my city, I am reminded every day that people demand a lot from their governments. And from my time spent in virtual worlds, I believe that they are and will continue to be a viable tool to help us reach out to people and better deliver these services.

  2. schrier

    Original Comment Date: 8 June 2008 – 10:58 AM
    AUTHOR: Bill Schrier
    EMAIL: bill@schrier.org

    Pam:
    These are good comments – I think you may be onto a couple of valid uses for Second Life by government.  I’m a little skeptical about buying stuff for government use in virtual stores. But the modeling and designing aspects are intriguing. Having just gone through a remodel of a basement unit in my duplex home, I can think of multiple uses in explaining archaic code language too!
    -bill

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