You Are the Metaverse

Published Sep 12, 2015

Nonprofit Commons Second Life
image: nonprofitcommons.org

This week, I teleported to Second Life Island for a tour with Joyce Bettencourt, who leads TechSoup’s Nonprofit Commons under the alias Rhiannon Chatnoir. A million active users per month still leaves a world of space to get lost in. For about an hour, Bettencourt’s alias helped me acclimate to my new body, ahead of my first presentation in VR next month.

The night’s young for Second Life. Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab says “the world is waking up again.” He’s talking about Project Sansar, the next level of virtual reality that’s set to transform the workplace.

What Sansar means for Second Life (Linden Lab’s other creation) is anyone’s guess, but for TechSoup, where VR is the new norm, a reboot is big. Despite Second Life’s questionable growth, it’s widely thought that a resurgence could change the playing field in ways the World Wide Web did for the internet. The Nonprofit Commons has “rented” space on Second Life Island for the last eight years, hosting meetings in VR with as many as 50 people at once. Scaling and adapting for the TechSoup Forums could build engagement and grow revenue in ways we haven’t imagined.

The next VR could benefit collaboration across sectors, borders, and cultures. Thanks to long nights with media theorists like Annette Markham and Sherry Turkle, I’m no stranger to the misgivings of MUDs and MOOs. But there’s something different about Second Life. This metaverse is a new frontier. With innovations like Oculus ready to change the way we work and play, geography and gender barriers could be less of a distraction, freeing up time for more creative pursuits.

“What humans do is create spaces,” Altberg says. “We create spaces and we come together in those spaces, and then we communicate and socialize within those spaces.” I wonder who we’ll be, what we’ll create and how we’ll explore this new frontier of future worlds.

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