An interesting development where web technologies meet real societal needs is the rapidly growing phenomenon ofcommunity lending. Microcredit has been around for longer as a concept to empower poor people and communities by letting them help themselves by creating social systems to provide small loans. These systems help create the trust, do the administration, etc. With the web, however, new socio-technical dimensions are added to the idea. For example, small loans can become global instead of just local in scope, much more background information on debtors can be provided, risks can be reduced by automatically distributing a loan over many lenders and so on.
Everybody interested in Second Life should attend the 1st Second Life International Conference 2007: Best Practices in Teaching, Learning, and Research. Lack of money or travel time are no excuse, since the event will, of course, be held completely in-world. There will be all day events, keynote speakers, and even free bags of goodies from the best SL content creators. So, sign up, and see you on Friday!
Second Life is all about being immersed and feeling that you are inside that virtual world instead ofobserving it from the outside. One major drawback so far was that the only way of communication was to chat. Wouldn’t it be nice to combine Skype’s power of natural talking with Second Life’s strength of visualization? Well, that day seems to have come: Second Talk offers free virtual headsets that Second Lifers can pick up from various locations. Since yesterday, I am the proud owner of such a futuristic device. Now I need to wait for some friends to hook up in order to try it out. I am very curious…
Interestingly, Second Talk’s invention seems to directly challenge Linden Lab’s business model, as the latter version comes with many more constraints. From the Second Talk website:
1. Linden Labs’ integrated voice won’t work everywhere. Second Life landowners determine whether or not voice is enabled on their property, so it’ll be entirely possible to cross from one region where voice works to another where it does not.
2. Linden Labs’ system isn’t free. Second Life landowners must upgrade to the current $295/month land tier in order to use Linden Labs’ system on their regions. Although this is a small investment, we understand that a lot of landowners won’t want to make it.
3. We’ve been asked to continue support. Even in light of Linden Labs’ announcement, many Second Talk users have asked us to continue support for Second Talk. Many people want a system that simply facilitates connection to an impartial third-party voice system, rather than routing through a captive system.
Let’s see how this dynamic will play out!
I am currently visiting my colleague and good friend Mark Gaved, who works at the Knowledge Media Institute in Milton Keynes. He is involved in an absolutely fascinating Second Life project, Schome. Basically, it’s an exploration of new learning systems for the 21st century. SchomeBase is a pilot of trying out some of the Schome ideas in Second Life. There is also a closed teenage space called SchomePark. It’s been operating with 150 students for three months and is extremely active. It’s amazing what these kids have been able to build, script and how they are developing very complex social norms and practices to govern themselves. One of the best examples of a thriving virtual world I have come across so far! To get a feel, have a look at the beautiful Japanese garden, where the students studied philosophy guided by “Socratic Shepherd”, a researcher from the University of Warwick up to a few weeks ago.