For a recent IBM conference, participants arrived at a wonderful facility featuring a plush reception area, well-equipped meeting rooms, a support library, informal mingling spaces, picnic grounds, and relaxing gardens. Greeters offered directions to meeting rooms as well as other assistance. Kiosks also offered important information on conference activities. Once underway, the conference itself included three keynote speakers and 37 breakout sessions.
The individuals attending the conference were not physically present. Instead, they participated remotely in a virtual social world. Unlike social media such as YouTube (a simple content community), Facebook (a social networking site), or Wikipedia (an asynchronous knowledge-building endeavor), virtual worlds offer real-time interactions where people exist in a three-dimensional setting as self-generated representations of themselves (i.e., avatars). Participants can communicate using voice rather than text, utilize virtual equipment of all kinds, walk around in cleverly constructed settings, and sit down with others in venues such as cafés. Providers of virtual social worlds such as Second Life have created sophisticated systems (
Although most often thought of as places that individuals go to socialize or live secret alternative lives, virtual social worlds can be used for collaborative meetings, training, and a number of other ...