Art and Exploration, Deep Thoughts, Virtual World Platforms

Blue Mars, Social Media, Open Government, and Virtual Worlds

Blue Mars is anticipating a launch later this summer - or at the very least, is anticipating opening its doors to a wider pool of content developers, and with its approach there’s active interest in how it works, how the business model is set up, and how the heck to access it if you’re on a Mac.

Jim Sink, Vice President of Avatar Reality, the company behind Blue Mars, appeared on Metanomics yesterday. (The video is now posted).

Unfortunately, the audience had me as the host - which meant that I was incapable of following all of the audience discussion and questions, and so I missed a bunch of key points. Fortunately, Jim has agreed to respond to unanswered questions on the Metanomics Web site.

Meanwhile, I’m excited that Kevin Werbach and Mitch Wagner have agreed to a “do-over”. Their appearance last time was side-swiped by what I can only call an extreme technical melt-down. Something that still has us scratching our heads. Joel Foner, our Director of Social and Immersive Media, tech-head, and problem-solver explored all of the reasons why stuff, well, broke - and not being a techy much myself, the conclusion seemed to be something along the lines of: “the server went bad”. But things are looking up - in spite some pre-show weirdness this week, nothing crashed, and we were even able to cross the region boundary at the end of the show to join the audience for a little informal Q&A.

Kevin Werbach is a leading thinker on all things Internet, and served first as an advisor on the Obama transition team, and now as an advisor to the FCC. Mitch Wagner is, well, just brilliant.

I closed off yesterday’s show trying to sub in for Robert Bloomfield’s excellent commentary section. Not being an economist, an academic, and yet tending towards being long winded, (or tending towards tower posts in any case), I found it a bit hard to focus my remarks.

I wanted to say a bunch of stuff about how virtual worlds help to ground social media, allowing us to switch from a sort of real-time stream-of-consciousness into a site for engagement that allows us to connect in deeper ways.

I wanted to say that new virtual worlds that ignore the social connections that we already have, and the virtual identities that we’ve already built, do so at their peril. (I’m reminded of my horror at having to use my real name in Twinity rather than my avatar name, which IS my virtual identity and is ME dammit).

Instead, here’s what I DID say:

Connecting the Dots

I’ve been excited about Blue Mars since I first heard about it 18 months or so ago. Blue Mars reminds me of glee, I guess you’d call it. The glee of exploration.

It excites me because it reminds me of why virtual worlds appealed to me in the first place: as a destination….a place to go where we can be surprised, entertained, and where the impossible can be made possible.

But the deeper power of virtual worlds is what happens after you’ve explored, after you’ve mastered the game mechanics, or after you’ve farmed your first set of matching armor. That power happens because of people.

Virtual worlds have always been social spaces. There have always been fan sites and guilds and social connections.

But I think something different is happening. Once, virtual worlds were the place where communities were created.

Now, communities themselves are making demands of virtual worlds: that they respect our sense of virtual identity, that they give us the tools to facilitate social connections, that they respect our desire to be co-creators in our stories.

I’m less interested in things like interoperability and content creation pipelines, and am more interested in how I can extend my social connections and sense of self across virtual worlds.

As we immerse ourselves in these destinations, we can be deeply entertained, engaged, and we can create new connections. But the renaissance of virtual worlds is increasingly being facilitated by the many ways in which we can carry our virtual identities into new territories, remain in the old ones, and bring our friends along for the ride as we explore these frontiers of creativity.


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