The Power of Transference

A Live Video Stream to Virtual Worlds Attracted 2,000 ‘Attendees’ Earlier This Year

Virtual worlds, like Second Life, are increasingly being used by government and industry. In government, virtual worlds are used (1) to deliver information to citizens, (2) to host meetings and conferences, (3) education and training, (4) rapid prototyping, and (5) analytical workplaces. There are a number of benefits for government use of these robust 3-D social media environments. The most powerful and unique benefit virtual worlds provide over other social media tools is a sense of presence or “being in” the environment in the form of an avatar. The power of this transference into a place can not be underestimated.

In response to the growing interest in and use of virtual worlds in government, the Federal Consortium for VirtualWorlds (FCVW) ( /fedconsortium.html) was created in 2007 by the iCollege at the National Defense University (NDU) in collaboration with NOAA, NASA, and the State Department. The FCVW allows government to explore the potential use of virtual worlds, address common challenges and develop the ability to take advantage of economies of scale in shared resources.

The Consortium has grown from its first meeting of 40 to more than 1,400 members from across government (federal, state, local and international), academia and industry. All cabinet-level agencies in the federal government have membership in the group.

The FCVW has created eight working groups to facilitate communities focused around a common interest: (1) education and training, (2) technical and security, (3) research and metrics, (4) governance and acquisition, (5) international, (6) libraries, (7) content development and (8) state and local government. The largest interest group is education and training. The groups meet at the annual conference and continue their discussions in the FCVW wiki, meetings with guest speakers and e-mail.

Earlier this year, the annual spring conference hosted by IRMC drew more than 500 to the conference at NDU — and more than 2,000 “attended” virtually through a live video stream to six different virtual worlds (the first event of its kind). The next conference will be held May 12-14, 2010 at NDU. Edward Castronova, author of “Exodus to the VirtualWorld: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality and Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games,” will be the keynote speaker.

—The author is leader for the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds and assistant dean for Teaching, Learning & Technology in the Information Resources Management College at National Defense University.

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