House of Sweden goes Virtu-Real made it to the morning news on Fox News in Washington DC. Click on the image below to get to the site where the video plays. It gives you a very good idea of what we’re doing here.
…and the Second House of Sweden project comes full circle as it takes over a room in the (real-world) House of Sweden in Washington DC. Today, everything is ready — studio unreal has been putting the final touches on the installation, press photos have been taken, and at 7pm tonight (1am Swedish time) the inauguration takes place.
I took some photos of the real-world half of the installation. You can see the whole set on Flickr.
You too can visit the installation just by showing up at Second House of Sweden in Second Life.
You can still visit the Wallenberg room in the Second House of Sweden even if you are on a computer that doesn’t have the Second Life client installed. Budapest’s OSA Archivum, who contributed the material for the room, also have a web page up describing the room, with plenty of screen shots. There is even supplementary material, such as a complete transcript of the radio play (mp3) that you can hear while in the room.
Several people have asked how “official” the embassy will be in Second Life. Here are some typical questions: “Could we consider the Swedish Embassy in SL as an official representation of the Swedish government? Is the embassy going to charge a fee for its services? Who will work at the embassy? Will Swedes abroad be able to use it to do consular business?”
The short answer is that the virtual embassy in Second Life is not an official embassy, and you can’t do any consular business there, though it is a government project: The Swedish Institute, which is behind the project, is a government agency. One of SI’s mandates is to promote Sweden via public diplomacy using a wide variety of media, and the institute collaborates closely with Swedish embassies and consulates around the world to get its message across.
The virtual embassy, then, is SI’s public diplomacy transposed into a brand new media — an immersive 3D virtual world.
We actually did think about whether it might be possible to have some functions performed in-world, but the main impediment right now is that there is no way to guarantee identities and engage in secure transactions in Second Life. I’m sure that will change — in any case, avatars don’t need visas to visit Sweden:-)
Instead, the Second House of Sweden will fulfill the role of “embassy” in the more secular sense of the word: as an emissary of goodwill to a place. We will have people at the embassy during set hours of the day to answer questions about Sweden, and we will also have information about where to find the embassies nearest you in real life, as well as information about how to get a visa (if you need one). But the majority of the embassy will be dedicated to revolving exhibits about Sweden, and to providing a platform for events — film showings, seminars, concerts, all with a Swedish theme. Finally, there will also be some typically Swedish things for visitors to do… more about that later:-)