Category Archives: Real Life

Virtu-Real on TV:-)

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.

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Second House of Sweden invades House of Sweden

…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.

Wallenberg room, unplugged

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.

FAQ: How real can a virtual embassy be?

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:-)

Second Life and the web blur… and this is a good thing.

A week ago, there was no web presence for Swedish Second Life projects by organizations. Now there are two (in addition to this here blog):

  • Second Sweden has a blog, used for announcements and event reports — for example, with shots from their recent ABBA night. (In Swedish)
  • So Else, an “intercultural movement in Second Life” started by Swede Lukas Mensing, also has a blog. There is no specific Swedish focus, but Swedish culture is represented at the events held by So Else.

Natalie Moody/Therese Åhs, a Swedish in-world live music performer, also has a website up, where she posts her schedule and writes about herself.

A couple of conclusions:

The barriers between the web and Second Life are blurring. Not only is it getting easier to access media files already published to the web inside Second Life (Quicktime video, images, news feeds), there is a flurry of new services that are providing web 2.0-like social services, like social bookmarking and web/SL instant messaging.

It’s a good thing that these barriers are blurring. The web and the metaverse/Second Life have different strengths. The web is by far the most efficient means of disseminating textual information and documents, or accessing calendars and mail. The metaverse provides a far richer and more intuitive means of live communication, both between individuals and groups. As 3D virtual worlds go mainstream, I suspect we’ll see a division of labor: We’ll simply choose the tools that do the job most effectively. This means, for example, using a blog to alert people of social events in Second Life — and it makes sense, because we are not in Second Life all the time (at least most of us arent:-)

I think there is one likely source of friction in all this: some of Second Life’s early adopters, the true believers in the metaverse, are romantics, and are wishing for an independent metaverse, where the rules (and identities) of the real world don’t apply. All this blurring is going to be a challenge when new adopters of Second Life, who see the virtual worlds mainly as a pedagogical and communications tool, will demand real, verifiable idenitities from the people they interact with. It’s mighty hard to know who to trust in Second Life right now, not without getting real-life assurances as to whom you are dealing with. I think that in the future it will be difficult to be anonymous in Second Life if you also want to interact with real-world organizations and their presences in SL.

Connecting Second Life, Real life, and the web via tags

Sloog logo Tagzania logo Del.icio.us logo

Last week Mark Wallace at 3PointD blogged Sloog, a new place tagging system native to Second Life developed by the sleek-looking Mosi-Mosi company in Barcelona. Their approach made me very happy, and I plied them with feedback. A tagging system like this is a far superior way of maintaining an inventory of interesting places in Second Life than, well, my avatar’s Landmarks folder in the inventory.

Mosi-Mosi has now added support for RSS, which allows me to highlight my most recent locations in the sidebar of this blog. I’d love to also be able to alter the title and add a description, but I think some of these features are on their way.

What’s interesting is that the original del.icio.us method, so effective for tagging and sharing places on the web, has also been applied to places in the real world. Tagzania lets you tag specific real-world locations via Google Maps and then provides feeds of your tagged locations, both as RSS and as KML (the file format native to Google Earth).

So now we have three tagging systems, one each for the three separate coordinate systems that we use to navigate — in the real world (latitude and longitude), the web (URLs), and Second Life (x/y/z coordinates, parcel name and region name). What’s next?

I’m hoping for mashups that connect all three of these spaces — meta-mashups, if you will. Take the House of Sweden: It has a physical location in Washington DC; it has a website associated with it; and the Swedish Institute will soon have a simulacrum of it at a specific spot in Second Life. These three places are obviously linked, but there is as yet no way of making that connection visible. Or another example: Harvard Law’s Austin Hall in the real world, on the web, and in Second Life.

In database-speak, it would be great to join the lookup tables of these three different tagging databases so that if you find one location, you automatically come across the others.

How to do this? Getting it mostly right may be possible just by comparing supplied tags in all three coordinate systems and joining the most similar ones. Otherwise, it’d have to be a collaborative effort, letting organizations themselves supply the requisite metadata.