These are some of the most frequently asked questions we encountered while the Second House of Sweden was up and running. We’ve kept them here as an archive.
Is there an official group I can join in Second Life to be kept up-to-date about events at the Second House of Sweden?
Yes. The group is called “Second House of Sweden” and anyone can join. We use it to send you announcements about upcoming events at the embassy.
Who built the Second House of Sweden?
Sweden’s virtual embassy in Second Life is a project conceived, directed and funded by the Swedish Institute, a government agency with the mandate to “share Sweden with the world”.
The design of the building in Second Life was adapted from the real-life House of Sweden in Washington, DC, designed by the Swedish architect firm Wingårdh AB.
We contracted Söderhavet AB, one of our current design collaborators, to manage the overall look and feel of the sim (or “island”), to make sure it exudes “Swedishness”. (What is Swedishness? The best way to describe it is that you know it when you see it:-) How do you transpose that into a virtual world? We’re about to find out.)
Söderhavet AB, in turn, contracted New York-based Electric Sheep Company to design and build the sim, using their trademark high production values and technical prowess.
Why are you outsourcing the work?
We don’t try to do everything at the Swedish Institute. We publish books and websites and produce exhibitions, but we don’t try to print the books ourselves or design the websites. Ditto with Second Life. We are trying to discover the best ways to communicate natively inside a virtual world, and we currently suspect this involves learning by doing, role playing and crowd-shared experiences. It’s our job to come up with ideas. In the case of Second Life, it will also be our job to see which in-world projects work, which don’t, and to learn from our experiences.
Why are you blogging this?
Because we are in a unique position of being able to make this very new and interesting kind of process open and transparent. Unlike many other organizations venturing into Second Life, the Swedish Institute is not a private company, but a public agency funded by taxpayers’ money. We are expected to be open in everything we do. It’s also a Swedish thing, all this transparency:-) One caveat: We won’t be spilling the beans on the business secrets that keep Söderhavet and Electric Sheep competitive.
So how much does all this cost?
See the caveat two questions ago:-) But overall, this project’s budget places it well within the range of what the Swedish Institute typically spends on the development of a new themed website about Sweden, of which it produces several per year. Also, the positive coverage that the announcement of this project has generated for Sweden has already paid for the Second House of Sweden several times over.
Why aren’t you using XYZ instead of Second Life as your virtual world?
Second Life is not a game. It is a meta-game, in that sim owners and residents can develop their own rules and define their own overarching narrative, if they like. In most other multi-user online virtual worlds, that overarching narrative comes as a given. It doesn’t make sense to tell a virtual world about Sweden if that world’s narrative has no room for the concept “Sweden”. That’s one reason why we’re not in Entropia Universe — it would be like opening an embassy in World of Warcraft. Another reason is that Second Life has a client for the Mac and is getting a Linux client. A large proportion of early adopters use Mac and Linux, and we want them along for the ride. Finally, the source code for the client is now open source.
But all this is also about a bigger picture. We’re in Second Life to learn — sooner rather than later — about how best to communicate inside the budding metaverse. Second Life may lose out to a competitor in the future, but one thing I think is certain is that the metaverse is here to stay, and the lessons we are learn in Second Life will be applicable everywhere. The most likely scenario in the medium term: Existing metaverses will coalesce around a common protocol, much as some of the bulletin board systems in the early 90s adapted their content to the web’s HTTP protocol.
Isn’t Second Life just full of virtual sex?
Not any more than the early world wide web was — and that was no reason to shun the web then. Another way of putting it: Second Life needs more educational and cultural content, and we’re doing our bit. As more of this kind of content begins to populate Second Life, more mainstream users will see the attraction of a jaunt through the metaverse — just as it was with the web.
Why is everything in English instead of Swedish?
Because the mandate of the Swedish Institute is to engage in public diplomacy with the rest of the world. We believe Swedes are already sold on Sweden:-)
Who are you trying to reach with this project?
In everything we do we try to focus on progressive individualists and early adopters. We think a disproportionate number of them are in Second Life.
How many visitors do you get per day?
About the same amount per day as visit the real House of Sweden in Washington DC: 100-150 visitors per day.