Posted by: Richard Chennault | December 17, 2007

My Second Life

There is a desire at work to participate in social media. The ‘powers that be’ wish to know how the corporation can (choose verb) leverage, utilize, market, consume, advantagize [sic] the hyperbole surrounding blogs, vlogs, wikis and blikis. There has been expressed a desire to purchase property on Second Life and (choose verb) promote, market, educate, and socialize the corporate brand into the virtual ether of Second Life.

Professionaly1 I believe the hype around social media is nothing more than the new ecclesiastical language of the techno-clerisy and their adroit digerati futurist supplicants. Am I being duplicitous because I blog? No, I write as a means to think through intellectual challenges. Do I get personal satisfaction when the occasional comment surfaces? Sure; I am human. But sharing the written word with friends and strangers is certainly nothing new to society. I consider blogs to be no more ‘social’ than the Christmas family letter. But corporations, like the peoples that are incorporated within them, are also desirous of satisfaction but their motivation is by far more self-centered and directed than the random musing of an individual that is shared with friends.

Therefore I am left asking the question, what is the role of the super-capitalist controlled corporation in the virtual public sphere? Should we allow the commercialization of the virtual public commons? What impact will the presence of the self-interested entities have upon the dialogue of the virtual ether? These questions have answers that are not so dissimilar from those that can be found in the ‘first life’. Extension of these answers to Second Life need only be slightly altered to work within the unique virtual reality laws.

We can not completely divorce virtual reality from reality as the impetus of all actions within the virtual world is born within the real. There has been no transcendence of machine into sentience. Our virtual realties are fantastical recreations of our own reality superimposed with few constraints. While constraints are few we must not ignore the all too real consequences of participation in the virtual ether may have on its participants.

I think ultimately there will be no means of stopping or curbing the entrance of corporations onto the virtual ether. Certainly the explosive growth of the web has more to do with the potential of on-line commerce and marketing reach than with the exchange of information. However I think the corporations will find they are alone in the ether with only each other to consume their propaganda while the audience they intended to reach moves to other virtual-alities where they can engage in dialogue free of the coercive message of corporations.

1. I would normally say personally however, I am compensated by my employer to research and report on a wide range of technologies. Thus this view is my professional opinion but it is not the ‘public’ or stated opinion of my employer.

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