THE MIXED SUCCESS OF MIXED REALITY
What if the real world came in, and no one really noticed?
When I created Mixed Reality Mondays as a weekly catch-all for SL events/sites funded by real world corporations and organizations, my main goal was to keep New World Notes from being overwhelmed by yet another announcement of yet another bricks-and-mortar institution setting up a presence in the metaverse. But there's another reason, and it speaks to NWN's mission to document Second Life as an emerging society and culture. And it's so crucial, I think it's worth highlighting:
For the most part, real world companies and organizations are having neglible impact on Second Life society as a whole.
Take a look at the Popular Places list taken late last night; a measure of raw foot traffic, they're the locales where the most Residents are visiting, or where the most Residents are staying the longest. And despite the presence of so many real world companies and organizations with such deep pockets, every single one of the most Popular Places are grassroots and Resident-run. (All of them in the casual, social gamer nexus of casinos/nightclubs/malls/adult entertainment, to be sure, but even then, only four of the top twenty are explicitly sexual.)
The lowest Traffic rating in the top 20 is 45,997. How does the traffic of real world-funded sites match up, by comparison? With one exception, the contrast is striking.
Take the private islands of the "big three" metaverse developers. Early this morning, the aggregate traffic to the HQ of Millions of Us (a sponsor of this blog) was 1451; Avalon, home to Rivers Run Red, was 1164; The Electric Sheep Company's Sheep Island, 486. Traffic for some of their leading corporate clients are comparable, as well: For the Sheep, Reuters Island was at 2578, while Sony/BMG's locale ranks at 970; Rivers' Reebok Island had 519, and Radio 1, the BBC's island, 902. Millions' new listening booth for Warner Brothers hip hop artist Talib Kweli scored 344, while the Wired Magazine office brought in the highest among that sampling, at 6338. (That last one's higher Traffic could be one of those Heisenberg deals, since I mentioned Wired's opening party in a sponsorsed post.)
This disparity applies to the educational and non-profit sites, as well: Harvard's Berkman Island took 4546, while The Port, a "3D wiki" island backed by the Swedish government, had 320. NOAA/ESRL Virtual Island, home to some truly cool educational exhibit backed by the US government's National Oceanic & Atmospheric Adminsration, garnered a disappointing 25.
By contrast, compare these to some roughly analogous grassroots locales: The Viper Room, a live music venue for Resident performers, had a 10872 Traffic ranking (easily outperforming Sony and Warner Brothers!), while a place called enkythings SHOES ("Elegant and Sexy High Heels Shoe") earned 8374 in Traffic. Alternate world, fully immersive areas detached from real world interests also scored well, too: the dystopian Suffigum had 3172, for example, while the Svarga ecosystem had 5652. The Lost Gardens of Apollo ranked high with 15006 in Traffic.
I discovered only one exception to this rule, and that was totally by random browsing, because unless I missed it, this particular corporate-funded island has come into Second Life with little fanfare: for the last three months, a company called Thomson has been providing SL-based instruction for using products from Cisco, Microsoft, and other leading tech companies, on an island of the same name.
"We teach [classes] over the web so I am able to stream our normal classes into Second Life, which we have for the last three months," Doug Latrell, Thomson's avatar representative, tells me. "There are approximately 37 classes with over a hundred students thus far."
Thomson island's Traffic this morning? That would be 23328.
It's probably too soon to draw any conclusions from this, and more real world groups are sure to discover the alchemy that makes a Second Life site popular on their own. (That, or hire Residents who've already figured out that magic.) But it's worth pointing out, while glamorous music and fashion companies have been gaining more attention, an integrated solution provider has been quietly, well, providing more foot traffic.