At the final Nonprofit Commons meeting for 2011, I gave my own personal recap of the last year for nonprofits in the virtual world. Here are my full remarks below.
2011: A Year in Review for Nonprofits in the Virtual World
Here’s my own personal recap of some of the major virtual world developments that I thought were relevant for nonprofits and education in 2011.
LINDEN LAB POLICY CHANGES
The year 2011 got off to strange start with Linden Lab rescinding the long-standing discount on virtual land for educators and nonprofits. Worthwhile efforts like virtual PTSD therapy and the SL Shakespeare company had to de-rez due to increased land costs they could not afford. Another sea-change was the merger of the “teen grid” of Second Life with the main grid. For many teens, this meant the loss of their own separate space where they could play, explore, build, create businesses and learn. Since the merger, we have not heard much about teens in Second Life, which is worriesome, since teens are typically not very silent!
The dream of a web-based, immersive virtual world continues to be chased by several companies.
A number of them launched web-based or web-integrated virtual environments in 2011, including:
- Reaction Grid’s JIBE virtual platform, built on Unity 3D
- Kitely’s “virtual world on demand” service
- Tipodean’s Builtby.me web viewer for Second Life or OpenSim worlds
- The Spoton3D web viewer
- The “Shaker” virtual hangout for Facebook which received $15 million in venture funding
Almost all of these are still very much in beta. But they show promise for how getting into a virtual space might be as simple as clicking a web link or joining a FaceBook group. Sadly, Linden Lab’s web-integration efforts appear to have stalled out or died.
FUNDRAISING FOR JAPAN AND CANCER RESEARCH
Fundraising continued to be an important application of virtual worlds in 2011. The American Cancer Society’s virtual Relay for Life was again one of the most successful fund appeals of the year. They raised $375K with over 3,000 avatars participating! That brings their total take-in from Second Life at more than $1 million dollars over the history of the virtual relay. Another notable fundraising effort across multiple worlds was for earthquake relief to Japan. Various SL groups, Eve Online and Zynga launching their own fund drives and events.
ROCKCLIFFE AND NPC CELEBRATE MILESTONES
Despite the increase in land-fees, several nonprofit and educational efforts continued to survive and even thrive in Second Life. The Rockcliffe University Consortium recently celebrated 5 years as a nonprofit educational institution in Second Life. The Nonprofit Commons in Second Life also marked a milestone in September, feting our 4 years as the largest nonprofit community in the virtual world. Thanks to those of you who made our celebration so memorable and fun!
MAJOR INSTITUTIONS STILL INVESTING IN VIRTUAL WORLDS
The virtual world continued to attract a number of major public institutions, who launched projects in 2011, including:
- The World Bank Institute
- The Mayo Clinic
- The Library of Birmingham
- Rutgers University
…. and many more….
VIRTUAL PROTESTS FOR DEMOCRACY IN ARAB WORLD AND OCCUPY MOVEMENT
While there were not as many virtual protests as real ones, there were a number of interesting demonstrations and political gatherings in the metaverse in 2011. In February, coinciding with the “Arab Spring” protests in Egypt, avatars were gathering in Second Life to demonstrate for democracy in the Arab world. Then in the Fall, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement swept the United States and cities around the world. Activists in Second Life gathered under the “OccupySL” group, sharing information and news, and launching their own virtual protests. No pepper spraying in SL, but some avatars were ejected from the CapEx sim.
NEW DOCUMENTARIES FOCUS ON VIRTUAL LIFE
In 2011 a number of documentaries examined virtual living including some profiles of some of our own nonprofit friends. The documentary film “Login 2 Life” premiered in September, telling the stories of of 6 individuals whose lives are deeply impacted by different virtual worlds and online games. Our own Gentle Heron was one of the individuals profiled on her own work with people with disabilities! The film “Deep Down,” a documentary about the coal mining industry in America, was nominated for an Emmy for its virtual world game called the “Virtual Mine.”
So those were my highlights from the year! What were yours?
Written by: rikomatic