The 800 Pound Avatar in the Virtual Room: A Look at Government in Second Life

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Experts have projected that the growth of virtual worlds represents perhaps the very future of the Internet and how we will interact, communicate, collaborate and learn online. Second Life is the largest of these virtual worlds, having over ten million residents at present.

In this paper, we first present an overview of Second Life, and we then examine the prospects and perils for government agencies as they venture into this brave new world. We then look at early “best practice” examples of federal and state agencies in the United States that have established their presence in Second Life. This includes a look at the efforts of the following federal agencies: CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration); NLM (National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health); and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). We also examine several state libraries and archives that have moved into Second Life. We conclude with the development of a strategic framework for analyzing the risks and returns of establishing an agency’s “in-world” presence.


Keywords: Virtual Worlds, Second Life, Government, Communication, Interaction, New Technology, Public Administration
Stream: Technology in Community
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: 800 Pound Avatar in the Virtual Room, The


David C. Wyld

Maurin Professor of Management, College of Business
Department of Management, Southeastern Louisiana University

Hammond, Louisiana, USA

David C. Wyld is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he directs the College of Business’ Strategic e-Commerce/e-Government Initiative. He is a noted speaker/consultant/writer, being a frequent contributor to both academic and industry publications on e-commerce and RFID. He is an expert on the use of Web 2.0 tools by executives and organizations for creating new communications forums. He is the author of the recent research report, The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0. He is also a contributing editor to both Global Identification and RFID News. In 2006, he was named a Rising Star in Government Information Technology by Federal Computer Week.

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