This chapter considers the virtual world Second Life as a workplace. It argues that despite its apparent novelty, Second Life is descended from a 2000-year-old tradition of immersive art that informs its popular attraction and its two big business drivers, knowledge management and marketing. To illustrate this, I describe a project by the international advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which shows how knowledge management and marketing can come together in a virtual workplace. The chapter further contends that it is insufficient to simply attain virtual presence in order to achieve knowledge management goals. Instead, intellectual property rights and their management must also be addressed. Because avatars in Second Life own the items they create and can explicitly set permission rights, Second Life users can share virtual goods and knowledge easily, and in the tradition of hacker culture and open source coding. Despite general opposition to Digital Rights Management from some in the open source community, I argue that it is necessary to ensure that the metadata, such as the original creator information, is protected to encourage the sharing and transfer of knowledge in a virtual workplace. The creator of Second Life, Linden Lab, opened up the source code of the client software, thus allowing organizations to further benefit from this virtual workplace.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Knowledge Management: While there is no real consensus on this term a useful definition is that it “comprises a range of practices used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness, and learning” (Wikipedia, 2007c AU17: The in-text citation "Wikipedia, 2007c" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).
Metadata: This is data or information about data. This could be who wrote something, the date it was published, where, and so forth (Wikipedia, 2007e AU19: The in-text citation "Wikipedia, 2007e" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).
Residents: A Second Life term that refers to avatars and agents in the virtual world.
Virtual Reality: Credited to Jaron Lanier, defined by Michael Heim (VR) “pertains to convincing the participant that he or she is actually in another place, by substituting the normal sensory input received by the participant with information produced by a computer” ( Heim, 1993 , p. 160).
Virtual Presence: In conjunction with virtual reality, it “is based on concepts of presence and telepresence , which refer to the sense of being in an environment, generated by natural or mediated means, respectively” ( Steuer, 1992 , p. 76).
Prim: A Second Life term meaning primitive shape such as a cube, sphere, torus, or pyramid.
Digital Rights Management (DRM): “is an umbrella term referring to technologies used by publishers or copyright owners to control access to or usage of digital data or hardware, and to restrictions associated with a specific instance of a digital work or device” (Wikipedia, 2007a AU15: The in-text citation "Wikipedia, 2007a" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).
Texture: In Second Life, texture refers to an imported picture file that is mapped to a prim in order to give it appearance eg brick texture on a cube can appear like a wall.
Explicit Knowledge: Knowledge that is easy to codify, record, and communicate ( Dixon, 2000 ).
Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG): A genre of online roleplaying video games (RPGs) in which a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world (Wikipedia, 2007d AU18: The in-text citation "Wikipedia, 2007d" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).
Avatar: A representation of a real person in a virtual world. Originated from the Hindu philosophy, meaning God’s embodiment on Earth. Credited to Chip Morningstar ( Damer, 2007 )
Virtual World: “A scene or an experience with which a participant can interact by using computer-controlled input-output devices. Most virtual worlds attempt resemble physical reality …” ( Heim, 1993 , p. 160).
Immersion: “The virtual environment submerges the user in the sights and sounds and tactility specific to that environment. Immersion creates the sense of being present in a virtual world, a sense that goes beyond physical” ( Heim, 1993 ).
Tacit Knowledge: Credited to Michael Polyani, that knowledge that is in people’s heads and therefore hard to access ( Polanyi, 1967 ).
In-World: A gamer’s term to denote inside the virtual world as opposed to the real world.
Intellectual Property (IP): “An umbrella term for various legal entitlements which attach to certain names, written and recorded media, and inventions. The holders of these legal entitlements are generally entitled to exercise various exclusive rights in relation to the subject matter of the IP” (Wikipedia, 2007b AU16: The in-text citation "Wikipedia, 2007b" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).