METANOMICS: SOCIAL RESEARCH FOUNDATION
OCTOBER 6, 2008
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon, and welcome to the fiftieth episode of
Metanomics. We celebrate this occasion by unveiling the results of a fascinating survey
conducted by Social Research Foundation detailing the interests and plans of over 1,200
Second Life residents, and we’ll be discussing those with Social Research Foundation’s
director, Andy Mallon, and ThinkBalm’s Erica Driver. Before we get into that, I’ll be putting
Joshua Fairfield On The Spot, to talk about issues surrounding policies protecting kids from
sex and violence in computer games in Virtual Worlds. As always, thanks to our sponsors:
InterSection Unlimited, Kelly Services, Language Lab, Learning Tree International and, of
course, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.
As you can see, we’re filming the show right here in a replica of Sage Hall, home of
Cornell’s Johnson School. But most of you are watching from one of our event partners:
Colonia Nova Amphitheater, Meta Partners Conference Area, Rockliffe University, New
Media Consortium Educational Community Sims, JenzZa Misfit’s historic Muse Isle, which I
should mention hosted a dozen or so Lindens today, looking at JenzZa’s rendezvous
animator. And also we have our newest event partner, Orange Island. So welcome to all of
you at all of those locations. You can all chat with one another and with people who are on
the web, using InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system to transmit local chat to and from
the event partner Sims, the Metanomics Sim here where we are filming and the
metanomics.net website. So this technology can bring you in touch with people around
Second Life and on the web, wherever you are. And I guess I should mention the Lindens
were very intrigued when they heard about this product, so congrats to InterSection
Unlimited and the good press you just got with the Lindens.
So anyway, everyone speak up and let us know what you’re thinking.
Today we are going to start our show with our On The Spot segment and put law professor
Joshua Fairfield On The Spot. Professor Fairfield organized a conference at Washington
and Lee University’s School of Law. The conference was called Protecting Virtual
Playgrounds. It took place last Friday, and Josh is here to talk with us about it. So first of all,
Josh, welcome back to Metanomics.
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Thanks very much for having me, Rob.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, it’s always a pleasure. For those who don’t remember, Josh
was on Metanomics. He was one of our very first guests, talking about the limited role that
contractual arrangements can play in governing Virtual World behavior. And now we’re
really looking at that. One of the touchiest issues in Virtual Worlds and more generally
online behavior and computer game behavior which is how it is affecting our kids and what
content they can see and engage with. So, Josh, you told me that you were about as happy
with who was at your conference as you were about what was discussed. So can you tell us
a bit about the speakers and the audience and what you were aiming for?
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Well, sure. First of all, the incredibly important Robert Bloomfield
from the Cornell Johnson School of Management was there.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I did a lot of listening.
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: A lot of listening and also a lot of excellent work on educational
opportunities in industry models in Second Life. But also there were representatives from
groups that I think don’t talk enough. So Yale University. Research scientist Dorothy Singer,
who’s an expert on the meaning of play and the importance of play in the development of a
child, was there. John Zuur Platten, who’s an industry insider, a video game producer, was
there. We had a real range of people from industry producers to the academic psychologists
who are really working on the effects of violent video games on kids. I think that range of
opinion and the fact that those people were in the same room together generated as much
excitement and energy as the topics themselves.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I thought we might start by talking about one of the more
memorable stories that--I think it was Brad Bushman who mentioned this--the story of
Devon Moore. He’s a young man who played countless hours of the uber-violent Grand
Theft Auto game, when he was underage. And he stole a car when he was 18. When he
was in the police station, he stole a gun, and a guy who had never handled a gun in his life,
as I understand it, shot three officers in the head, single head shots for each, and took off.
And he was later quoted as saying, “Life is like a video game. Everybody has to die
sometime.” So blaming Grand Theft Auto didn’t help Mr. Moore avoid a death penalty
verdict. But survivors of the game, I understand, are suing Wal-Mart for selling the game to
So let me start, Josh, by asking you: What is the legal environment right now for regulating
violent games and maybe games with sexual content? Where are we now, and what do you
see on the horizon?
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Well, where we are now is your standard regulatory tug. On the one
hand, the ESRB and rating agencies would like to simply put ratings on the games, that
state what’s inside them, and let parents make their own decisions. And then, on the other
hand, there have been hearings in front of Congress that have said more or less we’re
seriously thinking about regulating, especially the sale of games, even if Congress isn’t
going to regulate the content of games outright, which, for reasons we’ll discuss later, I think
they probably can’t. They certainly are interested in regulating the sale of games. And
what’s interesting about those two regulatory approaches of where we are and where we’re
going is that neither one of them really addresses the real issue, which is: What happens
when kids get their hands on material they’re not supposed to have? What happens when
they get into spaces they’re not supposed to be in or get access to violent material that
they’re not supposed to see? At that point, it becomes a lot more complicated.
And you mentioned the Devon story, and that’s a real tragic story, and it tends to divide the
community between people who say, “This is a reason to really regulate,” and people who
say, “Well, gee, lots of people play violent video games all the time, and they don’t go off
and shoot anybody.” But I was encouraged at the conference. There was a lot more
agreement than I thought on some of these very, very hard questions. Two points on which
people agreed: First, I think people agreed that context is really important. We heard people
say that, yes, even though they believed that violent video games cause an increase in
aggression for children, the rest of the family history of the child is incredibly important. And
we heard industry executives say, “Gee, yeah, good parenting is going to be incredibly
important and context as well.” So there was broad agreement on a few basic things, even
though there were some stories that obviously are going to drive the community apart.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You mentioned Dorothy Singer from Yale, who was one of the
first speakers at the conference. So she’s written no end of books on the psychology of play.
I thought she did a really nice job of setting up the discussion with this great Picasso
painting of a child taking his very first steps, with his mother right behind him, holding his
hands up. And Dorothy used this piece of art to illustrate the notion of agency, of
self-directed willful activity that underlies so much of the play in learning that goes on. But
she also emphasized the concerned assistance that the mother was showing and that kids
need agency. They need to learn to exercise their agency within their boundaries that are
set by parents and the community. And I think that really set the tone for a lot of the
discussion especially--and I think this was something Brad Bushman emphasized--the use
of play to rehearse essential life skills. And I think that is one of the concerns that you could
have about this Devon Moore Grand Theft Auto case. Here’s a guy who never held a gun in
his life, but had lots of practice with head shots in Grand Theft Auto.
Before I let you jump back into the legal things, I did want to talk a little bit about some of the
psychological evidence that was presented by Brad Bushman. He was an expert witness in
the case against Wal-Mart over Grand Theft Auto. There were two studies that I thought
were particularly interesting. In one of them, he had Dutch kids play against one another in a
game, and, when one beat the other, they had the opportunity to make the loser listen to a
blast of white noise through their headphones. It was a loud and unpleasant thing that he
played for us in the conference, and I could blow really hard into my mike, but I don’t know
that my audience would appreciate that. But that would give you a sense of what it was like.
And so the researchers manipulated whether the game the kids played was violent or not
and measured how loud the winner would play the white noise as punishment and also how
much the winner identified with the protagonist that they played in the game. Bushman
called it wishful identification. And what they found is that the more the kids identified with
their character in the violent game, the more they would crank up the white noise. We have
a graphic of this, the Brad Bushman slide with the Dutch kids playing. Hopefully SLCN can
put that up there. The effect actually went the other way with nonviolent games, where
identifying with a character actually restrained the kids from punishing their opponent so
Brad emphasized that the noise levels here were pretty serious. The average noise level
chosen by those who identified strongly with a violent character were actually above the
100- or 105-decibel range, which is enough to cause some permanent hearing damage. I
should mention you can’t do this study in the U.S. This was done in the Netherlands, where
they do not have internal review boards that would probably stand in the way of a study like
this in the U.S.
And then Brad talked about another study with similar results, where the researches
manipulated how large and immersive the visual display was for the game, and, again, they
found a very similar result, that kids who played the violent games, with larger and more
immersive displays, were more aggressive in punishing their opponents than the ones with
the smaller and less immersive displays.
AUDIENCE: What games did they play?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You know, I actually don’t know what games those are. I think
that they were designed specifically for the research study, but I admit I don’t know.
When I put all of this together, I see that the same things the game makers are pursuing to
make their games better, characters that kids can really identify with, and gripping
immersive experiences are also the ones that seem to create more of a link between playing
a violent game and seeing Real World aggressive behavior. Now turning back to the legal
side, Josh, I guess I’m wondering do you see these advances in game technology
themselves forcing a more aggressive regulatory policy?
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Well, one thing about advances in gaming technology is that games
are becoming advanced, and they’re taking a serious portion of the entertainment budget of
the United States. And so just by the success of the technology, that’s going to drive
regulation. Right? It’s not an immediate function of technological advance; it’s more a
function of where the entertainment dollars are going, and that means the trial lawyers and
Congress people are going to get interested in the technology.
But moving to your more direct question--will what makes games good also drive our
concern about the impact they have on children--it may well be that the better a play is, the
more we feel sad or depressed or elated, the better. If we win a football game, it may well
be that we’re going to be pumped up for quite some time as we walk outside. I don’t dispute
Brad’s findings in that respect. But I do wonder, you know, we don’t generally think that the
amping up from playing a football game, for example, lasts all that long, nor do we think it
has permanent negative effects. And the same thing with plays. We do kind of wonder,
“Gee, is this going to make me sad for the rest of my life or depressed for the rest of my life
if I watch Macbeth?” We need to study that. We need to know a whole lot more about
whether or not these effects persist or whether or not they’re just simply a result of being
immersed in creative media, just like plays, or in a game just like football.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: It’s true. In the discussion at the conference, there were two
issues that people were raising, and one was that issue of how long these effects would
last. In fact, it turned out most of these studies were allowing only something on the order of
20 minutes or less than an hour, in any event, between playing the game and then testing
for Real World aggressive behavior. And the other, which was a question I asked is that
apparently they haven’t done studies to see whether the effects are greater on kids than
they are on adults. And that, to me--
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: That’s right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I think there are some legal implications of that, but also
psychologists are using experiments typically to identify causal explanations for what’s
happening. And I think one of the causal explanations people keep putting forward is that
kids are learning. Kids use play to learn. Kids are malleable. To the extent that’s true, you
would expect to see bigger effects among kids than among adults.
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: But I think there’s another side to this research, which is: What
happens if we show that, as a matter of social policy, violent video games amp adults up? I
mean I understand that everyone wants to sort of kick out when it comes to kids because
we have a sense that adults ought to be free to do what they want. But, if the effects are the
same for adults, then the social policy questions don’t go away. And on the other hand,
even if children are amped up from playing these games, there’s a serious question of
whether or not the parent should be permitted the right to let their child engage in this, at
least some portion of the time. Right? You may not want your child playing football all the
time, but once every couple of weeks or on a fairly stratified schedule seems to be just fine.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Gives a whole new meaning to being a hockey mom, huh?
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Right. Exactly. Given that fighting is sort of part of the game, and
every team has a brawler.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I wanted to ask you, Josh, about your own rather novel legal
theory on self-regulation. As I understand it, the key impediment to more restrictive
regulation of violent games is that it would be an abridgement of free speech. And you
argued that, by providing an effective private solution-- self-regulation like the ESRB
standards for example--game developers could make it much harder for public regulation to
actually be Constitutional. So can you walk us through that argument?
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Well, first of all, let’s just start with a couple of practical foundational
concepts before we get to the Constitutional stuff. First of all, I don’t think people like to
regulate industries in the United States, unless there is a real demonstrated danger. We like
to kind of get on with making money. So that’s one thing that I think really sort of pulls
people up sort when they think about regulation. Generally speaking, regulation isn’t the
answer to absolutely everything. On the other hand, as we’ve seen this week, right, calls for
regulation come when we see a serious public downside. That’s why we’re hearing calls for
regulation of Wall Street right now. So that’s one pushback.
The other pushback is that industries have always known that, if they try to take care of the
problem themselves, then that prior inclination to not regulate unless we need to is going to
have greater sway. So all industries try to self-regulate first. And that’s not a Constitutional
argument; that’s just simply a smart way to handle yourself when you’re considering the
prospect of regulation.
But then there is this further issue, and that is that, just like movies, just like plays, video
games are speech. They are expression. They tell stories. They are the modern electronic
narratives. And, because of that, Congress is limited with respect to what it can do in terms
of targeting the speech itself. Now it can obviously limit how and when we can access the
material, but it can’t just simply turn it off, eliminate it entirely, say, “Thou shalt not put
X thing into a video game,” any more than they can say, “Thou shalt not put X thing into a
play or into a movie.”
So the critical question then is: What’s the legal standard restricting Congress when it turns
to regulating video games? I’m not going to bore the audience, but let me just say this. If
there were three strikes for Congress in trying to regulate video games, they’d have been
out a long time ago. They have tried again and again and again, with all of these different
statutes, to regulate speech online, and all the different ones have been held
unconstitutional because they’re overbroad and because they restrict too much speech. We
finally got one this past year that passed Constitutional muster, but very narrow exception.
Generally speaking, Congress’s track record in regulating speech online has been pretty
So given that background, what’s the constraint? What are the courts getting bent out of
shape about? The basic one is that Congress can’t regulate speech heavily if there’s a less
restrictive alternative available, if there’s some way for them to get the result they want
without regulating quite so much speech. And, in a lot of the porn cases, the argument was
that filtering, voluntary use of filtering, would be more effective--and a Congressional
Commission found this--would be more effective in blocking minors’ access to porn than a
quite scary law that said anytime anyone communicates off-color material to a child, they
could go to jail. As we’ll see, by the way, that threat remains right now. Cybersex is not a
safe activity under our current legal regime.
So the current fight then is whether or not private solutions, like filtering or like filtering for
Virtual Worlds, ignore lists, that sort of thing that let us filter other people out of our
existence, whether those kinds of private self-help solutions must be promoted by Congress
first, whether they have to try that first before they say, “You know what? You just can’t say
certain kinds of things because of the risk that a child might overhear.”
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I am looking at the backchat while you’re talking about this and
seeing a lot of very interesting comments. Not surprisingly, it looks like a pretty pro-game,
pro-free speech audience, given that most of them are actually in Second Life at the
moment. Not too surprising.
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Sure. Right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: One person is saying, “You should have made the whole show
about this topic,” and I agree. There’s clearly so much to talk about, and I think we’re going
to run out of time. Actually, let’s just see. I guess the one thing that I did want to ask you
about as a last question is: I guess the distinction between video games and Virtual Worlds
is that, in Virtual Worlds, some of the content is coming from other residents. When we talk
about kids seeing violent activity, it’s not necessarily something intended by the maker of
the Virtual World; it’s something that someone else is doing. Similarly with sex. Do you see
a big change in both the practicality and the philosophy of legal policies protecting kids in
Virtual Worlds compared to games?
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Yeah. I think that the big fighting question is, for video games, right,
you can say, “Gee, you can’t put violence in the video game. You can’t put sex in the video
game because a kid might look at it.” And, if that’s Constitutional, well, then that’s
Constitutional. I doubt that it is as a blanket prohibition. But, for Virtual Worlds, the real
problem is that targeting gaming companies and telling them to keep certain things,
especially sex, out of Virtual Worlds just doesn’t work. Right? Because people can just
come into the Virtual World, and the problem: a lot of the content is other people. And this is
true of even Virtual Worlds that are incredibly restrained in terms of what you can say and
do. Right? One slide by one of the presenters showed people lining up to say swear words
in a very chat-restricted server in Club Penguin. So if that content’s going to seep in as a
result of the actions of other users, then targeting the game companies and saying, “Listen,
you can’t have that in your game,” is just not going to be a viable alternative.
And I think that there’s a real tension between the law and between practice right now. For
example, you mentioned that, gee, the chance that a predator might get into a Virtual World
and might then dirty-chat to a child, well, that’s true. And just like getting on the phone and
sending a dirty phone message to a child will get you in trouble with the law, I think right
now it’s a very nebulous area as to whether or not sending dirty text to someone who might
or might not be a child would get you in trouble under the strict letter of the law. But,
policemen on the ground seem to be following a quite different regime. Right? They’re
following the usual “to catch a predator” model where they’re going to set up a Real World
meet and bust the person when they show up, trying to make a Real World connection with
someone that the predator thinks is a Real World child. So there’s a huge disconnect
between the law as written and then our Constitutional standards and then the law is
enforced. None of those three things seem to match up right now.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, it sounds like it’s going to be an interesting decade ahead of
us, and I’m not just talking about the fact that the Dow is down 700 or so today, but looking
at how policymakers are going to protect children in the Metaverse. So I’m sure we’ll have
you back on to talk about this. So there are topics we didn’t get to. I think, over the coming
year, we will have various people, who I met at your conference, come on to Metanomics
and give their perspectives. So thanks a lot for joining us again here today.
JOSHUA FAIRFIELD: Thanks very much for having me, Robert.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I look forward to talking with you again. So thanks to
Josh Fairfield of Washington and Lee University’s School of Law.
Okay. Let’s go on and meet our guests for the main event. Andy Mallon is the director of
Social Research Foundation, which has conducted a pretty comprehensive survey of
Second Life residents. This survey has important implications for enterprises in Second Life.
And Erica Driver, of ThinkBalm, is here to give us an enterprise perspective. So thank you,
Andy and Erica, for joining me on Metanomics today.
ANDY MALLON: My pleasure. Thank you for inviting us.
ERICA DRIVER: Nice to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me start with you, Andy, to just talk about your organization.
What is the mission of Social Research Foundation, and how did you get into this?
ANDY MALLON: Well, to make a long story short, first, thank you for inviting me here
today. I think it’s a fascinating forum. My background really is about 30 years in business
magazine publishing. I helped mainly trade associations, like in the credit union field, the
owners of the Practical Account Magazine, National Association of Credit Management. I
helped them with their magazines, with business development. Then when I retired in 2003,
to make a long story short again, Business Week hired me totally out of the blue as a
consultant on an education technology project. I was fascinated on what was being done in
that area. I could tell you a lot about banking software and accounting software, but not
educational. And that eventually led me to discovering Second Life. I felt like immediately I
got what the potential was here. But what I did not see was how companies could properly
do the research necessary in advance before doing something in this medium, such as
knowing who you’re interacting with, putting together a panel of demographic attributes that
match what you’re looking for. And so I got my board at the Foundation to agree to fund
putting together this First Opinions Panel, and that’s how it all came to be.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. And so for this particular study that you did, you went out
and you asked a bunch of people to provide questions. I guess I added a few in and so did
Erica, and I’m sure you had a number of others. These things are not easy to do, from your
end, and I didn’t have to pay a penny. So I’m wondering if you can talk a little about your
motivation for conducting this survey.
ANDY MALLON: Well, I don’t run the panel for profit. It’s a nonprofit organization. We do
work, for example, for graduate students. We don’t even charge them or maybe just enough
to cover at least some of the cost. A Fortune 500? Okay, they can help to pay the freight for
the rest. What we felt was that, in the past year, Second Life has gotten kind of a bad rap,
which is, I think, in a lot of the industry, there’s the boom and the bust cycle, where it was
first considered the darling of the media. And I wanted to take a good hard look at really
what should companies really know about Second Life that is outside the typical hype. Who
is in there, in terms of the people that have stayed in Second Life, the residents? What are
they doing there? Which is the question I always get from corporate clients and prospects.
And what are they doing personally? And what are they doing professionally? And finally,
what are their plans for 2009? How does that compare to their involvement with Second Life
in 2008? And so we decided to self-fund this study and really start digging for those
answers. We’re happy to go further if some company wants to go further with us and fund
something deeper. But at least take a serious look at who’s in there now and clear up a lot
of this misconception that it’s just a game or just for sex or just for things that would be of
little use to companies and also for them to get the idea that Fortune 500 larger companies
can use Second Life for more than just the collaboration of their own staff. They certainly
can interact with the Second Life population. If they need a select group of targeted
demographics, we can probably provide them with that and rather quickly because they’re
members of our panel now. We’ve got about 11,000 members and hundreds and hundreds
of them easily could come together in a panel for most any job requirement they need.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So I see a question that just came in from Austen Scanlan: How
statistically verifiable are your stats? And I guess this is one of the things that I get
concerned about with panel studies. You have 11,000 people, but, of course, these are
11,000 people who have agreed not simply to respond to a particular survey, but that they’re
saying, “Yeah, I’m here to respond to a number of surveys. Let me know.” It’s more of a
self-selected sample we usually see--
ANDY MALLON: It’s a fair question. It’s a fair question.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: How do you approach that?
ANDY MALLON: Well, our first thought when we started this was to try to create a
representative sample, but we ran into two interesting situations. The first is: Representative
of what? Representative of people who have joined Second Life? We know that many don’t
stay after the first hour or two. So then the question is: Is it people that stayed at least for a
week or two or people that come and stay in Second Life, let’s say, an average of an hour a
day or an hour a week? So what you make it representative to? How would you want to
define that? And I found that that could lead us down a very long rabbit hole, not that it’s not
significant from the standpoint of statistical analysis, but this gets to the other part of my
point, which is that not a single corporate client was asking us that question. They would
come with specific demographics and say, “Can you get me people that match the following
demographics? And we need this by a certain deadline.” And that’s what we began to focus
on after that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great. Before we get into the meaty parts of the results, I
did spend some time looking at who responded. I mean I guess this is a self-selected
sample within a self-selected sample and that it was the first thousand, 1,200 or so people
who responded out of the 11,000.
ANDY MALLON: Right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: But these people actually look a fair bit like what Linden Lab has
published overall. And so just to summarize real quickly some of these things, the sample is
pretty much 50-50 male and female. The average age is in the mid-30s. Income looks like
it’s roughly above the median for the U.S. somewhere. Median looks like it’s slightly above
50,000. And that’s not surprising since they all have computers that can run Second Life.
The sample is maybe a little younger, I should say, relative to the Linden Lab sample, but
not by much. So it looks to me like, while it may be a self-selected sample, it’s not a really
strange one. So let me just talk about what I did with the data, and I think Bjorlyn Loon will,
hopefully, paste in the link. Our discussion today is going to follow the post that I put on
metanomics.net this morning, and we’ll more or less walk through that.
And the very first thing that we’re going to look at is a graphic on why people are using
Second Life, what the reasons are that they’re there. So one of the things we see is, people
rated things as one, two and three; one being the most important reason that they’re in
Second Life. And fun and creativity, the desire to socialize, those got lots of ones. And then
there were smaller numbers usually in the 300 or so for running a Second Life business. A
couple hundred for networking. A couple hundred for research. And more like, I guess lower
than that, in the high one hundreds for bringing a Real Life business into Second Life. So it
does seem like it’s a pretty big cross-section of why people are here.
The first result running with that, that I wanted to talk about was how interested Second Life
residents are and the residents of your panel in interacting with Real Life brands in Second
Life. And what I thought, I’m just going to give my own opinion on this one because I’ve
been on the record a couple times saying one reason that branding plays don’t seem to
work all that well in Second Life and often result in bad press, my view has been Second
Life, the experience that people are looking for in Second Life is often antithetical to
engaging with Real Life brand. People are coming into a Virtual World to create their own
reality and to do things that are disconnected. Immersionists, in particular, they get very
upset when someone breaks their sense of immersion into another World. So I was
surprised to see relatively high percentages of your sample willing to express an interest in
engaging with the brand.
Now the natural critique here, well, these are people who have specifically said that they
want to--of these 11,000, right--
ANDY MALLON: Right. Right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --they all say, “I want to engage with brands.” And so we could
just be seeing bias there. But I went a little further with the data because often when we
have a self-selection bias or really any other type of experimental design flaw, which
self-selection basically is, we can address that, in part, by looking for cross-sectional
variation. Everyone in your sample is self-selected into it, but we can make a distinction
between what I’m calling personal and professional users. So I took that last slide that we
looked at, that indicated the reasons people are in Second Life, and I said anyone who gave
top ranking to running a Second Life business or networking with professionals or
conducting research or bringing a Real Life business into Second Life, if they put any one of
those as a one, I called them a professional user. And we had 458 of those in the sample.
So more than a third. And the rest, 800 personal users.
And so, if you look at that, actually the professionals are more likely to say they’re very
interested in connecting with the brand than somewhat interested. About 210 are very
interested. Two hundred are somewhat. About 50 are not interested. And then if you look at
the ones--there’s a lot less interest among the personal users, where, out of a much larger
number, only a little over 200 are very interested, 450 are somewhat interested, and 130 are
just not interested. So I guess I feel like there’s a little vindication, from my view, that the
people who are coming into Second Life really as end users, as opposed to professionals,
don’t seem that interested in engaging with brands.
ANDY MALLON: I would just make one comment there. The question is: Interact with the
brand how? If the brand has come in and not done anything or simply the resident has not
had an experience with a brand in Second Life, then they might say, “I’m somewhat or
maybe not that interested.” That’s the whole point I’m trying to make with this survey, which
is, the brands should first do research with their target attributes in Second Life, to figure out
how to promote that brand or use that brand within the virtual environment. If they can figure
out the right way to do that, then that should begin to generate a lot more interest. But the
residents haven’t seen that yet where the brands in the past built what we call ghost towns,
and so the residents, while they express interest, then naturally those on our panel would be
the most likely to be interested in brands. The fact is the brands themselves have not held
up their end of the bargain mainly because the people from the brands, who came into
Second Life, were usually not mainstream marketing departments, but were sort of at the
forefront of the avant-garde groups that are sort of testing digital worlds or testing different
media, but don’t necessarily understand that media yet. So I think this question is a good
starting point for the discussion, but by no means is it the final picture of the role of brands
and those [who have little?/AUDIO GLITCH] interest in brands.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Okay. And you do have some data which I did not put on
the website. I sort of ran out of time, but there was some information on how people wanted
to interact with the brands. It seems like people are really quite interested in participating,
well, as they were promised, I guess, when they joined the panel, interested in focus groups
and things like that. I was interested that they also would like to engage in product
development with companies, which I think is good news for the enterprise users in Second
Life because there is a lot of prototyping and things like that going on.
ANDY MALLON: Yes. Yes.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So let’s see. Let’s move on a little and talk about projections of
the future. So you asked a question of how people anticipate their Second Life use, well,
how it did change over the last year and how they anticipate it changing. So over the last
year, the personal users, there were a number, well over a third saying that they used
Second Life less as the year went on, with many fewer personal users saying that they’re
going to use it more. And we saw the flip on the professionals. The professional users,
many more of them are saying that they did use Second Life in increasing time over the
course of the year.
And we have a graphic also that I’m hoping now SLCN can put up on what it is that they are
doing more and what it is that they are doing less. I would just like to point out that none of
the numbers here have to add up in particular to anything because a lot of people they’re
not planning on doing something more or less because they didn’t do it, and they don’t plan
on doing it in the future. So you can see that the numbers of more and less vary a lot.
Erica, as an enterprise user, I think you have some thoughts on how to interpret this data on
what professionals are doing more and less. You care to weigh in on this?
ERICA DRIVER: Sure. So let me introduce myself briefly, to give people some perspective
on my comments. My name is Erica Driver, and I’m a principal with ThinkBalm. I’m an
independent IT industry analyst, and I focus exclusively on the area of enterprise use of
immersive technologies. And so I actually contributed some of the questions about
enterprise or professional usage of Second Life to this survey. I’m very interested in this
data. So if you look at the survey question about what people are doing more this year
versus last year, one of the line items--one of the answer options was professional activities,
which includes training. And so interestingly, about 16 percent of the survey respondents
said that this year they’re doing more professional activities in Second Life this year
compared to last year, but then again there’s another 19 percent that said they’re doing less
of this. So I’m not sure about the statistical relevance there, given the possible margin of
error. But it evens out a little bit there. I’ll pause and take a breath and turn it back to you,
Rob, if you want to comment on other elements of that survey question before we go into
the enterprise stuff in more detail.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, no. Let’s actually jump into that. I guess one thing that I
would like to say is that when we look forward when we ask users what they’re thinking
they’re going to do over the coming year, the results are actually stronger than they were
before in the sense--well, first of all, I should say everyone, both personal and professional
users, are expecting to use Second Life more over the coming year than over the past year.
And there are some, of course, who are doing it less, but the mores outrank the less by
something like around three to one overall. But it’s 4.4 to one among the professionals and
2.6 to one under the personals. So it does seem like the professional users are pretty bullish
in here. I guess, first of all, before we get into specifics, what’s your thought on why that
might be, that the professionals are particularly enthusiastic about what they’re going to be
doing over the coming year?
ERICA DRIVER: Well, that one’s hard for me to answer the way you put it because I didn’t
cut the data in the way that you did, which is professional users versus personal users. So if
it would be okay with you, maybe I’ll answer a slightly sort of different question?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, sure. Sure.
ERICA DRIVER: So when we look at this data and we ask how people plan to spend their
time in the coming year, there were about 16 percent of the survey respondents, 198
people, said they currently do use Second Life for business purposes related to their
primary job. So then once you look at those and start picking that apart a little bit, to your
point, more than half of them, almost more than a third of them, about 37 percent said that
next year--oops I’m looking at the data a little bit strangely here. So about more than half of
the time they spend in Second Life is currently related to their work. There’s still another
huge portion, 41 percent said that they’re spending up to a quarter of the time on work
activities. Another 22 percent are spending up to a half. So a significant portion of people’s
time. Would this be maybe a good time to dig into what they’re doing, what kinds of
work-related activities they’re--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, let’s go to that. SLCN can pop up the primary job activities.
I don’t actually remember the title of the slide they have, but go ahead and talk about that,
and I’m sure they’ll get that up.
ERICA DRIVER: I think this is one of the most interesting findings in the study. We asked
the question, or I should say “we.” How erroneous of me. The survey asked the question
about what kinds of work-related activities are you doing in Second Life, and some of the
responses were not terribly surprising. Teaching and learning was the top of the line.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they’re doing that in Second Life. Another 43 percent
said that they’re collaborating with others to get work done. Forty-one percent are holding or
attending scheduled meetings. So those are sort of the core of common kinds of activities
that you see people doing in immersive environments like this. I’m surprised looking at this
data is that 35 percent of those 198 people who use Second Life for work, they’re using it to
visualize information in 3D, 35 percent. And I find this fascinating because now we’re really
starting to get at what is special about immersive 3D. It’s the ability to use this technology to
do things you just can’t do either in the physical world or in 2D.
So if we’re trying to communicate some complex concepts or some complex data sets and
look for implications there, it’s very hard for us to talk about that and to look at pages of
numbers and flat graphics. But, if we can create a visualization, we can walk around it
together, look at it. You might see that there’s a chip taken out of a pie chart or a bar graph
on the back side that I can’t see from the front. So I can wander around the back and look at
it with you. This is a fantastic use of what’s new about 3D. So it was encouraging to see that
more than a third of the respondents are using it for that.
And another point I want to make quickly is that a small sample, but 12 percent are actually
using Second Life to manage Real World systems. Much higher than I would have thought.
I’m aware of a couple of fantastic examples: IBM’s been doing stuff like this. Implenia in
Switzerland. Some fantastic experiments to--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: If we can just explore those for a minute. Now on the IBM one,
are you talking about where they’re looking at their servers?
ERICA DRIVER: Yeah. The 3D virtual data center. Exactly. They’ve built a middle-ware
layer to actually be able to manage and operate the physical data centers from within an
immersive environment. And it’s demonstrated within Second Life. I believe their production
environment uses OpenSim, but that’s IBM’s story. And then Implenia, what they’ve done is
they’ve integrated in a similar way the facilities, the building management systems. Implenia
builds sky-rises and football stadiums and large, large structures. So they’ve integrated an
immersive environment, in particular Second Life and also OpenSim, with those facilities
management systems. And so, for me to read that 12 percent of the respondents here are
doing something like that tells me there’s a lot of fantastic examples out there I haven’t yet
heard of and would be delighted to learn more about. While the numbers are small, they’re
very encouraging about people beginning to use 3D and immersive technology to do the
things we can’t do otherwise.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So one of the things that I’m wondering when I look through this
list is, I don’t see the word “prototyping.” Do you think that some of the 3D visualization
respondents what they’re really doing is making things in 3D so they can see what they’re
like, more cheaply before they start making them in the Real World?
ERICA DRIVER: That’s a good question. And it’s kind of a fine line. If I think about concept
visualization versus product prototyping or prototyping anything, it’s kind of a fine line. I just
wrote an article on the ThinkBalm website about what some of the faculty have done out in
Ohio at universities there. They’ve built not really a prototype, but more a conceptual
experience in 3D, to allow the decision makers to experience what a motion tracking studio
would look and feel like, to help determine if they wanted to make an investment in that. So
it’s not really prototyping; it’s more like concept visualization, which someone could interpret
into this question visualizing information in 3D or collaborating with others, so it could have
gotten “munged” up in here, to your point.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me ask--this is I guess going outside the data because it’s a
question about Worlds other than Second Life. Everything you’re saying would also apply to
other Worlds, and I’m wondering what your take is on how bullish and active we can expect
enterprises to be over the coming year, outside Second Life, but in Virtual Worlds.
ERICA DRIVER: When I think about where enterprise as a general category is with
adoption of immersive technologies, I think of us as being in the seedling stage, very, very
early on and with just experimentation, and that’s it. We’re not seeing any companies with
enterprise rollouts across tens of thousands of people, but we will. You look at leaders like
IBM and Sun Microsystems and BP and others that have been experimenting and are
committed to this technology, they’re going to lead the way in, hold up the light for others.
And when I think about what’s happening here, I give it a five-year timeframe before this is
mainstream. And that probably sounds very aggressive when you think about other
evolutions like the web. I have three reasons for why it is aggressive. The convergence of
technology, whether it’s bandwidth, software, graphics cards, make it possible for anyone,
well, not everyone, but many people to have access to this technology, who couldn’t have
before. So this is technology convergence.
The next biggest reason is because of social networking. Because, unlike five years ago,
people who have expertise and knowledge and passion about immersive technology can
find each other and put their heads together, can solve problems together, can answer
questions and point each other in directions. So I’m talking about Twitter and blogs and
social networks. There’s just the possibility for people to push this forward that we just didn’t
have before. So five years, mainstream.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, from your mouth to God’s ears, as my mother would
ANDY MALLON: Let me just add also, Robert.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, sure. Yeah.
ANDY MALLON: This survey that we did included a Virtual Worlds market share study.
There wasn’t room for that in your presentation today. Hopefully, by the end of this week, we
will have all the charts done for about 50 questions that the survey contained, and those will
be available at our website, socialresearchfoundation.org, at no charge. Again, we making
all these results freely available.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! I guess I want to say thanks to you personally and to
Social Research Foundation for doing this pro bono, doing the work for free, letting people
ask questions for free and then publishing the answers also for free because I think it’s a
huge benefit to the community of those professional users and people who are using this for
their primary occupation.
ANDY MALLON: Thank you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I know we’ve already gotten a bunch of hits on our website, as
people are looking into this.
I’d like to end by focusing on a couple questions, or I guess one question in particular that I
contributed to the survey, which is the state of the employment market. Well, I guess there
are two questions. I think we’ll have time to do them quickly. The first is: Who’s getting paid,
and how are they getting paid? What is the form of their wages? And so what I did, this
question basically asks: Are you getting paid by your employer in Lindens for work you’re
doing in Second Life? Are you getting paid in tips, which, of course, are going to be in
Lindens? Are you getting paid in Real World currency? Or are you getting nothing at all?
And so I think the first thing to talk about is, among the personal users, 96 percent of them
aren’t getting paid for anything. Among the professional users, still you only have 21 percent
of the people getting any sort of payment for what they’re doing. And how are they getting
paid? Well, it tends to be Lindens most commonly, and that’s about double the number that
are getting tips. But eight percent of the professional users so this is over a third of the 21
are getting paid in real currency.
And I guess I see Perplexity Peccable is asking: What if you’re just told to do Second Life
stuff as part of a regular salaried job? That’s a good question, and I’m guessing that’s
primarily the people who are getting currency. I think a lot of them are probably saying, “Oh,
I get paid in dollars.” And some of them maybe are saying they don’t get paid anything. But
I’ve talked about this before. I think that there are a lot of people who are doing it in the
interests of the enterprise that they’re working for, but it’s not something they’re actually
being asked to do. They are seeing an opportunity and being intrapreneurs. So I think a lot
of those people are also saying they’re not getting any.
The last question on the survey is on the state of the employment market and what we find
here, you know, I asked Andy to ask the panel whether it’s getting harder to find good
workers or easier and whether it’s harder to find good paid work or easier in Second life.
We’ve heard a lot about the employment markets within Second Life, and a lot of
hand-wringing about the health of the in-world economy. It’s interesting that the most
common response after “I don’t know” was for people to say “both,” that it’s harder to find
good workers and that it’s harder to find good paid work. So my take on this is that it’s not
simply a supply and demand issue. If everyone were out there looking for work and there
weren’t enough jobs, then we’d have the employers saying, “Well, it’s easy to hire people,”
and the workers saying, “I can’t find anything.” Or you could have it go the other way where
the employees are in the easy seat. The fact that workers can’t find good work and
employers can’t find good workers both simultaneously suggests to me, as an accountant,
that really what we’ve got here is a bit of an auditing problem.
I think that the difficulty for employers is finding people who are really qualified and
dedicated and to distinguish them from the people who are really just in Second Life for a
lark and maybe think picking up some kind of job would make their time in-world a little more
entertaining, help them meet people and so on. And I think these are all true, but it makes it
difficult for the employers to distinguish the serious job applicants from the ones who maybe
aren’t going to be as qualified and, more importantly, as reliable and dedicated as they need
for Real World enterprise, even though the business and the work is taking place in Second
Life. So my take, just to give a plug to one of our sponsors, Kelly Services, if you think about
what companies like Kelly do, they basically provide an auditing service, not just doing a
little of the searching, but also providing that determination of credentials, abilities,
dedication, reliability and so on. And so I actually think there’s quite an opportunity for
employment firms, like Kelly, in Second Life, as soon as the economy gets bigger.
So let’s see. I see we are basically out of time so what I’m going to do right now is just thank
everyone for being on the panel. Thank you, Andy, not only for providing the data and all,
but for coming to join us and talk about Social Research Foundation.
ANDY MALLON: Thank you very much for inviting me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And, Erica, thanks to you for providing your insights onto the
enterprise segment of the survey.
ERICA DRIVER: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thanks also to Josh Fairfield for talking with us about some policy
issues. And check our website. I’ll have a post on there this afternoon talking about the
issue of child sexual abuse in Virtual Worlds that we did not get a chance to discuss during
the show. And let’s see. The last thing I want to say is, we have a very interesting show next
week. We are going to have a representative of SL Exchange, which is changing its name to
Xstreet, and we are going to talk about their name change as a result of Linden Lab’s policy
regarding trademarks. But we’re also going to talk about monetization, buying and selling
and supporting buying and selling in Virtual Worlds. Along with a representative of
SL Exchange, we are going to have a representative of fatfoogoo, which is a company
founded by people who have done a lot of monetization and micro-transaction support for
mobile carriers. This is a company devoted to doing something similar in games. A
representative from fatfoogoo will be Stevie Case, who some of you gamers may know as a
championship gamer from years back, then a designer of computer games and now vice
president of sales and business affairs for fatfoogoo. So I hope to see you all here next
week. Bye bye.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Seocond Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer