WEAVING NARRATIVE THREADS IN VIRTUAL WORLDS
DECEMBER 9, 2009
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is brought to you by Remedy Communications and Dusan Writer's
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hi. I'm Robert Bloomfield, professor at Cornell University's Johnson
Graduate School of Management. Today we continue exploring Virtual Worlds in the larger
sphere of social media, culture, enterprise and policy. Naturally, our discussion about Virtual
Worlds takes place in a Virtual World. So join us. This is Metanomics.
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is filmed today in front of a live audience at our studios in Second
Life. We are pleased to broadcast weekly to our event partners and to welcome discussion. We
use ChatBridge technology to allow viewers to comment during the show. Metanomics is
sponsored by the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and Immersive
Workspaces. Welcome. This is Metanomics.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Welcome to Metanomics. Last week we talked with Byron Reeves
about his book Total Engagement. One theme of the book was that the narratives we find in
games can motivate workers and keep them engaged in their tasks. Today we'll be expanding on
that theme in two ways. First, we're going to take a look at how narratives can be used in
outreach and education, but we'll also take a look at the storylines that arise naturally in Second
Life when entrepreneurial folks start exploring and find colleagues and opportunities.
We have three guests today, and everyone has a story to tell. We'll be starting with Jena Ball,
Jenaia Morane in Second Life, who's a freelance writer, educator and syndicated columnist in
first life and has been bringing that storytelling ability into Second Life. We'll hear just how, in a
Christina Galanis is the executive director of Southern Tier HealthLink New York, a role she's
held since 2006, and she oversees the activities of the Southern Tier HealthLink's regional health
information exchange called RHIO, and we'll hear about those and the role that Second Life will
play in the RHIO's activities.
And, finally, we are joined by Brent Ward, director of commercialization for Research Triangle
Institute International, which is closely tied with Research Triangle Park, which many of you
have probably heard of already in the Research Triangle in the North Carolina area. So, Jena,
Christina, Brent, welcome to Metanomics.
BRENT WARD: Thank you.
JENA BALL: Thanks so much for having us.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Thank you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So let's start with Jena. You have been focused on creating
something you call Story Quests, which are designed to bring people into stories and help
co-create personal stories. Tell us what Story Quest is all about?
JENA BALL: Well, stories are my passion, and when I came into Second Life, I thought maybe
I would transfer some of my teaching of stories to Second Life, and then I discovered that the
linear approach we use in real life isn't really as effective as immersive, interactive, co-created
stories that are possible here. So I started with the vision quest for Helen Keller Day. It allowed
people to experience what it was like to be blind or experience what it was like to be a guide dog
and went from there.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So it's essentially a form of role-playing?
JENA BALL: Story Quests are immersive. In other words, you walk into the story itself and
engage with it in some way, so it's also interactive. And then they ask you to co-create the story
with them. So it gives you a framework to begin with, and then you're asked, through your
interaction and your engagement, to create some of the story. It doesn't necessarily mean
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. And so I know that you were involved with the World AIDS
Day through a number of things, but including the story of Uncle D So tell us what you were
trying to accomplish with that.
JENA BALL: I'm the coordinator of Karuna, which is the National Library of Medicine funded
Sim for HIV/AIDS. And one of our mandates is to educate and tell people stories of those who
are dealing with HIV/AIDS. One of the biggest problems we've had is the stigma attached to
HIV. People don't want to get help. They don't want to be educated. They don't want to even be
seen going into clinics to get information about prevention. And, of course, there's a lot of
assumptions and stereotypes about people who have HIV/AIDS.
So I got to thinking, "How could we debunk some of those stereotypes and help people
understand that this is very real and human condition that we can empathize with?" And I
thought, "Well, I'll tell a story of someone who had HIV/AIDS." So I came up with this
character, Uncle D. I built out his life. And his life includes everything from his cat to his phone
messages to his journals to his house to his garden which you can wander around. And, through
learning about his story and imagining yourself in his story, you're educated, but you're also learn
to empathize with someone with HIV/AIDS.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, as with so many things in Second Life, you really have to see
it to understand it, and I understand our friends at Treet.TV have a small condensed clip of the
Uncle D story that they can show us. So, Treet, why don't you go ahead and roll that clip.
MALE: Every day I walk out into the world, to be dazzled and to be reflective. It suffices. It is
all comfort along with human love, dog love, water love, little serpent love, sunburst love or love
for that smallest of birds flying among the scarlet flowers. There's hardly time to think about
stopping and lying down at last, alone, after life, to the tenderness yet to come when time will
brim over the singular pond and become forever. And we will pretend to melt away into the
leaves. As for death, I can't wait to be the hummingbird. Can you?
MALE: Looks like the owner's a writer. Let's go inside and have a look. Come on. Get off the
bed. We don't know these people.
FEMALE: Hey look, there's a deer.
MALE: There's a poem inside: This morning two deer in the pine woods, in the 5 A.M. mist, in
the silky agitation went leaping down into the shadows of the bog.
FEMALE: Wow! This guy sure likes poetry: Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside
you are not lost. Wherever you are is called "here," and you must treat it as a powerful stranger.
MALE: Here's another one: You weren't well or really ill yet either, just a little tired, your
handsomeness tinged by grief or anticipation, which brought to your face a thoughtful,
deepening grace. I didn't for a moment doubt you were dead. Do you think he's dead?
FEMALE: Well, I didn't want to say anything, but this place smells tired and sad.
MALE: Take a look over here, and look at this, a journal: Well, here I am. I confess to be more
than a little amused and slightly embarrassed by my desire to write. At 63, I have read enough
good writing to know that my own is nothing remarkable. I'm a functional writer at best. On the
other hand, what better time to commit one's thoughts to paper than at the end of your life.
[END OF VIDEO]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So that's a fascinating video, but here's the confusing part, I guess.
The video tells some of the story, but doesn't really convey the experience of what it is to be in
the Story Quest. Jena, can you just give us a sense of what the difference is between watching
this short movie about the Story Quest and actually participating?
JENA BALL: It's a good question. The Story Quest is meant to be nonlinear, but it's also meant
to be immersive. So you walk into it. You can take a boat ride down to Uncle D's house. You can
wander around and read his journal, watch his TV, listen to his phone messages, go to his office,
and even go to his house in New York, which is on Pan Sim over here. And by learning little bits
and pieces about him, you are then asked to contribute your piece of the story as well. So for
example, you might be asked to take a photograph, write a letter to him, post to a blog, tweet, use
twenty-first century learning tools to extrapolate and make the story bigger, a little bit like fan
fiction, if that makes sense.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it does. It also reminds me a little bit of one of the
first computer video games I ever played, which was Myst, where it was also very nonlinear.
There were lots of things to explore. Puzzles. But, of course, the goal of this is different. I'd also
like to ask you what goes into creating this. I know that your partner in this endeavor is actually a
long-time and very experienced producer of children's televisions shows. How does that work in
to what you are doing?
JENA BALL: The wonderful thing about having Marty Keltz on your side is that he really
understands how things work three-dimensionally. He's a movie producer, essentially. And so
when we started to create the Quest, he said, "Think in terms of a movie set. Think of what it
would be like if we were going to film this." And that was really what got me going, in terms of
the immersion. Having Marty's eye on this has made it even more real and helped me understand
what viewers might need or want, in order to really appreciate Uncle D's life, [CROSSTALK]
should have a film producer on your side.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, actually, we'd love to have another one join us on
Metanomics, if anyone out there is excited. So you mentioned that Pan, Panacea Luminos, who's
our fellow panelist here today, actually has what you said Uncle D's house in New York on her
Sim. So Pan, Christina in real life, I'd like to bring you into the conversation. I know you are
overseeing a regional health information exchange in the southern tier of New York. Where do
you see this Story Quest fitting in?
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Well, I actually first heard about it by coming to a community forum
at Metanomics little over a month ago. And, after the show was over, we started to talk. Our
primary purpose is very technical and clinical in nature, which is to connect all of your health
information which is currently stored in different systems into one place that your clinicians can
get at it as well as patients could have access. And, because it's very technical, it makes it
difficult to really try to explain to people. So we looked to Second Life eventually as a way to
create interactive self-paced learning scenarios, to engage consumers and health-care providers
as well with this material.
So we have built a lot. We've been in Second Life for a year. We have 16 Sims. We've tried to
create comfortable scenes, such as Jenaia mentioned, that have other things going on in them,
that are engaging and enjoyable, but also building in the demonstration of the usage and benefits
of interoperable health information exchange. The opportunity to extend the Uncle D story came
about when we, all three of us, went to visit our Brooklyn Sims and started to think about where
Uncle D lived before he lived at the house that the Quest starts at, which is in the country, and
we started spinning this story. So we actually got all immersed in the story ourselves. And we
now have him in a brownstone.
We also have a community clinic in the Sim down the street. A coffee house. And we've
embedded bits and pieces of information, as well as the personal health record, surveys on
consumer attitudes towards having one of these. And we hope to build it out even more and start
to bring in other branches of this story, such as his nephew may have asthma or autism and build
out other things that will tie into this overall story and hope that people participate in it. We
currently are going to be launching a contest for people in-world, as well as in real life, to help
name the clinic.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Interesting.
JENA BALL: [The same with the?] situation with Pan is a perfect example of how the story
quest is innately created and allows people to collaborate. Somebody had suggested, "What if he
lived in New York?" And, of course, you can imagine where we might be able to go with that.
We had readings in the park. We had the health clinic. We had his doctor. We had a senior center
that he might have visited. We had a support group. The opportunities are almost endless, and, as
you can tell, we're having a great time doing it, in addition to educating people. Can't ask for
more than that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Pan, am I right in thinking this is not the direction you thought you
would be taking your project initially?
CHRISTINA GALANIS: No, it really wasn't. I mean we had started out with one Sim, doing a
demonstration. We have a grant for our larger project, but one of our primary roles is to bring
together the consumers, providers and educate, and we wanted to do something different so we
came in here. I was, like many people from organizations who come into Second Life. You're a
pioneer. You bring along the rest of your organization. What we thought we would do is
definitely not what we're doing today, both with our own components, as well as what we're
doing with Story Quest, but it all makes sense. And it all ties together and creates a way for us to
educate without beating someone over the head, or even worse having them click and get a
notecard of information.
People don't come into Second Life, in my experience, seeking out--not logging in and creating
an account and going through newbie orientation to check out health information, but we find a
lot of people, once they're in here, they just expand their universe, and they do things that they do
in real life. And, if I can find it on the web, can I find it in Second Life, and that's, I think, what
we're trying to provide here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Doubledown Tandino asks the question, "Are 16 Sims really needed
to accomplish the goal?"
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Well, all of the other RHIO's are involved as well. There are 13
RHIO's in New York state currently, and when they started to see what we were doing, they all
wanted presences as well, and we don't really have enough yet for all of the regions, but we are
holding at 16. Again, we build a lot of different experiences. You will come to our Sims and
wonder where is the health information. It doesn't come out and hit you in the face. You can ride
trains, trolleys, ride horses, go skiing, have a ski accident, get picked up by a helicopter, go to the
hospital, and then you start to see things. We actually have someone who works with us whose
tag on our group is called accidentologist, and he creates accidents for us.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Did you guys just make that title up?
CHRISTINA GALANIS: No, he asked for it after he created his first accident. He said, "I want
to be the accidentologist--
JENA BALL: I love it.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: --and we get together every couple weeks, and we create. We don't
want it to be all accidents because having access to your health information is great, just for
day-to-day health care. But it certainly is heightened in an emergency situation, and that's what
he wanted to be called. I can do it, so I did.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, titles are cheap, right?
CHRISTINA GALANIS: That's right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now Doubledown has another question, which I feel silly I didn't
ask earlier, but it's a simple one for Jena, "Is Uncle D real?"
JENA BALL: He lives and breathes for anyone who's been on the Quest. But to answer the
underlying question, no. He was a character that I made up, based on the research I've been doing
for a year and a half as the coordinator for Karuna. I know a lot about people who are dealing
with HIV/AIDS, but, no, he's a fictional character.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Brent, I'd like to bring you into the conversation now because
what we're seeing with all of the regional health information groups coming into Second Life
from across the state of New York feels a lot to me like what goes on at Research Triangle Park.
So I guess first, could you just talk a little bit about the idea behind, in the Real World, Research
Triangle Park and RTI?
BRENT WARD: Sure. So Research Triangle Park was established about 50 years ago. In fact,
the Park, RTI and a number of other organizations in the area celebrated some fairly large
anniversaries recently. RTI celebrated its fiftieth year, which is pretty significant when you think
about 50 years ago the visionaries that had this idea of aggregating about 7,000 acres, which it, at
the time, was primarily either cotton fields or sort of a forest area and now has turned into
probably the most successful science park anywhere on the planet. Potentially, I think, it may
still be the largest as well.
Remind me what the other part of that question was, Beyers.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I guess, what's your mission? And I guess along with that,
what brought you into Second Life?
BRENT WARD: So we being in the first organization that was established in Research Triangle
Park, and there actually is an organization with the same name as the Park, which is called The
Research Triangle Park. The "The" actually is the differentiator there. We actually worked with
them, thinking about the future of the Park, and one of the potential futures of the Park is
something like Second Life, where you have a virtual area that you can actually collaborate
across the globe.
And so a couple of us had had this congruence of thinking, had come together and, in advance of
the International Association of Science Parks, which was held for the first time in the United
States in Raleigh, North Carolina, right next to the Park, we had actually gotten the island
together with a consultant, who happens to be sitting in the audience out there, and built the
island and all of the various assets in about a week and a half in advance of that. And that then
created the space for us to spend more time in Second Life, looking around, having these
pervasive assets, that later on we actually got connected through another person in the audience
Vanny to Jenaia and Marty. And it's interesting when you think about this sort of social
networking, building a new sort of story, how it is that we all came together. It seems like a
But our mission, if you were asking that question in the beginning is, RTI a 501(c)(3) not for
profit, and it's about $700 million in size. We work around the globe, and the specific mission in
the sentence, if you were to read it on our website, is to improve the human condition by turning
knowledge into practice. And I think from what Pan said and Jenaia said, there's a lot of
knowledge out there, and I think something like the Story Quest, telling stories, shared
development of a different kind of reality, if you will, helps us to bridge that gap between
knowledge and practice. And so the way we looked at it was that we didn't know exactly, kind of
like Pan did, I don't know that we knew we'd be where we are when we started, but when we
talked with the CEO of RTP and we did our first investments in putting the stuff in place in
Second Life, we thought, you know, this is a place for exploration and has definitely yielded that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So the mission, I do like that, sounds like something everyone can
get behind improving the human condition by turning knowledge into practice. Is that why you
wear an angel avatar?
JENA BALL: I must say it looks sort of deceiving. Looks are deceiving.
BRENT WARD: It's interesting. It's a great question.
JENA BALL: Yeah, come on, explain it.
BRENT WARD: I'm laughing because it is a great question. I guess the thinking that I had was,
everyone sort of expresses their perfect self when they're designing what they want to look like
in Second Life. I don't know that the angel is the perfect self, but something seemed very
appealing to me about the wings and the halo. These happened to be free items I picked up with I
was a noob. And I'm not sure I'm too far from it.
JENA BALL: I will tell you one thing about Brent, one of the things I really appreciate about
him is that he's quite a visionary, and he's willing to look outside the box. He deals with a lot of
medical researchers who are pretty much interested in the facts. But you can talk to Brent about
the facts. And you can also talk to him about how you can take the facts and make it real to
people so that they really want to learn and grow and change. So that's my thoughts about his
wings. I don't know about the halo part.
BRENT WARD: So the short answer for you, Beyers, is that I can do it in Second Life, but I
can't do it in real life.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, we're finding a lot of people have trouble with the angel thing
in real life, and those of you who follow the news probably know what I'm referring to. One of
the things that I see here, and this is a day about stories, and so what I think is interesting is that
we started out as we were planning this episode, we always have a theme to our episodes, and the
episode for this was narratives and constructing narratives.
One of the things that occurs to me, when I think of the model of Research Triangle Park in real
life, there's this goal of getting everyone who's working on innovation and research together, in
one place, in part so that you can have interactions happen between these different organizations,
between the researchers and people who may not even know it but share some similar interests
and goals, and then things just happen.
We're toward the bottom of the hour now, and this is when we usually take a look back at a film
clip from a prior episode. Christian Renaud is the first one. This is an interview with Christian
right after he left Cisco and struck out on his own. He's the first one I've heard to emphasize the
role of serendipity in Virtual Worlds. So here is a brief snippet of an interview I had with
Christian, in June of 2008, when he was talking about the role of just having people, actually
avatars, in the same place at the same time so they could simply bump into one another by
happenstance. So let's take a moment and look back.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: With Metanomics now in its third season, we thought it'd be fun to
take a look back at some of our past shows and guests, since September of 2007. With over 80
episodes to choose from, we chose some of the most interesting, engaging and occasionally
contentious discussions. As always, you can see the complete episodes at metanomics.net or on
our iTunes channel.
CHRISTIAN RENAUD, CHIEF ARCHITECT OF VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS
JUNE 30, 2008
CHRISTIAN RENAUD: But having that sort of creates that camaraderie of the bullpen that I’ve
talked about before, of being able to lean over a cubicle wall and say, “Hey, did you watch the
game last night,” or, “Did you see this or that episode of this television show?” And it builds
trust, and, really, if you’re working with people a lot, you need to have a strong sense of trust,
anybody will tell you. And you do that not only by explicit interactions, but also by all of the
social trust-building and implicit behavior and just informal conversation.
That’s when I think you begin to introduce some things like the serendipity in Virtual Worlds
and micro updates using things like Twitter when it’s up both minutes of the day, that sort of
thing. I’m closer to my friends and colleagues in the UK these days than I ever was before
because we’re allowed to have this constant asynchronous conversation via Twitter, and I know
what they’re up to just as if I’d leaned over the cubicle wall to BS with them.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I also just want to add a quote that I found looking you up. This was
from an article by Mitch Wagner who quotes you as saying, “I bump into customers and partners
multiple times a day in Second Life. In eleven years at Cisco, walking through the parking lot in
San Jose, I never get people to come up to me and say, ‘Hi, I’m a Cisco customer. Have a
second?’” So it’s not just within the corporation, but also I think maybe doing the things that
you’re describing may make it easier to interact with people outside you organization.
CHRISTIAN RENAUD: Yeah, I mean if all of us that are here and coming in via whatever
mechanism, we’re all in the same town, I’d say, “Hey, everybody, let’s go down to the corner
pub, and I’ll buy the first round.” But we’re not. So what do we use as that sort of common
bonfire--to use Ruben Steiger’s metaphor--what do we use as that travel bonfire that we all sort
of center around and swap stories. This is how we do that, and it’s that sense of permanence.
And when you do that, you build the sense of trust that allows you to interact better as a team,
allows you to serendipitously bump into people. Somebody in the chat line used the concept of a
water cooler. I have other colleagues that quote “schedule hallway time,” which is bumping into
somebody in a hallway. You’ll get a meeting request, “Hallway time.” I think we really need to
overcompensate if you are a remote or if you work in a geographically distributed work team.
You need to overcompensate for those serendipitous interactions because, quite frankly, I mean I
can think of two or three acquisitions that I was part of when I was at Cisco that I’m almost
entirely certain were the byproduct of bumping into somebody in the cafeteria at the right time,
at the right place versus, “Oh, let’s get in the war room, and let’s talk about this.” It was, “Hey,
did you hear about this or that? Hey, you know what we could do.” And then stockholder value
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Welcome back to our guests. And we, actually while that video was
going on, we had our own conversations going, as always seems to happen. Just picking up on
this theme of serendipity, Jena already told us that Jena and Christina not only met in Second
Life but met at a Metanomics event, a forum that [Forager?] arranged a little while back, and
then I know that the two of you met Brent also rather by happenstance. And, Brent, you were
telling me that the connections you made you never would have made through a webcast or even
through video conferencing. So I was hoping you could elaborate on that.
BRENT WARD: Well, I'm sure as you look out into the audience out there, I'm not sure how
many people are sitting out there; I'm guessing somewhere in the 50 range. All those folks
obviously could turn to their neighbor and meet somebody they would probably never meet in
real life because I mean this is global. Right? The consultant that we work with I found out
through an email connection, but we developed what I think is a fairly strong relationship online,
and I think what I was commenting to you on there, Beyers, to build on what you said is that
there's much more of an emotional connection, I think, through the interactions in Second Life.
I've done these video conferencing where there's 20 heads moving around. I can imagine these
50 people out here, with their real life videos, trying to keep track of all that stuff. I think I'd be
far too distracted, with everyone sitting out there like they're regular people and actually able to
pay attention to the conversation. But, no, I don't know how it would happen other ways. I've
tried it on Skype, and it's just not quite as much synchronicity there, so I've got to fall back on
email, and that's the closest thing I've got, and we all know how underwhelming that can be
compared to something like Second Life, which is very visually gratifying.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And you would rather see and represent yourself through an avatar
rather than see the real selves and represent yourself through--
BRENT WARD: That's a really interesting question. I think more and more I feel that way. I
think Jenaia is probably more likely to come out and meet at any given time during the day or
night. In real life, I don't think that would happen, neither would it happen in video conferencing.
I think too many people are self-conscious about what the video looks like. So when you take
that away, which is very 2D, I don't know an alternative that's 3D that's like Second Life. Pan
and I can hang out and go dancing, which we have done. It's kind of cool.
JENA BALL: There's something Brent alluded to a little bit when he said that everybody
presents their best selves. I would say that everybody explores their inner selves by expressing
through their avatar. I found out shortly after I came to Second Life that "avatar" comes from the
Sanskrit word which means the embodiment of spirit. And I thought, "Wow! My avatar is an
expression of my spirit? What do I want to express?" So I really think that it's a matter of
presence. When you're here, you are yourself as your avatar.
BRENT WARD: And as Jenaia mentioned earlier, I think we're building a story, a collective
story here, that you could not build in any other way, and we do co-create that both physically
with the objects and the prims and sort of the primitive tools we have to work with in Second
Life, and that then extends out into the real life, which is what I felt World AIDS Day sort of was
what brought Uncle D out of the virtual space into the real space, and we had that blended
reality, which may actually be the best of all worlds.
JENA BALL: Yeah, that was wonderful. Mm-hmm.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: The downside is that, without seeing the real pictures, you don't
necessarily know the real nature of the people that you're dealing with. How do you manage
BRENT WARD: I'll jump in here real quick, and obviously Pan and Jenaia may have a different
opinion. I think trust is built on repeated exposure. To me, an exposure in 3D is more compelling
than an exposure over the phone, which is very flat. I think once you tell somebody you're going
to do something and you do it, then that trust builds. And, if you say you're going to do it and
you don't, then it doesn't build. So I don't know that the relationships in Second Life are any less
real than the ones I have. I know many people have been married for many years, and then 15
years later you find out that the person's not the person you thought they were. So I don't know
real life gives you an advantage necessarily over Second Life.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Yeah, I also think Second Life, you know we all scan people's
profiles, and that's one way that I have just reached out to someone by checking out their profile,
seeing something in there that was interesting to me, related to my project, and just start a
conversation, "Hey, what is it that you're doing with such and such? Come on over." In the
building process, which, with 16 Sims, we had a lot to build, being able to go to see something
and then say, "Oh, I like that, but I'd like it to be like this," and then messaging the creator,
getting into conversations and getting things done, and people deliver. And there's some creators
who don't deliver, but it's a very small number. I think people in Second Life doing business are
very professional. Your avatar is your reputation. There's a lot of value in reputation in Second
Life, and people are not likely to do things just because they have an avatar that they wouldn't do
in real life.
JENA BALL: I agree completely. I have to say when Brent was talking about our relationship
we have developed, I mean we built things together, we went to meetings together. We didn't
exchange just words, we exchanged prims. That sounds bad. Okay. But you know what I mean.
We accomplished something together, and so now I have a relationship with Pan. I built
something with and for her, and we've collaborated in this, and that the other beauty of the story
model. When you create a story together and you change it and grow it and nurture it, like a
child, you do develop a great relationship that's built on much more than just words.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: And it's not all work. We all go out and have fun. I mean we share a
love of music. We share a love of interesting Sims. Right after World AIDS Day, we were sort of
exhausted, and I grabbed Marty and Jenaia and took them to one of my favorite Sims, and we
just sort of kicked back and relaxed. It was a beautiful setting, and they're like, "We need to get
out more." So we do a lot of different things, with different people, that's not all work, but it
builds the relationship and the story between us.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Very interesting, and obviously I can tell the three of you have
talked quite a bit. You have that sort of organic interlacing going on that comes from people who
know one another pretty well.
I'd like to go back actually to some stuff that we were talking about before the break because
we've gotten some questions coming in, and one in particular appeals to me the accountant.
Valiant Westland asks, "What type of tools are you using to track the effectiveness of your use of
Virtual Worlds to achieve specific outcomes, and how are you calculating your ROI and TCO for
this project?" Okay. So I know ROI is "return on investment." TCO, I'm guessing the "T" is
BRENT WARD: Total cost of ownership.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Total cost of ownership. Ah, there we go. I would think, as I see it,
we have basically two people running real life organizations and then one consultant who's
providing content so I would think you would all have your own answer to that so whoever
wants to jump in first, and then we'll hear from the other two.
BRENT WARD: Pan?
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Well, I'll jump in. For our project, we are, as I said earlier,
grant-funded for most of it, but what's happened the unintended consequence of Second Life has
gotten us involved in different companies, technology companies, who are currently involved in
the state of New York, and creating these health information exchanges, wanting to now come in
and set up shop in Second Life. They've come to realize, through my coaching, that this is a great
opportunity for them to show off their work, their products, to the world, frankly. There's a lot of
professionals in Second Life that are affiliated with clinical settings: universities. And we've
already made several connections for people along those lines.
As far as the patients and consumers, we're not looking for a return on investment specifically.
What we're really looking for is survey data, research data, consumer preference data, and we're
accomplishing that both through surveys that we do, as well as metrics when they are completing
the personal health record, the number of objects that they touch. We have a game system so
they get points which they can redeem at some point in the journey for real merchandize, like
angel wings or halos perhaps.
BRENT WARD: Awesome.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: The investment just to say for 16 Sims--I saw the question in chat--is
really not that considerable. In fact, I just recently got the bill for 10,000 brochures in real life,
and I could have built two full Sims. So the investment is not really comparable to what we have
to spend on billboards and brochures and all types of Real World marketing efforts.
This also raises our visibility on a national platform as a progressive regional organization that's
using social media, and it's already resulted in some additional some grants that we've qualified
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, fantastic!
JENA BALL: That's great, Pan.
BRENT WARD: And I'd say, from our perspective, our ROI probably came in the very first
year when we ran some surveys inside Second Life, trying to field people to go out and interact
with real individuals out in homes. For the most part, I mean it was just immediate, and we
gathered data. I don't know that we could have gathered that inexpensively, maybe that
accurately, because we really got a lot of people's time and a lot of information in a very short
period of time, which turned into an article some of you may have seen called Does This Avatar
Make Me Look Fat?, which actually it's a really interesting study in turn.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: That was you guys?
BRENT WARD: Right. So they'll be doing some additional research, but that was one of the
first forays we had. And I think, from the island perspective, when we collaborated with RTP to
build the island, I think the ROI came immediately there as well. I mean we were ready for the
IASP, and it showed RPT, the Research Triangle Park, as a very innovative, out-of-the-box
thinking place to be in the United States.
JENA BALL: Right.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Nice.
BRENT WARD: And for RTI now to have access to people like Pan, where we might be able to
share some research in the future. And the total cost of ownership question, I mean it's so
inexpensive to build a Sim and then maintain that over time, but I don't know that the ongoing
maintenance is something that really is that large of thing to have to cover.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Not that we wouldn't appreciate a reduction if the Lindens are out
JENA BALL: Yeah. Right, right.
BRENT WARD: Maybe to buy two, get on free, something like that.
JENA BALL: Right. One price, including one for--Marty and I like to say it's a tool for
advocacy, education and entertainment. We produced a film that has been getting just rave
reviews, and we're hoping to submit to film festivals, for a fraction of the cost of a regular film.
So it's just a wonderful tool for outreach and education and advocacy.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: How about in particular, Jena, for stories? How do you judge the
success of a Story Quest?
JENA BALL: That's a great question. I would say three ways. One is participation. We have our
little sensors up, and we must have about a hundred people coming through every week.
Feedback from the target audiences we're looking to reach, for example, educators. We're talking
now with Peggy Sheehy about building the Quest out onto the teen grid. We're talking to
veterans groups about setting up a community in a Quest associated with returning veterans.
We're talking to education groups about aging and women's health, I mean all the different
audiences that we'd love to touch, seeing if we can get them through and get them interested and
start some dialogues.
But then also what's actually produced and the opportunities to grow the Quest out. I consider it
a great coup that we met Pan and she got it. The story spoke for itself, and she understood the
value of it, and now we're working with her on her Sim. I see potentials for building out in sorts
of other directions, just from this Quest. So really three ways. And, of course, future business.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I see in the chat there is an ongoing discussion on an issue we were
talking about a few minutes ago, which is the value of avatars relative to video of your real-life
self online. And this is one of the things I love about Metanomics and about conducting these
types of events in a virtual space is that not everyone has to be talking about the same thing at the
same time, and people can keep running with ideas we've put out there. I just wanted to say
thanks for carrying on that conversation, LOM Runner, Em Warrior and, I guess,
[Ezmay Kunwah?] and a few others.
So we're just about out of time. Here we are, it's the end of the season so you guys get sort of the
last word on your thoughts about Virtual Worlds and your goals in here on behalf of the whole
community. I'd just like to leave you each the opportunity to make some sort of final statement
and any point you think we haven't hit or something we have talked about you'd like to give extra
emphasis. Pan, why don't we start with you?
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Oh, I was going to wait and see what she said.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, then, Jena, we'll start with you.
BRENT WARD: I'll go first because I'd like to leave the profound stuff for Jenaia and Panacea.
First of all, I'd like to say, Beyers, thank you so much for all the great work you guys do in
Metanomics. I think I told you before I used your site to gather a lot of information for a paper I
wrote on virtual economies. I think I would have been lost if I hadn't had all that great resource
and recorded sessions. So thanks for all the great work.
And then secondly, I'd like to thank Jenaia and Marty for all of their patience, as well as Pan, as
we continue to learn more about what we might be able to use Second Life for. There is a much
bigger story to tell here, and there are a number of people we continue to recruit into Second
Life. There's a number of things that probably have to be upgraded to let more people get
involved, but it is really refreshing to have a space that you can come to, to collaborate and help
build things together. So thanks to Jenaia and Marty for having such a big vision that they
continue to push us towards even greater excellence in Second Life.
JENA BALL: I'd like to add to that because Brent has, without any compunction whatsoever,
continued to push Marty and I to grow as well. We've had some pretty long discussions. But I
love that. I love that about him. I love that about our partners. If I had one thing to say is that
Second Life is part of a new shift I think, in thinking, in terms of education, in terms of how we
see one another. But I love that we can come here to collaborate and think in terms of not
competition--we're shifting away from that competitive model and moving towards a
collaborative global model. And Second Life to me, particularly the stories, are indicative of that
and a perfect way to build empathy, learn how to collaborate and support one another. Yes, I
agree with you, Brent.
CHRISTINA GALANIS: Well, of course, I agree with both of them. I think the only thing that I
would add is that I'm really intrigued lately with building in more and more of an adventure or
game into stories and into the information we're trying to give out. I'm a big fan of treasure hunts
in Second Life. I'll freely admit it to being a shoe junky. And what I've noticed is that people get
really engaged with trying to win, even if they don't need it. But building in the game, the reward
system, I think, is something I really want to dig deeper into and how that ties in to the stories.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, thanks so much for all your thoughts. So on behalf of
Metanomics community, let me say thanks and goodbye to Jena Ball, Christina Galanis and
Brent Ward. So I hope we'll see you back in the Metanomics audience.
BRENT WARD: Absolutely.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I said you guys get the last word, but, of course, I get the last word
as host of the show, and so, as usual, I will close the session with Connecting The Dots. And my
point today is the following. If you don't know where you're going, the old saying goes, you'll
end up somewhere else. And, of course, it goes without saying that somewhere else is not as
good as where you might have gone if you had planned ahead. Well, this discussion on
Metanomics today leads me to propose a slightly different maxim: If you think you know exactly
where you're going, you'll probably miss a lot of opportunities to end up somewhere better.
Now my own experience in Second Life is a case in point. I certainly had no intention of
becoming the host of a talk show when I came in here. That was a totally unintended
consequence of having explored a three-dimensional space filled with people who share my
interests in business, education, innovation and technology. So here we are today for what turns
out to be the 89th episode of Metanomics. And I’m joined by two people, Jena and Christina,
who actually met at a Metanomics event, and a new colleague of theirs that they never met in
real life, but who has relied on Metanomics as a source of news about the state and future of
virtual business and also as a source of valuable business contacts.
I find it really interesting that we're having this show the day after New York Times columnist
David Brooks wrote about the innovation agenda that he proposes to Barack Obama. So he had a
long list of recommendations, and the seventh one was to quote "Encourage regional innovation
clusters." He writes, "Innovation doesn't happen at the national level. It happens within hot spots,
places where hordes of entrepreneurs gather to compete, meet face to face, pollinate ideas.
Regional authorities can't innovate themselves, but they can encourage those who do, to cluster."
Well, Second Life and the Metanomics community in particular seem like pretty good examples
of just this type of regional innovation clustering, much like what the Research Triangle Park has
achieved in real life in North Carolina and that RTP's director of commercialization is hoping to
build upon in Second Life.
This is, sadly, our last show of 2009, and we'll be back in 2010, with a whole new set of topics
and guests, but while we're taking a break, I know that the people within the community are
going to come upon new ideas and people with different perspectives and histories, just as the
French impressionists came upon Japanese art and song in the late 1800s and gave us the
wonders of Matisse and Ravel. So the lesson for me, in the end, is that those in real estate know
the three most important features of a property are location, location, location.
We should be bearing in mind how valuable it is to even have a notion of location at all on an
internet that is generally location-free. As Brent Ward said on today's show he simply couldn't
have met the people he did and built the relationships he did without the serendipity of bumping
into people who were in the same place at the same time. I am delighted to see that Metanomics
is becoming that hot spot, that regional innovation cluster in Second Life, and, really, the kudos
to that goes to not only all the people who work so hard to produce this show, and I'm guessing
there are about 15 of us who pull this thing together every week, but it's also to all of you who
show up at the event partners, who hang around afterwards, who chat in the group chat channel
and check out other people's profiles, to see someone you have something in common with.
So that's all for today and for this season of Metanomics. We will be having a community forum
at noon on Thursday, that's tomorrow, followed by a little party for our community, and I'm sure
you'll see lots of information about that in the chat. So join us. Enjoy your holidays. And we'll
see you on the air again in January. If you can't live without Metanomics and you haven't seen all
89 of our shows, check out Treet.TV and iTunes. They're all there.
So thanks so much, and see you in January. Bye bye.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com