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Step into our world…

This is very interesting: IBM to host private Second Life regions(hat tip SLLU).

IBM are planning to host their own little Second Life as a corporate intranet. Previously all SL regions were held on Linden Lab servers, but for a company with sensitive internal information (and one wanting the world to actually work properly when their residents are on paid time), this could have been a bit of a stumbling block.

Soon though, IBM will be able to scale back its sprawling campus on SL, leaving it just for marketing and more public interaction, and bring the internal functions that they are pioneering back behind their own firewall.

Employees leave their Second Life private lives every morning, and teleport in from the club they were at last night, or their own little 512 on the mainland (no doubt donning a more sober suit as they do so). They can produce and circulate work all day in the virtual office, safe knowing it’s behind security that they control – no more pesky interruptions ;)

If this takes off, other companies will be doing it too. You could have a meeting at Microsoft, say, and just teleport across to a permitted section of their private conference centre to work on files which then stay inside Microsoft’s world.

And then in the evening, the whole work campus knocks off and goes down the virtual pub together, taking their avatars out of the private world to mix with everyone else at one of SL’s public hotspots.

Of course, some of the staff may opt instead to stay behind for a meeting in the virtual union office that they negotiated with the employer, in the same way they negotiate use of real world facilities on the employer’s premises ;)

Given that IBM are in the business of making sims for other people, they are also doing this with an eye to developing virtual worlds for other corporate clients. With a strong business advocate like IBM behind it, this idea could go a long way quite quickly.

The portability of indentity is an interesting issue here too. Other social networks like Facebook have had to deal with this for a while – the idea that offline you are expected to behave more ‘professionally’ in your work life than your private life, but once everything is written down online, there’s nowhere to hide, and employers have to face up to the fact that their staff are actually real people in their spare time. Of course it goes without saying that this can have complications for the employment relationship (and has in many cases).

SL has for most users been more of a roleplay environment, where you don’t have to admit who you are, or even be the same personality (or gender, or species). Taking your av to work, with all the social pressures that could bring in an environment where everyone knows you’re not really a tiger, could mean either an employer being much more tolerant of staff individuality, or people having to develop multiple identities, roleplaying real life within a roleplay fantasy (I predict many hurt heads – especially mine!)

And what will the big increase in corporate n00bs (as everyone gets given an av as they join the firm) do to the after-hours scene in SL? Could be interesting, as people will be forced to stay with it for their jobs’ sake and may in time grow to use public worlds more often too, bucking SL’s 90% new member dropout trend.

© Trades Union Congress 2007