Team playing, social networking, interactive virtual worlds and now…the avatar.
There is a sub-culture which is becoming main stream. A segment of the population who are currently spending as much time living in the virtual world as they previously did watching TV.
It starts with video games. They are becoming so realistic that they challenge Hollywood in entertainment quality and worldwide turnover. No longer are they restricted to being packaged goods. They can be downloaded from the net. Game playing on the net is enhanced by team playing. Like in the play ground, players have the opportunity to select their team and the opposition.
This has given birth to social networking. Participants who have a shared interest in the game can play with each other and against each other. It needs organisation and communication. They don’t have to live in the same country.
The power of the net has given rise to specific social networking sites. Bebo, Space Book and Facebook are examples. Facebook (www.facebook.com), because of interest from Microsoft, is now valued at $10 billion. 25 million now use Facebook to communicate with each other and share their experiences. It is a platform for good and evil.
Out of video games, their realism and social networking, we have the development of virtual worlds that are interactive. The key example is Second Life (Your World. Your Imagination at www.secondlife.com). A world in which you can determine your persona and demonstrate your desires without the constraints of the real world. You can be thin, sexy and an entrepreneur. Participants can buy and sell land, buildings and consumables using a currency called “Lindens” exchangeable with the US dollar. There are currently 10 million residents in Second Life and in the USA some have become “Linden” millionaires.
This development has not escaped the attention of branded goods manufactures. Nike, Adidas and advertising agencies such as Bartle Bogle and Hegarty in London are actively marketing in the virtual world.
This is not an activity restricted to teenagers or “nerds”. Anyone can participate and the mainstream population is engaging. Here in the UK there is a web based “soap opera” produced by Channel 4 (www.channel4/second_lives.com) using Second Life as a vehicle for entertainment.
A product of this world is the Avatar, an internet user’s representation of himself or herself whether in the form of a 3 dimensional model or a 2 dimensional icon. E-Box Software in the UK is developing an Avatar to represent a research interviewer and moderator. They not only ask questions but have a conversation with the respondent through the interview or discussion, it makes the on-line dialogue more human and inviting. In Second Life the Avatar can recruit as well as research.
We are now on the brink of research opportunities that we could not have imagined three years ago. Who knows where it will take us?
You can view the full article at www.aimri.net.