The Second Life Community Convention, which is expected to draw hundreds of virtual world “residents” from around the globe to Chicago on August 24-26, will feature a series of events examining the increasing presence of social justice organizations in virtual worlds.  MacArthur, which recently announced a year-long exploration of virtual worlds, is supporting these events at the convention in order to spark discussion about the use of virtual worlds for the public good.

Second Life is one of several “virtual worlds” that offers a three-dimensional environment where online participants from around the globe are represented by avatars in social and workplace interactions that mimic and reinvent the physical world.  Participation in virtual worlds has been growing rapidly.  Second Life now has millions of users and a growing nonprofit community. 

“Virtual worlds are already a burgeoning frontier for business and entertainment, but the public sector has been slow to get involved,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton. “From MacArthur’s recent experience, it is clear that residents of virtual worlds are hungry for ‘in-world’ opportunities to engage on serious social issues and to act on their philanthropic impulses.”

MacArthur is making grants to Global Kids and Common Sense Media to weave a non-profit thread into the four main tracks of the conference: business, education, social and machinima (digital animation created in gaming environments).  Each track will feature a panel focusing on how non-profit organizations are utilizing virtual worlds to extend their mission and reach.  These special panels include –

• Education keynote speaker Connie Yowell, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation, will address the importance of virtual worlds for informal learning and non-profits.  (10:00 a.m., Saturday, August 25)

• A teen-led mini-machinima festival will feature teens from two non-profit programs showcasing their work using Second Life to make animated movies about social and global issues. (1:30 p.m., Saturday, August 25)

• A panel will discuss best practices for bringing non-profits into Second Life, and will include such participants as the Alliance Library System, TechSoup.org and representatives from Linden Lab.  (10:00 a.m., Sunday, August 26)

• Philanthropy funders, including foundations, corporations, and government organizations that are supporting work in virtual worlds, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Learn and Serve America, will discuss the role of philanthropy in virtual worlds. (2:30 p.m., Sunday, August 26)

• “An Educational Non-profit's History of the Teen Grid: Global Kids’ Adventure in Best Practices” will explore educational activities in the Teen Grid of Second Life. (3:30 p.m., Saturday, August 25)

For those unable to attend in person, Global Kids will simulcast portions of the convention live in Second Life, and will summarize findings from the convention in two papers to be published this fall.  The papers will analyze the conference’s education and non-profit tracks and recommend how new organizations can get involved.

Digital Media & Learning, Chicago, Education, Technology, Youth