For those who know me fairly well know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not "techie".... so, the question becomes, why was I in a conference area on Second Life sitting in on a meeting of some of the most innovative thinkers in the computer/metaverse world a bit ago? The real world meeting was held at Stanford and for those of us who could not attend in the real world met for a real time video conference in the virtual world of Second Life.
Personally, I think the implications of the technology that is already around us is profound. Jamais Cascio was the main presenter. For those who have never heard of him, let me raise my hand and say before this evening, I hadn't either. What I enjoyed most about his presentation was the fact that someone like me- non techie, non computery, non computer science and even a terrible Second Lifer in general (being someone who really doesn't embrace television let alone computer worlds and online anything) could not only relate but, catch on to the vision these innovative folks have for our future. My children and those other young people I teach art to are savvy. There lives are almost perfectly intertwined with computers and the virtual world to some degree or another. Every message they get, how they relate to their peers and the world around them in general is done using technology in one form or another. Places like MySpace, Facebook, Second Life and the like are places where a virtual person can interact with an actual person in the real world. Real relationships, the level of transparency and, exchange of information, on a scale we can hardly wrap our heads around, are things they just "get". They "get" that privacy is a fallacy, that what they say will never go away but, whether they like it or not will always be out there for someone else to find and, they "get" that friends are no longer the folks you see in school or walking along the street, they are dotted across the planet and linked in a tangible and meaningful way.
I went away from this meeting with that I want you to think about as well....As a business owner, I know my paradigm will have to shift to accomodate these new technologies and I know too, in order to interact with my customers, I will have to reliquish a bit of myself in a way that can be uncomfortable. It used to be, as a business owner, you held all the cards; you were in control of what folks knew or didn't know about you and your balance sheets. It is a whole new ball of wax. Everything is out there in one way or another- all your records, your transactions, your client lists, your secrets...everything. What Mr. Cascio so eloquently reminded everyone, despite the technology and the scariness of it and what the ramifications it could have, we still have the power to learn the technology, stay ahead of the issues, be proactive in the communities and legislation and most importantly, be empowered to build the FUTURE we want. I have a studio in Second Life with my artwork hanging on the walls. I built it well over a year ago to be meeting place where my students and friends who could not physically be together in the real world have a place to gather and still participate. The metaverse is not perfect by any means because it was created by imperfect people. There will always be "questionable" material and abuses of technology yes, but truly, I believe that the good things will always outweigh the bad.
I am excited about the future and the opportunities my children and my students will have to learn about others they probably would have never met otherwise had it not been for technology. Thanks to Susan Reynolds for giving me the heads up and the invite, thank you to all the folks at Google, NASA, The International Spaceflight Museum, Second Life and all the other folks who worked to make everything come together that evening. It was an amazing event!