Jonathan Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation, and Philip Rosendale, CEO of Linden Labs, appeared in-world this morning in a packed-to-the-gills sim to talk about the future role of philanthropy in virtual worlds. Truthfully, I didn’t learn much that I didn’t know before, but it was an important event nonetheless.
Here is a short video giving some of the flavor of the event, for those who weren’t there. I’m sure that the foundation will be releasing a more complete report on the event, and follow-up activities shortly. Keep an eye on their Digital Learning website or join their in-world group "MacArthur Foundation SL Events" to stay abreast of developments.
What follow are some additional notes and a couple pics from the MacArthur event…
There were a couple of hundred avatars crammed into the sim, many arriving as early as an hour ahead of time. I was overwhelmed by the response, particularly since it was not the sexiest of topics. But there they were, from as far way as Scotland and Japan.
The event began with a pre-recorded video message from Mr. Fanton projected on giant screens above the sim. Then Mr. Fanton’s and Philip Linden’s avatars appeared in the center of the ring to have an audio discussion with each other. Then they took a few questions from the audience, which were submitted via text IM to a moderator.
I got to ask Mr Fanton the following question: With a few exceptions, the philanthropic world has not been very good about incorporating Web 2.0 tech into their giving practices. What hope do you have that virtual worlds will be reacted to any differently?
He somewhat dodged the answer, saying that MacArthur wanted to learn how to work with virtual worlds, to convene people and to bring virtual projects into making real world change.
Other points made by Mr. Fanton:
- On education: We have a whole area in education work where we
want to understand how technology effects young people’s learning. What is the
role of schools going forward. So much time is spent online, playing
video games, in virtual worlds, etc. I want to have a discussion about how schools should be redesigned.
- On real world engagement: We want to learn how to connect SL residents to organizations working on real world in issues. The International Criminal Court is one example. The ICC is a new
institution started in 2002. The US should be a part of this court. Might not
there be a group in SL that could come together to educate itself about
ICC and organize a campaign to persuade public and leaders that we
should be part of this court.
- On foundation’s convening power: Foundations are good at convening people, at bringing people together
with similar interests. I.e. young people interested in internships and connecting them with organizations that need them. Or convening conversations among different actors on important issues.
- On credibility and reputation in virtual worlds: MacArthur is connected
to massive networks on a number of issues. We know who is doing the
best research, we do our own due diligence. We know which organizations you can
trust. We are a resource bank for people in SL about where to go for
credible information. Phillip Linden added that SL is enabling people to build systems for credibility that go
beyond the real world. Look at Grameen Bank and how
micro-lending is enabled by a network of trust. Virtual worlds can expand that in
ways that are faster than the real world.
- We want to work with people in SL who care about the issues we care
about. Figure out what sensible policy is, both for non-profits and governments and beyond. We want to learn how MacArthur can play a constructive role in
realizing idealism in SL.
Fanton noted that this was the beginning of a conversation and that other more issue-focused discussions would be announced in the near future. I’m looking forward to it.
Additional articles and blog posts about the event: