Yesterday was another hectic, fun day at Global Kids. The highlight was a live simulcast of an address by Archbishop Desmond Tutu that we organized in Second Life, Teen Second Life, the tween-oriented virtual world of Whyville and the web. The occasion was a keynote address the Archbishop Tutu was delivering at the National Service Learning Conference in Minneapolis to a lively crowd of 900-some youth leaders and educators.
We’re still working out our the best system for organizing these multi-verse live events, but we’re getting better every time we do them. The challenges involved are multi-faceted:
- Technical: At a basic level, there is a check-list of technical requirements that need to be met for us to be able to simulcast a real world event to the web and to different virtual worlds. These needs are modest in comparison to other kinds of video productions, but important to get firmed up in writing. The sticking point often is getting firewall-free broadband internet for however many laptops we need on the ground.
- Institutional: These events always involve us negotiating with the partner institution to decide on hosting, cost-sharing, branding, staffing and a host of other important details. In this case, we were working with the conference sponsor, the National Youth Leadership Council, as well as Numedeon, the company that runs Whyville.
- Social: Keeping people engaged while they are watching a live video simulcast of a real world event can be a real challenge. Often you feel removed from what’s happening "over there" without some direct interaction with the participants. So we have come up with a number of moderator tools to keep people engaged with the subject matter using polls, soliciting personal reflections, and giving details about the live event to make it seem more relevant and personal.
On the staff side, it means that for every space that we work in, we have at least one person dedicated to facilitating and moderating there using whatever native tools we have at our disposal. At the real world event, we usually require at least one and probably two people on the ground, one person interfacing with the local film crew (or filming ourselves) and another person monitoring the stream, audio quality, web output, etc.
We don’t have the final tally on participants yet, but it’s in the range of about 100 folks distributed between the web, Second Life, Teen Second Life and Whyville. Hundreds more may watch the archive of the video that we will put on YouTube later.
It’s very rewarding knowing that we are making it possible for hundreds of people from around the world to access important events like Desmond Tutu talking about youth leadership. And that we are creating systems and knowledge to scale up for the future as these technologies become more commonplace and distributed. It’s a great time to be working in the metaverse.