Sunday, August 5, 2007

Is the Virtual to Blame for "Real" Disconnects?

A recent note from my cousin accounts his friend from Boston telling him several years ago that the cafes (near the university) would be filled with young people in the evening. People chatting, falling in and out of love, the cafes are empty...everyone...yes everyone is in their dorm their SecondLife or chatting electronically.

The issue of immersion into Virtual worlds can be argued both for (as in the case of emerging experiences like this documentary) and against as in the case for waning effectiveness of the Virtual advertising business.

However, our Virtual consciousness permeating our reality is a indisputable fact in motion showing no signs of slowing down. So the question becomes less about Virtual vs. Real, and more about identifying the disconnect between the two.

For example, are the cafes going empty because people are busier with their virtual lives, or are their virtual lives less connected to the cafes? We know the effect of free WiFi on gathering crowds to cafes already, the question is what's next? If I was in the cafe business, what would connect me to patrons? Is it:

• Having my patrons Geotagging my establishment and favoriting it?

• Get acknowledged for accomplishments in the virtual lives in the form of convertible goods and services in the material (Real) life?

• Get to participate in activities at the cafe that boost their activities online and vice versa? For example, can it be "the place" to meet virtual dates because positive ratings entitles them to the best seats or a free snack/meal?


In the case of the declining effectiveness of the Virtual world advertising covered in Wired, maybe the question isn't so much about advertising not working because the branded environments staying empty. Maybe the real questions to ask are more along these lines:

• Should the model for ads be based on number of impressions across number of people (as in the "Real" world) or should it be based on sharability, recommendations and favoriting native to the Virtual world?

• Does the virtual effort have a real counterpart to make the experience more meaningful? For example, RedBull created their business by distributing their beverage in on the ground long before it gave its drinkers "wings".

• Why is the virtual experience separate from the real and vice versa? Why can't it be more like phoning your friend (Virtual) and meeting her in person (Real)?

Some things to think about for cafes (any "Real" business for that matter) and 2nd Life (any "Virtual" business as well) in VirtuReality.

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