Last week, I hosted a meeting at Emerson College to talk about the City of Boston’s entry into Second Life. The good news is this: the city is committed to trying out the platform and to exploring the ways in which it can extend community involvement. At the meeting, we had representatives from the mayor’s office, the Boston Redevelopment Association, the Main Streets Program, the public schools, and the city’s higher education liason. Everyone around the table was intrigued by the possibilities of extending community services to the virtual platform. Some of the ideas that circulated included:
- building the new city hall on the waterfront
- building the hatshell on the esplenade as an SL live-music venue
- building the old south meeting house (or Fanuiel Hall) for town meetings
- inviting the community to offer suggestions in how the city is represented
- sponsoring competitions for building out the different neighborhoods
- establishing the main Boston island as a connector to all Boston-identified builds (i.e. all the colleges and universities, businesses, and neighborhoods that have SL presence will be included in a teleport directory on the main Boston island. We discussed using the subway as the teleportation motif. Avatars would walk down into a station and select from a list of places in or around the city of Boston
One of the most important aspects of our conversation was the idea that the SL initiative would be connected to a broader platform of community networking. We discussed the possibility of creating an open-source community portal software that would be made available to neighborhood organizations to get them started in their online presence. These organizations would be connected to SL in a very fluid way. The idea would be to establish a steady flow in and out of world.
There is a lot of planning left, including issues of how it gets built, maintained and governed. But I think this was a positive start to what can be an amazing connection between city government, civic culture, and networked community.