Second Life, e-Harmony, World of Warcraft, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, ebay, Netgrocer. If you wanted to, you could live your entire life online and never have to leave your house. The Internet has given way to innumerable possibilities for doing life. Now, even companies are conducting business through virtual space.
Global Conglomerates like IBM, Cisco and Intel are taking advantage of the Internet more than ever. In the face of the economic recession and diminishing company budgets, they are utilizing the virtual community, Second Life, to conduct “face-to-face” meetings and interviews, host guest speaker events and train employees. Where formerly executives from Brazil, Japan, England, the U.S., etc. would have to meet in person to conduct meetings, they can now do so online in Second Life saving their companies thousands of dollars in travel expenses. At one conference alone, Second Life saved IBM $320,000. According to a 2012 article, “Chuck Hamilton, the virtual learning leader at IBM’s Center for Advanced Learning, claims that Second Life is ideal for the company. Hamilton recently told Hypergrid Business that, ‘At IBM, we have over 400,000 employees and 70 percent or so are outside the Americas and 44 percent of the population works outside a traditional office — we are virtual by nature,’” (http://nvate.com/5381/second-life-meetings/). Their business conducted through Second Life has been a positive and successful experience.
Virtual communities allow more opportunities for people to meet, develop relationships and conduct business, and they can do so at any time from anywhere in the world. Many people reinvent themselves online through virtual role-playing sites like World of Warcraft, Perfect World and Drakensang. People become who they want, develop a camaraderie, go on quests and complete tasks. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn allow for social interaction, online marketing and promotion. And now with Second Life making virtual office space a reality, online communities offer people ease and flexibility in conducting every area of their lives. I wonder what the next online innovation will be that pushes us to move more into virtual communities and less in physical space?