Analyzing the Ethical Pitfalls of All-Virtual Workplaces

Digital workplaces bring with them the promise of an ever-expanding pool of potentially employable workers. An employee free to move about the country and maximize their purchasing power thanks to an entirely-virtual workplace need not fear expensive metropolitan areas or the crime, crowding and chaos big cities often develop.

I am an advocate of telecommuting and virtual workplaces, not only because many of the positions I've held in the past have been made available exclusively through telecommuting. The benefits of virtual workplaces over brick-and-mortar establishments seem clear enough upon even cursory inspection: Employers can pull from a much larger pool of potential workers, virtual workplaces create a natural need for collaboration and communication between levels of a company, reductions in commuting time lead not only to fewer traffic jam-related headaches, but also to an overall greener workplace.

Be that as it may, there are also major ethical dilemmas unique to virtual workplaces. The division of employee and employer creates major questions related to true productivity, employee honesty, and the proper division of labor among members of a virtual group. The technological boundaries to virtual work are by and large behind us, and even boutique companies can make use of free-to-use virtual worlds like OpenSim and Second Life for meeting purposes. But the ethical questions remain.

 

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How Tough Economic Times are Encouraging Virtual Workplaces

Leftimg The sputtering global economy could have a silver lining – companies looking to cut travel costs are turning to the virtual world for more business services than ever.

As CNN reports, companies are increasingly turning to telecommuting and virtual conferencing in graphical virtual worlds as a means of shaving costs and remaining competitive in an economy where credit is still tight and government life preservers are harder to come by.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at the exodus to the virtual business landscape.

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Is the Metaverse Falling Victim to Large Platform Monopolies?

6a0120a51c39be970b0120a597d2b4970b-800wi There's no denying it – despite a worldwide consumer recession and spiking unemployment, virtual worlds are still growing with impressive speed.

A report by the Virtual Goods Summit shows that purchases of virtual clothing, weapons, and accessories will top $1 billion for the first time, and will nearly double to $1.6 billion by 2010.

There's only one thing missing: competition..

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Thinking Virtually: Helping Companies Succeed in Marketing to the Metaverse

 

From Audi
digitally marketing their new electric car
to a slew of virtual
reality themed Hollywood blockbusters
, focusing on virtual worlds as a
potential revenue source is all the rage. But as companies have repeatedly shown by high-publicity failures, marketing in the virtual world is a tricky proposition.

Pixels and Policy looks at how to effectively market products to eager eyes in the Metaverse.

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Is Brazil Set to Become a Virtual World Superpower?

Brazilflagshirt China and the United States have shared dominance of the
virtual world market for years on the backs of games like Lineage and World of
Warcraft, but a new entrant may be on the horizon.
 

According
to a study by Deloitte,

rapidly industrializing Brazil is prepared to sate
its citizens’ craving for virtual worlds by expanding its commercial Metaverse
presence. Wired Brazilians are prepared to build virtual worlds that appeal to
the Latin American community.

Who’s ready for some creative destruction? 

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Are Businesses Burning Out on Virtual Conferencing?

Virtual consulting companies are popping up across the country, but could these Metaverse entrepreneurs be miscalculating the scale of corporate interest in virtual worlds?

One report argues that 2010 will see a marked downturn in corporate interest in virtual conferencing and digital events. Could the boom time be ending already?

Pixels and Policy takes a look at what's in store.

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Virtual Currencies: The Rise of a Not-So-Virtual Monetary Unit

From FarmVille Dollars to the Evony Cent,
nearly every virtual world, multiplayer game and online environment
seems to be adopting synthetic currencies – the little tokens we
happily give our real money to acquire.

Virtual
currencies each have their own exchange rate, from L$250 to $1 in
Second Life to 50 Evony Cents for $5 and everywhere in between. But
once successful virtual currency company now claims the success of a
virtual currency has little to do with its price.

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Social Media Gaming and the Changing Landscape of Virtual World Viability

The virtual world industry can be a very contradictory one, where trail-blazing developers often allow vision and possibility to run ahead of market feasibility. Raph Koster's Metaplace project partnered with the virtual education firm 3D Squared to promote higher standards of hands-on technology education nationwide, but fell victim to a lack of profitability in the short-term. I even applauded Metaplace for its innovative approach to embedded virtual world spaces just hours before Koster publicly announced Metaplace's scheduled closure.

Now a similar fate has befallen There.com, which recently announced its scheduled closure after twelve years as an interesting playground for fun and research. This stands in sharp contrast to the success of social media developers like Playfish and Zynga, the latter of whom is on track for a highly-anticipated public stock offering and its most profitable year to date.

I've seen a few articles about how the closures of hyped worlds like Metaplace and There.com portend the end of the virtual world "hype cycle," with aging platforms like Second Life and new entrants like Blue Mars facing an uphill fight in a bad economy. The Escapist even reports on how advertisers are running from the current virtual world business darling, Playstation Home.

But this is unnecessarily negtive. One need only take a look at the booming market for social media games to see that the current trend is not so much the end of virtual worlds as a transition towards innovative new ways of delivering content.

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Ciaran Laval on the Anti-Innovation Feel of Linden Lab’s Third-Party Viewer Policy

Today's post comes from Ciaran Laval, a chronicler of Second Life events over at Your2ndPlace. Ciaran's thought-provoking website has served as both a current events canvas and a library of interesting perspectives on Linden Lab's business practices. Today she takes on Second Life's new third-party viewer policy.

The excitement, disappointment, yelling, cheering
and general buzz about Linden Lab releasing viewer 2.0 to the general public for
beta testing (and seriously, the camera controls for panning around need to go
back to the old version) has camouflaged another issue, the third party viewer
policy, which was blogged about here,  is
turning into a huge tale of woe.

The policy, which has been setup to protect
content creators and the grid in general from nefarious activities has indeed
annoyed a large number of people as they study the detail, of course that's
where the devil always lies.

The problems are with the wording of the policy. The release has some people are claiming that no viewer, even the official one,
complies with the Linden Lab policy.

Continue reading Ciaran Laval on the Anti-Innovation Feel of Linden Lab’s Third-Party Viewer Policy

Gary Arthur Douglas II on the 3 Most Overlooked Business Opportunities in Second Life

Today's post is one in a series by virtual world artist and developer Gary Arthur Douglas II, a 15-year veteran of systems development and an accomplished artist to boot. Gary is the founder of Wishfarmers, LLC, a full service virtual world consultancy with expertise in content development, digital marketing, and virtual business plan development

The Case Before the Virtual Court

You may have read me elsewhere railing against “real-world
replication” in Second Life. If not, just take my word for it – to hear me go
on, you'd think I was defending the Sistine Chapel from graffiti artists.

I'm
referring of course to design models for Second Life that produce environments
you would see in the real world: Buildings have doors and roofs, meetings have podiums,
aisles of chairs and distant “back rows”, et cetera.

This is all really great – for making everyone feel less
connected than ever before. After all, no one is harmed if your avatar sits
right next to your favorite author's avatar – why shouldn't you be allowed to? But
enough of that.

How exactly do I get wound-up about an essentially aesthetic
issue? Am I just another native complaining about the gradual homogenization of
Second Life's funky and unique indigenous culture? Actually that's a valid
complaint, and a worthy cause (sign me up) – but the aesthetics resulting from “real-world
replication” don't wind me up. They just plain bore me.

But after years of listening to people complain about the
timid response to Second Life promotional campaigns for consumer businesses,
it's just impossible for me to not demand that the true culprit be acknowledged.

And the culprit is boredom.

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