I participated in my first Secondlife event today by attending a discussion between Macarthur Foundation President Fanton and Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale and on the MacArthur Foundations (and other NGOs) future role within Secondlife and also the potential for crossover activity between SL and RL (Realworld - for you newbs like me).
Overall the conversation was interesting and engaging, and the event itself fascinating. There were possibly 200 or so in attendance, which led to an interesting melee of avatars colliding (especially funny when my neighbor was complaining that another avatar was sitting on them and wouldn't get up!) and conversing (done in a free chat space).
I was also struck by the commonalities of their talking points despite the vastly different worlds the two of them occupy (eg. Fanton leading the assistance of community development projects in the Darfur region, and Fanton building more interesting ways for developed world citizens to entertain themselves in a virtual world). Rosedale stressed that Secondlife is a transparent world, more so than RL, and therefore an excellent place to put into practice the notion of equal rights and universal respect and spoke of projects that originate in SL and are translated into the real world, which I understand to be one of the motives for the MacArthur Foundation's involvement in SL per Fanton's talk.
Attendees were asked to IM questions to Kizza, and one of my questions was posed to Rosedale:
I'm curious about the ratio of civil to commercial life in SL, as a lot of MacArthur work deals with NGOs while SL seems much more commercial thant the 1st world.
I was really interested in the relationship of philanthropy to a world based on money exchange. In my brief experience in SL I came away with the impression that a lot of things and activities cost money. This may not be entirely true, but it does appear that one of the the most important aspects of life in SL involves commerce. Civil society is great when it doesn't involve the exchange of money, so I was eager to hear from both Rosedale and Fanton on this issue. However, Rosedale answered alone and spoke to the fact that yes, most of the activity in SL is commercial but that it is in fact individual entrepreneurship and not corporate involvement, which was implied to be of a better and more ethical form than corporate economic activity. I found the claim to not be entirely baseless, but noentheless open to argument, and am interested to investigate for myself how NGOs and nonprofits function in SL.