Virtual Environments

The hot topic for this week was virtual worlds.   In this post, I’ll elaborate on our class discussions as well as the article Staging the New Retail Drama (Papagiannidis and Bourlakis).  I’ll start with the article.  Over the last decade, we have seen a tremendous rise in virtual environments.  One important distinction to make is that virtual worlds aren’t limited to 3D simulators and Second Life avatars.  Some of the most popular virtual worlds are found in Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) and other gaming networks.  They have become significantly more popular than one might think.  This has presented a new opportunity to reach consumers, thus creating the new retail drama.  You have examples of companies like Coca-Cola and American Apparel advertising real-life products in Second Life.  This hasn’t stopped in the video gaming industry, and has only been gaining momentum.  Although most of these campaigns in Second Life have stopped, virtual environments still have a significant economy of their own.

The other element of the virtual environment is the accessibility of people around the world.  For example, in the video we watched this week, you have employees of IBM working with co-workers over Second Life.  This doesn’t sound too outside of the box; however, they have never met the people in real-life.  You have a similar situation with gamers of World of Warcraft, who flock to Blizzardcon, the gaming conference.  You have gamers who spend up to 20 hours a week working with their guild (an official group formed inside the game) to accomplish in-game challenges.  What makes this a new phenomenon is that these people, who are only just meeting for the first time in real-life, feel they have a very deep relationship with their guild members.    These virtual environments are creating previously unavailable relationships around the world, but it isn’t perfect.  There are very real concerns in the virtual arenas, like: who will police these online arenas, health concerns, etc.  Even with these concerns, I think virtual environments provide a huge opportunity in globalization and collaboration.  It brings up the similar idea of Jane McGonigal, if we can channel this passion and energy, we can make better the world.   Time will tell.

MMOGs

With the rise of virtual environments, who will serve as a policing body, and at what point will it governments become involved?

How will advertisers leverage MMOGs?

What will be the effects of virtual economies on real-world economies?

The McCain Effect

For this weeks blog posting, we read a couple of articles concerning interactivity and politics, namely social media.  We also discussed our most recent election and the role social media played.  In this post, I’ll talk about our discussions, focusing on the McCain effect, pulling ideas from  the Lilleker and Jackson article.

In this last election, I think we saw the first time interactivity and social media were fully utilized, positively and negatively.   We saw now President Obama fielding questions via Twitter and Youtube and creating social networks successfully, while other candidates didn’t share in that success.  Obama presented one consistent brand, and used interactivity to portray that brand in innovative ways.  He setup a weblog, and for every entry, allowed people to respond with comments.  This sounds simple, but helped connect him with voters.  Secondly, he created mybarackobama.com, a social networking site developed for the campaign.  This provided a platform for supporters to communicate and connect with each other and the candidate.  Lastly, he truly embraced the concept of an online presence.  As previously mentioned, he leveraged Youtube, Twitter, MySpace, to name a few.  Again, this helped him connect with a widespread voter-base.  The result?  He won the election.

On the other side of the campaign trail was John McCain.  McCain, a celebrated soldier and long-standing senator, was an excellent candidate for the Republicans; however, he suffered from the McCain effect.  In one light, he had to convince fellow republicans he was the candidate of choice, and in another light, he had to convince the general public.  Part of this campaign involved videos we watched on Youtube, outlining very different messages.  The first video, during the primaries, portrayed him as a true conservative.  The second video, during the general election, showed democrats talking about how they respected McCain, and how he is a party-bucking maverick, one of the hot words of the election.  So on one hand, McCain is the true conservative, but on the other hand, he will throw caution to the wind and potentially go against his own party if he see’s fit.  This is called the McCain effect, and it was one of the main factors in him losing the election.  In my opinion, he would’ve had a better chance at winning if he hadn’t selected Palin.  I think she overshadowed him and became a bigger story, which is never a good situation.  It will be interesting to see how social media and interactivity plays out in the next election, as it will only have a bigger role.