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March 19, 2007

Cleveland in Second Life and the Launch of Cleveland 2.0 - The View from the Cleveland Plaindealer

Cleveland gets a Second Life
Posted by Tom Feran March 15, 2007 17:08PM
Categories: Arts & Life

You don't have to dream to visit a Cleveland where University Circle is on the lakefront next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; where the Cleveland Clinic opens operating rooms to students from Case Western Reserve University; where Millionaires' Row is preserved intact along Euclid Avenue; where a new convention center can be built in weeks; and where -- by the way -- the weather is always perfect.

You will find it and more in the virtual world of Cleveland 2.0, a colorful, three-dimensional cyber city that is more ambitious in scale and range of participation than anything previously built for the 3-D Internet.

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Unveiled today at Case Western Reserve University, which spearheaded its construction, it is seen as both a "re-imagining" of Greater Cleveland in a virtual world and a real-world leap into the next phase of the Internet's evolution and an information-based economy.

"There will be a whole industry growing up around this," said Lev Gonick, the visionary CWRU vice president and chief information officer who conceived the project two years ago.

Cleveland 2.0 is built in the electronic world of Second Life, a burgeoning online universe at secondlife.com, in which users interact in real time with other users and their environment. It is not a game, although it looks like one on a computer screen.

Users enter and participate through animated individual personas, called avatars, which they control with a keyboard and mouse. The content is an alternative reality constructed by users, who have built everything from stores and galleries to clubs and role-playing centers on a landscape that would be the size of a small country in the real world.

Commerce is a growing element as companies and individuals use Second Life to sell and promote goods and services, hold meetings and transact business. Within the virtual world, more than $1.5 million in real money changes hands daily.

The applications envisioned for Cleveland 2.0 encompass education, arts, culture, health care and community services, as well as business and entertainment.

The first phase, called OneCleveland, will be unveiled during a CWRU conference this afternoon. Buzzed about for weeks, it features a virtual campus with detailed replicas, including interiors, of CWRU's Adelbert College, Kelvin Smith Library and North Residential Village, plus the Rock Hall and Cleveland Clinic Heart Center.

Initially, it will focus on student and faculty use. On Monday, incoming freshmen can meet with peers and college representatives, ask questions, attend faculty lectures and tour facilities -- all through their avatars.


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They'll also be able to visit the Rock Hall, whose virtual theater will replay streaming video of this week's induction ceremony. The Clinic center will open later.

A yellow sign meeting visitors at the end of one footpath in OneCleveland reads, "Road to TwoCleveland Under Construction." Beyond is a void that looks like fog on the lake. But TwoCleveland, the project's second phase, will add the virtual presence of schools, library systems, health-care providers, museums, local governments and the community at large.

Building a better virtual Cleveland has real-world benefits, Gonick said. Users will be able to deal directly with government in a regional "city hall," interact with health-care professionals, attend seminars and join groups. They'll be able to visit and then plan real-world visits to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Rock Hall or the Western Reserve Historical Society, which is considering bringing bygone Cleveland -- from Millionaires' Row to the steelyards -- to virtual life.

Groups interested in virtual conferencing will find Cleveland 2.0 provides know-how and such support services as high-definition video.

"It's an invitation to engage, an inducement to participate," Gonick said.

More than 70 universities and numerous companies worldwide have a presence in Second Life, which also has fantasy cities. But Cleveland 2.0 goes well beyond them as the first city to include multiple "stakeholders" from the real-world community.

Linden Lab of San Francisco, the company behind Second Life, is watching it closely. Amid its virtual world's entertainment and growing corporate structure, Gonick said, "If we can use it for civic engagement, education, health care, it gets much closer to their original vision.

"In my view," he said, "the 3-D Web is as big or bigger than when the World Wide Web was opened in 1993. Cleveland 2.0 should have the goal of re-imagining Cleveland as both a place and an idea. You come to Cleveland and you get connected."

Want a Second Life? It's Yours

Posted by Tom Feran March 15, 2007 16:55PM
Categories: Arts & Life

A place like this, you could only imagine.


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Its population has been doubling almost monthly, and its economy is booming. General Motors and Toyota launched new models in showrooms there, and Adidas and American Apparel are among the numerous retailers that have opened stores. IBM routinely holds conferences in its sprawling facility there.

The Sundance Film Festival premiered a movie in one of its theaters; Sweden opened an embassy there; and John Edwards became the first presidential candidate to set up a local campaign headquarters -- which was quickly hit by vandals, some of them sporting "Bush '08" tags.

No wonder the Reuters news agency opened a bureau there. It's a place where you can be what you want, go where you want and do anything you want -- even fly.


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For a place that doesn't exist, Second Life is one happening spot.

It's the Next Big Thing on the Internet, and one of the next big things in it is Cleveland 2.0, a re-invention of the region for the 21st century that Case Western Reserve University is launching today.

Second Life, based at the Web site www.secondlife.com, is a colorful, three-dimensional online world that opened to the public four years ago. Its usage soared when basic membership became free two years ago, and it now claims 4 million active user accounts, with as many as 30,000 online at any time.

It looks like a high-quality video game on a computer screen, but is no more a game than the Web itself. Unlike such virtual gaming communities as the popular World of Warcraft, it has no quests, manufactured conflict, objective or levels of achievement. Unlike the Sims empire, its content is user-created; users are called "residents," not gamers.

They interact in real time with one another and with the virtual environment by controlling animated representations called avatars. Those can range from a selection of relatively generic characters to mirror images of their real-world selves to such strange creations as a chicken with a dragon's head.

To enter Second Life, a newbie downloads the free software, picks a name (with a last name from a list of about 300) and creates an avatar. The process usually takes a few minutes, but can consume hours to make a personalized avatar with photo-scanning.

Short tutorials help residents learn how to control the avatar's movements, for example, by using a keyboard's "up" and "down" keys to simulate walking.

Inside Second Life, residents find an alternative virtual world where they can do almost anything they can do in real life and more, such as fly or "teleport" from one location to another.

There are free and for-a-fee activities. Residents can socialize, catch movies or music performances created by other residents, participate in games, take classes, join support groups, buy and sell virtual real estate or virtual goods and services, gamble or -- in the first use of every new electronic technology -- have sex.

Communication is by typing notes, much like instant-messaging, although voice software will be added later this month.

A newcomer to Second Life can feel like Dorothy in Oz or Gulliver on his travels. But the virtual world is more easily understood than most other Internet applications because it is three-dimensional.

Buying property to establish permanent presence in Second Life costs money -- roughly $1,300 (in real money) to buy an island, for example, in addition to a monthly upkeep fee, which all goes to parent company Linden Lab of San Francisco. But residents can keep the money they charge for virtual goods and services -- a piece of art or apparel, for instance, or a visit to a role-playing medieval town; more than $1.5 million changes hands daily in Second Life's internal economy.

Transactions are in "Linden dollars," which can be traded for U.S. dollars (at a rate of about 275 Lindens to $1 U.S.) on Second Life's currency exchange. The money shows up on a resident's credit card, and a few say they make living incomes.

A bigger industry is third-party contractors providing support services. A consortium of new-media developers who bid on the project constructed the virtual campus and simulated buildings of OneCleveland starting early in February.

Some residents (average age is 32) use Second Life as a creative outlet. Others use it for education, research or collaboration. Some use it to find a sense of community, often with groups sharing interests or problems, and many use it for entertainment they find more satisfying than TV.

It's not a perfect world. Second Life has a "police blotter" of residents penalized for violating rules of conduct that can range from inappropriate language or clothing to hassling other residents. That's called "griefing," and it's ranged from bombardments with Super Mario Brothers characters and exploding flying pigs to "nuclear explosions" in which no lasting harm is done.

Imagine that.

Posted by lsg8 at March 19, 2007 11:51 AM and tagged

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Comments

SL is a cool concept meta universally speaking ,but you should check out what is going on in entropiauniverse.com with their real cash economy.They have 5 Virtual Banking licenses up for sale in auction ,I guess there will be real banks going in there soon as their currency rate is fixed at 10ped to $1.00 and that is hard currency that you can take out into your account.

Posted by: Becker at March 20, 2007 12:09 PM

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