Anshe Chung has all the elements of a good prospect for your nonprofit board — she’s a millionaire, a real estate mogul, and an innovative entrepreneur with an eye for design and aesthetic value. While it’s true that she’s not technically a real person, but an avatar…an on-line character in the virtual world of Second Life…her influence, and her money, is real.
Chung is the construct of a Chinese-born language teacher living near Frankfurt, Germany, who has been developing virtual real estate in virtual worlds for a while now. The practice is well established in multi-user on-line environments, where users can not only buy ”land” but create and sell ”objects” to other users. The difference with Second Life is that the virtual currency used in the on-line universe is convertable to U.S. dollars (at about 250 to 1).
Chung amassed her millions by buying up islands and exclusive areas of the Second Life universe, developing them with mansions, landscapes, and other such virtual amenities, and imposing strict zoning rules to keep the riff-raff out and the paying customers in. The CEO of the company that produces Second Life describes Chung as ”the government” for her sequestered islands and continents (more details in this Wikipedia entry, and this Business Week article).
Strange and brain-bending stuff, to be sure. But a glimpse, perhaps, into the multiple worlds — on-line and off-line — where creative individuals and entrepreneurs will be creating their work. And if you think this doesn’t apply to the lively arts, think again. The proposed New Globe Theater in New York already commissioned and opened a virtual version of the venue in Second Life. Says their overview of the effort (scroll down the page to the August 14 news item):
Since opening its doors, the New Globe has become the rock star of virtual destinations and the it-stage for cultural and intellectual exchange. In-world guest speakers on the stage have ranged from the Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine to the Governor of Virginia. The opening performance featured actors from around the globe who had never met in person … though time difference for rehearsals did prove a REAL problem!
The real governor of Virginia held a virtual town hall meeting in that virtual performing arts space back in August. Is the world weird enough for you yet?