A virtual launch

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<i>Wikinomics</i> author Don Tapscott's Second Life

On April 10th at 9 p.m. eastern time, I (or I should say, my avatar) attended the virtual launch of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott at the rabble.ca treehouse in the virtual online world Second Life. Your avatar is the computer-generated image of yourself that you pilot around Second Life using the arrow keys on your computer. (Wikipedia says that, in Hindu philosophy, an avatar most commonly refers to the bodily manifestation of a higher, or Supreme, Being, God, on planet Earth.)

Tapscott believes that the contemporary explosion in social media is not just another bubble, but rather a paradigmatic shift that will alter the economy and society as a whole, in a way akin to the effect of the industrial revolution. As his avatar, with his name âeoeUDon Writerâe floating just above his head, explained âeoe...as with all big innovations throughout history, like the steam engine, electrical power, telephone or television, we saw a speculative bubble and crash. The next stage that evolves over a period of decades âe" the one we're entering now âe" is when the technology comes of age and new business models come to fruition.âe

Tapscottâe(TM)s avatar sat in a comfy chair surrounded by about 30 attendees mostly sitting on cushions in the rabble treehouse in a tree-lined water-side setting. For about a half-hour, Tapscott presented the book via text that appeared at the bottom on the screen. A question-and-answer period followed with participants hitting the âeoe?âe key to ask a question, typing them out and having Tapscott answer via the same system. Tapscott presented a Powerpoint presentation, shown on a giant screen, outlining the key themes and sections of his book.

Tapscott identified four factors transforming todayâe(TM)s business world that are the signs of the shift he predicts. First is the technological revolution, what he describes as âeoethe rise of the new web.âe Second is a demographic revolution that emphasises collaboration: âeoea new generation of youngsters has grown up collaborating and they are bringing a new ethic of openness, participation and interactivity to workplaces, communities, and markets. They represent the new breed of workers, learners, consumers and citizens. Think of them as the demographic engine of collaboration.âe

The third force he describes as widely known to Second Lifers âeoea social revolution as the new web combines with a new generation of young people to create social networking... The old HTML web site gets eclipsed by the new XMP based community that harness the power of self-organization.âe

The fourth is an economic one, what Tapscott describes as the most revolutionary: the three forces combine in the fourth to signify a radical transformation of the function of hierarchies in society, and in how capitalism works: âeoeThroughout most of human history, hierarchies of one form or another have served as the primary engines of wealth creation and provided a model for institutions such as the church, the military, and government. So pervasive and enduring has the hierarchical mode of organization been that most people assume that there are no viable alternatives. That is, until a new generation of user-friendly collaboration tools mass collaboration on the worldâe¦Though it is unlikely that hierarchies will disappear in the foreseeable future, it's clear that the traditional business enterprise is no longer the sole engine of wealth creation in the economy. The end result is that the corporation may be going through the biggest change in its short history.âe

The launch was hosted by rabble.ca and Better World Island, a progressive island described by avatar RiverSong Garden (the owner of Better World) as âeoea collection and collaboration space. A space to help each other discover, document and develop âe~good thingsâe(TM) that can be scaled up in the real world.âe The island features organizations such as Camp Darfur, CARE and others.

Attendees said they were logged on from the U.S. in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and in Canada from Halifax and Wolfville, Montreal, Windsor, Toronto and B.C.The question period addressed questions ranging from how wikinomics will change the very foundations of the democratic system âe" the educational system, the economy, to cautions about things like Second Life still being elitist because they still require powerful computers.

On the theme of the transformative power of wikis, Tapscott explained: âeoeThe Canadian Green Party Wiki'd its program. People are collaborating everywhere to fight against global warming or organize to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.âe

Second Life is still new to many of us, and with the growth of its popularity, no doubt other virtual worlds or other currently unimaginable technologies will be built, collaboratively by users, what Tapscott would call âeoeprosumers.âe Many of us will be confronted with a learning curve in order to participate. To attend the launch I had to create a free Second Life account including choosing an off-the-shelf avatar (you can also create your own if you want). I then had to know where the launch was happening and âeoeteleportâe there. I had quite a problem getting to the event because my avatar was not responding properly to my arrow key commands. However, after about 15 minutes I made it to the location, luckily before the event started. This unique and exciting event was well worth the effort.

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