Online worlds vs. Social Networks


photo by L*u*z*a*

My friend Roo is going to moderate a panel today at the Virtual Worlds 2008 conference in New York on ‘Evolution of Games and Social Networks’, with people from Sony, Google, and Millions of Us on, and he said “What would you like me to ask them?“.

Now you know my favorite question is “What is the question that I should be asking?“, so when a friend asks it, I must oblige, and help!

Hey Roo, give them a hard time! Ask them WTF? 🙂

Why? Hear…

Online worlds are persistent, three dimensional social spaces, where people who are simultaneously present can interact, in a highly empathic and emotionally fulfilling manner. Some of the worlds have set goals, others allow unbounded fantasy, and creativity.

Social Networks
are facilitators of connections among people who are personally or professionally related, directly or indirectly. The connections are typically used for casual activities, or business networking, through the facilities of the platform, or small additional modules.

My question is not necessarily new, but looks like it has to be asked again: where are the people? And my answer is: in Online Worlds!

The synchronicity of communication, the way online worlds absorb your attention completely, the collaboration in topologies that are biologically familiar to all, our limbic response to the closeness of one to another, are totally unmatched by the aseptic efficiency, and grinding bore of accepting an invite, joining a group, filling a form, sending a message, which is what fills the time on today’s social networks. In social networks the social is missing. There is no town square to share. You are watching, and feeding the urges of the machine, instead of building a life there.

To shade my judgement a little: one exception is Twitter. The rhythm, and the the pulse, and the flow of people, there emotions, needs, conversations, and activities is so different from what is going on a Facebook, for example. It is closer to online worlds’ human-centered life, and an indication in my opinion to where the ‘social’ in social networks must tend to go.