Creating online World Cafés that are based on the same principles and practices as in-the-flesh Cafés and access the same collective intelligence, or ‘magic in the middle’ is a project I and others have been working on for a while now, using a variety of online tools and methods. Here’s a story about a World Café I hosted using one of those tools, Second Life:
Second Life is what’s called a ‘virtual world’; a 3-D environment where anything that happens in ‘real life’ (and more) can be played out. One popular business use is rapid prototyping, and innovative models for new social behaviors can also be quickly
formulated and pioneered there. Many technologically savvy companies and organizations already have a presence in this Brave New World, and recently one of them contacted us to see if we could help host a conversation ‘inworld’ after a ‘live’ presentation they were delivering via conference call.
That organization was George Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to work with Director of Public Affairs, Sherry Reson to design and host a World Café in Second Life on how virtual worlds might be used to further progressive values in real life.
There have been other brief World Café forays into Second Life, but this was the first I know of that used a process so close to the ‘real’ World Café format.
Together, we set up a hospitable World Café space near the Rockridge Second Life offices, complete with 6 round tables with vases of flowers, each surrounded by 4 comfy chairs. We arranged the tables within ‘earshot’ so we could use the collective ‘chat’ feature for the introduction and harvest in the large group, and we utilized group IM chats for the table conversations, each round anchored by a host.
The only thing we were missing were tablecloths that we could ‘doodle’ on, and the ability to watch a ‘real time’ graphic recorder create a visual harvest right before our eyes. But World Café GiGi (Girl Geek) Nancy White (Choconancy Lupino on Second Life) served as our graphic recorder, and she created this gorgeous graphic from our harvest, which she immediately posted to Flickr:
One of the unique benefits of a Second Life World Café is that there is a transcript automatically produced of the entire contents of each conversation. This potentially lends itself to some creative future harvesting possibilities, but for now the ‘raw’ files are available and you are welcome to read them.
This World Café was actively supported by our friends at Grove International; Michelle Paradis, who worked with Sherry and I in setting up the space, and David Sibbet, who attended and served as host for his table. David, whose Grove Consultants International has done extensive building in Second Life, has offered a dedicated space in the beautiful Grove International galleries for World Cafés. We look forward to exploring the collaboration with him and more ‘inworld’ World Cafés in the future.
If you are interested in having a World Café as part of your event in Second Life, or working with the World Café team to provide hosing support, please contact me by email, or find me inworld as "Lucida Skytower". You can go into the World Café page in the Second Life wiki to learn more, and if you have an avatar in Second Life, please join the World Café group there!