Check out this article in the Columbia Missourian about Missouri government’s use of the website Second Life:
Avatars can make their way through the flowering dogwoods, stop to view a spinning Missouri state seal overhead and browse displays about information technology opportunities and facts about the state.
I wonder whether they can eat official Missouri dessert ice cream cones, catch official Missouri invertebrate crayfish, and dance the square dance, the official folk dance of the state of Missouri. (I don’t know, because I’m not on Second Life!)
The Information Technology Services Division has already hired someone they recruited on Second Life. In the virtual world, he was a kitten. The article doesn’t say what he turned out to be in real life.
And state involvement in this online community goes even further:
In November 2008, the Missouri Government Island was established. A plan is under way to use virtual construction machinery, even bulldozers, to make the island the shape of Missouri. This will become home to several state government entities.
“We understand that we are the only state to go out and obtain our own island,” Grecian said.
Now, I don’t want to be overly critical of this because it sounds like expenditures on the project have been negligible so far. But there’s a fine line between staying ahead of the pack when other states are too conservative in taking advantage of new technology, and going off the deep end. If other states aren’t buying islands, that’s probably because states just don’t need their own virtual islands. And there are lots of options for state agencies to use social networking — for example, through Facebook pages — to get in touch with people in more direct ways. I thought the whole idea of using online networking was to avoid the bulldozers and stuff you need in real life. If you have to create a virtual MoDot in order to recruit people on Second Life, how is that an improvement over planet Earth?