To be honest, when I first saw the LEARN5 mission objective - to write about an alternative currency or monetary project - my first thought was to virtual money. However, I felt uncomfortable writing on this subject as I couldn't see any benefit to it which would make a blog post relevant to EVOKE. Having thought a little more on the subject, I now see things a little differently.
EVOKE aside, my main online hobby is the virtual world of Second Life. It is where my EVOKE agent name and photograph come from (I actually found EVOKE through a recommendation made by a friend on Second Life!). I could go on and on about the benefits of Second Life and set right some of the misconceptions surrounding it (mostly thanks to the mass media) and probably will, but for now I would like to talk about the financial side.
Second Life has its own virtual economy, which is based upon its currency, the Linden dollar. While Second Life is free to play, many of the activities in-world require some kind of monetary input. Second Life money can be earned much in the same ways as money in 'real life', or alternatively can be exchanged from a variety of real currencies.
A growing number of users in Second Life (predominantly those who have been using the game for a long time) are now setting up and running virtual businesses using the platform. These can take a myriad of forms; virtual real estate, entertainment, advertising and content creation being among the main ones. The most successful of these make enough of a profit to make a living.
Kasi Nafus's Pixel Dolls is still one of the most successful content creation businesses in Second Life. There are many other examples I can name, many of which have attracted real-world sponsorship, especially in the entertainment sector. But while the opportunities for personal entrepreneurship are many, altruistic possibilities are perhaps not as apparent.
Unlike many other online 'games', Second Life is a community-based platform which reflects rather than distracts from the real-world. By that I mean it has infinite possibilities for the betterment of people's real lives. There are many projects which could demonstrate the financial power of the communities of Second Life, but by far the most successful of these is Second Life Relay for Life.
Overseen by the American Cancer Society and run by volunteers, the yearly campaign runs alongside the real-world relay. While people form teams and create 'camp grounds' for their teams in the 'real' relay, so do teams in Second Life. Hundreds of volunteers work on 'virtual' camp grounds and simulation designs to promote the work of the charity and encourage donations. The main event also includes live music performances and other events which mirror real life events and bring together communities from across the world.
(Eight minutes into this second video, you can see part of 'RFL The Shire' - the simulation I created based upon the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and cartographer Karen Wynn Fonstad, who published several Middle-earth maps and herself succ**bed to cancer. The build included a stage and a full-size Bag End.)
While the main fundraising event happens in July, other fundraising events happen throughout the year, such as the Clothing Fair and Home and Garden Expo, just two events in which virtual content creators sell their work with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity.
In 2009, the Second Life Relay For Life campaign raised US$274,000 in total.
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The exchange works directly for state and public workers and servants. It gives them credit in exchange for the amount of public work they contribute to the community. The more constructive they are based off a base rate the more credit they recieve.