I began Pixels and Policy as a way of exploring my thoughts
about digital communication as a potentially transformative medium on the
global stage. Around the same time as I began writing Pixels and Policy, way
back in August 2009, tens of thousands of brave citizen activists in Iran stood
up to a regime universally regarded as brutally repressive, violent and theocratic.
Within days of
Though much of their fight took place in city streets and town squares, the rest of the world came to know Iranian protest figures like Neda Agha-Soltan and Mir-Hossein Moussavi chiefly through their creative use of digital communication sources as a platform for civic protest. Western news outlets couldn’t get enough of how the pro-democracy “Green Revolution” mobilized disparate groups of protesters through online social media like Twitter. Less reported was their widespread use of virtual social media like Second Life and Facebook, where communication could carry on unencumbered by the heavy hand of Iranian security forces.
Nearly one year on from my first article about
During this same time, the business models and motivations of social media and virtual communities shifted. Most of this change can be considered a move away from the “Linden Lab Model,” an increasingly perilous system built on the idea that virtual world platforms should grow with real-world business partnerships in mind, with individual players a secondary concern. This is the manner of thinking that brought about XStreetSL, Second Life Enteprise, and a brief but much-hyped series of misguided public-private partnerships.
I increasingly see the virtual world community shifting towards the “Zynga Model” of revenue generation. This involves scrapping preconceptions about ever-expanding graphical immersion in favor of building small, low-overhead games that attract a wide base of casual-but-paying players. As Zynga proves, people are willing to shell out large amounts of money to play even simple games, with the biggest spenders pumping in over $10,000 each. Using this model, Zynga expanded rapidly and currently enjoys a company valuation in the billions.
What’s more, Zynga is prospering in the same area where
companies built on the “Second Life Model” failed: lucrative real-world
corporate partnerships. Walk into a 7-11 in the
The landscape of virtual communication is changing, and not
just in the business world. Perhaps inspired by the power of the Internet in
airing the grievances of the Green Revolution, striking factory workers in
I look forward to taking a closer look at what digital
communication means for developing countries, taking time to focus on emerging
I look forward to producing more content for our regular readers, as well as gaining new readers and winning back those who may have turned away from Pixels and Policy’s turn to the tabloid. Though Pixels and Policy is no longer specific to Second Life (there’s so much more out there to explore, especially in the realm of international policy), I hope from time to time to produce pieces that look at Linden Lab’s business model, its future, and where virtual platforms are going in the future.