Living Virtually


Guest Post Written By: Jessica Solberg

Have you ever heard of the phrase “Second Life?” After hearing this term, and not knowing its meaning, it leaves your mind to contemplate all its potential definitions. “Second Life” is a 3D world in which people are able to interact with others through a virtual interface, and the places visited within the “Second Life” are built by real people. I was lucky enough to get a better understanding of this “Second Life” while watching Mayo Clinic's “guru”, Brian Kaihoi, engage in this virtual reality online. He is a Web Administrator at Mayo Clinic and is fascinated with “Second Life”. What began as a mere curiosity has turned into a once-in-a-lifetime project for Kaihoi. He is presenting this virtual world to other Mayo Clinic professionals with the hopes of utilizing it in a clinical setting.

Kaihoi has been connecting with many individuals through “Second Life” for years. Through this virtual world, he has engaged with groups of deaf, blind, and autistic users. He has a background in Special Education, and his passion for working with individuals who have disabilities is apparent. He has been employed for over 35 years at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic remains the most visible candidate Medical Center for implementing “Second Life” technology. With his background and curiosity, he was asked by the World Health Organization (WHO) to host the third annual International Disabilities Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC). He was overall a great candidate to represent Mayo Clinic.

The conference was held for two days, Friday, September 27th through Saturday, September 28th, and of course, it was presented using “Second Life” technology. People from WHO, South Africa, New York, and many other parts of the world attended this conference all sharing similar interests. The participants present were able to share updates on their adoption of disability rights. The main goals of this conference were to share information on adoption and provide networking opportunities. These goals are more achievable in a “Second Life” world. Brian explained how easy it was to meet someone at a conference from another part of the world. “Second Life” creates an interconnected society where individuals from different organizations are able to collaborate more effectively.

As a result of the “Second Life” technology, the IDRAC connected individuals from various countries at one conference. One unique concern posed by this type of technology was the issue of time. “Second Life” has its own time; it is different than the rest of the world, meaning individuals need to know what time it is in “Second Life” in order to congregate simultaneously at events.  Brian stated that people who attend the conferences may be up as late as 11:00 PM, or they may be up as early as 3:00 AM for the conferences. This all depends on which part of the world the individual lives in. The nice part about “Second Life” is that individuals do not have to remain online for the entire conference; participants can arrive early or late. During the conference, there was a lot of discussion amongst one another through text. “Second Life” creates this connection between individuals present during the time of the conference. Many conversations can be conducted simultaneously without disturbing others participating in different conversations.

When the IDRAC conference was completed, it was “done”; participants go their separate ways and try to use skills and techniques they have gathered from the conference. Brian stated that it is similar to the Transform Conference; there are individual and group activities that will result and be reported next year at the conference. The purpose of this conference was to inspire, share networking opportunities, and provide exposure to current projects. In conclusion, he stated, “the conference was a catalyst, and in that goal, I think we were very successful.”

Jessica Solberg

Jessica Solberg is a contributing writer and a student at the University of Minnesota Rochester.