Virtual Collaboration

May 8, 2009
By Beverly Schaeffer

The value of the virtual realm for training has been recognized for some time, but now artificial reality is being exploited for many other applications. Web 2.0 capabilities have opened new doors in cyberspace, and people and organizations are embracing the new world of virtual collaboration. The only limits to using this make-believe realm may be those of human imagination. SIGNAL's May issue looks at ongoing efforts to explore collaboration in the virtual world. One picture may tell a thousand words, but sometimes it takes more than that to generate a particular image. That was the case with the cover of this month's SIGNAL Magazine. Anyone familiar with Second Life may recognize the venue, but very few could know the picture's circumstances-until now. The image well suited one of this month's focus themes, virtual collaboration, and its lead article. SIGNAL Executive Editor Maryann Lawlor wrote that article, which is about a group of U.S. military veterans who generated a Second Life site dedicated to helping veterans. Veterans Collaborate in Virtual World explores how this small group has created the U.S. Military Veterans Center in Second Life, which is a virtual oasis that is providing myriad benefits-both figuratively and literally-to its visiting veterans. And that type of effort is what virtual collaboration is all about. However, generating a cover about it was logistically more challenging than reporting on the site. Lawlor asked her contacts at the veterans' organization to provide SIGNAL with a high-resolution image of avatars meeting in that Second Life site. Of course, no one can predict just what they'll find at any given moment in that virtual realm. Enter Asdzaa Oh, which is the name of an avatar representing a former U.S. Army wife. Oh sent out the call to other avatars from each of the services, asking them to meet at a specific moment in the site. Several volunteers answered the call, and the image of their meeting now is recorded permanently on the May 2009 cover of SIGNAL Magazine. So, this cover both describes and literally represents an example of virtual collaboration. One sector that is seeing significant changes from virtual collaboration is the intelligence community. Sharing information in cyberspace is changing every aspect of intelligence collection, processing and dissemination. Intelligence Community Embraces Virtual Collaboration describes how the community is using virtual collaboration and the innovations it has in store for the future. The future is now for the U.S. Navy as it brings its personnel fully into the cyberspace realm. News Editor Rita Boland describes in School Has the MOVES for Cyberspace Collaboration how the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, has the Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute, known as MOVES, that both teaches and researches the fine art of virtual collaboration.

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