JVWR: MuniGov 2.0, A New Residency Requirement: Local Government Professionals in Second Life

Michelle Garder, Pam Broviak, Bill Greeves and I have just published a paper in the Journal of Virtual World Research. Here is the abstract and link to the pdf file:

The virtual world Second Life allows social interactions among avatars  – online representations of real-life people – and is slowly adopted in the public sector as a tool for innovative ways to interact with citizens, interorganizational collaboration, education and recruitment (Wyld 2008). Governments are setting up online embassies, voting simulations, interactive learning simulations and virtual conferences. While there are  very prominent and elaborate examples on the federal and state level of government, we have seen only a handful of applications on the local level. One of these local examples is  MuniGov2.0  – a collaboration of municipal government professionals who regularly  meet in Second Life. The goal of the group is  to  support each others geographically  distributed implementation attempts to incorporate new technologies in the public sector. Interviews with the founding members and core group show clear mission-specific needs  that Second Life collaboration can support, but that there are also technological and behavioral challenges involved using this highly interactive environment. The article will highlight the challenges, how they were met, lessons learned, future directions of the  project and ends with recommendations for the use of Second Life in local government.

Full reference:

Mergel, I., Gardner, M., Broviak, P., Greeves, B. (2011): MuniGov20, A New Residency Requirement: Local Government Professionals in Second Life, in: Journal of Virtual World Research, Volume 4, Number 2: Goverment & Military.

Keywords: Virtual worlds, Second Life, online collaboration, local government, Gov 2.0, Web   2.0




The Future of Public Administration around the World: The Minnowbrook Perspective

Professors O’Leary, Kim and Van Slyke have just published “The Future of Public Administration around the World: The Minnowbrook Perspective” book.

My chapter in the book is titled: “The use of social media to dissolve knowledge silos in government”. I argue that public managers are facing the dilemma of ever increasing, changing and complex mandates to innovate with shrinking budgets. At the same time, they need to tap into existing knowledge so that they don’t reinvent the wheel on a daily basis in their search for innovation. Government itself is a large system of disconnected units, where it is impossible to know in which corner of the system similar problems have occurred and what the remedies are that were used to address the problem. Social media – and especially social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, but also niche networks, such as GovLoop or MuniGov2.0 – can help to build cross-sectional networking ties for public managers to access knowledge already available in (and outside of ) government. Moreover, there are a lot of interesting initiatives underway that help public managers to dissolve the existing bureaucratic knowledge silos that exist as a result of departmental structures (see for example Intellipedia or Diplopedia – and many more).

Email me if you would like to read a copy of the chapter.

Georgetown Press - Minnowbrook perspective

From Zero to 2.0: How social media can change collaboration in government (Video)

I recently gave a talk to the CNY Maxwell Alumni with the title “From Zero to 2.0: How social media can change collaboration in government”. First, I gave a quick overview what Web 2.0 and Government 2.0 is and why public managers need to pay attention to social media and the new forms of interaction that are made possible. I started out with a schematic overview to show the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and then moved to President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and his memo to all the federal agencies and departments. I believe that the surge on the federal level to use social media is in part driven by his memo and it is also encouraging state and local governments to jump on board and experiment with social media. Especially on the local level this kind of change involves costs in form of manpower and the current web managers might not be able to add responsibilities for several different social media accounts to their already heavy workload. Therefore, I suggested to the audience to familiarize themselves with MuniGov2.0 – a group of local and state public managers interested in collaborating and learning about social media. Here is their website and Twitter account.

We then switched to Second Life – an online virtual world – and met some of my fellow MuniGov2.0 colleagues who talked about the potential of virtual worlds for collaboration in government across organizational and geographic boundaries. It was interesting to learn that there is a small world between Maxwell and the MuniGov2.0 participants – it seems as if some Maxwell alumni recognized MuniGovers or had connections with them. The session went well – without any (!) technical problems. I had connected a headset to my laptop, so that the participants on Second Life could hear me when I asked questions and the audio portion of the laptop was connected to the room microphone. Lesson learned for next time, turn down the headset otherwise there will be an echo on Second Life (we didn’t hear it in the room, but it was uncomfortable for the MuniGov2.0 participants – my apologies!). I would like to give a special shout out to Bill Greeves (co-founder of MuniGov) and Leslie Fuentes (City of Hampton), who both made this a really fun event for the (real life) audience.

I had the impression that the audience did not go home to set up their own avatars right away, but I heard that people enjoyed hearing about innovative forms of collaboration online and felt the need to know what might be next in terms of technology and innovation in government. Second Life (SL) is certainly far out there when it comes to learning curve and for some even overwhelming interactivity. From the regular meetings on SL I can report, that it is a little overwhelming at the beginning- people use the local chat, that everyone can see, plus direct IMs and in addition sometime even a Skype chat on the side, plus of course the voice conversations that are going on around the table.

The Maxwell School has created a video (thanks a lot to Tom Fazzio from our amazing ICT, Global Collaboratory group).