Virtual Culture

Is culture the very thing that creates community and life in a virtual world?

A recent series on the ABC “Not Quite Art”hosted by Marcus Westbury grabbed my attention recently. I caught the episode in Glasgow where artists were doing great stuff in old factories, fostered by communities of artists. I liked how Marcus seemed to capture the essence of a vibrant creative community injecting life, art and culture into a hollow industrial shell. I couldn’t help but think of the parallels with virtual worlds, Secondlife in particular. From the ABC site:

Marcus puts forward the question of whether you can buy culture by building an iconic building or even franchising a McLouvre or McGuggenheim? Or is culture a messy, dirty thing that comes from the bottom up, refuses to behave, is borderline illegal and breaks a lot of occupational health and safety rules?

Sometimes when you wander around Secondlife you sense this “culture” – a community living outside the rules. Obviously this is where traditional marketers got it wrong. Imagine McSponsor walking into a real life burgeoning underground arts & culture scene and dropping in a building, flashy logos, and changing the rules. Uh-huh.

So how do you retain that vibrant culture in a growing community? I personally think culture grows when you heat it up, mix it up, foster it, infuse it. Just don’t try to change the essence of it.

What do you think?