virtual realities – a moral question

oculusMetaverses or online worlds such as Second Life and Active Worlds had great potential when they first started. Indeed many had adopted them – and other emerging platforms as either classroom technology and/or for business and corporate meetings. They were precursors to virtual or augmented reality as we now know it, and had their own language – the VRML – which is a scripting language that allows for the creation of three-dimensional “worlds” that the user can explore. It was basically an internet standard for rendering 3D graphics. The problem is that this never developed into more robust platforms that catered to their target audience and users’ needs.

As Virtual Reality progressed and developed, it has become more real. The question now is, should there be limits on what can be done in a virtual reality world as Angela Buckingham suggests in her thought-provoking article Murder in Virtual Reality shoud be illegal ? How much reality is too much? Buckingham says Read More …


Are real life replicas of ourselves and our cities a better idea than a make-believe world in virtual world design? Twinity – and their venture capitalists – believe that it has a better chance of succeeding when things around us in our virtual world are more familiar to us – with photo-realistic avatars and real life city replicas only as opposed to the make-believe world of Second Life.  Currently Twinity is in beta. I have not tried it yet but I am unsure of the concept itself. We’ll see.


State of Play: when governments come out to play

Here are my notes on this session. Quite interesting…

Liz Losh, Jean Miller, Bill May

Tory Horton: Public diplomacy: what is it? Information and info overload that redefines public diplomacy that focuses on communication and dialogue, collaboration and group work. With this shift came a change: listening, policy alignment… Opportunities include: VW can fulfill an ideal which is collaboration across cultures and have a place for coordinated action. They can have a new relationship. Geography collapses. Credibility is important in relationships and in public diplomacy are important. Building relationships requires credibility and basing your opinion not on what one looks.

Limitations: VW are unattainable [too difficult to learn and too difficult to get etc]… The 2nd reason is that govnt’s are unable to control the space. 3rd issue is that public dipl. Is viewed as the end result. It should not be.

J. Miller:

  • what did govts want? They were after the hype as a short term goal. Some wanted to get an online campaign: would a virtual space be better or go on youtube and it would be better?
  • Who is the audience? Knowledgeable teens or elderly who need more time to learn or their own internal teams.
  • Who knew what within a govt agency? They were the group of the convinced and now wanted to convince others within the govt.  There were concerns about finances. Many underestimated the resources. The Swedish Embassy and the Maldives are there. How do you engage community?
  • Is this all relevant? When we engage communities and engage cultures, does it actually bring about change?


Code and servers and files can be used for unintended stuff and therefore have unintended consequence. Choosing proprietary environments affects how it will work.

Military video games: people coming in from different paradigms: game development or social media.


Mutual understanding between the govt and others around the world. Giving context to US policies. The idea was to create space where children could interact and go back home thinking well Americans are not so bad then. People can come and have discussions and talk about things. Tracking the industry 4 and a half years ago. Do people get to know each other in virtual spaces? It is not about building presence but how to use it. Cultural events. A mixed media event with Egyptian bloggers in second life.

State of Play: Across Cultural Boundaries

Panel on Across Cultural Boundaries
Panel on Across Cultural Boundaries

This was a delightful session. The speakers were all great. Here are my notes on the session:

Herbert Burket [German law professor]

Three devices in games that maintain the interest in winning and create a taboo in losing: diversion, avoidance and reinterpretation.

  • Diversion: a game gives you an indication of losing and lets you try again.
  • Avoidance: bringing forward advertising games where you cannot lose at all.
  • Reinterpretation: to reinterpret losing as winning.

There is room for thinking about the losing experience in the gaming world. Rather than giving players the experience of losing but losing is an opportunity to take them out of the game and have a more reflective view of the losing experience. There are three strategies that help deepen the experience of losing:

  • The tragedy games: when a player has an unsurmountable barrier.
  • Winning is losing: eg players upload their friends pics and think they are on their team but end up shooting them.
  • Dependence games: other players constantly redefine what is success and leaves each individual players chasing other goals that other individuals are setting.

Not to dwell on the experience of losing in a game is itself a loss.

Mia Consalvo [MIT]

Western Otaku: games crossing

Globalization.  VW as transnational spaces. People play SL and final fantasy play on shared servers. You can play it on any platform so it is also cross platform. Otaku are fans of Japanese who like Japanese culture. Gives them space to encounter ‘the other’.  Impact on culture?

Spectrum of interests: interest in stories/gameplay; might lead to further interests such as learning language; creates possibilities to be exposed to different people, your beliefs challenged etc.

Torill Mortensen [Norway]

Physical playspace: how do people integrate machines into their lives – especially gamers? Game objects come out of the game – eg. Dragons come out in art and drawing.


  • The use of game technology is adjusted to the needs of the players, illustrating social structures as much as game structures.
  • Often behaviours overlap mong fields, highlighting cultural synchronicity.
  • If we define vw the way bart simon did as ways of living which are artificially constructed and depend on tech, independent of georgraphy, then the ‘rane’ world
  • The time spent in digital spaces is as real a the time spent in cars.
  • The vw is already in the world.

Will Leverett

What happens when we give people the most sophisticated tools today? Realtimeworlds [will be out in Feb]. Detailed views of avatars – muscles, tattoos, skin color, facial expressions. It also has its own music creator.