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The Watch - virtual worlds in the news

March 9, 2009

1. Associated Content (USA) - Islands for Sale Follow Cave Home onto Real Estate Oddities Market. “First it was a cave house that was auctioned off on eBay; now there are private islands for sale. Would you buy an island right now? What is more, would you buy a private island on Second Life? Private islands for sale aside, there currently is a unique cave home listed on eBay while a balloon note threatens a cave foreclosure. The eBay cave home auction is scheduled to go until 03-11-09 and for only $300,000 the cave could be yours; unfortunately, even though the story generated much interest, there are no bidders thus far. Will those holding private islands for sale have better luck?”

2. New York Times (USA) - Portrait of an Artist as an Avatar. “Certainly, Filthy Fluno is not the first artist to realize that in order to sell his paintings, he needs to sell himself. He does, however, work at it with impressive zeal. Every day he makes new friends and cultivates new contacts, edging himself and his work — a collection of expressionistic oil paintings and vibrant, graffiti-laced pastels — just a little bit farther into a universe that to others might appear huge and indifferent, but as Filthy sees it is stuffed with possibility and also potential customers. To this end, you will often find him wandering around art openings and dance parties, dressed in a spiffy suit and pair of sneakers, trying earnestly to chat up every person in the room.”

3. NPR (USA) - Scott Simon Looks for Coffee in Second Life. “When you think of school, you may think of students sitting in rows of desks in a classroom while a teacher lectures up front. But, what if you could go to class in your pajamas while lying on your couch? Dr. Michael DeMers is a geography professor at New Mexico State University. While he does teach in a traditional classroom, he also invites his students to join him in an online virtual world called Second Life. At least once a week, their avatars (digital versions of people) head to an island in this virtual terrain to review class notes. Host Scott Simon’s avatar paid a visit to this online virtual island to meet with Dr. DeMers, our Second Life guide. While there, Scott asked for a cup of coffee, but what he opened was a can of worms instead”.

4. Slippery Brick (USA) - VR headset mimics all five senses. “What you are looking at in the pic above is a virtual reality helmet that recreates sights, smells, sounds and even tastes from far-flung destinations. Created by British scientists, the device will allow users a life-like experience of places such as Kenya’s Masai Mara while never leaving home. You could greet friends and family on the other side of the world as though they were present in the same room. Previously, scientists have only had success with virtual reality technology recreating sound and vision. This helmet named the Virtual Cocoon could change all that.”

5. Money (UK) - Real Money Trading in a Virtual Environment – Virtual Items Can Lead To Immense Wealth (And Occasionally Death). “A virtual economy is generally taken as being the exchanging of virtual goods in a virtual world, just as it reflects how a real economy works in the Real World. However, there are times when the line between Real and Virtual economies can bleed together, when players exploit “virtual” goods in order to profit from their deeds in the “real” world. Here is an amalgamated list of some well-known (and perhaps some not so well-known) instances of where the line between “real” and “virtual” becomes a little too blurred for some.”

6. Campus Technology (USA) - Second Life: Engaging Virtual Campuses. “n the previous article in this series, Real-Life Teaching in a Virtual World, we looked at the state of Second Life as it pertains to higher education. There are so many schools represented that one could spend days exploring the college and university campuses. The ways they are used in the 3D online virtual world vary drastically, and how much and how well they are used appear to vary as well. First, the bad: ghost towns abound. Just as many corporations have created presences in Second Life with the approach of “if you build it, they will come,” some colleges and universities have done the same.”

7. Science Daily (USA) - Virtual And Real Worlds: Two Worlds Of Kids’ Morals. “Children’s moral behavior and attitudes in the real world largely carry over to the virtual world of computers, the Internet, video games and cell phones. Interestingly, there are marked gender and race differences in the way children rate morally questionable virtual behaviors, according to Professor Linda Jackson and her team from Michigan State University in the US. Their research is the first systematic investigation of the effects of gender and race on children’s beliefs about moral behavior, both in the virtual world and the real world, and the relationship between the two.”

8. The Guardian (UK) - Friendship studies reveal the power of pals. “A recent study from the University of Leipzig found that college freshmen were more likely to be friends with people they met in their first week at university if they had been randomly assigned a seat next to them in an introductory lecture. The happiness of our friends is infectious, according to researchers at Harvard and the University of California. In a study that measured the happiness of nearly 5,000 individuals over a period of 20 years, reports showed that when an individual was happy it spread through their network of friends, and their friends’ friends, and the measurable effect could last for up to a year.”

9. Accountingweb.com (USA) - Financial literacy moves to Second Life. “Ohio University and credit union industry leaders have launched a new educational video game that uses the virtual world Second Life to teach financial skills to young people. The game, Credit Union Island, is designed for high school students. Based in the teen grid of Second Life, a simulated world with millions of users, the game enables players to guide their avatars through real-life financial decisions such as taking out a college loan, making car payments and buying a home.”

10. Computerworld (USA) - No security reprieve from Blizzard’s Warden - Two good reasons to pass on MMORPGs in the office. “World of Warcraft (WoW) and other massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) are the source of recent rumbling in the industry. The online gaming numbers are staggering, but the notion that a significant percentage of people is logging in from work is truly the stuff of executive nightmares. The impact from lost work hours and the legality of alternate-currency businesses or “gold pharming” are worthy of discussion, but the alarm is a bit misplaced. Games have been a staple of computer workers’ existence since J. Martin Graetz, Alan Kotok and others cooked up Spacewar! on a PDP-1 in 1961, and people have been exchanging virtual identities and goods for real money since the first multiuser dungeons (MUD) in the ’80’s. Such games will always be with us, and the further up the knowledge-worker ladder one goes, the seemingly more essential their importance for blowing off steam. Modern role-playing games aren’t my thing, but I’d much rather see a senior security officer ganking Blood Elves in a cathartic frenzy for 30 minutes on company time than losing her cool when cornered by a tightly wound executive in some postincident blamestorming session.”

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