Friday, January 8, 2010

Virtual Worlds

Second Life was introduced to me via this course. I had heard of it but never ventured past the entrance portal. As it had been installed at UCOL for eFest and the Teaching and Learning conference 2009 we (Debra M and myself) thought ‘great, we can explore SL at work”. How wrong were we! Although it was still installed on the machines and allowed new users to create an account, once you had created the account you weren’t able to enter SL until the updates were installed and run. That’s easy you may be thinking but is it? install updates at UCOL you have to have administrative authority and not all staff are created equally (in terms of group profiles). So at first official meeting in SL that Sarah organised,Debra and I spent most of the hour getting assistance from the IT team to install the updates and allow us access to the required room/island. Eventually we did get in and dutifully scared a visitor from the USA out of the room/area we arrived in. It was easier for me to access it from home and I spent many hours practising the controls and familiarising myself with the various commands of the programme.

Learning to fly was fun, as was exploring the islands. I don’t know that I fully understand how people can spend hours on SL and how some people can meet others and form deep relationships with them based on what they see and do on SL . I have seen documentaries on SL (on TV) in the past and there are some very real relationships being formed globally, so it must be happening and perhaps it’s just that I haven’t spent the time and energy to get involved that I lack the understanding.

On the other hand I have had my eyes opened to the educational aspects of SL and find it a positive place to see and learn skills in a practical way. Unfortunately, I can’t see the courses I teach being easily converted to SL classrooms or lessons but I can see the benefits for other types of classes in this environment.

Virtual worlds are not a new thing to education...... both my children played online at when they were younger and while they thought they were just having fun it was evident in their writing and reading (on the screen) that they were learning at the same time.

The following predictions about Virtual worlds is interesting reading and can be found in full at the following webpage. Looking through the 2009 predictions and seeing how many of them were predicted correctly was alarming and perhaps the author of this list is really 'on to it" for virtual worlds. ;)

Virtual worlds predictions for 2010
Posted by Lowell Cremorne on December 29, 2009

Having completed our review of our 2009 predictions, we’re back for another round
for the coming year.

1. OpenSim will continue or even improve on its growth trajectory – the momentum will continue, although a handful of larger grids are likely to have the lion’s share of that growth, with all the challenges that go along with it.

2. Australia will have its first government funded virtual environment – a proposal is already underway to see this come to fruition. Education will be the focus, but the foresight of the proposal’s facilitators is likely to ensure it involves business, education and government in a collaborative partnership.

3. Closures – it’s not a desirable prediction to make, but unfortunately it’s also a fairly safe one. There’ll be company and/or platform failures. Some may be bought out, but like Metaplace in the past week, there’s going to be some outright shuttering of some environments. I have some specific ones in mind but don’t have the data to support naming them specifically as being on a ‘death watch’.

4. Intellectual property disputes – The Eros vs Linden Lab action is likely to be resolved during 2010 and it will generate a large precedent in regards to virtual goods. Linden Lab will probably defend the action successfully, but the playing field will still have changed considerably.

5. Integration – Whether it be Second Life or Habbo Hotel, the level of integration between virtual environments and social media services will increase. Whether it’s a Facebook Connect sign-in or the ability to Tweet from Second Life, that functionality will move from the plugin / add-on phase to core architecture more commonly.

6. ABC in Second Life – I don’t have any inside knowledge on this, and I really hope I’m proved wrong, but I can’t see the ABC continuing to fund its Second Life presence beyond 2010. For the past year, the majority of the activity on ABC Island has come from its tight-knit community, with support from ABC staff. With the burgeoning ABC Online continuing to grow, there’s always the risk that the Second Life component will be squeezed out. Please, prove us wrong on this one.

7. The mandatory ISP filter – If the legislation passes during 2010, there remains a real possibility of adult content in Second Life and elsewhere falling foul of the filter. There were some gob-smackingly naive acceptances of Linden Lab’s claim they’d heard nothing about being affected by the filter and therefore were not concerned. There’s a chance everything will be fine but given the blacklist isn’t defined, nothing is certain at this stage. Our prediction: Australia-specific verification mechanisms will need to be put in place for Second Life and other environments where content creation occurs.

8. Taxation of virtual goods – 2010 will see the United States further formalise taxation arrangements in regard to virtual goods. I doubt the Australian Tax Office will make any substantive rulings in the coming twelve months.

9. Gaming worlds – 2010 is going to see the largest MMO launch since World of Warcraft: Star Wars The Old Republic. It won’t eclipse the incumbent but it will become the solid number 2 player in the short-term, with all bets off in the longer term. The second half of 2010 also sees the launch of the next World of Warcraft expansion, called Cataclysm. Head-to-head clashes in the MMO industry don’t get much bigger, and it’ll make for some fascinating times.

10. Social games – this year saw social games like Farmville take off in a big way. There’ll be some significant fatigue from users with these platforms, but there’ll also be further innovation to make them more engaging and with easier integration of virtual goods without the spam-like accompaniments that plague people’s Twitter or Facebook timelines. Overall: continuation of exponential growth, albeit not at the same level it has been the past six months.

Again, over to you. What’s in your crystal ball for the coming year?
Other sites with some interesting 2010 predictions:
Eddi Haskell
Daniel Voyager
Adam Frisby
Living on a Prim (some damn funny ones here!)
All Virtual (focused on virtual events)
Second Sins (NSFW)
Tateru Nino
Adric Antfarm


  1. Thanks for this summary, Heather. Your story about using SL in an institution is a very familiar one which is why I have my doubts about the uptake of SL in education in New Zealand, at least for the time being.

    It was also very interesting reading the predictions for virtual worlds. I have read a few blog posts like this over the last few weeks and it is interesting how views differ. My prediction is that OpenSim and ReactionGrid will grow as a reaction to copyright issues of SL.

    If you are interested in the use of virtual worlds in NZ, you may wish to join this email group: New Zealand Virtual Worlds Group

    From what you know about SL, what would you say about using it for facilitating an event?

  2. At the Teaching and Learning Conference 2009 (at UCOL) I attended a workshop run by Dr Clare Atkins and Terry Neal about how a virtual birthing unit was developed in Second Life and how this unit is used to teach students etc. This is the first time I had heard of a virtual environment being used as a teaching ground and was very interested to learn that it is a successful environment.
    Before attending this workshop I might not have considered SL a suitable place for an event but since experiencing it first-hand I am now open to using it.