Category Archives: virtual world

Randomness #520F

Whew! The Japanese Film Festival‘s over.

If you missed this year’s movies and the Q&A sessions with director Ichikawa Jun and actress Yoshiyuki Kazuko (who seriously looks like she’s 50 and not 70+), Stefan has taken very detailed notes.

Q&A with Ichikawa Jun

Q&A with Yoshiyuki Kazuko 

I may not always agree with his opinions or like his writing, but I genuinely admire his diligence. The man’s a true movie fan.

So what if this rumour that Google might be developing a virtual world isn’t true? Bet the folks up on Mountain View are working on something similar anyway.

More interestingly, judging from the slate of apps that Google already has — especially Google Earth and Google Maps — maybe their virtual world will do what none have so far: integrate both the real and virtual — bring us closer to augmented reality.

But with one company controlling almost all this tech… that’s scary. Some possible glimpses into a Google-dominated future from Bruce Sterling and Cory Doctorow

This is not a painting of Ophelia — it is a picture of Elizabeth Siddal dying of hypothermia.


Merging virtual and real with handphones

I once saw a HP ad where a boy, armed with a handheld console with a camera, runs around a city playing a game on the handheld. The locations in the game correspond to the boy’s current real-world location, but with obstacles and challenges. So an innocent looking alley in the real world turns into a deathtrap in the game world, with a virtual boulder coming down towards you (like in Raiders of the Lost Ark)

I love the idea of blurring the lines between the real and the virtual, and I thought then: “why do you need a separate device? Almost everyone already carries a camera handphone these days.”

Wish some Singaporeans followed up on this idea before the Scots did.

“It’s about using a camera phone as a magic wand,” said Dr Mark Wright of the Division of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh who came up with the idea.

At the heart of Spellbinder, as the project is known, is a database of all the places that participants have added data to. People query it by taking a snap of a location with their phone then using multimedia text messages to send it to Spellbinder.

Dr Wright said powerful image-matching algorithms are used to analyse the image that can deal with snaps of the same place being taken under different lighting conditions or orientations.

Once Spellbinder has worked out the location of an image it consults the database and sends back an image with the extras added to it. (read full article)

(from Networked Performance)

Randomness #54x

Still alive! Too much working and reading, not enough writing.

– All the cool stuff happens after I leave. Chicago now has a Festival of Maps. That’s a small version of a 17th century Map of the Nile on the site. Big version here.

– Detailed satellite surveys show that Angkor was probably as big as modern-day LA, adding credence to theories that people eventually deserted the city because its surrounding environment couldn’t sustain it.

– If you’re too lazy to search for clips of the Helvetica documentary on YouTube (like me), World of Kane kindly provides a selection.

– Radar finds out how desperate some folks in Second Life are for virtual sex (Funny, but NSFW photos):

Radarette: Very good! Ready for something a little … HARDER?

Student: Yep.

Radarette: Haretown and Tortoiseville are 50 miles apart. A hare travels at nine miles per hour from Haretown to Tortoiseville, while a tortoise travels at one mile per hour from Tortoiseville to Haretown. If both set out at the same time, how many miles will the hare have to travel before meeting the tortoise en route?

– Speaking of sex, The 50 Greatest Sex Scenes in Cinema

– The 12 Sins of Chopstick Use (in Mandarin script)

Tibetan-inspired Chinese typography

The realities of virtual marketing

Terra Nova featured a Forbes article that highlights how some companies are grappling with the realities of marketing in Second Life, and asks if this is the start of a media backlash.

There’s a knee-jerk response on New World Notes, but I think its attacks on the reporter’s accuracy are petty. For instance, what’s so wrong with calling Second Life a “Web fantasy world”?

It’s obvious to me that effective marketing in SL isn’t going to be exactly the same as effective marketing in real life. But companies will adapt over time, like they adapted to the internet, TV and radio.

I’d like to know: who’s leading this experimentation and learning? Anyone care to enlighten?

Aren’t games realities too?

Creating a shared experience of a possible future, by using new media tools with mass participation – videos, phone calls and audio, images, and blogs and other writing – in an alternate reality game.

Each contribution helps the game arrive at a larger truth. No team of experts knows better than a given individual what effect an oil shock would have upon that individual’s life, or what action he or she will take to cope. Personal reactions to our simulated oil shock, placed in context with many other points of view, will help us all realize what’s at stake in our oil-fired culture.

Take a look at World Without Oil :: Document Your Life In The New Reality

(From Boing Boing, which also attributes World Without Oil to the astounding
Jane McGonigal.

I still get excited when I recall I Love Bees, where McGonigal was lead designer. What really appeals to me are the interactive, collaborative storytelling, and how the distinctions between fact & fiction, virtual & real dissolve as the participants/characters perform actions.)

The metaverse isn’t everything

Found on psfk: A ho-hum article on the significance and use of avatars in virtual worlds (well, mostly Second Life for now). The only interesting bit imho, is this:

Another hurdle to broad participation in avatar worlds: Fantasy playgrounds actually don’t work particularly well as social networks, says Danah Boyd, a doctoral candidate at Berkeley and fellow at USC’s Annenberg Center who was dubbed the “high priestess of Internet friendship” last year by the Financial Times.

“[Successful] social-network sites like MySpace … are primarily places where you actually model your social network on the people you see all day long,” in simple representations closely tied to offline identities, Ms. Boyd says.

“We want our site to be real,” says Jerry Kaplan, who runs, where “mainly older women” meet and network. Some exchange photos, he writes in an e-mail. “[But this isn’t about fantasy lives, avatars, or other masks.”

Immersive 3-D fantasy games require immobility and a major investment in screen time. “More time at the computer,” Boyd says, “is not what most people are seeking out.”

Which sounds sensible. Avatar-based worlds will replace our current interfaces for interacting online only if that technology offers better value (in both financial and non-financial senses) than the current alternatives.

For example, people would probably still prefer to shop for books on than in Second Life, because offers added services within quick and easy access, like recommendations, book searches, and user reviews.

Even if the input devices get better, say, a brain/computer interface like the one demo’ed at CEBIT recently, any kind of technology like that will lower the difficulty threshold for all applications — including the ones that were easier to use in the first place.

So the distinguishing factor isn’t just technology, but more of what people want to use it for. I know this sounds suspiciously teleological, but perhaps Second Life has somehow become a fantasy playground (in every sense), just because. As Warren Ellis — freelance-Second-Life-observer for Reuters — observes:

people are continuing to enter the world because of, not despite, what might ordinarily be considered dubious experiences.

Moving on, the Christian Science Monitor article mentions that:

immersion has its whole-hearted backers. Sarah Robbins, an English instructor at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., sees Second Life and its avatars as both tools and object of study.

“We talk about how to ‘unpack’ certain types of messages,” says Ms. Robbins, who teaches as Intelligirl, an extreme version of herself.

“The students read avatars as you would read a text,” says Robbins. “We see it as a form of composition.”

Which is interesting in and of itself, especially when you think about the kinds of norms about avatar appearance in SL — look anything other than human and people automatically label you as weird, think you’re a griefer, or both.

Now that avatar-based environments (heh, what a verbose construction) have hit mainstream media, perhaps futurists will need to look even further ahead while the academics and consultants play catch-up while policymakers lag behind

Is this the age of the online avatar? |

McCracken on Second Life

Grant McCracken comments on the three-way discussion between Clay Shirky, Henry Jenkins and Beth Coleman on the impact of Second Life. But his suggestions about how SL will be impactful aren’t as interesting as his observations about why SL won’t:

Second Life is frequently a stage without actors. What is missing is the small murmur of activity, the gentle dynamism that other people bring to our lives. This may be what we mean by “perfect strangers.” These are the people who create movement, visual stimulation, a steady current of minor commotion without actually ever impinging on our lives in any irritating way. Second Life has no perfect strangers.

The absence of this dynamism means, among other things, that SL cannot create a new tourism. The existing world of Second Life fails to capture us for the same reason that Celebration, Florida (the instant town build by Disney) originally disappointed. The place was well appointed but it lacked perfect strangers. There was a stillness to both places that made them unfit, or at least uninteresting, for human habitation. I am told that Celebration addressed this problem. We shall see if SL can do the same.

I also like his point about “sorting”. SL currently doesn’t help you find people you would actually like to hang out with:

If anything it should allow me to reach out to more people in the world and increase the chances that I will like the people I meet. But this never seems to happen. I would like to hear about this one from the SL supporters. How many interesting people have you met in-world?

Which is true in my (admittedly limited) experience. The people I know best on SL are from real world contacts.

Read McCracken’s whole post at This Blog Sits at the: Second Life: the new Disney or vaporville? (Yes, it’s over a month old. I need to visit his blog more often.)