Thing Sette: Virtual Worlds

May 28, 2010

Today we explored virtual worlds in class. To be specific we played with the virtual world “Second Life” . To start out, I had to choose a name for myself. I decided to make my first name Blob, because… well… why not? I had to choose a last name from a list, so I chose Gloom and became officially Blob Gloom. I then had to choose from a set of avatars that can be changed in the game proper. I played with my avatar for around 20 minutes turning various parts of my body invisible and matching male torsos with female legs and whatnot, but I eventually settled with a relatively normal female avatar with a combination of clothing from different avatar pallets. When I was done playing with that, walking through walls and learning how to fly, I went to the various libraries and islands given in the hands-on activity. They were cool looking and showed off all the features the site offered, but mostly I was distracted at how odd the world looked as it loaded the island and people piece-by-piece. I think Second Life has its uses and certain types of people may enjoy this type of environment, but I am just not one of those people. I don’t particularly enjoy social interaction all that much and it seems to me that Second Life is just one giant game of pretend, but with more loading and polygon people. I have a certain respect for MMORPGs even if I don’t play them myself and I can respect the uses for Second Life even if I don’t fully understand the appeal.

I went to Google Scholar to see exactly what professionals use Second life for. I found an article called “Second Life: an overview of the potential of 3-D virtual worlds in medical and health education” that talks about some of the libraries I visited in the hands-on activity. I didn’t read all of the article, but apparently “HealthInfo Island” was entirely funded by a $40,000 grant from the US National Library of Medicine (NLM)/Greater Midwest Region of the National Network to provide consumer health information services in Second Life. Obviously someone thought this project would be beneficial.

There are a few other papers on virtual worlds and Second Life in particular. This article states that virtual worlds like Second life could be beneficial for research in the “social, behavioral, and economic sciences, as well as in human-centered computer science”. This article is about how museums and museum-like activities in Second Life have evolved and how they compare to similar activities in real life. I suppose there really are benefits to virtual worlds like Second Life even if I myself don’t particularly enjoy them.

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