Ciaran Laval on the Anti-Innovation Feel of Linden Lab’s Third-Party Viewer Policy

Today's post comes from Ciaran Laval, a chronicler of Second Life events over at Your2ndPlace. Ciaran's thought-provoking website has served as both a current events canvas and a library of interesting perspectives on Linden Lab's business practices. Today she takes on Second Life's new third-party viewer policy.

The excitement, disappointment, yelling, cheering
and general buzz about Linden Lab releasing viewer 2.0 to the general public for
beta testing (and seriously, the camera controls for panning around need to go
back to the old version) has camouflaged another issue, the third party viewer
policy, which was blogged about here,  is
turning into a huge tale of woe.

The policy, which has been setup to protect
content creators and the grid in general from nefarious activities has indeed
annoyed a large number of people as they study the detail, of course that's
where the devil always lies.

The problems are with the wording of the policy. The release has some people are claiming that no viewer, even the official one,
complies with the Linden Lab policy.

Continue reading Ciaran Laval on the Anti-Innovation Feel of Linden Lab’s Third-Party Viewer Policy

Stanford’s Avatar Study: Sexualized Female Avatars Increase Rape Myth Acceptance in Players

Yesterday we discussed the potential business applications of Stanford's recent study on avatars and their real-world impact on player behaviors. Companies, we argued, can take advantage of a player's tendency to mimic the behaviors of their avatar by pumping effort into making avatars look more like their real-life counterparts.

Stanford's study also addressed another, more serious matter: In some circumstances, the appearance of avatars in a virtual space can affect how we assess real-world situations. The bad news? It isn't all fun and games, especially when it comes to super-sexualized female avatars like those in World of Warcraft and other online games.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at why avatars change the way we view the real world, and the potential problems super-sexualization creates in both the real and virtual spheres.

Continue reading Stanford’s Avatar Study: Sexualized Female Avatars Increase Rape Myth Acceptance in Players

Stanford Study: Avatars Have a Big Impact on Our Real-World Decisions (Pt. 1 of 2)

One of the most interesting areas of study in virtual worlds has to do not with what we bring into the environment, but how an entirely virtual ecosystem changes the real-world player. Stanford University has been doing some very interesting research on the subject, and one of their most recent findings has the mainstream media paying attention.

According to research recently released by the Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab, one of the leading virtual world research facilities in the country, players can be heavily influenced by what their avatar is doing.

Today we look at the first in a two-part breakdown of Stanford's most recent study. Today's article focuses on the potential business implications of the VHIL's findings. Saturday we'll take a look at what these findings tell us about the sociology and psychology of gamers and their avatars.

Continue reading Stanford Study: Avatars Have a Big Impact on Our Real-World Decisions (Pt. 1 of 2)

Gary Arthur Douglas II on the 3 Most Overlooked Business Opportunities in Second Life

Today's post is one in a series by virtual world artist and developer Gary Arthur Douglas II, a 15-year veteran of systems development and an accomplished artist to boot. Gary is the founder of Wishfarmers, LLC, a full service virtual world consultancy with expertise in content development, digital marketing, and virtual business plan development

The Case Before the Virtual Court

You may have read me elsewhere railing against “real-world
replication” in Second Life. If not, just take my word for it – to hear me go
on, you'd think I was defending the Sistine Chapel from graffiti artists.

referring of course to design models for Second Life that produce environments
you would see in the real world: Buildings have doors and roofs, meetings have podiums,
aisles of chairs and distant “back rows”, et cetera.

This is all really great – for making everyone feel less
connected than ever before. After all, no one is harmed if your avatar sits
right next to your favorite author's avatar – why shouldn't you be allowed to? But
enough of that.

How exactly do I get wound-up about an essentially aesthetic
issue? Am I just another native complaining about the gradual homogenization of
Second Life's funky and unique indigenous culture? Actually that's a valid
complaint, and a worthy cause (sign me up) – but the aesthetics resulting from “real-world
replication” don't wind me up. They just plain bore me.

But after years of listening to people complain about the
timid response to Second Life promotional campaigns for consumer businesses,
it's just impossible for me to not demand that the true culprit be acknowledged.

And the culprit is boredom.

Continue reading Gary Arthur Douglas II on the 3 Most Overlooked Business Opportunities in Second Life

Looking Deeper: Should We Preserve Important Content from Virtual Worlds?

Virtual worlds are drawing in millions of new users, many of whom have no connection to their adopted world's original launch.

Is it worth the effort to preserve the history of virtual worlds for those who arrive late?

The Metaverse is an ethereal
beast, with entire worlds flitting in and out of existence. Pixels and
Policy looks at whether developers should make an effort to preserve
especially important constructions for the historical record.

Assessing the Value of Virtual Creations

the virtual world is so liquid and content creation is a persistent
part of worlds like Second Life and others, many displays of
cyberculture exist only in the collective memory. Late arrivals to the
virtual landscape would have to do extensive research to uncover
evidence of major events, buildings, and community gatherings from the
early days of a virtual world.

Wagner James Au chronicled the major debate about the role of expression and speech in the virtual world
that came to a head in Second Life's Jessie region. It was here that
users squared off with virtual weapons and constructed a massive wall
that came to symbolize the tension of the early grid. Now the majority
of the region is gone, and virtual historians are left with little to
work with.

Continue reading Looking Deeper: Should We Preserve Important Content from Virtual Worlds?

Update: Wal Mart’s “Virtual Clothing Store” Hopes to Redefine E-Retail

Back in September 2009, Pixels
and Policy reported on how designer Norma Kamali planned to introduce
her line of Wal Mart clothing exclusively through virtual worlds.
Prospective customers could create an avatar with their measurements
and quickly flip through an entire collection of clothing as if they
were in the infamous retailer's fluorescent halls.

Today we take a look at how Wal
Mart's virtual clothing stores reinforce another argument we've made in
the past — that advertisers are getting smarter about how they market
products in the virtual world.

Continue reading Update: Wal Mart’s “Virtual Clothing Store” Hopes to Redefine E-Retail

Larry Rosenthal on the Transition from 2D to 3D Interfaces

Today's post is a great one from Larry Rosenthal (Cube Inada), a virtual thought leader and creator of Cube3, a front-line design and consulting firm founded in 1990. Larry has been active across a broad spectrum of virtual worlds for nearly two decades, and brings a wealth of industry expertise to his subject matter. Larry originally explored these ideas in the virtual world magazine Maxping,

It's been almost 25 years since the GUI of the MACINTOSH was
unleashed on the design community in 1984. It's black and white
"icons" led to the death of the "text-dos" interface and the birth
of the 2D GUI interface. First used by the public on the Mac, then
almost everywhere else with the introduction of "Windows", the 2D
GUI and its language of metaphors and iconography has become the
standard for computer-user interface in today's world.

The inherent
strengths of the 2D GUI created a medium where the tool maker and
tool user both learned to understand the media by "how to get
around" and "what the story is " and "how this thing is to work "
from the use of visual cues and relationships. These cues became so
obviously more effective than the text-only interfaces that had
been offered to do the same before as a text only interface.

Continue reading Larry Rosenthal on the Transition from 2D to 3D Interfaces

Hiro Pendragon on the Shifting Focus of Virtual World Platforms

Today's post is a great read from Hiro Pendragon (Ron Blechner), former CTO of Involve, Inc. and a long-time writer and analyst of business and professional trends in virtual worlds. Hiro recently sat as a guest for a Second Life panel discussion about PBS's "Digital Nation" documentary.

This year will see increasing corporate and academic use of
virtual worlds for private, individual ventures. Marketing efforts in virtual
worlds are pretty much frozen solid, but will thaw a little proportionate to
the recovery of the economy.

Second Life will continue to be the industry
leader for interactive virtual worlds, while opensim-based and Second Life
spinoff worlds will enjoy success for ones that stay cheap or that cater to a
specific niche. But first, let's rewind to 2009.

Continue reading Hiro Pendragon on the Shifting Focus of Virtual World Platforms

Pixels and Policy Joins the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research Editorial Team!


Building and Rebuilding an Idea

Between the unsolicited article submissions we receive, our current backlog of guest bloggers, and the work Pixels and Policy puts into providing thought-provoking and useful information about the interplay of virtual worlds and our daily lives, we've had precious little time to sit down and take everything in. 

Pixels and Policy is rapidly outgrowing its original site layout – we've already updated and upgraded once to deal with traffic and content management issues – but we continue to provide the kind of research and analysis that finds interested readers at organizations like The Markle Foundation and Congressional Quarterly's Homeland Security newsletter.

That said, it comes as a serendipitous surprise to announce that Pixels and Policy will be partnering with the Virtual Worlds Institute, publisher of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research.  

The great team over at JVWR is headed by Jeremiah Spence, a great academic mind and the Editor of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. Jeremiah's great journal has published forward-thinking work by everyone from Metanomics' Robert Bloomfield to Indiana University virtual world researcher Edward Castronova. Its editorial team carts out great thinkers and writers like NOAA's Eric Hackathorn (Hackshaven Hartford) and Garrison LeMasters of Georgetown University. Now we're proud to say Pixels and Policy joins this great group of individuals.

Our partnership with the Virtual Worlds Institute will result in a better experience for Pixels and Policy readers. Not only will our content be migrating to a larger server with better features, you can also expect another – even better – website redesign coming in the future. Pixels and Policy Editor Max Burns will also be joining the staff of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research as Editorial Coordinator in the coming weeks, expanding Pixels and Policy's initial mission even more.

Pixels and Policy has always been about exploring how virtual worlds are changing the way we conduct public discourse, formulate public policy, and live our daily lives. By partnering with the Virtual Worlds Institute, Pixels and Policy gains access to the resources necessary to dig even deeper into stories and events that often go overlooked in the mainstream media. 

We hope you'll check out the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research and its top-tier writing, as well as staying tuned to the improvements and changes we have in store for Pixels and Policy. Thanks again for keeping us running these first six months.

Virtual Worlds are Reshaping How Indians and Pakistanis Think, Act and Socialize

Taj-mahal-3d-screenshot-1_reference You may not be familiar with The Hindu, India's national newspaper. I recommend it to anyone who wants to read some insightful work from an up-and-coming world power.

A fascinating article by The Hindu's reporters looks at how the technology powering virtual worlds is evolving, and how the way people communicate is evolving with it.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at why India has such an interest in virtual communication, and what their research tells us about the importance of the Metaverse across cultures.

Continue reading Virtual Worlds are Reshaping How Indians and Pakistanis Think, Act and Socialize