Could Standardizing Virtual Worlds Turn Off Consumers?

3059934552_c9b5be27d9 One of the major impediments to widespread use of virtual worlds is standardization. What virtual worlds need for mainstream success, the theory goes, is unification across platforms.

One article argues that this means the ability to carry one avatar between worlds.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at why consumers may not stomach the shift.

Continue reading Could Standardizing Virtual Worlds Turn Off Consumers?

Are Virtual Worlds Turning Pre-Teens into Informed Consumers?

One of the best indicators of virtual worlds' long-term commercial sustainability is the ability of a world to turn users into active consumers. Radio did this by monetizing broadcasts through advertisements. Television does much the same through product placement and celebrity endorsement. But these are both decidedly passive forms of marketing.

Some interesting new research from the marketing website Mad.uk sheds light on just how effectively virtual worlds are transmogrifying entertainment-seekers into potential customers. Pixels and Policy takes a look at how pre-teens in virtual worlds are slowly headed towards consumer consciousness.

Continue reading Are Virtual Worlds Turning Pre-Teens into Informed Consumers?

Study Shows Virtual Therapy Outperforms Real-World Shrinks

183453

Could virtual worlds be used to provide therapy to those who lack access to a real-world practitioner?

That's the premise of a recent article outlining the multiple ways virtual worlds could provide essential mental health services to more patients than ever before. But what about the possible caveats of virtual head-games?

Pixels and Policy takes a look at the compelling academic studies of just how effective virtual world psychotherapy really is. 

Continue reading Study Shows Virtual Therapy Outperforms Real-World Shrinks

Medical Update: Researchers Use Audible Virtual Worlds To Give Sight to the Blind

090910114152

  
Tel Aviv University's tactile sensor

Virtual worlds may help educate impoverished children, and they might even be bringing a new wave of commerce to the world. But can virtual worlds change individual lives?

According to some research published in the venerable Science Daily, they just might.

You see, some enterprising Israeli researchers are developing the most innovative assistance for the blind since Braille.

Pixels and Policy investigates how virtual worlds are giving eyes to the blind, and why you can run the program on your old Apple II.

Continue reading Medical Update: Researchers Use Audible Virtual Worlds To Give Sight to the Blind

Pixels and Policy Editor to Appear on Feb. 28th’s “Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe”

What a way to celebrate six months covering the policy and international business applications of social media and virtual worlds! After two successful stints on Pooky Amsterdam's impressive Second Life-based television shows, we've been invited to appear on another Treet.tv program – Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe!

Treet's description sums up our feelings on Beebe's great show, now in its third year:

TONIGHT LIVE WITH PAISLEY BEEBE
is the highest rated virtual TV show, with many thousands of viewers
tuning in every week. It can be seen live on inworld virtual screens,
online at Treet.tv or later on iTunes. Between 50 – 70 avatars in Second Life watch the live taping at the virtual S.L studio at Northpoint every Sunday at 6pm PDT.


“Tonight
Live” informs and showcases the best things in Second Life, locations,
creators, Musicians and issues important to virtual world residents. If
you want to know what is happening in your virtual world? this show is
a MUST see.

Pixels and Policy Editor Max Burns will be spending the episode discussing the current virtual business climate with Paisley, as well as various hot topics on the use of virtual worlds for everything from personal expression to national security. It'll be a great show, and we're absolutely thrilled to be participating.

Mark your calendars, we'll be appearing February 28th, 2010 at 6pm SLT. You can watch live from inside Second Life, or pick up the feed on Treet.tv's website.

The Risky Legal Waters of RMT in Social Media Games: A Zynga Case Study

Pixels and Policy previously reported on the potential risks of building an online gaming platform around the concept of real money transactions, or RMT's. Customers have proven willing to shell out large sums of money for virtual goods in the form of microtransactions, the $1 – $5 purchases common to games on Facebook and MySpace. So what's the problem?

There's an emerging legal question regarding RMT, and it centers on the growing partnership between online game developers and marketing agencies. What happens when a developer offers "free credits" for filling out "trial" offers? As social gaming titan Zynga found out, offering another venue for RMT is proving far more complicated than planned.

Continue reading The Risky Legal Waters of RMT in Social Media Games: A Zynga Case Study

Liberalizing and Stabilizing Developing Nations Through Broadband Accessibility

A few weeks ago we reported on how Brazil is positioning itself to become the Internet and virtual world development hub of South America.

Img_splashBricNations

Now a report just released by
market research firm Strategy Analytics has the data that shows
developing nations are likely in for a telecommunications boom over the
next year, with Brazil leading the way.

Pixels and Policy takes a
look at the report and what a mass expansion of broadband Internet
means for the developing half of the world.

Continue reading Liberalizing and Stabilizing Developing Nations Through Broadband Accessibility

Khalistan: Analyzing the Secessionist Indian State that Only Exists Online

KhalistanPNL-100Dollars-(2001)-donatedma_f

The foreign policy community has always been troubled by the legal dilemmas created when breakaway regions of existing countries clamor for international recognition. Former President George W. Bush provoked outrage in Serbia after acknowledging the independence of Kosovo, long a bitter and controversial subject in the Balkans. The entire region seemed headed for conflict until timely threats and deals prevented widespread bloodshed.

The border disputes provoked by secessionist movements like those in Kosovo often provoke bloodshed. But what happens when a secessionist group urges for the formation of an ethnic or religious homeland without possessing any physical territory? Pixels and Policy investigates the interesting case of Khalistan, the Sikh homeland that exists only in the virtual world.

Continue reading Khalistan: Analyzing the Secessionist Indian State that Only Exists Online

Why So Many Organizations Struggle for Success in Virtual Worlds

Palomar_002-712712One of the most interesting and
controversial discussions currently taking place amongst the virtual
world cognoscenti is also one of the most vexing for the companies and
government agencies hoping to capitalize on the growing communication
power of virtual worlds.

Despite the best efforts of
developers like Cisco, the Department of Energy and a mix of other
public and private organizations, many more corporate/government Second
Life installations fail than survive and thrive.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at why.

Continue reading Why So Many Organizations Struggle for Success in Virtual Worlds

Looking Back at Six Months of Pixels and Policy

Since its creation in August 2009, Pixels and Policy has been about the efficient delivery of interesting, in-depth research on how virtual worlds are changing our real-world politics, policy and culture. We've covered a lot of new and interesting ground, and, I like to think, contributed to the growing discussion about just how virtual worlds fit into our personal and professional lives.

We've helped focus the discussion of virtual worlds onto some interesting points, and large media outlets are paying attention:

  • Our piece on how Iranian protesters used Second Life and social media to overcome government violence and censorship was featured in Foreign Policy in Focus and Truthout.
  • Our research on how racism has crossed the real-virtual divide and made an unfortunate appearance in Second Life was talked up at BBC Online.
  • Our survey of female avatars in Second Life revealed that supersexual avatars have their root in larger gender dynamics, and Jezebel did a great analysis of our work.
  • National Terror Alert syndicated several of our research pieces on the role of virtual worlds and social media in expanding government counterterrorism efforts.
  • Pixels and Policy got a great review and spotlight from Hamlet Au of New World Notes, outlining the work we're doing and why it's an important real-world discussion.

It's been a good six months, and we look forward to many more. That said, Pixels and Policy is getting back to basics. As you can see, we've abandoned a clunky three-column page design so that our articles and guest submissions are again the focus of your experience. There's something even better, too: Pixels and Policy has gone completely ad-free. After weighing the pros and cons, we decided it was better to give you an unfettered reading experience.

As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on the website, as well as any discussion topics you may have.