Flawed FTC Study Claims “Explicit Sex” in Kid-Focused Virtual Worlds

Ftc_hq5_400x350 As virtual worlds grow in importance, the government is taking a closer look at what goes on inside the Metaverse.

Today the FTC released a report showing that virtual worlds aimed at teens and kids feature "explicit sex" and simulated violence. Congress mandated the report, and they'll certainly have something to say about it in the near future.

Pixels and Policy looks at what the FTC found, and what developers can do to avoid the wrath of reformers.

Continue reading Flawed FTC Study Claims “Explicit Sex” in Kid-Focused Virtual Worlds

Obama Administration Turns to Virtual Worlds to Expand STEM Education Initiative

3492645939_d9b4cd136b The Obama Administration made promoting engineering and science education a major part of their social agenda.

Now the White House is turning to the virtual world to extoll the virtues of a science education to skeptical students.

Pixels and Policy looks at how the White House is calling in the big guns to get their pro-technology education message out to the masses.

Continue reading Obama Administration Turns to Virtual Worlds to Expand STEM Education Initiative

How Broadband Internet Will Help Liberalize Developing Nations

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


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 How Broadband Internet Will Help Liberalize Developing Nations

Homeland Security Plans Virtual World Terror Attack Simulators

6a00d8341c4df253ef00e54f6667bd8833-800wi The next major threat to American homeland security could come in the form of a virtual simulation if the Department of Homeland Security follows through on a recently announced plan.

DHS, the government department responsible for protecting Americans from terrorism and major disasters at home, has expressed a deep interest in using virtual worlds to train first responders and disaster management officials.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at the proposed program below.

Continue reading Homeland Security Plans Virtual World Terror Attack Simulators

Dusan Writer on Pixels, Policy, and the Barbarians at the Gate

Today we have an excellent syndicated post from Dusan Writer, Editor of the information-rich Dusan Writer's Metaverse. A well-researched thinker and virtual worlds writer, Dusan has provided comments and critiques on Pixels and Policy articles in the past.

In Digital Barbarism, Mark Helprin lays down the gauntlet against the Creative Commons, open source and machines:

"Very clearly, the choice is between preeminence of the industrial or of the collective, of improvisation or routine, of the soul or of the machine. It is a choice that you have perhaps already made, without knowing it.

Or perhaps it has been made for you. But it is always possible to opt in or out, because your affirmations are your own, the court of judgment your mind and heart. These are free, and you are the sovereign. Choose."

Now, Mark sets up his argument as a battle – one in which the lone artist must rail against the gathering forces of darkness, the code kiddies at the gates, the collective enslavement to the power of technology, and how the digital age is upending traditional notions of property and creation.

Continue reading Dusan Writer on Pixels, Policy, and the Barbarians at the Gate

Guest Post: Second Life Launches Disaster Preparedness Sims

Today's post is a guest piece by Sandy Demina. Sandy covers music and culture issues in Second Life on her blog, and follows issues related to public organization in the virtual world.


Second Life residents are increasingly involved both in
promoting art and music in the broadest sense and in launching social and
educational projects.

Public awareness is essential in disaster situations: From Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to the Abruzzo
earthquake, so many catastrophes
afflicted the populations around the world over the past years. Now Second Life is getting involved.

Continue reading Guest Post: Second Life Launches Disaster Preparedness Sims

Why Do Government Islands Frequently Fail?


Lots of cool info, few interested avatars

. is best known as the company
behind dozens of state government websites. You know those countless
labyrinthine portals you click through to pay your speeding ticket online?
Thank NIC. 

As it
turns out, NIC decided to expand its business by promoting its e-government
solutions through an expansive and beautiful Second Life island.

only problem? No one seems interested in discussing government IT solutions
when there’s a dance party only a teleport away. We spoke with NASA’s Learning
Technology Project Manager and Second Lifer Greyark Hightower about why so many
government islands are isolated museums. 

Continue reading Why Do Government Islands Frequently Fail?

Touring the Corporate Graveyards of Second Life


     Cisco's virtual hospital is a spooky wasteland.

In the spirit of Halloween, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the corporate ghost towns scattered across the fickle landscape of Second Life.

InfoWorld did a great write-up on the history of corporate failure in the Metaverse, and one thing is certain: Large or small, tech or apparel, Second Life has swallowed up some of the best companies the real-world has to offer.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at why so many companies are failing in the Metaverse, and why the U.S. government is the newest body in the graveyard of corporate hopes.

Continue reading Touring the Corporate Graveyards of Second Life

NATO, Sweden, and the Problem of Security in Virtual Diplomacy

As Joshua Fouts over at Dispatches from the Imagination Age reports, NATO is stepping up plans for a commanding presence in Second Life. This comes on the heels of our report on the Department of Energy's supercollider-iffic island development, and while the Department of Energy will play a large role in U.S. politics over the next few years, NATO is, well, NATO.

Thank the pork-filled budget for this beauty of bureaucracy. NATO, in partnership with the U.S. government, released a thick project funding announcement titled "Development of Virtual Worlds" which promises to award a "large, fixed-value contract" to any company capable of filling out all of the attached paperwork without falling asleep. Best thing about it? Like all government funding opportunities, the project is entirely tax-free.

In case you were planning on submitting, this ain't your grandmother's virtual world. From the announcement:

  • must run fully behind or through firewalls using a single open port of choice

  • should be able to run SSL encryption if desired for increased security

That rules out Second Life, as Massively reported, which leads one to ask – who, exactly, is qualified to take on this project? Looking at the promising work done in Second Life by the brilliant minds who designed the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, it's hard to believe Second Life couldn't support possible sensitive operations.

Which brings up another question – why doesn't NATO merely produce its own virtual world, to its own specifications, where it can control access? This is going to be the big problem over the coming years. When Sweden opened a virtual embassy in Second Life, the Swedish government had no expectation of conducting sensitive business in-world. Apparently NATO desires this.


Sweden may have an elegant answer. By building a virtual embassy in Second Life (pictured, right), the Swedes improved their public relations and public awareness campaigns on the internet. The story made big news. But it was little more than a place for cultural exhibits and links to Swedish tourism websites. Unsurprisingly, the Swedes use a private government intranet for actual embassy communications.

Until technology increases and allows a currently unavailable (on a massive scale) level of selectivity and background screening, NATO will have a good deal of trouble finding someone to meet its standards.