Are Mobile Web Devices Turning Us Antisocial, or Merely Shifting the Conversation?

2705240882_b4db3777f8 One of the engines driving the astounding growth of virtual worlds is the innate sense of possibility. Players can be anything, quest anywhere, and rise to the top in combat and charisma.

But is the fantasy role-playing mindset creeping over into our everyday lives? A columnist for St. Louis Today argues that our fascination with virtual environments may be making us into a generation of egotists.

Is the increasingly graphical world of mobile phone technology and Twitter-on-the-go turning us into antisocial monsters, or is it merely shifting the forum for discussion? Are we moving away from a community of ideas, or are we virtualizing it? Let's take a look.

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For the First Time, E-Book Sales Top Real Books

An interesting article in today's New York Times, courtesy of the increasingly tech-savvy young journalists banging out copy for the Grey Lady. According to virtual bookseller extraordinaire Amazon.com, it is now selling 143 electronic books for its Kindle reader for every 100 physical hardcover books. For effete, left-wing e-book doubters like myself, Amazon's admission is more than a little shocking.

At the root of the story is Amazon's Kindle, the somewhat clunky, grayscale reader now in competition with Apple's iPhone and the Barnes and Noble doppelganger Nook. Compared to the low-resolution e-book readers of the early 2000's (think PalmPilot), all three current-generation devices are loaded with features to make electronic reading a seamless transition.

From screens that mimic paper to the announcement that new iPads will come complete with retina display, developers are no longer simply bundling e-reader technology as one more tool in a suite of products. E-books are front and center.

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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.

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wants You to Punish Your Kids for Gaming

It's rare we find reporting on virtual worlds that is so backwards as to be almost comical. We attribute the declining trend of online gaming fear to increasing exposure to and understanding of both virtual worlds and their players. Heck, some schools are even using them to teach.

Then there's the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and their intrepid writer Peter McKay. Not only does Mr. McKay think virtual worlds are the pathway to destruction for one and all, but he urges parents to take all measures to keep kids as far from online gaming as possible.

Pixels and Policy descends into the murk.

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How Online Gaming is Changing Parenting

Like me, a huge percentage of people exposed to games as children are still playing. The average age of a gamer is 35 – a generation ahead of mine. So it makes sense that Cecil Adkins of The Examiner would ask, "What happens when two gamers form a family?" From his thought-provoking article:

If you're a parent and you spend a lot of time playing MMOs, your child will inevitably become interested in them Children and MMOsas well.

There is a lot to be said about balancing quality time with your family with work and an active MMO life so that your kids don't feel neglected…So how do you handle it when your little tyke decides he or she wants to get involved in online gaming?

Is there a way to merge the demands of an avatar in a fantasy-based MMORPG like World of Warcraft with the real-world demand for parental involvement in a child's life? Does the spouse of ten years trump the Sword of Ten Thousand Nights?

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Our Most Shared Posts From Last Week

Last week was a great one for Pixels and Policy. Some of our articles found their way onto other websites and even into a press release! Now we're sharing our top five most networked articles from last week!

1. Media Hype Could Permanently Damage Augmented Reality

Excessive hype could end up hurting augmented reality's development. Instead of refining and optimizing augmented reality, developers may rush out subpar, buggy products to meet spiking public interest in the complicated technology. That would be a shame, as augmented reality could be a truly revoltionary technology.

2. Unattractive Avatars Promote Negative Self Images


According to the University of Texas study, an ugly avatar might result not only in social isolation in-world, but the unattractive appearance of a player's avatar could bleed over into the player's perception of themselves.


3. Zynga's Virtual Currency System Comes Under Heavy Fire

Investigative blog Techdirt and Mike Arrington of TechCrunch took Zynga to task for drawing a huge revenue stream from what they argued are questionable contracts, intensive marketing to children, and developer-created scarcity.

4. New York Educators Discuss Virtual Worlds as Teaching Tools

New York's 2009 Technology Summit sought to change public education's noted hesitance towards the virtual world by bringing together educators, industry experts and virtual world users in one student-focused brainstorming session, nothing the "increasingly fundamental role" technologies like virtual worlds play in students' lives.

5. Real-World Companies Shift Course in Metaverse Marketing

A corporate presence in Second Life needn't be all bad, especially if companies began to shift from their current position to one that encourages the creation of unique events and content, and promotes a more respectful advertising strategy to potential virtual customers.

Dancing Ink Productions and the Evolution of Creative Commerce

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Rita J. King of Dancing Ink Productions

Second Life is an environment of unusual creativity and self
expression. But the ability for limitless content creation alone is
not the reason for the boom in Second Life’s creative class.

A trip to 
Dancing Ink Productions' "The Imagination Age" island revealed that, for many Second Life residents, the
true beauty of art comes when it merges with purpose in engaging and
often unexpected ways.

Pixels and Policy looks at the skillful
blending of work and art at The Imagination Age, and opted to explore
the trend further.

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Pixels and Policy Article on Racism in Second Life Invades the BBC

Imagine our surprise when we found out Pixels and Policy's article on racism in Second Life was set to be featured on the BBC's website! As you can imagine, we thought it was a joke at first.

However, the news is true. Pixels and Policy received a great write-up on the BBC's Magazine Monitor, alongside the likes of Michael Caine and a former Bosnian leader on the run from authorities. This goes a long way in proving what Pixels and Policy has said – virtual worlds are an area of growing importance in the world, and coverage of how players live in the Metaverse will draw an audience.

As the BBC said:

In virtual reality you create what you look like – your avatar – so are
given the opportunity to separate yourself from your age, race or
gender. Despite thisresearch from North Western University which suggests people are less likely to help someone if they have a black avatar.

We're not going to sit back and enjoy the appreciation, though. Pixels and Policy is currently conducting research on the role of gender in the virtual world, with a focus on how female avatars are perceived by others, and how the players of female avatars perceive themselves.

In the meantime, keep reading!

The Curious Case of Racism in Second Life

Erika_in_midnight_skin The standard techno-optimist argument in favor of expanding the Metaverse goes something like this:

Virtual worlds hold the promise of commuication without regard for distance, physical ability, gender, or race. Every aspect of the avatar is flexible, rendering prejudice obsolete.

It appears such wishful thinking might be snagged on the heated issue of race. Pixels and Policy reports on a little-noticed study that says our racial biases are carrying over into the Metaverse.

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New York Times Report on Virtual Worlds Totally Misses the Point

Chainedpromo Ruth La Ferla of the New York Times published an extensive write-up yesterday all about how virtual fashion is surviving and thriving in the recession, clocking in at over 1,400 words.

It's a real shame that La Ferla failed to cover any real news in her story. At least she succeeded in inflating the estimated earnings of virtual worlds from the currently-accepted $1 billion mark to a totally unscientific, Bear-Stearns-in-the-sky estimate of $2 billion.

Pixels and Policy explains why La Ferla's article does nothing to advance the cause of virtual worlds, and quite a bit to hold it back.

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