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


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

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.

Social Media Brief: Hospitals Turn to Social Networking for Patient Education


Our post this morning about how hospitals are using Second Life as a tool for educating nurses received some of the best response we've ever had.

An eagle-eyed reader also referred us to a great, forward-looking article by Fresh Influence detailing how hospitals are taking the lead in using social media for the public good.

Read on to find out how hospitals are advancing the cause of patient health through social media.

Continue reading Social Media Brief: Hospitals Turn to Social Networking for Patient Education

Onverse Challenges Old Impressions of the Metaverse

Square With all the virtual platforms coming online lately, is
there anything new under the sun? Do we really need more virtual dance clubs?  

The next big virtual world will scale Second Life Mountain
not on the strength of its dance clubs, but based on interactivity and social
networking. One game in particular mixes these strengths well.

Pixels and Policy guest-blogger Bruce Lehmann investigates Onverse,
a new online world now in Beta, and asks the question: What are players looking
for in a new world?

Continue reading Onverse Challenges Old Impressions of the Metaverse

New Study: Women Spend More Time in Virtual Worlds Than Men

USC Logo Pixels and Policy has looked at how gender idealization pushes some women to oversexualize their avatars, but it doesn't seem to be dissuading girls from gaming.

A new study by University of Southern California Professor Dmitri Williams shows that women spend more time in-world than men despite being in the minority of total gamers.

Pixels and Policy takes a look.

Continue reading New Study: Women Spend More Time in Virtual Worlds Than Men

Should We Judge Real People By Their Avatars?


      Who is behind the screen? Does it matter?

Would you trust your little brother or sister to a babysitter who arrives dressed in the latest bondage fashion?

Would you still consider your best friend a confidante if he spent his personal time seducing boys and girls no older than fourteen or fifteen?

What about this: Would your opinion of your friend or your babysitter change if you knew they portrayed these kinds of actions in virtual worlds?

 As the world connects to online gaming in ever larger numbers, the private lives of gamers may not be private for long.

Second Life came down hard against simulated pedophilia with a crop of new rules and regulations, an opening shot in what may become a drawn out debate over whether a player should be judged based on the actions of their avatar.

Continue reading Should We Judge Real People By Their Avatars?

New SRI Study Plans to Explore How Players Behave in Virtual Games

Nott uni logo

If you missed the recent conference on the role of faith in the Metaverse and a discussion on sex in virtual worlds held by some of England's best psychologists, we can recommend another for you.

The research nonprofit SRI International is leading a global study on how players behave in online worlds, with a focus on what real-world characteristics we bring to games and what in-world traits we take away.

Pixels and Policy looks at what could become the most interesting study of the year.

Continue reading New SRI Study Plans to Explore How Players Behave in Virtual Games

5 New Article Categories – Find What You Need Even Faster!

Pixels and Policy is, at heart, a reader-centric project. We aim to serve as a clearinghouse for news and analysis related to how the virtual world interacts with our real world.

In order to make it easier for our readers to find the articles and information they're looking for, we've added several new tags to refine how we sort articles.

  • Augmented Reality – We've covered so many innovations in augmented reality and the ways it might change how we do business that it's time the field had its own category. From now on, your one-stop resources for augmented reality issues is self-explanatory.
  • Military – We want to look more at the military applications of virtual worlds, and that's too specific for a general "Government" tag. This allows us to look more in-depth without blending our categories.
  • Social Media – Games produced by social entertainment developers like Zynga (of Mafia Wars and FarmVille fame) are increasingly important to the discussion of virtual worlds. We're focusing our interests by giving social gaming its own category.
  • Virtual Activism – Pixels and Policy got its start chronicling the role of virtual activism in the Iranian election debacle. With recent pieces on the role of religion and gender debate in the virtual world, it's time virtual activism took center stage.
  • Virtual Currency – We already cover the different ways businesses interact with the virtual world, but our research on virtual economies and in-game currency is also important. To avoid confusion, we're dividing the two.

We're always looking for feedback. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment or shoot an e-mail to

Are Virtual Worlds Sabotaging Interpersonal Relationships?


Somewhere in the past few years, perhaps with the success of the Nintendo Wii, a paradigm shifted in how the general public viewed online game enthusiasts.

No longer are they the love handled basement dwellers of Dungeons and Dragon lore.

No, the pendulum now decrees that gamers are a heterogeneous group of men and women, married and single, productive members of society and deadbeats. Pixels and Policy looks at how perceptions of gamers are changing.

Continue reading Are Virtual Worlds Sabotaging Interpersonal Relationships?