PBS Frontline to Take a Deep Look at the Social and Cultural Impact of Virtual Worlds

PBS Frontline is one of the few mainstream news sources really taking a look at how virtual worlds are changing our politics, policy and culture. They've looked at everything from the rise of religious organizations in worlds like Second Life to the development of a digital-age telecommuting workforce, and each area of study has advanced the discussion on virtual worlds as a permanent fixture in our lives.

Now, on February 2nd, PBS will take a look at its broadest and most interesting topic so far. In a special event called Life on the Digital Frontier, Frontline takes a look at the many ways online interaction and virtual environments are changing our culture and social norms.

Read on to check out the program's trailer and find out more.

Continue reading PBS Frontline to Take a Deep Look at the Social and Cultural Impact of Virtual Worlds

Pixels and Policy Now Available on Alltop!

Alltop We're proud to announce that Pixels and Policy is now a member of Alltop.com, one of the premier news aggregators. Alltop allows you to assemble a wide mix of weblogs, news sites, and Twitter feeds all on one easy to navigate screen.

You can find Pixels and Policy under Alltop's Virtual Worlds category, alongside such big names as New World Notes and Dispatches from the Imagination Age.

We sincerely hope you'll consider adding Pixels and Policy to your list of daily Alltop reads!

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.

HOUSE-OF-SWEDEN-1

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.