Turning Words into Pictures: A Pixels and Policy Proposal

Virtual communication allows for all sorts of fun and interesting innovations on the traditional written word. Here's one of my favorites. This is a word cloud that contains the most-used words in Pixels and Policy's recent article, "A Commentary on the Ethical Dilemmas of All-Virtual Workplaces."

Wordle: Virtual Work

Click the thumbnail for a full-sized image.

Not surprisingly, virtual was the most-used word, but honesty and communication also pop up frequently. I'm considering including these word clouds at the top of every article to give readers in a hurry the quick gist of a piece. 

Data and content visualization is an emerging hobby of mine, and I think it makes for a much more interesting reading experience – in addition to providing something that both looks good and offers a bit of content consolidation.

What do you think?

The Future of Pixels and Policy: Expanding and Refocusing on Analytical Research

It's rare a blog gets to say it will be reducing its publication rate due to an excess of success, but I'm proud to say this is the case for Pixels and Policy.

As readers know, I recently took up the position of Editorial Coordinator for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. This position, though demanding, is a great privilege and a chance to help publicize some of the best virtual worlds research out there. It's published work from a wide range of professionals including Robert Bloomfield of Metanomics, Garrison LeMasters, Edward Castronova, and Dor Abrahamson.

I love the work and feel it will result in a much better product coming from Pixels and Policy, both in the form of guest pieces from established researchers and in the form of a renewed look at our analytical style and focus. Since its inception, Pixels and Policy has been about innovation and staying ahead of the curve. I intend to keep the blog fresh and novel with periodic facelifts and new features.

What readers may not know is that the success of Pixels and Policy's research and engaging articles goes well beyond features in the BBC's Magazine Monitor, Foreign Policy in Focus, Truthout, and other news and research organizations. Pixels and Policy's unique approach to analyzing how virtual worlds are affecting our real-world public policy and international relations was integral in my application packet to The George Washington University's prestigious School of Media and Public Affairs.

I'm proud to say The George Washington University sees as much potential in Pixels and Policy and the role of new media in setting policy agendas as I do. I'll be joining their fantastic team both as a student in the Media and Public Affairs program and as a research assistant to a professor and long-time advocate of the role of media's influence – both old and new forms – on the international relations scene. 

This offers unique opportunities for Pixels and Policy, but it does come at a cost. As a result of my work both with The George Washington University and the Journal of Virtual World Studies, in addition to other concerns, I've decided the best course of action is to scale Pixels and Policy back to publication three times per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday instead of our current six times per week. This will provide the time necessary to write deeper, more analytical pieces that do justice to the blog's original mission of shedding light on the growing importance of virtual worlds and digital communication in the business and policy spheres.

Pixels and Policy isn't going away. In fact, it's in a stronger position than ever to bring together a wide range of industry and academic voices. This is already underway, with recent guest pieces by everyone from virtual world entrepreneurs Ariella Furman, Pooky Amsterdam and Gary Arthur Douglas II to planned pieces from educators making use of virtual world technology to bridge the achievement gap in troubled schools. Pixels and Policy will even be adding a new regular columnist and a junior researcher, finally allowing me to use the royal "we" that is the symbol of so much P&P controversy.

I look forward to continuing this journey with you, and as always, I invite your questions or comments. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of the blog, or shoot an e-mail directly to me at Editor@PixelsandPolicy.com. I'd love to hear your thoughts about the downshift in publication frequency.

Video: Your Thoughts On Our Appearance on Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe

Pixels and Policy would like to thank Paisley Beebe and everyone involved in the production of Tonight Live for the great interview we had on Sunday, February 28th. Paisley asked some great questions about the evolution of virtual currency and its importance to the real-world economy, and we even got a chance to give due credit to the virtual currency work of Jon Matonis over at The Monetary Future.

Below you'll find the recording of the show, courtesy of Treet.tv. Would love to hear your thoughts, and we'll be putting up some further analysis a little later in the week! Thanks to everyone who came out to see us and for all the great commentary we've received via e-mail and Twitter!

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Check Us Out on The 1st Question, Live in SL at 7pm (SL Time) and on www.The1stQuestion.com!

The 1st Question v8 300 Pixels and Policy will be joining Pooky Amsterdam and the team over at The 1st Question this evening at 7pm SL Time (Pacific). We hope you'll tune in!

The 1st Question is a fast-paced quiz show featuring some of the most interesting and offbeat personalities in Second Life, broadcast live in-world through Treet.tv.

What makes The 1st Question so unique is its audience participation for prizes and publicity, and we look forward to participating.

You can find The 1st Question in-world at the following SLUrl, or check them out on Treet.tv or www.The1stQuestion.com!

Join the studio audience: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Spindrift/67/245/700/

Rita King’s “Digital Diplomacy” Wins Gov 2.0’s Top Presentation Award

Congratulations to Rita King and DIP's Dispatches from the Imagination Age for a resounding victory at the inaugural Gov 2.0 Expo here in Pixels and Policy's home base of Washington, D.C.!

The erudite Ms. King won "Top Presentation" in Gov 2.0's "Government as Peacekeeper" segment for her excellent research on the role of the digital world in fostering understanding of Islam. Rita's research was featured on Joshua Fouts's booming Dispatches, which also featured one of the first public mentions of Pixels and Policy.

We urge everyone to check out Rita's work over at Dancing Ink Productions, you'll certainly be glad you did.

Also, expect a full write up of our experience at the Gov 2.0 Conference soon.

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!