Monday, April 14, 2008

SL Newswire

After getting over the fact that Reuters has a SL site, I read the first 6 articles that drew my attention. They were:
-Frustrated Virtual Agencies Look Beyond Second Life
-At VW08, Kids are the Focus
-Nickelodeon explores virutal worlds, including Spongebob
-IBM to host private SL regions
-Digital Entertainment Survey: 48% of Britons have never Heard of SL
-Our Imaginary, Hotter Selves (from Newsweek, linked to SL Reuters site)

I was sort of shocked as to how virtual worlds are being targeted to children. Probably because I started using the internet regularly once I hit high school, not when I was still watching Nickelodeon. These children now have their own virtual world, which in a sense is a good thing, because some virtual worlds do not have rules, so the content may not be appropriate. But is it a good thing to let children spend hours and hours in another world, rather then focusing on their "real" life, here and now? Aren't people worried about obese children? Shouldn't we be encouraging children to play outside and be active rather than sit in front of a computer screen for hours? Sure, parents can try to place limits or use computers as rewards for good grades, etc, but maybe a virtual world isn't where a child should spend his time. He should be learning social skills from real kids in the real world, rather than with the perceived "real people" in a fake world.

The other article I found interesting was the "Hotter selves" article in Newsweek, where they talked about the Proteus effect. People were given avatars in a study, some were hot and some were average. the people that had hot avatars were more "courageous" in real life and thought they were "hotter" and more apt to attract hot people in real life. I hadnt heard of the proteus effect, but it makes sense. I have experienced it, not via a virtual world, but through work (which is a different part of my world than say, school). If i am at work, (starbucks) and someone checks me out (a hot stranger, say), i feel attractive. My attractiveness (or lack thereof) doesn't change when I walk out of Starbucks, but I feel better about myself, even if nothing has changed. It is interesting that the same concept (more or less) can be applied to virtual worlds. The article suggested that avatars can be used for "therapeutic" purposes to lift people's self esteem in real life. And when I read that, I asked myself "sure, but how long does the effect last?" and then in the last sentence, the article said "we don't know." That would be an interesting study. To see how long people feel good about themselves when their avatar is "hot."


kotoole said...

I also looked at the article about kids being the focus of online social sites. I disagree with the comment that "these online social environments do not have any rules." I think they just have different rules, and social norms that may have not yet been managed to appropriate for younger kids. I think that's the point. These social norms tell kids that online social enviornments is where they can do things that they might not be able to do in real life. I think it goes back to the article we read about how important it is to educate our children on technology, perhaps they will be more able to understand the differences in social norms online and in real life.
At the same time, this article talks about how 2nd life is only availabe to 18+, and I think that's a good thing. Just like in real life, you have to be 21 to get into a bar, 17 to get into an R rated movie. There should be limits and restrictions based on age. I also don't think that it's supprizing that the older generation has not quite caught on to this virtual world idea. For people who weren't even introduced to the idea of the internet until their 20's I htink it might be difficult to ge them to wrap their heads around the idea

scsorto said...

i agree. this whole idea of 2nd life is hard to wrap around. im only 21, but when i log into 2nd life, i just get so..bored. it doesnt make sense to me why i would want to spend my time there. it is hard to try to make it interesting to me, and maybe thats why i dont see why these sites are marketing to children.

children are very susceptible to advertising, especially if it has their favorite character. i dont see it as being a good thing that children are being influenced to be online so much. maybe im just old fashioned (which i have heard from people). but like you said, i think its important to educate children with technology, and maybe then they can temper their need/want to be online all the time?

Kelsey Maher said...

I found the discussion regarding available land space in SL incredibly interesting. The idea that scarcity could so profoundly affect a virtual world amazes me. The "land" in short supply isn't real; it's the result of a few clicks of the mouse by a site designer. Land in SL is a renewable resource in the sense that more can always be added and created, but I suppose perhaps it is also affected by the principle of scarcity in the sense that a real-life person has to take the time to create the virtual land. Since diminishing and degrading land resources is such a concern in our society, I found it fascinating that the same problem is already occurring in these brand-new virtual worlds like SL.

I don't know what the model is called, but there's a famous system for classifying countries' development that divides the shift from an agrarian society to an industrial one into four phases. I am curious whether SL followed along a similar pattern of phase shifts. Obviously the changes occurred much faster, and, although I'm not that familiar with SL, I assume it didn't start out a completely "undeveloped" world. Still, I wonder if the changes that have happened fit into models that work for our own real-life societies.

Anita Vohra said...

It seems as though Second Life is simply another version of The Sims, which sadly, is somewhat outdated. I don't really feel that the role playing technique actually gets the youth of our society to believe that they are exhibiting an alternate identity. If it does, the audience that Second Life is reaching is quite naive and juvenile. With respoect to rules, social environments such as those provided by Second Life definitely have rules. These rules are governed by social normalities. Users of the site have the ability to flag posts and report other users if inappropriate content is being displayed or shared.I am not exactly sure what I think about the age limit that Second Life has placed on its users, because I am not completely aware of all of the options that the program provides. However, it is definitely a great idea to have this online public not mix age groups due to obvious safety reasons.