Yesterday, Peter Ludlow opened the second week of the 2009 Compass Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference with a riveting presentation on virtual communities, cultures and governance. This year’s conference is titled ‘Breaking Down Barriers.’ Accordingly, Ludlow takes us into the virtual world of Second Life and provides a glimpse of how individuals, from a standpoint of anonymity, nonetheless construct communities, cultures, and even forms of governance that resolve inevitable conflicts.
Second Life is the height of embedded social networking. It is a platform where people can assume any identity they wish by constructing a highly customizable avatar. The content of the virtual world is also completely user designed. Players construct objects, buildings, business establishments, and much more. Each player travels through the virtual world as his avatar, and can engage with, modify, and construct, various objects, and most importantly can interact with the avatars of other players.
These interactions create various communities. Ludlow defines a virtual community as a group of individuals spatially separated but engaged in a broad range of shared social activities through non-face-to-face forms of communication. A community might form around a virtual night-club; regularly meeting at the same spot and intensively interacting. Or, a community might form around a business venture, for example, constructing a new virtual night-club. The opportunities for interaction within Second Life are plenty. And, as in the real world, these interactions provide the basis for enduring relationships, friendships, alliances, but also enmities.
Welcome to the second week of the Wiley-Blackwell Virtual Conference. The first day back has started with a keynote speech from Peter Ludlow (Northwestern University) entitled ‘Virtual Communities, Virtual Cultures, Virtual Governance.’ Conference delegates also had the opportunity to meet Peter at the Second Life Cocktail Bar.
In addition Wiley-Blackwell’s Vanessa Lafaye held a publishing workshop entitled ‘The Secret to Online Publishing Success.’ As you can see, this week promises to be as exciting and innovative as the previous one. All of the papers and workshops from last week are still available to download from the conference site, and both the ‘battle of the bands’ and the opportunity to contribute a ‘winning comment’ remain.
Peter Ludlow is Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. He has worked on a number of topics at the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, and cognitive science, and has also published a number of works on the emergence of community and governance in virtual worlds, including High Noon on the Electronic Frontier (MIT Press 1995) and Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias (MIT Press, 2001). His most recent work, co-authored with Mark Wallace, is The Second Life Herald: the Virtual Tabloid that Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse (MIT Press 2007). Reflecting the boundary crashing content of that work, the book received the American Association of Publishers, Professional/Scholarly Publishing award for “Best Book in Media and Cultural Studies, 2007”, was a Choice “Outstanding Academic Title, 2008”, and a Library Journal “Top Sci-Tech Book, 2007,” (ranked one of top 39 science books of 2007 and top book in category of Computer Science). In 2006, MTV.com named Ludlow one of the ten most influential video game players of all time.
During the conference you will be able to view a ‘videocast’ slideshow, or alternatively download the audio podcast, and access the full text. You will be able to discuss and share your thoughts on the issues raised.