Virtual Worlds: A Social Experiment of Real Value

Ludlow's dual life
Ludlow's dual life

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.

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Virtual Conference Report: Day Two (20 Oct, 2009)

by paulabowles

Conference_clappingThe second day of the conference has been filled with three more interesting and innovative papers. David Crystal’s (University of Bangor) keynote lecture entitled ‘Language Death: A Problem for All’ highlights the troubling statistics that ‘96% of the world’s languages are spoken by just 4% of the people’. Given the interdisciplinary nature, and the methodology of this virtual conference, Crystal’s paper draws attention to the use of language as a way to ‘break down barriers’.

The two other papers presented today relate to disability, albeit with very different approaches. The first was given by Wendy Turner (Augusta State University) and is entitled:  ‘Human Rights, Royal Rights and the Mentally Disabled in Late Medieval England.’ In her paper Turner suggests that modern preconceptions of medieval disability are not generally supported by the empirical evidence. The second paper ‘The Status of the Learning Disabled in Philosophy of Mind and Disability Studies’ by Maeve M. O’Donovan (College of Notre Dame of Maryland), approaches the subject of learning disability through personal and academic experience and research.

As well, as the ongoing ‘battle of the bands’ competition – plenty of time still to vote! – today also saw the first ‘winning comment’ prize awarded to Rebecca Wheeler.