Sunday, November 16, 2008

Virtual Worlds, Digital Literature and Journalism

This session is about media environments, that is how media has become a network of information flows which can be arranged and incorporated in relation to each other. The digital media environment is spatial, distributed, social, and extreamly participatory. A good example of a media environment is the online virtual 3D virtual world:

A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two-dimensional, or three-dimensional graphical representations, although other forms are possible[1] (auditory[2] and touch sensations for example). Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users.

The future for journalism is exciting, complex and very horizontal. You may want to aquaint yourself with some of the possibilities with the paper, The Future of Public Media FAQ, which looks at the situation in the USA.

What will public media look like around the corner? How will public platforms in mass media adapt? How will new participatory platforms evolve to serve the needs of democratic publics? What resources and what policies are needed to survive? These questions inform the project.

I research online virtual worlds, specifically social worlds and to be exact; Second Life: ( Second Life (SL) is popular for branding research, simulation, social networking, learning, streaming media, sex stuff and academic work (the last two are not related as far as I can see).
Here are is a list of 35+ virtual social worlds:

Some people say that virtual worlds have peaked as far as media penetration, marketing and education are concerned but I do not think this is right. The problem is that a lot of companies and institutions jumped on the bandwagon two or three years ago. They tried to run traditional programs (billboards, streaming radio into the world, building a building that looks like the MTV studio in Times Square etc etc) without thinking specifically about the media for what it can and can’t do and how people are using it. I think over the next two years there will be a rise in companies and projects that specialize in working in 3D virtual environments. As technologies improve they will spread to broader applications including traditional news broadcasting and journalism.

More on virtual worlds today in this article (which I agree with):

Perhaps one of the best use of Second Life for spreading information, engaging with a public, managing a brand, promoting culture and building a user base is the Second House of Sweden.

One of the world’s first 3D online embassies – the Second House of Sweden – opened in 2007 in the virtual world of Second Life. Guests from around the world are invited to create an avatar and pay a visit.

The virtual Second House of Sweden is an almost exact replica of the embassy building, House of Sweden, located in Washington, D.C.Inside, however, there are some notable differences, namely the ability to fly between floors with your avatar. Virtual world visitors can sweep around the premises, which currently include a photography exhibit with images from Sweden; an exhibit about the life of Raoul Wallenberg, arranged in cooperation with OSA Archivum, the Open Society’s archives in Budapest; and an art exhibit curated by the National Museum. (Source)

The Second House of Sweden published some statistics of use after the first year it was online.

Overall, we get between 300 and 400 visitors per day to our two sims. Around 80 people per day register via our branded online registration page; the others teleport in. These numbers are an order of magnitude smaller than the visitor numbers of the websites that the Swedish Institute manages, but such a comparison would be deceptive, for two reasons:

1. The pool of potential visitors for the Second House of Sweden is limited to Second Life users, and conservative numbers put that figure at around 1 million regular users, vs the 1.25 billion that use the internet.
2. The experiences of visiting the Second House of Sweden is best compared to visiting a real space, because that is what it is trying to emulate. How many visitors does a real-world cultural center get in a day? What is the cost involved in servicing these visitors? What would the cost be to bring visitors from far-flung places, where there are no such cultural centers, to a real-world cultural center? When these kinds of questions are asked, building a virtual embassy makes eminent sense.

Several metrics support our conclusion that the embassy makes for a good proxy for a real-world Swedish cultural experience (See them here).

As well as the embassy of Sweden in Second Life more traditional sources of news media are establishing a presence in world. The news bureau Reuters kept a reporter and an office in Second Life for a year and a half, following stories as they developed in the virtual world. The office was closed recently, but the choice to use the Second Life platform as a source of news shows inovation and a development within journalism.

Welcome to the Reuters Atrium!

Here you can pick up a copy of the Reuters News HUD and two home versions, the Wall Display and Floor Display. They will give you access to exchange rate information for the Linden dollar, Second Life news written by bureau chief Adam Reuters and a range of Reuters real-world news.

Inside the Atrium, you will find a video screen carrying Reuters news as well as discussion areas for various news categories. The discussion areas may be used as general-interest areas for these news topics, or in conjunction with the HUD and home display, which allow you to indicate interest in a specific story, and dispense landmarks to teleport to a chat area to discuss that story.

Reuters' goal is to provide fast, accurate and unbiased news to benefit the community and the fast-growing Second Life financial sector. Adam Reuters will hold regular office hours within the Atrium; his calendar is available here:
Throughout the island there are bits of video - top Reuters news in the main atrium and some interesting clips in other areas. Be sure to push 'play' on your movie control to view these.

Please contact Adam Reuters with questions about Reuters in Second Life.

Enjoy your stay!

Other established media sources such as CNN and Skynews are also in Second Life.

One of the other areas I have been studying is Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG). Not sure if you know about it but it has proved very successful in both promotion and spreading ideas. The most famous ARG so far has been I Love Bees

More on ARGs here:

The woman who designed I Love Bees came to HUMlab a couple of years ago and gave a presentation, its streamed (English) here:

Jane is currently involved with the ARG Superstruct:

Superstruct is the world's first massively multiplayer forecasting game. By playing the game, you'll help us chronicle the world of 2019--and imagine how we might solve the problems we'll face. Because this is about more than just envisioning the future. It's about making the future, inventing new ways to organize the human race and augment our collective human potential.

The thing with so much networked, viral, and so on digital media is that the public have to feel like they are involved in a creative sense. If they are making something happen or making things or getting something then it is more likely to happen. Digital artifacts cost very little to produce and they can be copied endlessly, as the record industry is still finding it hard to deal with. Participation is the key and handing power over to the audience by giving them the tools. It a new form of authorship in a sense. There are similarities to performance and drama but it is centered on the materials of the media. That’s the script the public gets. There is a great book called The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, which is online for download:
It can be academic in places but it provides a good base for ideas.

As well I recommend the work of Howard Rheingold:

Here is Howard speaking about the media literacy (mp3). Howard teaches digital journalism and here is the wiki he uses in his classes.

To get a good and up to date introduction to the intense world of social media and online applications check out Mashable:
Another great blog for coming to an understanding of social media, online media, networked media and virtual world media is Techcrunch:

As well RSS is important:
I use RSS in my teaching. As well as wikis:

Web 2.0
Web 2.0 describes the changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aim to enhance creativity, secure information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies. The term became notable after the first O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but rather to changes in the ways software developers and end-users utilize the Web.
For many examples and essays on Web 2.0 see:

Cultural and Business Examples of Web 2.0 in Action:
“Persistent dissatisfaction with “business as usual” in the music industry ultimately led them to abandon the conventional music industry altogether, in favor of something new: a subscription service run from their website,, offering fans the chance to become—in essence—the group’s patrons, contributing fees in exchange for webcam performances, access to rehearsals, and other benefits. Their most recent album, Alles Wieder Offen, is available through retail stores, but not through anything resembling a major label: they’ve cut their ties with longtime label Mute and gone into business for themselves. (And the fans on, as you might expect, were given a splendid exclusive edition of the album, with bonus tracks and a DVD.) By eliminating the middleman and bringing their music as directly to the customer/fan as possible—either through Internet access or their independently-distributed CD release—they’ve hit on a new way of doing business. They’re not alone: acts as diverse as Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Saul Williams are all exploring ways of eliminating as much corporate interference from their work as possible. But Neubauten, it must be noted, did it first, and they haven’t looked back yet.”

“In media cultures of late, the synergy between two global dominant industries – mobile communication and gaming – has attracted much attention and stargazing. As part of burgeoning global media cultures, gaming and mobile media are divergent in their adaptation at the level of the local. In some locations where broadband infrastructure is strong and collectivity is emphasized (such as South Korea), online multiplayer games prevail. In locations where convergent mobile technologies govern such as Japan, mobile gaming platforms dominate.”
Larissa is Australian and based in Melbourne: (very cool person)

Mobile video needs to be thought about here:
Mobile technologies are developing at a very fast pace at the moment. GIS (Global Information System) GPS (Global Positioning System), Radio-frequency identification Devices (RFID), mobile phones and other hand held devices, global mapping technologies (such as Google Earth) and other geo-spatial digital technologies have created a large field of possibilities for media development in the area of the mobile.
Here’s a lot of links on mobile applications:

Have you come across Flash Mobs? Very fun:
Very good for promotions: with the group involved, then the people witnessing the flash mob and then the videos that get put online and the traditional media that cover it in stories. Pick a good place at the right time with enough people and it could be huge.

Then there is other social and networked media: I have been using Twitter mirco-blogging is catching on. It took me a while to see the beauty of it but it does really work. Twitter is mobile. One culture producer who understands this is the British comic book author and novelist Warren Ellis, he has 9000 + people following him on Twitter, plus a blog and a forum for discussion around what is on the blog. He asks his fans to send in music and he makes compilations of their music which is then streamed from the forum site and released as free downloads on the blog. Here is his blog:
More on micro-blogging:

More on networks:

The thing is with digital media the specific circumstances determine the conditions of use. How old is the audience involved, how educated, how connected with internet, how fast is the connection, how many platforms should be involved…many many questions. Of course the other thing is that with social and participatory media the people behind the publication have to be prepared to let things go a bit. It’s a bit about losing control of the image and the product you are creating and handing it over to the public. The digital tools are handed over to the audience and they follow the logical structures that are embedded in their design. For this reason design is very important


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