The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Linux Insider – Virtual Worlds: An Untapped Healthcare Marketing Resource. “Second Life is part of a new media category known as “virtual worlds,” an area that has been receiving a lot of attention recently. The channel’s ascension begs the question: What possibilities exist for SL’s use in pharma healthcare marketing and sales? To better answer this, I recently went on an expedition to see what SL applications presently exist and which are being talked about, both in-world and out.”

2. Kotaku – From the Margins to the Mainland: the Future of Virtual Worlds? “Those concerned with ‘virtual worlds’ — as opposed to ‘games’ — spend a lot of time contemplating the role of virtual worlds in a wider market; over at Terra Nova, Bruce Damer looks at the potential future of virtual worlds, which could be a lot bigger than most people imagine. Some potential answers to keep the industry growing?”

3. Los Angeles Times – In virtual worlds, child avatars need protecting — from each other. “On the playground, kids pilfer lunch money and push each other around. But in the cyber clubhouses they’re filling by the millions, kids rig elections, sell fake products and scam each other out of every virtual-worldly possession. Sophia Stebbins recently joined one such online community, Webkinz, which lets its young members create avatars, play games and hang out. The 9-year-old from Irvine worked in a virtual hamburger shop, earned virtual cash and bought a virtual bed, couch and TV for her virtual house.”

4. The Boston Globe – New breed of armchair tourists explore fantastic virtual worlds. “I finally visited Stormwind Keep. I strolled the streets of Darnassus, another place I had wanted to see, and gazed from The Warrior’s Terrace. After a time, I found my way to the rolling prairies and floating islands of Nagrand, which soothed me after my long flight.
Hours or weeks later, I left footprints in the Abyssal Sands as I walked across Tanaris. I entered the vast Caverns of Time. The tunnel spiraled down to a network of caves, some filled with sand, some lush with vegetation. Huge statues loomed, meteors streamed by, and purplish cosmic mist shrouded the scene.”

5. Arizona Daily Star – Autism and virtual reality. “It used to be if you wanted to be someone else for a while, you’d wear a mask and go to a costume party. If no one knew who you were, there was no need to be self conscious. Now there’s a costume party 24 hours a day on Second Life,
a virtual-reality world where users create avatars, or character representations for themselves, with clever names that tell a little more about how they want to be perceived than the names their parents gave them at birth.”

6. GovernmentExecutive.com – Virtual Connections. “After a long search and quite a bit of wandering around, you finally find yourself at your destination:the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After checking out the building’s modern glass exterior, you are greeted by a friendly red-haired woman at the entrance. Then you walk inside, and an interactive billboard offers you information on smallpox. You climb the stairs to the second floor, where you can find the address of the closest lab that offers HIV tests or flu vaccinations. You turn right and come upon a desk where you pick up a dark-blue CDC rubber bracelet similar to the yellow Live Strong band that Lance Armstrong made popular years ago while promoting cancer research.”

7. Christian Science Monitor – Study abroad through Second Life. “When a group at Ohio University in Athens created a video tour of the school’s virtual Second Life campus, Christopher Keesey expected that it would be, by and large, for the OU community. Yet while browsing YouTube, he found a copy of that same video tour translated into what he thinks was a Nordic language, possibly Danish. “We didn’t know the person. The person, as far as we know, wasn’t even here, they were in Europe,” recounts Mr. Keesey, project manager of Ohio University Without Boundaries. Now the OU virtual campus receives visitors from around the world who regularly interact with student avatars on the virtual campus commons.”

8. The Industry Standard – Second Life users spending more time in world, but are they paying? “Wagner James Au found some interesting Second Life data points buried in Linden Lab’s economic statistics for the virtual world, where users find information from the financial state of the company to exchange rates for in-world currency. In the numbers, the average price for land shares in Second Life dropped from 3.23 Linden dollars (L$) to 2.86 L$ per acre. But an even greater concern for Linden Lab is the ratio of user hours to premium subscribers. Paid subscribers (those who pay a monthly fee for the privilege of spending more money on land rights) have been on a steady decline since December 2007, while the total number of hours users spend in-world has been on a steady upswing over the same period.”

9. Spiegel Online (Germany) – How Shelly in ‘Second Life’ Resists Vodka. “In her first life, Shelly (not her real name) was often drunk. On the day of her niece’s wedding, she downed half a bottle of vodka and took a strong painkiller. Just before the ceremony, while sitting in a white pavillion with a baby in her lap and in a complete daze, she suddenly slipped from her chair and the baby fell to the ground. Someone grabbed her by the arm and put her in a taxi. Shelly looked up and saw her mother, who she then pushed away. She says that she would have preferred to keep on drinking herself into oblivion.”

10. news.com.au – Teen plans to marry kidnap woman. “Ray and Wanda Martini say they are devastated their eldest son, Jonathan, left in the middle of the night to be with the woman once charged with his attempted kidnapping. Tamara Broome, 32, was arrested in June of last year at a North Carolina train station, on her way to meet the boy she fell in love with through online game World of Warcraft.”

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