The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Australian (Australia) – Is putting real-life law into an avatar’s hands viable? “The difficult business of enforcing law and order in virtual worlds — and resolving the messy consequences when problems spill into real life — needs to be debated before knee-jerk political responses. Over the past fortnight Facebook memorial sites for murdered Queensland children Trinity Bates and Elliott Fletcher have been swamped by pornographic and obscene messages.”

2. CNET (USA) – Real-world woes shuttering virtual world There. “The pioneering virtual world There.com will shut down on March 9, a victim of the recession and the pinch on brand spending that had kept it going long past earlier troubles. The news was announced by CEO Mike Wilson on Tuesday.
The service, which launched in the fall of 2003, was a fully 3D social environment with a sophisticated economy, wonderful vehicles like hoverboard and hoverboats and, eventually, a wide variety of community-created content.”

3. Everything PR (Germany) – Real Baby Dies as Parents Raise Virtual Daughter. “When does virtual game play go to far? The parents of a starved baby may have found out, when their three-month old infant died of malnutrition. The South Korean couple left their baby to starve to death at home, while playing an internet game. The disturbing irony of it all? The web-based game they were playing involved the rearing of a virtual child.”

4. Radio National Future Tense (Australia) – Money – Part Two. “In part two of this series we look at the changing nature of currency. Is traditional state-issued tender now losing its monopoly? And how widespread is the use of alternative currencies – be they digital or virtual, or both?”

5. ZDNet (USA) – Earn 100 points – read: The reverse virutal reality world of the future. “Kevin Kelly, writing on his Technium blog points out a fascinating talk by Jesse Schell, a games designer. In “Design outside the box” Mr Schell starts by explaining out how much money is made by very simple games, such as Farmville and Club Penguin. But its the latter part of his talk that is even more interesting, when he predicts how games will be embedded into our reality through the use of cheap wireless sensors.”

6. Montreal Gazette (Canada) – ‘Avatars’ inspire us to be better people: study. “F ascination with the blockbuster 3-D film Avatar has fans tuning into real-world research indicating that virtual selves can inspire people to lead better lives. Since the release of the film, interest has surged in a Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab study showing that avatars, animated versions of people, act as powerful role models. “It is getting so hot right now,” study author Jesse Fox told AFP on Thursday. “James Camerons’s Avatar movie is out so our website hits have just spiked.”

7. IT PRO (UK) – The chief executive of Second Life thinks virtual worlds will be the future of work. “Second Life is often assumed to be a place to go and kill a lot of time, where your alien-looking avatar wanders the landscape looking for virtual sex. The virtual world is much, much more than that, argues chief executive Mark Kingdon, who believes that people thought the internet was “weird” when it first started, too. At the CeBIT conference in Hanover this week, Kingdon told IT PRO that more business functions would move to worlds like Second Life, for meetings, simulations and more – especially after the launch of more user-friendly systems, like the beta of its new viewer, which allows document sharing.”

8. People Management Magazine (UK) – BP executives graduate on Second Life. “Thirty BP executives are to undergo a graduation ceremony on computer game and virtual network Second Life, after completing a programme at Manchester Business School (MBS). The Managing Projects programme will culminate in the executives using avatars to receive their awards on the business school’s “island” inside the virtual world on Thursday this week. Since those who completed the course are based as far afield as Canada, Angola, Indonesia and Russia, the online event is the best way of allowing them to celebrate their achievement together.”

9. Michigan Radio (USA) – “Inch-vesting” In Detroit: A Virtual Realty. “Jerry Paffendorf is not your typical real estate developer. But then, the people lining up to buy into his project are not your typical investors. He calls them “inchvestors.” Paffendorf’s project is called Loveland. And it’s a hybrid: part virtual and part physical. “What we want to do is we want to build this wild social network of people that’s literally built out of the dirt and the ground,” Paffendorf says.”

10. mad.co.uk (UK) – Social Gaming. “Social gaming is growing fast and brands are eyeing it with increasing interest. But how can they integrate themselves into gameplaying in a way that looks natural to users? With Zynga’s FarmVille now exceeding 76m monthly active users on Facebook and Playfish’s Pet Society exceeding 1m, growth in social gaming has well and truly taken off, a boom further illustrated by gaming giant Electronic Arts’ (EA) recent acquisition of Playfish in a deal potentially worth $400m (£268m). Zynga CEO Mark Pincus predicts that by 2012 there’ll be 500m people involved in social games, which means the opportunities for brands to get involved and reach this rapidly growing audience are also increasing.”

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