The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Washington Post (USA) – O Brave New World That Has Such Avatars in It! “The virtual world Second Life, a landscape of primping avatars, ballroom dancing bears, space stations and vampire castles, has a new — and maybe even more surreal — inhabitant: the Arlington County government. The county’s cyber-office, on the first floor of a virtual glass-and-steel tower, sits behind tinted sliding doors, across from a vending machine that sells digital Cheez-Its and Pop-Tarts.”

2. GAAPweb (UK) – Ernst & Young to use PS3 for virtual meetings. “In an effort to cut costs and reduce carbon emissions, UK financial services businesses, including Ernst & Young, are to trial holding management conferences through Playstation 3’s new virtual world Home. The move is part of a project led by Dr Nipan Maniar and Manish Malik from Portsmouth University, which was commissioned by Advanced Workplace Associates and aims to explore how large companies can use virtual worlds to reduce costs on office space and travel, as well as their carbon footprints.”

3. Kotaku (USA) – A Field Guide To Second Life Animal Hybrids. “As some of you were confused about the difference between what Second Life denizens call furries and what they call nekos, or hybrids, I thought I would take a moment to clear things up. Since the dawn of time, man has had close bonds with the animal kingdom. Many Native American tribes revered animal spirits as part of their rituals and celebrations. The ancient Egyptians worshiped gods depicted as humanoids with animal heads. Zeus, king of the Greek gods, liked to turn into a bull and mate with human women. Perhaps that’s a bad example. ”

4. Globe and Mail (Canada) – The age of avatars. “Who do you want to be, digitally speaking? Over the past year, avatars – online characters or personas standing in for real people – entered the public consciousness and grabbed real-world headlines all around the globe. Avatars will enjoy greater mainstream acceptance in 2009, and although convergence is not likely to happen overnight, expect certain sites to begin thinking about partnering up to allow character crossovers the way social networks are trying to make profiles more portable.”

5. Indopia (India) – Video games ‘could be used for education’. “In the midst of a debate over whether they are good for kids, a new study has suggested that video games could be used for education. An international team has carried out the study and found that online computer games could be used as a powerful teaching tool for children because they are not only popular but engaging as well. According to researchers, interactive games could be adapted so that children learn skills from them that could be transferred to real life -in fact, the”immersive” aspect in which the player suspends his belief means that the brain is particularly engaged and can absorb complex issues.”

6. Kotaku (USA) – Second Life Cheating Husband Surprised by Movie Deal. “The man at the heart of the Second Life story, which Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski seeks to turn into a movie, was caught off guard by news of the film adaptation. After Crecente posted the news of Verbinski’s purchase of the rights to the 2007 Wall Street Journal article about a man cheating on his wife in Second Life, I hopped onto the virtual world in order to ask Ric Hoogestraat’s avatar Dutch what he thought about his situation possibly turning into a film. Not surprisingly, he hadn’t heard anything about it.”

7. The Mormon Times (USA) – Reflections: Can avatars be Mormon? “Can avatars be Mormon? It’s an interesting and valid question, and one I had never thought to ask until Mormon Times staff writer Michael De Groote decided to explore the virtual, role-playing world of Second Life in a two-part series in July.
While most people think of the LDS Church as worldwide, I doubt many, like myself, had ever given much thought to its presence in online communities on the Web such as Second Life until De Groote went traipsing around the Internet in search of religious people.”

8. Scientific American (USA) – Using virtual worlds and video games to teach the lessons of reality. “Researchers are beginning to wonder whether video games, long seen as a top time waster for kids and a roadblock to their educational development, might actually be a solution to what ails today’s schools rather than a problem. Several educators suggest in the newest issue of Science that schools use video games to simulate the real-world situations in the classroom to help students develop critical-thinking skills and enhance their understanding of science and math and, perhaps, even encourage them to pursue careers in those and related fields such as technology and engineering.”

9. Computerworld (USA) – Gaza: “Though torn in two, we can be one”. “The conflict raging in Gaza between Israel and Palestine has spilled over to the Internet. Since Saturday, thousands of Web pages have been defaced by hacking groups. The defacements have primarily affected small businesses and vanity Web pages hosted on Israel’s .il Internet domain space. One such site, Rosh Ha’ayin, Israel’s Galoz Electronics Ltd, whose hacked Web site read “RitualistaS GrouP Hacked your System!!! The world isn’t insurance!!! For a better world,” on Wednesday. Other attackers have placed more incendiary messages condemning the U.S. and Israel and adding graphic photographs of the violence.”

10. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – Online galleries are go. “AUSTRALIAN artists are using the virtual world to show their artworks, hanging digital replicas of paintings and drawings in online galleries. “I expect we’re on the cusp of seeing an increased engagement with [Second Life] and new digital mediums for art sales over the next few years,” Australia Council for the Arts Inter-Arts program director Andrew Donovan said.”

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