‘Avatars’ offer virtual alternative at climate summit
More than 10,000 people are in Bali thrashing out action on global warming, but those who couldn’t make it in person are here virtually — some in the form of dragons and action heroes.
Hoping to widen the debate and cut down on carbon emissions from air travel, Oneworld.net, a left-leaning website, has taken the UN conference here on climate change to the online virtual world Second Life.
The website has brought together everyone from a US congressman, who travelled virtually as a 3-D animation, to anonymous participants hailing from Japan to Turkmenistan and Romania.
Second Life, which has drawn millions of users since it was created in 2003 by San Francisco-based Linden Labs, is a fantasy land in which users mingle under assumed identities as “avatars.”
While most delegates in Bali opt for formal attire, users of the site, http://www.oneclimate.net/, pick the virtual likeness of their choice — ranging from purple hair to outfits befitting action heroes.
more at MSN
By Dean Takahashi Tracking criminals in virtual worlds
I’ve been wondering what would happen if there were drug dealers or terrorists lurking in virtual worlds such as Second Life. If the FBI or National Security Agency wanted to place wiretaps on conversations in those worlds, would they be able to do it? And if they did record conversations in virtual worlds, could the people spied upon escape prosecution by saying that they were only pretending to be terrorists or drug dealers?
My interest is theoretical at the moment. Interpol has said there are criminal elements operating in virtual worlds, but let’s not panic. There is enough fear-mongering out there about all the trouble we can get into online.But this topic is a persistent one at conferences such as Virtual Worlds, which drew more than a thousand people to San Jose last week.
Under current laws, the authorities can’t conduct fishing expeditions. They can’t order companies to incur huge expenses building eavesdropping systems in the virtual worlds that would make it easy to reclaim conversations from a long time ago, said Jim Dempsey, policy director of the civil liberties group Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C.
In other words, the government can’t ransack an entire virtual town just to find one possible drug dealer. The Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures hold true in cyberspace as they do in the real world.
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Second Life avatars
From time to time, I’ll give an overview of one broad MediaShift topic, annotated with online resources and plenty of tips. The idea is to help you understand the topic, learn the jargon, and take action. I’ve already covered blogs, social networking, widgets and various other topics. This week I’ll look at the growing phenomenon of virtual worlds.
Background and History
Virtual worlds are online three-dimensional spaces where you can interact with other people, collect items and build structures, and communicate via a virtual representative of yourself called an avatar. These worlds have been influenced by various science fiction writers such as William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, along with the movie, “The Matrix.”
Virtual worlds differ from massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) because they don’t offer battles against monsters or have an overriding mission for players. For example, a resident of the virtual world Second Life might spend time in that space accumulating virtual land, rather than striving to complete quests or conquer levels as one would in many popular MMOGs such as World of Warcraft.
The origin of virtual worlds goes back to early games such as Maze War, which was developed in the early ’70s at NASA. The game included eyeballs as avatars, there were maps showing the levels, and it was one of the first games played on networked computers, and eventually over a precursor to the Internet.
In 1986, LucasFilm Games developed Habitat, a more two-dimensional environment that included humanoid avatars, and people could access the game through online service Quantum Link on their Commodore 64 computers. Developers Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer, who maintain a blog about their experience with Habitat, say they let Habitat residents generally set their own rules governing the world — as long as they couldn’t hack into the system. In a research paper about their lessons from Habitat, the developers wrote:
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Companies such as HP that venture deeper into the world of Web 2.0 technologies to find new hires may find themselves disappointed, at least initially. Despite the low turnout the company’s Second Life recruitment trial balloon yielded, however, HP’s Betty Smith is not deterred. She says she sees a lot of potential for using Second Life for recruiting.
In mid-May, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) participated in a virtual job fair using Second Life tools from Linden Lab in San Francisco. HP had been invited by one of its external recruiters, TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications in New York. During the virtual event, recruiters and job applicants alike created avatars, or personas to represent themselves in the virtual world.
HP’s willingness to step into the Web 2.0 world for recruiting differentiates the company. In Computerworld‘s latest Vital Signs survey, none of the 233 IT professionals responding reported using Second Life for recruiting.
A scant 4 percent said they used blogs or social networking sites like Facebook to engage potential IT job candidates. Only 15 percent reported using professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Moreover, 52 percent of the respondents said they don’t use any Web 2.0 tools for recruiting.
It seems that most IT organizations are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect — particularly with the talented twentysomethings who inhabit the virtual world. These Gen Yers are “tribal” and accustomed to the “very collaborative relationships” that Web 2.0 tools enable, says Tom Casey, senior vice president and workforce transformation leader at Kingwood, Texas-based consultancy BSG Concours.
By Thomas Hoffman
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