Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Modelling RL policy in virtual worlds

Woke up to a note in my inbox this morning from LinkedIn asking for participation in a questionnaire on the use of virtual worlds for modelling real life policy and obtaining reactions to it.

The website from the consortium running the questionnaire is dense and uses a lot of meaningless words in its descriptions. I presume they wrote it by committee over a dodgy video conference link between the various participants.

I filled in the questionnaire, but found it a most unsatisfactory experience. have a good vocabulary and a high standard of written English, but I was having to read and reread the questions and explanations.

I am a passionate advocate for the uses of virtual worlds, but I am sceptical about the uses of virtual worlds for the modelling of real life policy and understanding public attitudes to it. I loathe the idea of having all my actions as an avatar logged, which is one of the suggestions.

I suppose that if I could see a positive point to the exercise I could overcome some of my objections, but frankly I do not see how you can usefully model real life in virtual worlds. Although I try to ensure my avatar has the same character, ethics and way of dealing with people as my real life personality, it is inescapable that the roles I play in real life do not apply in Second Life. I do not have to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister in Second Life.

Where, in real life, I would have to consider the impact of my actions on my children and my friends and neighbours, and thus would not walk along the street in heavy BDSM gear with a slave on a leash behind me, in Second Life I do not have to consider such things, I can behave however I choose to behave.

If I want to explore the sex exhibition currently on in Zindra, I can do that without worrying that anyone will catch me examining an attachment or piece of equipment... I am free to do as I like.

At the same time, all the concerns that I have in real life...paying the bills, deciding what to have for dinner, educating my children, looking after my elderly relatives... those things don't follow me into SL... I escape them in SL. My attitudes and my concerns when I am living my Second Life, are entirely different. I'd be surprised if other people who spend substantial time in SL didn't feel the same.

It seems to me that this is just a vehicle for soaking up a lot of EU money and achieving nothing much.

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