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Revisiting the Virtual

Today I spent a few hours playing in a virtual world. Actually, I was building 3 dimensional graphic representations of an open air meeting space in my virtual world, Virtuality, on the Kitely Grid.

Why do I do this?

Practicing Positive Behaviors

I spent lots of time in and on virtual worlds between 2006 and 2011. The featured image for today’s post is from a blog post from early 2007, and it is a captured image from the gathering space I built in a virtual world. For five years I had a very active presence in Second Life® where due to account and “naming” constraints I “became” Ana Herzog, my avatar’s name. I learned a huge amount about computer graphics while I practiced being who I wanted to be. I actually talk about partially reinventing myself through the use of practicing positive attitudes and behaviors through the use of virtual worlds in the book I’m putting together on surviving being the proxy to my mother’s Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Women’s Community

I also loved the community of intelligent, savvy, women who were peace activists, professors, artists, stay at home moms, authors, and business women I met in my feminist and social activist circles. I ran an “island” called The Women’s Center and leaving it behind was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. It was “real” in that I used it as an information hub and a social media portal as did many other people. But the prices I had to pay to keep it functioning were just too high. Way too high.

Options and Change

So I spent over a year trying out different Open Sim worlds hosted by different vendors, but the prices were still just a bit too high or a little bit of wonkiness in the stability of the platform. But thanks to Maria Korolov over at HyperGrid Business I found out about Kitely, which is an only pay for the computing resources you actually use model being developed and implemented over on an Open Simulator based grid, i.e. group of worlds, or environments, is very reasonably priced.

Avocation and Skills

I love creating graphics and designing buildings and other material world replica items. I didn’t know this until I began using Second Life in the summer of 2006. I hadn’t done anything like it since I used to build space ports for my Barbies using aluminum foil and corrugated cardboard along with my vivid imagination. Then it came together for me as to why I would like these activities when I remembered that the vocational testing in High School results said I one of the career paths I should consider would be related to architecture and design.

Virtual Worlds Change

While the technology of virtual worlds and artificial realities, or as I prefer to call them, virtualities, evolve at breakneck speeds with the prediction that depictions of virtualities will be indistinguishable from reality in under 10 years. While the most successful virtual world to date, Second Life, is losing ground from the massive popularity it saw around 2007 and 2008 height of media coverage of virtual world sex animation tycoons, millionaire virtual land barons, and the threat to real marriage and lives that virtual world relationships can have.

Virtual Worlds are Here to Stay

The linked header of this section takes you to a fairly current assessment of the state of virtual worlds that is worth reading. For me there are several reasons I am keeping a toe in the virtual pond.

  • Meetings: there is increased value for extended meetings or conferences that take place in virtual worlds where attendees or participants can change sessions, come and go between tracks, go to a breakout session, or go have a coffee or cocktail (virtual) with other real attendees.
  • Team Building: for people who can achieve some suspension of disbelief when navigating created landscapes, and that is everyone who can get “lost” in novels, games, and other situations where real, physical world goings on are tempered, distanced, or ignored, the virtual world seems real and interactions that take place in them are processed the same way in the brain as interactions that have taken place in a physical space. Relationships built in virtuality, especially a virtuality that is visited again and again, are more nuanced than any relationship forged in a confined, real world meeting room, or “watched” as a non-interactive streamed meeting.
  • Cafes and Klatches: virtual spaces where like minds can drop in and chat with other like minds at or catch up with the recent achievements, feeds, streams and blogs of other members or participants can function like any other gathering space, except that they potentially can serve global clients, groups, or organizations.

Being a bit of a nerdy girl I had waited for virtual worlds to come into being without the layer of a game over the environment ever since the first days when cyber punk was in the air. I’m glad that open source worlds are multiplying and becoming priced to where individuals can create small environments to serve group needs. The ability to “teleport” or navigate directly from one world to another on different grids is in the works and should be available by the time I have Reason Creek flowing by The Nest and the Women in Virtual Worlds Conference and Training Center, and the Pink Frog Cafe (I’m still working on the name of the later.)

 

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