Why we should care

The online world, while it may be relatively new within the past 10 years, is a growing force in society. We should all embrace it, or the very the least learn to live with it. I think the key to why it’s been so successful and popular in society because of its potential of collaboration and community. As we learned throughout the semester, the internet is one big tree full of many different branches or communities that you can be a part of. You can be a part of so many communities such as the gaming community or the cancer support group community. I never really took the time to realize how big or even how much I take for granted the collaboration being online brings. 

Are people hooked on being online? Of course, we learned about how people in China have to play WoW to even make a living. We learned about how people spend more time online on Second Life than in actual reality. We have to realize however that online isn’t an addiction, it has simply become a lifestyle, a culture. We do the things we enjoy the most. As said before, being online is still relatively new, it’s not supposed to be perfect. 

“This technology can be deployed for all kinds of purposes, some of them wonderful, others pointless but innocent, other frightening…Now that we have this technology, we have the ability to build societies under any physical conditions we wish.” I believe Castronova hit the nail on the head in terms of being online. Many people go online for frivolous activities, but others go on to live how they want to live. That is reflected by the huge popularity of Second Life. People go one because it’s something they can control.

You can do so many things online. Whether it be to learn, make money, or just make friends, it gives you the opportunity you may not have in reality.

Living with Virtual Worlds

The online world has evolved greatly with much freedom for users to express themselves in however way they would like. My Capstone project is about SoundCloud, which is a social network devoted to allow artists and DJs to share their sounds with their fans. This then allows for a shared experience amongst the online community. The Internet is very collaborative and online communities are started from the bottom up, which is something very important and unique as well. Before enrolling in this class I was very naïve when it came to online gaming because growing up I was not exposed to such games. After reading the Casanova article. Synthetic Worlds, I finally understood why we should care. Casanova discusses, “Thus my argument is not that you should care about the fact that there are ogres and elves running around in cyberspace, but that you should care about the fact that there are ogres and elves, millions of them, running around in cyberspace” (p. 251). Castranova goes into depth about an alternate society and how people would then be able to ‘test’ things out such as different policies, relationships, and other technologies in this alternate world. In virtual worlds, users are able to design what their appearance is and act in different ways than they would in real life. Many users are very devoted to cyberspace that they have created their own society and culture different from the one we are used to. I believe there needs to be a balance between the virtual world and the physical world, or else it is possible our society can break.

Virtual life VS Reality

As we move towards the last few weeks of class I have learned so many new things about the virtual world. I’m shocked at how vast virtual life is and how much impact it gives to people. We review the good and bad things that virtual world offer us. I am at par with this issue. I guess there must be a little bit of both for both. There are a lot of good things that the virtual world can give us like networking, instant money, convenience and many more. However, being too absorbed with virtual world can make you less sociable, you tend to neglect your real life responsibilities and consume all your energy and time in the virtual world.

When I was a teenager I spend most of my free time on the internet playing online games. I remember the first thing I’d do after coming back from school was to on my laptop or desktop and play MMORPG games. I was obsessed with it and I’d even skip meals just because I didn’t want to leave the game. I’d spend hours and hours locked in my room to play games. It was ridiculous, but at least my case wasn’t as bad as most of the people I read in the articles provided through out this course. Gradually the obsession wore out, but that only happened when I don’t get access to the internet anymore, or I couldn’t get high speed internet access at home. I still go to Cyber Cafes every now and then but I stopped because I couldn’t afford to spend all my allowance just to play games.

As I grow older I realize how dangerous the virtual world is. It takes hold of your attention to the point that you won’t even care about other things. You would neglect a lot of responsibilities as a human. You would much rather have a relationship with your computer screen and your online friends over your family and friends. You would much rather devote your time online than n reality. That’s pretty screwed up. I guess if you’re capable of dividing your time wisely, it would not be a problem. But certain people fail to do so, and it gives an impact to their life. Especially children. They will lack verbal and communication skills and this will affect their performance in class or at workplace in the future. They will not know the proper way to write because they are so used to the terms and spelling used online. 

Of course, there are also benefits from spending time in virtual world. It can act as an escape from your hectic life or if you want to just create another persona as your alter ego. You can make money from home, just by doing things you love such as making tutorial videos or becoming gold farmers in WoW. You get to expand your network and know other people from all over the world. Everything is easier online now. But it is also easier to destroy your lifestyle if too much time is spent online. 

Why Should We Care?

 

     Since I am relatively new to the virtual world, there is so much to it that I have yet to consider. For instance, I took for granted the fact that in second life millions of players can log in and play the game at once, never considering that there was a time when online gaming was limited to bringing only small amounts of people together. Technology has come a long, long way and Castronova discusses this in his article. He also poses the question, with the expansion of online gaming and virtual worlds, are we harming or helping ourselves? Aside from Castronova’s predications of an erosion of ethics and abandonment of societal constructs, I believe we are already treading in muddy waters. 

     From spending time in Second Life, I witnessed first hand how much time people can spend in these virtual worlds along with the way in which they interact with one another. Everything one does online is at will, there are no consequences in virtual worlds but the consequences in real life are hefty. I completely agree with Castronova that whats important right now is that we all pay attention and are aware of the changes that are occurring due to this obsession with online gaming. He explains why we should care and quite honestly, I never thought of it in that context. “This technology can be deployed for all kinds of purposes, some of them wonderful, others pointless but innocent, others frightening. We absolutely have to take stock of whatever implications we can see and then consider what to do” (Castronova, 251). This is an excellent approach that should be embraced worldwide.We must fist understand what is happening and then apply in in real time.

     I have yet to have my life personally affected by online gaming however I have heard stories as well as witnessed a few relationships dissolve. It is a matter of becoming active and informed. The predictions made in this article are not ones of the distant future but ones that will occur within our lifetime. Now is the time to put the pieces of the puzzle together and make some necessary changes in the way we act online and off. 

 

Why should we care?

“Synthetic Worlds,” by Edward Castranova is a perfect article for me to read in particular, because it helps me answer a question for my capstone research. I am studying virtual games, and why they blow up. What makes these games out there, so popular, and so profitable? Why are people caring so much to spend their time and money? And how can I take these theories and implement them in a game I want to create for a greater cause than just entertainment. Castranova stresses the amount of money some of these virtual games are making due to the idea of RMT. People pay actual dollars for extra bonuses in the game they are playing. For example, my boyfriend is extremely obsessed with this game on his phone called “Simpsons, Tapped Out” the objective of this game is to build a community that was once destroyed. In order to make your community fully built you need to  keep earning points, and of course a quicker option is to just purchase points to keep building. Now, the question is, why does my boyfriend care so much to keep building this community? What makes it so fun? Why does he wake up at 6 a.m just play it? Drives me nuts! Like Castranova stated in his article, players like interacting with one another, and also virtual games give an opportunity for people to teach and train others. For example, in Second Life, people were using this application to have professional meetings, and also for creating new communities with another vision of society.  There are more options for being creative, and being able to express your imaginative fantasy world in a virtual world. Back to the simpsons game example, what sparks his interest in picking the game up is that it gives him the freedom to build his community, but what keeps him playing and keeps his interest is the game is based on time. If you collect points in a certain time period then that helps the player get more buildings, and accessories for his community. Another example that I found relatable to the addictive gamer, is my Doctor that I work for started obsessing over Candy Crush, and I told her “let me know when you start paying for extras?” Her response was “I will never spend money on a phone game!” Im sure you all know where I am going with this. Next time I walked into work she had paid for extras. The reason for this is because people love to solve puzzles and get to the next level. The incentive to keep caring to play is because one already spends so much time getting to where they are, they almost have to spend the dollar to continue. The amount of real money trade a game gets is where one can rate the success of the game. 

The Online World: A Collaborative Project

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One of the coolest characteristics about the online world is the wide door it leaves open for interactivity and the resulting collaboration that make something unique and wonderful. The collaboration can take in countless forms, from multiple Twitter accounts contributing to a hashtag to a production company called hitReCORD started by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The above link takes you to a post from 2010 in which JGL explains exactly what hitRECORD is and why he started it. It’s an entire community only made possible by the online world, which is pretty amazing.

Look at YouTube, or any social media site really. What makes each site what it is? The users, and the culture they create via their posts, pictures, and interactions they engage in on any given platform. Blogs with multiple contributing bloggers, online magazine or newspapers—it’s all collaborative.

The Internet as a whole is collaborative. No one person runs it, but what makes it so great is the space it provides for everyone and anyone. Whatever your interest, Facebook and YouTube most likely have a place for it, but the grander Internet has a space for it, without a doubt.

This is no throwaway fact—this is real. And it contributes to our current human experience. We live in an age where revolutions start on Twitter, where people can become YouTube famous and news is updated online 24/7. It’s an age that allows and encourages interactivity in a way that’s as convenient as ever. An age that’s building communities online that people would have never imagined.

So, yes, we best believe online worlds contribute to our society. My society, yours, his, hers, and theirs. All across the globe, for all age groups. The virtual world connects humankind’s societies in a spectacular way, and I for one, am really glad to be living with it.

Vw’s, Reality, Toxic Immersion, and Privacy?

The line of privacy is one that comes up over and over thought the readings. “We many not know exactly who is watching, but we have no expectation of privacy” (Andrejevic 40). This is especially true in virtual worlds. In real life, people can work under the table and pay things in cash, but in Second Life, every bit of action is recorded and this cannot be avoided.

“In synthetic worlds, we do not get a body, we choose one” (Castronova 253). This is an important point about virtual worlds. People can really go there and escape their reality, or just have fun creating and being what they want and doing what they wanted with “no limits.” Really, the only limit on people is the scope of the technology. In virtual worlds, every single thing that is done can be recorded and stored as user data. In real life, the lines of privacy are far more blurred. Though for some, such as the Attorney General in Mexico, who has a tracker in his body in case he is kidnapped, doesn’t get the same level of freedom most enjoy.

            People do have a choice in real life though, they can exercise and not eat McDonalds constantly and with hard work, they can have the body they want. Too bad people are too lazy to commit to that and would much rather click an arrow key that makes the avatar that represents them thinner or thicker.

            Seems that this next quote speaks to much more than meets the eye. “The fact that citizens can inform or express themselves doesn’t mean that they will” (Andrejevec 40). People can use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get their word out, whether its politics, an initiative, or an announcement. Though it is as easy as changing your body in a synthetic world to do this, the context must be right for it to work.

            People go posting political campaigns and different self-promoting things and sometimes it doesn’t work out. This could be a result of poor marketing or poor placement. Mostly, people are going to respond to what they care about. For example, politicians should hold polls and promotions for public needs to get the publics attention.

            One last thing I can’t leave out of my last post is toxic immersion. People notoriously fall into its trap. It is easy to, people sign up for some synthetic world, and as the newbie, and you are vulnerable to whatever you are exposed to. In the beginning you are most at risk to falling into bad habits and poor ways of thinking due to what others around you are saying and doing. The creator of the game or VW could have designed it to be addicting and get people to start playing it different ways just to, in a sociopathic way, manipulate their gameplay. We cannot forget the golden rule, “it’s a game, get over it” (Catronova 250).

Is Second Life Attainable?

Both articles from this week seem to be very vague yet significant assumptions that challenge our stability in the future. Virtual worlds can be bad or they can be good – I mean hey, who will actually ever know until it happens though, right?

As a DCIM minor, we should all know how vital virtual presence has become to businesses for marketing, funding and budgeting purposes, convenience, immediacy and accessibility purposes, and for several other professional areas. It is already a reality how virtual tools and virtual worlds positively and exponentially affect the economy. Synthetic Worlds highlights these capital investments that are made possible from online existence. It is in this class, Self and Society, that we discuss the more intimate relations through the ‘play’ factor. Throughout the semester we have studied the social and entertainment aspects of virtual worlds. We have discussed the significance of acceptance on virtual worlds because its users create all of its content, so anything is welcome, supported and promoted. In refreshing this concept, it is important to point out that there are few laws online (I cant name any besides copyright and plagiarism) and hardly any regulations online (regulations that are abided by at least). “A fully legitimate government requires that the governed have quite a bit of input onto what happens. That input is provided only weakly by systems of informed consent, such as one-click Terms of Service Agreements.” (Castronova, 261) There are situations and regulations/rights that govern situations in real life that should be implied into second life scenarios such as property rights/laws but what ‘ruler of all the virtual land’ can come up with a constitution. Will there be wars that have to be fought to enact this constitution? It is something to think about. In addition, we have not yet established distinguished clear separations between professional and personal has led to a clash of interests and the question of privacy. Rather, we have certainly increased its ambiguity through convergence. Creating policies that will separate the two will go against everything that we have already become accustom to thus far. It would be uncomfortable and would take years of retraining and reeducating.

After finishing the readings, it seemed that the worst thing that could go wrong in terms of social aspects would be the complete dependency on virtual worlds and the loss of physical ability. It strikes me as completely terrifying that people have such a huge focus and dependency on these worlds. We have yet to figure out efficient or successful policies to instill and are far from reaching a compromise amongst all publishers and users online. There so many beneficial terms – those we have been taught throughout these DCIM courses as mentioned before, in addition to the economical and social assets we are learning in this course but no way to ensure its safety from dangers. For instance, Second Life seemed to have been a prelude to the Meemaw theory that Synthetic Worlds mentioned. Relations would be much more attainable and the world would run at an instantaneous pace. It is an idealistic world that one has happy dream about. This world is great because it is a fantasy world – it makes it appealing to the general public. What we don’t see or take into consideration is hackers and online take-overs. It can be quite misleading.

Living With Virtual Worlds

I am of the belief that online virtual worlds and video games will continue to expand and gain popularity into the not so distant future.  There really is just no way around it.  These online worlds offer individuals so much now that they almost rely on them to live their daily lives.  They use these online worlds to accomplish and achieve things that they may never have the chance to do in the real world.  “Using synthetic bodies, they can learn to do many things that are ordinarily difficult to learn to do using Earth body” (Castranova, p.253)  For people who may not be involved in these different online worlds, it is difficult to see why they are so important to most people.

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I have never been a fan of online games or worlds.  I personally believe that they distill people’s views of reality and make it seem like real life is never good enough.  I think it is important for people to have a hobby or passion, whatever it might be.  However, I believe that programs like Second Life hurt people more than it helps them.  These programs promote communication over a keyboard and into a computer screen.  It is almost impossible for individuals who use these online worlds to communicate with people face to face, simply because they do not know how to.  I believe that as these programs become even bigger, the ability for people to communicate with one another will decrease significantly.  

My favorite example of this occurred when I interviewed for an internship I eventually received.  The woman I was interviewing with commented on how she thought I was a very good communicator, even in person.  She then told me about another individual who she interviewed, who sounded both kind and personable through email.  However in the face to face interview, the person turned out to be somewhat of a recluse, not knowing how to speak professionally in an interview type setting.  I believe that this is a common occurrence now, simply because people rely on these online worlds and programs to communicate with others.

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I can see however, how programs like Second Life are good for some individuals.  These programs give people an outlet to explore worlds that they may never see in the real world.  I know that when I was doing my field trips, I wanted to visit places that I knew I would rarely see in the real world.  I understand that these programs give people another way in which they can communicate with others, however I just don’t believe that people should rely on these online programs, and that is where I feel our society is heading.  

 

Week 13: Pyramid of Echoes

There were a lot of things in these readings that both made me fear for the future and also become excited for what is to come. Synthetic reality seems great at first and seems to be the answer to a lot of humanity’s deepest problems. It can bring people across the world together and make the world seem a lot smaller than it really is. It can break down boundaries, reduce racism and discrimination, and also spark creativity and change the media landscape as we know it. In my opinion, though, synthetic reality will create more problems than it solves.

Pendragon: The Reality Bug(image from http://www.ebookee.org/)

One great example of this is one of the books in the Pendragon series titled “The Reality Bug.” In this book all of the members of the society are living in virtual reality for their entire lives. Everyone is stored in a giant pyramid building where there are workers who help make sure that those living virtually are well-nourished and will survive. After a while even the workers begin to become addicted to being in virtual reality and the entire building is left with no one taking care of it. The story really begins when the main character discovers the building and start communicating with one of the few workers left. He has to stop a virus from taking over the system and killing everybody inside the virtual-reality environment. This book showed me that virtual and synthetic reality can have some very dire consequences if left unchecked. People are addicted to Facebook right now, so does that mean that they will not be addicted to the technologies that are released in the years to come?

MatrixNet(image from http://www.tony5m17h.net/)

Synthetic reality brings up a lot of ethical and moral questions that we as a species must learn to discuss and figure out the correct answers to. We cannot just jump right into the virtual world and not think about its consequences and how it really affects us. We have to think about how it affects our physical bodies, if it has any potential side effects in the present time or in the future. I have seen too many science fiction shows and movies to be content with letting things continue as they are. The second article that we read seems to have a very optimistic view of synthetic reality and all the good things that it will provide for the human race. I would love to have an optimistic view of what these technologies can do, but I am unable to at this time. The last thing that I want is for humanity to become merely an echo of what it used to be. If we take things slowly and think over things before we rush right into them, we could easily avoid being trapped inside a metaphorical pyramid of our own desires as we slowly wither and die away.