Feb 132008
 

…or so it seems by the constant line of broadcasters (ABC, SBS, CBC, C4 and endless news reports) who deliver so called ‘insights’ into the growing phenomenon of Social Virtual Worlds. The new BBC doco aired a couple of nights ago (YouTube segments embedded below) brought to mind reasons why traditional media companies may want to negatively ‘colour’ people’s views about the metaverse – but I see a more positive spin.

Many of the LAMP folk here are old enough to remember the sorts of programmes that appeared on TV around the dawn of the internet – “the web is about child porn, sex, deceit, corruption, unregulated, poor experience, obese people, bad dates, breeds killers, broken families” and so on. In fact one or two people quite close still have some of those views! Ten years on, the web is now the young adult on the block that has to be taken seriously and more importantly befriended by the older traditional media areas – it has become mass media and vast swathes of the audience have shifted as it gives them more control if nothing else.

So I feel (and have said in many keynotes over the past years) that 3D Social Virtual Worlds are about at the same point as the web was 10 years ago. Traditional media companies find it hard to stomach large groups of children spending 2-5 hours a day in worlds like Webkinz, Nictropolis, Neopets when they should be watching their daily dose of kids tele. Or worried that larger numbers of women (around 42% of online gamers are women average age 29) are not watching their passive magazine or cooking shows. So what should the response be. To create programmes that show the wonderful educational activity in these spaces, the amazing amount of creativity by new artists, the societies that are working out new ways of living together in simulated towns and cities, the new form of filmmaking, how people are making money from their new found talents, the new friends made etc: no…exactly like 10 years ago they send their reporters along (who generally have spent minimal time getting to know the inworld culture) and focus on how this new form is about adultery, dubious sexual relationships and how it breaks up society and is generally evil 😉 So the positive spin – traditional broadcasters are taking this movement seriously enough to feel the need to put it down. Or am I being paranoid and this is just ‘bottom of the barrel’ sensationalist journalism. Over to you!

The well made, in that it does sensitively show distressed relationships, but ultimately mis-guided programme from the BBC called “Wonderland: Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love ” below is in 4 parts on YouTube