Virtual RealityPosted: October 5, 2008
For me blog writing is a way to record my thoughts and to iterate. At times is might sound like ramblings, but I hope that down the road my blogs will become more clear as my thoughts will. I’ve written blogs on Second Life and social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, etc. in the past. I want to use this article to refresh my views and tie the two together.
I don’t think that Second Life has reached its full potential and I do not think that it ever will. It is more about 3D space than social interaction. The controls are too difficult for most users to take full potential off and communication is limited to the same basic functions that real life communication would… except being through Avatars. I find the multitude of SIMs games fascinating. Why Electronic Arts has not created a World of Warcraft type of environment based on the SIMs framework to compete with Second Life is beyond me.
Virtualizing emotion in a easy to use manner is the real problem. In the real world emotion is conveyed words, intonation, facial expressions, etc. Why cant we use the same in the virtual space. A web cam and basic facial character recognition software to interpret facial impressions and paste those on the avatar could be one step. Chatting is great, but it does not carry intonation. We all have microphones and basic voice alteration is not an issue. We can look and sound the way we want in a virtual world and still act out the roles that we choose in a very human way.
As with any social community to role of the platform provider is to enable and to seed interaction. Community members are expected to participate and give the community life. One of the strongest tools for fostering participation in my experience is recognizing alpha members. Alpha members form an elite with in the community that other members look up to. Alpha members take over the role of seeding and help to mold the direction that the community takes. Alpha members are not affiliated with the platform provider and are seen as independent and uncorrupted by commercial interests. Recognition must always be based on pier endorsement. The community recognizes those that enable the community to evolve in an ideal direction from a community culture perspective.
Communication is not a social goal in itself. Sharing of experiences through communication is the basic goal of any social network. It may be through images, written articles or discussion. Now through my Avatar I can communicate who I want people to see me as. I can add to that by customizing my own "home" in the virtual space. I am free to communicate with others conveying real life facial emotions and intonation without revealing my true identity freeing me to reinvent myself. Technology enables me to share images, video and thoughts in a simple way. The platform should also have situational awareness and be intelligent enough to filter the mass of experiences in the space to those that will be of interest to me. If I like snow boarding it should be a simple enough thing for me to get introduced to other avatars with similar inclinations. This in general is an issue with modern communities and the web in general. The amount of content has exploded and without "awareness" even the most modern search engines are based on key word searches.