Living in Virtual Space

People are spending more and more time in virtual worlds.

It began with the experimental Multi User Domains (MUDs) and then progressed to immersive virtual online envoronments and games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft.

We all know this. But what is the eventual effect of such a change of residence? Because when a child or an adult is spending (and I’m not pointing fingers here — I do it myself) large chunks of time interacting with objects and avatars in a computer-mediated reality, we might as well say that they live there.

So what are the effects of “actually” living in virtual space? How does this change our perceptions, our expectations, and our relationships? I’ll be exploring this and other questions here.

Let’s start with some definitions of terms, for those of you (if any!) who have not explored this new flavor of experience.

“Virtual World” — a world that exists solely as the result of computer-generated calculations and interactions, which simulates “real” world experience to some degree, including the presence and potential interactions of avatars with computer-generated objects and other avatars. I’m excluding from this definition the worlds of fiction literature, television, and films, because they are largely passive experiences.

“Avatar” — an entity in a virtual world that is the abstract representation of a user/participant. An avatar can be a simple geometric model with limited customizability, such as the characters in early online games such as Dungeon Siege, or a highly customizable entity that can be made to resemble the actual appearance of the user operating it, such as the avatars in Second Life and other realms.

Okay, enough definitions for now. Let’s talk about living in virtual space. First, some background for you. My first virtual residence as Doom. Yes, the first version; I am not young. Even with the huge pixels and jerky enemy motions, I was tranfixed by the feeling of roominess — the perception that I was “actually” moving in large spaces, due to the constantly-updated perspective rendering of my virtual surroundings. This effect persisted when I moved on to Quake and , only with better and smoother graphics.

During this early phase of my virtual residence, I was unconcerned with interactions. The only communication I had with fellow players was coordinating with fellow team members and taunting opposing team members.

As I moved on to MMORPGs such as City of Heroes and World of Warcraft, however, I realized that such worlds can be communities — online societies composed of groups of users who log in to play with (and against) each other. I began forming relationships with people I never “actually” met.

All this has made me wonder what kind of future these new realms are ushering in for humankind. I am tired of hearing that the Internet supposedly isolates people…because we don’t go out and play catch with our neighbor Sparky in the back yard or the local park. That might be more true nowadays (the not-going-out part), but what about the fact that I can play with someone from the UK, collaborate with someone from India, and converse (using a translator program) with someone in Japan — who doesn’t speak a word of English? Am I really all that isolated? Somehow I doubt it.

On the contrary, I propose that, instead of isolating us, the Internet and its online virtual realms are ushering in a transformation as fundamental as those brought by the automobile and the television, only much bigger. Before cars, many people spent their entire lives near where they were born. Before radio and television, we could only read about events on the other side of the planet after they occurred. Now we have greater mobility and visibility. Online virtual realms will only increase our capabilities.

Which brings us back squarely to the question I began with: how does this extension of experience change our perceptions, our expectations, and our relationships? Let’s talk about it.
–MRK

Twitter del.icio.us Digg Facebook linked-in Yahoo Buzz StumbleUpon

Tags:

27 Responses to “Living in Virtual Space”

  1. Good question. There are many factors which can affect page loading. Storms crash routers. Sometimes I might be doing some work on the server at the very moment you want to load the page I am working on. Since there are too many factors to control, my advice would be to wait a bit and try at a different time. Hopefully it’s not my fault; so far the server load seems to be moderate….until more people discover me.
    – MRK

  2. Nice site and great text.

  3. Super site, and nice text.

  4. I love this blog. Its great. Keep it up man.

  5. God i love Google. The best mmorpg i have ever played is Mir3. Legend Of Mir 3 - Avenge Server . It’s great. The community is really nice unlike most other games and it a real unique MMORPG. I have never played anything like it. The PVP is really fun and like no other game, i definatly suggest anyone who reads this give it a go. Its 100% free.

  6. Really good article! I have found a place where you can see avatar online in HD for free. Click here and check it out.

  7. admin says:

    Hello Gregory. I use a program called WordPress for my blog. It is at http://www.wordpress.com and I run it on a Linux server that is part of the hosting package I have with my hosting company at softcomca.com. It emails me comments like yours, and I create my articles by simply logging onto my blog from a Web browser and clicking Add New. All you need to access from your computer and use it is a Web browser, but you do have to have a Web server that it can run on. — MRK

  8. Hi! I’m sorry meant for this awful British. When i have got came on your own web site and also My partner and i genuinely much like your design and style. Can you explain to me wherever can obtain the web template like this? be grateful for

  9. Kylie Batt says:

    Это тебе наука….

    People are spending more and more time in virtual worlds…..

  10. lapel pins says:

    Great info, thank you for making this available on your blog.

  11. admin says:

    Sorry, Niks, but I have not used Windows 7 yet. I tend to wait a few years before switching to a new Windows OS, to let them work out some of the bugs…..since Microsoft has a habit of releasing versions wtih plenty of bugs and letting their customers become de facto beta testers. I am sure there are many people online with the expertise that could help you. Good luck, and don’t give up.

  12. csodar says:

    I have Windows 7 Ultimate installed in my HCL laptop. Last month i was encrypting my external hard disk with “bit locker drive encryption”. It started normally, but suddenly after 49%, it stuck, displaying an error: “An error occurred. This disk has one or more errors, run chkdsk/r, if the error persist this may be indicative of a hardware fault…” I then thought to decrypt my data back and to disable the protection. When I tried doing this, after some time my PC hanged and the operation got aborted. When I restarted my system, i found that the disk is not being detected. It is not shown in “computer”, although the disk lights were on. I tried running the hard disk in “Ubuntu OS”, it works there, but all my data is encrypted. My hard disk is absolutely fine and OK. There is no problem with hardware and no virus is there in my PC as well. What to do now? How can i get my data back and how can i decrypt my harddisk? Please help, since this data worths me a lot. The capacity of my hard disk is 250GB and its a Western Digital brand. Thanks, Niks.

    _____________
    satellite tv for pc

  13. admin says:

    Which error? It is difficult to respond if you are not specific.

  14. cialis says:

    Thank you for good job

  15. intim says:

    Now i can say thank you

  16. viagra says:

    I will allways read it

  17. buypills says:

    Very interesting theme

  18. pills says:

    Great site. Keep doing

  19. javagame says:

    Very goood!!!

  20. CrisBetewsky says:

    Your site is worth beeing in the top cause it contains really amazing information.

  21. admin says:

    I was 18 and it was several decades ago.

  22. Hi, good post. I have been woondering about this issue,so thanks for posting. I’ll definitely be coming back to your site.

  23. Thanks for the review! I want to say - thank you for this!

  24. Hi, interesting post. I have been thinking about this issue,so thanks for sharing. I’ll certainly be subscribing to your site. Keep up the good work

Leave a Reply

Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free