Monday, February 14, 2011

Do My Students Need a 3D Web?

Raph Koster and old UO headline, Sony Online Entertainment, San Diego 
Location: Certainty

image credit: Raph Koster, of Ultima Online, Metaplace, and more, via Cory Doctorow's Flickr Photstream

"No," seems to be the uniform answer. The reasons say a great deal about the directions in which virtual worlds may not evolve. I put the question of "why haven't we gotten something like Gibson's immersive Matrix?" to my first-year seminar class.

I'll paraphrase the answers the came back:
  • Immersive engagement is best saved for when it is worth the extra work / software / time
  • Students prefer easy applications done "on the fly." In other words, they don't need an avatar to check the weather or send a short text to a friend or a relative
  • The less hardware needed, the better. Any rig like Case's would be tedious to use and hard to carry. An iPhone or similar fits into a pocket.
Would my students use a 3D experience? The answers here are complex. Yes, this group argued, for immersive gaming.  I don't know that current levels of virtual-world technology, with so much user-generated content, will ever enable that level of immersion. At best, they might make work for a class more fun.

We should look to other types of game-environments if we want something akin to Simstim or Case's rig. As I'll report soon, two technologists from a major defense contractor who spoke to VWER recently argued exactly that.

Will those emergent forms of 3D engagement replace our 2D Web? If my students are correct, no. It would, however, open worlds for gaming and for meetings, an ironic realization of Castronova's thesis that work and play will merge in the decades ahead. 


Mera Kranfel said...

I think this i an age thing mostly. They are too young. They still have the energy to run around irl and do funs stuff.

They arent tied at home because of children and other reasons. When u get older u get tired of bars and you may also be a bit lazy mabee.... So young ppl will most likely never be a major target group for 3D environment...

Iggy O said...

Mera, I don't know.

Maybe I'm the weird old person who has too much energy. I spend so much time IRL with gardening, writing, other hobbies, and more that virtual worlds consume only a few hours weekly of active use and a few more reading about them. I spend almost as much time in my weekly F2f gaming session on my "Nerd Night" with old gamer friends as I do in-world.

Thus I tend to agree with my students. Barring some phenomenal new interface, I am content with the flat Web.

I don't need a virtual world to check the New York Times or or keep up with Jim Kunstler's blog. It would add a layer of complexity for an Iggy of mine to log in and check those things from in-world.

I use virtual worlds for what they do best: facilitate large-group education meetings and enable user-created simulations.

I'd add "drive my fake car" but until Mr. Humble fixes that aspect of SL life, or until driving physics appear in OpenSim, I may as well buy a copy of Gran Turismo 5 for my fake racing :D

Mera Kranfel said...

I use it to socialize. I have a full time job irl and two kids. Not a lot of time to run around meeting friends in my spare time. Like this i can meet friends and still be available to my kids and wash the laundry at the same time ;)

I also use it to build and create nice environment. But im mostly a community person. when i was at the age you students are now, I wouldnt have used virtual worlds either. But now its different...

I lack of time to meet grown up people to just have a nice chat. And i love virtual worlds for this opportunity. 2D ok u can chat but you cant enjoy building stuff and this nice environment at the same time =)