Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Virtual Worlds conference 2007

This is one of three on the vwc. Number two is here. And three is here.

Virtual Worlds conference 2007 began this morning in New York with a convocation from Philip Rosedale, virtual world god of Second Life. It’s not the technology (stupid), it’s the people. “People are the new medium,” as John Maeda
had quipped when I met with him in January. Difficulties of many sorts persist across the various virtual world platforms, such as UI, concurrency, lag, uncanny graphics…the list goes on. Nonetheless, group wisdom from the podium reached an accord on the idea that the tech solutions are not magic (they are known and, now, need to be applied). The magic rests with the delightful prospect of building out co-creation platforms. The analogy with an Internet experience of 1994 pervaded (I’ve made it myself). Conjure your own User Created Content (UCC) image of deep user experience across a broad and nurturing virtual world platform. And in the case of
Multiverse, it would be platforms.

Some of in the audience wondered why fairly serious, as in game killer, impediments to a lower user threshold or better advanced-building tools were not fixed, if there’s no magic in that. Grumbling, though, was balanced with a great deal of curiosity, friendly predisposition, and strong desire not to miss the next important platform in Internet development. The 600 some media planners, marketing experts, entertainment and IT industry professionals who crowed into the new Jewish Museum for the conference certainly attested to that. Come back later for a deeper discussion of the technical evolution of virtual worlds. Here, let me give a run down of some of the high points.

(Btw, this is not the first virtual worlds conference. I believe that honor goes to the
1998 gathering in Paris of the same title. But that was a computer science conference not industry…so perhaps two firsts? If you have any info other virtual world conference “firsts” let me know.)

Matt Bostwick’s virtual MTV keynote brought us the term 4D TV. The fourth dimension is social interaction (one-through-three are TV, Internet, and UCC). This fit into a larger picture of media and marketing professionals and a few technologists reflecting on the coming of 3Di (that’s 3D internet or 3D interactivity). The debate still rages around the importance of realistic 3D graphics versus 2D cartoony worlds or 2D Internet usability. Reuben Steiger of Millions of Us very wisely asks his corporate clients if there is an existing Web format in which they might build their projects. If the answer is “yes,” he tells them to do so. He also said that Second Life’s first generation of users have shown a “utopian ideal that is at it’s heart capitalistic. With the homegrown brands [the one’s originating in-world], there’s lots of marketing.” In a conversation earlier that week with Cory Doctorow, he reminded me that bohemianism and money are not mutually exclusive endeavors. In any case, the fate of out-world brands in virtual worlds is still being sorted out. The rule of thumb is the same as that which applies to embedded ads in games: get content right for the context right and don’t disrupt users.

More on the conference to come: numbers that people are kicking around, aspirations, and the look of an emergent network industry.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The illiterate in the computer age from our guest Wei

Several years ago, one German friend who was learning Mandarin, asked me, "Shenwei, do you think in the future the Mandarin will be like English? You will only use Pingying(the letters for Mandarin), and no character any more." "Never." I answered at that time.

Yes, Mandarin is an amazing but sometimes crazy language for foreign learner, as you have to earn the pronunciation, intonation and writing of every word separately. But it also has its strengh, as every word is like a picture, you don't need to read through the whole paragraph to know what it says. You could just read the "whole picture" and get a rough idea of it. It is amazing, isn't it?

However, my confidence is now shattered. The problem is that, you don't actually "write" nowadays as much as you do in the paper- writing age. On the computer, you type but you seldom write. Though there are some Mandarin input software based on writing of characters, they are not user-friendly and thus not popular. Most of people use pronunciation-based ones, in which you just input the Pingying, and then its character will jump out on the screen.

Gradually, the character writing becomes a bit difficult. Take myself for example, I would forget how to write some specific characters from time to time, and I use computer to look up. I find myself one of the new generation of the illiterate in the computer age, and I know this group is still growing.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Web communication from our guest Wei

Web communication

I have been a-continent away from home for over four months, but strangely, from the day I arrived till now I am not homesick at all. One reason may be that I am the sort of person who enjoys being alone. Another more important reason is that I am not that far away.

I talk face-to-face to my mum several times a week by webcam. I telephone with my dad over skype (only 0.14 euro per minute!) weekly. I chat on msn with my friends daily. I read their blogs and msn spaces every time I linked on the internet. Therefore, nowadays, saying goodbye and seeing people off at the airport or train station has lost the aura of the past, as the geological distance does not seem to matter so much as in the pre-internet time. And everyone, no matter where he or she is physically, is of the same distance: just behind the screen.

The weird thing is no matter how convenient now it is to meet people through various software, oicq, msn, skype, email, bbs, blog etc, people still chose to 'talk' to those they like. Me, for example,. I have all these software and I have a long list of 'friends' on each of them, but I only
talk to three or four people through all these software. Sometimes I am thinking if I never talk to other persons, why don't I delete them from my friend list? As sometimes maybe in the midnight, there would be only one 'friend' (whom I never I speak to) and myself on the msn, but we still
prefer keeping the silence just like people choose be to silent in the small room of the lift.

My professor told us that if we have any idea about the final dissertation, just write an email to her. 'I am only an email away. ' she said. Nevertheless, I think that is really a long distance.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Report from GDC: Jane Mcgonigal Future of Collective Play

Jane Mcgonigal, the lead designer for Avant Game, is the closing Key Note for the GDC Serious Games Summit. Jane told me she is the FIRST woman keynote in the history of the conference. Yikes. I mean congratulations Jane! See pix & notes on her talk The Future of Collective Play. Sadly, I had to get on a plane before her presentation Tuesday. Oddly, I could not find any information on her talk on Gamasutra, who have been officially blogging the conference. Funny that. Post to let me know if I missed the coverage ;-). For those of you in Boston area, Jane will be at MIT next week for a talk at the Media Lab 3.16.07.