I came across an article recently, Coping with the Loss of an Online World, and have been thinking about it since then. I admit to never having heard of this world, but that’s really not surprising, since there are many virtual worlds, probably hundreds (although I couldn’t find a number readily in my Google searching).
What stood out to me in reading this article was that this world, and, no doubt, many others, provided a platform for family members to connect with each other. In a day and age when families are spread out, that’s not a small accomplishment.
One of the primary reasons that virtual worlds like Second Life fascinate me is because of what they teach us about who we are, how we know the world, and the nature of reality. One of the earliest experiences that intrigued me was how quickly I came to identify with my avatar, despite the fact that she looks nothing like me.
I recently came across a post that offered an explanation for this phenomenon happens in the brain. The author, Peter Small, discusses “body mapping” theory and describes how it might apply to virtual worlds: Continue reading
I came across this story recently, and it got me thinking about how little we understand about the power of our minds and our imaginations. And it reminded me of why I love virtual worlds: because they provide opportunities for us to glimpse the power of our minds to shape reality–both virtual and physical reality.
Here’s the story:
From New World Notes: Woman with Parkinson’s Reports Significant Physical Recovery After Using Second Life
This is Fran, an 85 year old woman who plays Second Life as an avatar named Fran Seranade, and while that’s interesting in itself, many other senior citizens like her are known to be active in SL. Here is the truly extraordinary thing: For over 7 years, Fran has been afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system afflicting millions around the world, including actor Michael J. Fox and sports legend Muhammed Ali. In Fran’s case, Parkinson’s has made it difficult for her to stand from a sitting position, and maintain her balance while upright. But now Fran reports she’s gained significant recovery of physical movement — as a direct consequence of her activity in Second Life.
Almost every week you hear a new report of the dangers of the impact of our new technologies: the internet, various digital devices, gaming…Here’s a wonderfully refreshing video that reviews what the research-to-date actually tells us about the impact of the Internet on the brain. Dr. Paul Howard Jones goes through popular fears about technology and discusses what the research tells us about whether or not those fears are warranted.
Dr. Jones makes many excellent points, including these two: Continue reading
I just read a great blog post on the topic of Caring and caregivers in the 21st century that brought be back to one of my favorite topics, the untapped power of virtual worlds/3D game environments for healing, developing community, and learning. The author of the post, Tateru Nino, notes that Second Life‘s community has included a significant percentage of people who are struggling with some type of disability or illness, or who are caregivers and, therefore, limited in their ability to leave their homes to socialize. However, the main focus is to highlight a “game” called Caregiver Village:
“The Unity 3D based game, Caregiver Village, is a … well, if you’ll pardon the portmanteau, ‘edutainment’ game, intended to help divert and relax caregivers, while teaching them valuable skills throughout an engaging and episodic mystery/adventure, sprinkled with mini-games and sporting connections to Facebook. All of that, plus the Web-site supporting caregivers.” [read more of this post by Tateru Nino]
Tateru Nino illustrates the power of virtual worlds. People who are “shut in” have new environments, relationships and opportunities open to them. These settings can be especially powerful in giving people options to connect when their current life situation limits their ability to do so otherwise.
I think we are only seeing the beginning of the emergence of virtual worlds and other 3D virtual settings (e.g., games) to address a diverse range of needs. Continue reading
In my last blog post on the emotional reality of virtual relationships I speculated that one of the sources for the drama that is known to occur in virtual worlds might be the absence of non-verbal communication. The findings from a recent study reported in Science Daily offer support for this hypothesis. Continue reading
Important new research on one of my favorite topics–the power of virtual reality in changing human experience. I’ve excerpted this from Medscape since you have to have an account there to view this(accounts are free though):
Virtual Reality Improves Social Attention in Autistic Kids: May 24, 2011 (Honolulu, Hawaii) — Virtual reality training may help improve complex social attention in school-aged children with higher-functioning autism (HFA), suggests new research presented here at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2011 Annual Meeting.
|Head-mounted virtual reality apparatus
In the pilot program, 18 children with HFA and 20 healthy controls wore head-mounted displays showing a virtual classroom with 9 “virtual avatar peers.” As the participants gave short speeches about themselves, each peer was programmed to start fading and become transparent if ignored.
Although results showed no difference in the preadolescent HFA and control children in number of looks to the avatars, the adolescent HFA children made significantly fewer looks than did their age-matched controls, signifying evidence of impairment that emerges later in life.
In addition, “the social attention of all children was malleable,” meaning the looks improved dramatically for all groups during the fade conditioning session, report the investigators.”