On April 1, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet had a congressional hearing on virtual worlds.
The official title of the hearing was "Online Virtual Worlds: Applications and Avatars (link goes to official witness list).
Video of entire hearing (300+ MB)
1. Philip Rosedale, Founder/Chairman of the Board/Former CEO, Linden Labs
2. Susan Tenby, Senior Manager, Community Development, TechSoup
3. Colin J. Parris, PhD, Vice President, Digital Convergence, IBM Research/IBM Corporation
4. Larry Johnson, PhD, The New Media Consortium
This hearing was the first time I've seen any representatives from virtual worlds get a chance to actually explain themselves.
I think the witnesses did a great job of making what I'm going to start calling "The case for virtual worlds." (What I believe to be an open and shut case :)
Four "witnesses" presented to the Subcommittee that morning. Their names are in the table below, along with relevant stop/start times for their presentations.
If you saw the Daily Show clip on the Congressional Hearings, you may have been concerned about congress being confused about terrorists using virtual worlds. But actually, terrorism was only mentioned a couple times in freaked out passing.
The real story is that Virtual Worlds are about to be as big as Social Networking (a phenomenon that congress seems well aware of and impressed by).
|Colin J. Parris||
Of course, we know that Virtual Worlds are going to be even bigger than Social Networking, and really already have been for some time. Although virtual worlds are viewed as an outgrowth of Social Networking, in reality, virtual worlds have existed much longer, and have an extensive and rich history behind them going back more than 20 years.
I think hearings such as this one are a step in the right direction, and demonstrate that Congress is finally realizing the potential for community, art, science, and commerce in these worlds, and taking this potential quite seriously.
It's also great to see IBM stepping up to the plate to explain things in a way that even Congress can understand. (No offense congress peeps, but you guys aren't always the best at grokking technology. Series of tubes aside :)
But that's the exciting part! The success of virtual worlds has become so tangible that now even IBM can explain this success effectively in business-speak. That's damned exciting!
Now, hopefully, we can point to the very excellent examples of the incredible business, educational, and artistic applications going on in Second Life, and other virtual worlds right now, and use them to help explain these very tangible scenarios to the rest of the real life world.
I've provided very concise times for the entire hearing, so you can still find the parts you need quickly, after downloading the whole thing.
|Phillip Linden, Chair of Board/Former CEO/Founder, Linden Labs||29:11-33:19/presentation from 33:20-40:21/40:22-43:14/Q and A|
|Susan Tenby, Senior Manager, Community Development, TechSoup||43:39-49:19|
|Colin J. Parris, PhD, Vice President, Digital Convergence, IBM Research/IBM Corporation||49:21-54:55|
|Larry Johnson, PhD, The New Media Consortium||54:57-1:00|
Saturday, March 1, launched the kickoff event for Strengths Island, a groundbreaking interactive educational Second Life environment created by The Wishfarmers, based on author Jennifer Fox's curriculum.
Saturday's event featured a lively discussion between Jenifer, author of the book "Your Child's Strengths," and the attending teachers and educators.
Next, we'll go over some of Strengths Island's specific features.
|Video: MOV||Audio: WAV||OGG||MP3|
Jenifer Fox (Jeni Voom) Explains The Strengths Movement
Transcription of Jenifer Fox in this clip:
"Virtual Worlds are really something that kids are starting to get turned on to. So if we want to change kids' lives, one of the places to begin is by going where they go, and they go here. Although they're not on this particular island, this is really a test case for their parents, and for educators."
"I created the Island so that educators, parents, and anyone else that wants to, can come here and figure out what their strengths are."
"So I've been working with The Wishfarmers, and they've done a fabulous job at helping me brainstorm about ways that this island could become interactive."
"It goes with the Strengths Movement website, where people can join up into the StrengthsNet, which is an IntroNetworks site where you're able to connect with other people, organizations, schools, parents, college students, anyone around the world, who wants to talk about developing strengths."
"Let me say this, that developing strengths really just isn't about feeling good about yourself. It's really about finding the part about you that will help you make the biggest contribution."
"So I think that there's a real political piece to this, in that, there are a lot of options for people, and there are a lot of things people can do and become involved in, and, once you figure out what your strengths are, then you really have a responsibility to contribute. So that's what this movement's about."
I've been hanging out on Strengths Island for a couple days now, and couple nights too I think -- writing up instructions for the Island's activities, so you can pop over there and enjoy them too.
I'll be linking to a few basic tutorials from my Second Life A-Z throughout these explanations. You'll be able to skip those parts if you're already familiar with how to perform those tasks in Second Life.
I decided to take a chance at over explaining this stuff a little, in order to encourage more educators to sign up for Second Life and come check out this Island.
There's a pretty good chance I'm there right now, if you want to come by and say hi. Teleport Now.
Here's a fun way to aquaint yourself with the Island and all of its various educational activities:
a Balloon Ride Tour.
Here's how to take the balloon ride:
- Teleport Here
Right click or apple/click and choose "sit," to sit in the balloon.
Type "start" in your local chat window to start the ride.
Now let's learn some more about the "Strengths Movement in general...
So I promised that I would start blogging more -- about everything, but in particular about the projects I've been working on these days, which are mainly in Second Life.
Well, I'll finally start making good on that promise today, and I'm really excited about keeping you more in the loop on what I'm working on, so you can help me make it better.
The Second Life learning curve is a brutal one, but I know that soon, if I keep at it 24-7, I'll eventually absorb all the necessary data to effectively mesh with the grid.
Until then, I'm taking as many notes as I can about all my experiences during this precious time, when I still feel like a "Noob" (a SL new user), so I can incorporate them into my writings and teachings accordingly.
It's been a while since I've really taken on the mission of mastering something new like this. In 1996, although I knew very little about computer programming at the time, I decided I wanted to learn everything about Web Standards -- especially HTML and XML. Thanks to several members of the W3C's staff and its original XML Working Group (who spent countless hours on the phone and writing emails to help me learn all the details), in just a few years, I was teaching XML for UC Berkeley Extension Online.
Then, in 2001, I decided to ramp up on Copyright Law in the hopes that it might somehow combine with my technical skills to perhaps play a role in helping to turn the copyright situation around. That time, although I wasn't even sure myself where my research would take me (and again, as a result of countless individuals taking me under their wing, to help me learn quickly), I found myself a co-founder of Creative Commons, working with Lawrence Lessig.
So, as you can see, these leaps into the void seem to pay off for me, generally, in both the short and long term. I consider this to be another such leap.
This latest endeavor also ties in nicely with the graduate and undergraduate level teaching on social networking and virtual worlds I've been doing for Prof. Michelle Wolf and Prof. Marie Drennan at SF State's Broadcast Electronic Communications Arts Department (BECA). I'm having a blast learning these new interactive education concepts and technologies from The Wishfarmers, and I am eagerly incorporating them into my own bevy of teaching knowledge and materials.
I guess by now it's pretty obvious that I truly believe virtual worlds have the potential to help shape and improve our lives. And not just the lives of those online, but also the those out in regular old "meatspace." It seems clear to me that virtual worlds are no more a fad or passing phase than the Internet itself.
But now I'm getting ahead of myself, and it's usually best to start at the beginning...