15-Jan-2008: Virtual worlds workshop IDC, Herzliya

This event, hosted by the IDC, is focused on Virtual Life, I will give an intro the the Full 3D3C Metaverse and hope to learn from the other people about social aspects of the world. A good opportunity to meet the top people in the industry of Virtual Worlds.

People are spending increasing amounts of time in online virtual worlds and massive-multiplayer online games. Our goal is to bring together people from around Israel (and a few visitors) who are interested in the psychological, sociological, and communication aspects of such virtual worlds. We are happy to invite you to a one-day workshop, hosted by the new Advanced Virtuality Lab (AVL) of the Sammy Ofer School of Communications in the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC). Participations in the workshop is free but registration is required in advance to [email protected].

Organizer: Dr. Doron Friedman and the Asper Institute for New Media Diplomacy. Place: Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Communications Building – Room CL-03. Time: 9:30-17:15

09:30-10:00 Coffee and reception
10:00-11:00 The Reality of Virtual Worlds
10:00-10:30 Yesha Sivan, Metaverse Labs, Social Impact of full 3D3C Metaverse
What is the Metaverse and how is it different from 3D games, virtual worlds, social networks, etc. We will focus on the social challenges: covering issues of Money, Identify, Privacy, Group management, relations, love, sex, romance, and other social challenges. We will also cover some metaverse-realverse challenges like common access, e-inclusion, and virtual life.
10:30-11:00 Dvir Reznik, IBM Software Group, The Business of Virtual Worlds
Gaming is not for kids. It can build your personality and leadership skills, as well as boost your level of confidence and your social skills. Gaming also opens up whole new opportunities for businesses, big and small, from different industries, providing a place where people and ideas can collaborate, in order to create a competitive advantage. The presentation will provide an overview on virtual worlds and IBM’s interest and on-going efforts in such worlds.
11:00-11:15 Moshik Miller, Technion, Saving the Second Life economySecond Life has a flourishing economy. Residents can convert real life money into Linden Dollars, the Second Life currency, and use it in-world to consume ‘user generated content’, from hairstyles to music shows; purchasing land and various fees imposed by Linden Labs, the operator of Second Life. Residents can then convert their Linden Dollars back to real life currency. These commerce features constitute a connection between the real and virtual worlds.
A new concept of virtual currency for second life is suggested. Some implementation alternatives will be discussed as well as implications on the Second Life economy structure.
11:15-11:30 Coffee break
11:30–12:30 Interaction and Navigation
11:30-12:00 Hanan Gazit, The Israeli DIGRA Chapter, H.I.T- Holon Institute of Technology, The Challenge of Studying Interactions in Virtual WorldsThere are many indications that virtual worlds such as Second Life and digital games change the way people communicate and learn by provide meaningful learning experiences, serving as a cognitive bridge between concrete experiences and complex abstractions. Thus far, there have been few empirical studies which systematically studied the interactions dynamics within virtual worlds. There is a need to address key issues such as: How to assess the interactions and learning within virtual worlds? What tools should be used for studying the complex relationships between virtual worlds and real world interactions? What kind of instructional and pedagogical approaches should be implemented within virtual worlds for enhancing engagement and meaningful interactions?
Innovative methodologies are needed for bridging between micro and macro levels of interactions (individual and collaborative) which occur in different space and time scales. A conceptual framework for studying multimodal interactions in virtual worlds and digital games by using computerized tools will be presented (Gazit, in press).
12:00-12:30 Asaf Friedman, Bezalel and Bet Berl College, The unexplored possibilities in Navigational Interface
It has long been acknowledged that part of the exploration experience in ‘virtual worlds’ is the navigational interface. Yet one might ask: what are the possibilities for such navigational interface? The presentation will show why the current navigational tools still lack the interactive qualities found in the real world. This presentation will go back to the historical origins of perspective in order to determine why the interactive features in such tools are so limited and to establish the criteria for a more effective navigational tool. Moreover, the comparison between the different systems will lead to an alternative analysis of interaction that incorporates all existing navigational programs. The presentation concludes with a suggestion for four modules of interaction based on linguistic distinctions.
12:30-13:30 Lunch Break (you need to take care of your own lunch)
13:30-15:00 Human Behavior in Virtual Worlds
13:30-14:00 Doron Friedman, The Interdisciplinary Center, Reality, Virtual Reality and Presence: Understanding Human Behavior in Virtual WorldsPeople now spend a lot of time in mediated communication, and specifically in visually-rich virtual worlds and games. Social scientists should be struggling to understand this human behavior, and some of them are already doing it. We suggest looking at over fifteen years of presence research in virtual reality as the most useful paradigm to understanding human behavior in virtual worlds. As an example, I will explain this paradigm in the context of an experiment in social immersive virtual reality bar experiment.
14:00-14:15 Lior Flum, Hebrew university, The mutual making of avatars and players in World of WarcraftThis report on a work in progress examines the relations between players and in-game characters in the massive multiplayer online game, World of Warcraft. An avatar is designed by a player by selecting and choosing from a given set of options (e.g. gender, hair color, profession, exc.). Once created the avatar represents the player and executes its actions in the game world. Avatars are the meeting point between human agent and virtual world. As such, avatars become more than a mere object or a representation of a subject. Studying the ways in which avatars and players construct each other offers an opportunity to learn of the relations between subject and virtual object in respect to global and local culture, presence and agency. This raises questions such as how are boundaries in these associations maintained and how is the action of playing shaped. Possible directions will be explored based on interviews with Israeli World of Warcraft players, and offline and online participant-observation.
14:15-14:30 Tsahi Hayat, The Interdisciplinary Center and Haifa University, The Proteus effect in Second Life
Digital media, in general, and CVEs in particular, allow us to make both dramatic and subtle changes in our self representations with an ease that is not available elsewhere. These changes may lead to a change in the way we behave. One possible explanation for this behavior alteration is conforming one’s behavior to those expected by the avatar (digital representations of ourselves).
This process is referred to as the Proteus effect: how people’s behavior in virtual space is measurably affected by their virtual appearance. In this talk we will present some theoretical background related to the Proteus effect, and offer methodological tools for the measurement of the Proteus effect in the context of social interactions taking place in the CVE site of Second Life.
14:30-15:00 Matti Mintz, Tel Aviv University, Perception of interactive space: what the visitors claim is not what they perceive, joint work with Kynan Eng (Inst. of Neuroinformatics, University/ETH Zurich), and Paul F M J Verschure (Technology Dept. & Foundation Barcelona Media, University Pompeu Fabra).
Ada was constructed in the context of Swiss Exp02 as an interactive space designed to interact with groups of visitors through multiple sensory and motor channels. We hypothesized that interaction with poly-modal system will invoke an “animistic” attitude toward Ada. To test this hypothesis, groups of visitors interacted either with fully functional or partially ‘paralyzed’ Ada induced by a selective removal of one of the output channels of Ada. Visitors were asked to respond to a questionnaire gauging their perceptions of Ada’s sensory and motor abilities and their overall impressions of Ada.
Analysis of the questionnaires revealed that; a. visitors confuse motor and sensory channels by attributing sensory disabilities to a system with exclusive motor disability, and b. the confusion included a crossover between different modalities. These findings resemble the perceptual confusions toward individuals with sensory or motor impairments. We conclude therefore that visitors ‘implicitly’ perceive Ada as an integrative system rather than a collection of independent sensory-motor channels, possibly reflecting an animistic perception of Ada as whole. However, when asked explicitly visitors were ambivalent about the statement that “Ada was a kind of artificial creature”. It seems therefore that what visitors claim is not what they perceive.
Reference: Eng, K., Klein, D., Babler, A., Bernardet, U., Blanchard, M., Costa, M., Delbruck, T., Douglas, R.J., Hepp, K., Klein, D., Manzolli, J., Mintz, M., Roth, F., Rutishauser, U., Wassermann, K., Whatley, A.M., Wittmann, A., Wyss, R., Verschure, P.F.M.J. Design for a brain revisited: The neuromorphic design and functionality of the interactive space ADA. Reviews in Neurosciences, 2003, 14:145-180.
15:00-15:15 Coffee break
Virtual Society
15:15-15:45 Larry Mullen, University of Las Vegas, Nevada, Virtual Communities: Visual Explorations in Second Life
Communities of affinity have existed on computer networks for many years—mostly in the form of text messaging. With the addition of a visual element and the ability to recreate actual communities in terms of visual look, how has the virtual community changed? What does it mean to recreate a community in a virtual setting? What is the sense of community in the virtual environment? How is it created and maintained?
Work on community imagery assumes that visual images provide a dimension to our understanding of community that is unlike traditional research data. As such, community must have a physical manifestation of some sort. If community is defined in abstract (invisible) terms, then those abstractions need a physical (visible) referent. Because of this requirement, visual studies tend to conceptualize community in terms of people and places, i.e., as places where people live and do things. And all of this is possible in the virtual setting of Second Life where real communities are recreated, new fantastical communities materialized, and communities of interest congregate.
Research on community as a visual construct takes varied forms. The scope of the communities that have been studied visually is wide-ranging. The Family of Man (1955), for example, showed the commonalities of people around the world, or as Edward Steichen writes in the introduction, “It was conceived as a mirror of the universal elements and emotions in the everydayness of life–as a mirror of the essential oneness of mankind (sic) throughout the world” (unpaged). This photographic work saw the world population as an extended community. And this is not too far removed from what Second Life does in a digital, real-time manner. It offers the researcher the opportunity to observe communities develop, be maintained, thrive, decline, and eventually dissolve.

15:45-16:00 Heidi haLevi, Bar Ilan University, “Over my open-sourced body”: Who controls the code?‘CopyBot’ is the name of a script made available in Second Life in November, 2006 that allows a user to make copies of objects, including objects for sale . The CopyBot script raised a SL-world-wide protest and enormous antagonism towards Linden Labs – disproportionate to the script’s actual potential damage. Through critical analysis, it is possible to show that the sense of this incident doesn’t reside in the technological abilities of the CopyBot per se, but rather in a meta-narrative level intimately linked to levels of control designed into the platform: control over code vs. control of representation. The CopyBot is one example of technologically enabled criminal activity in virtual worlds – critical cases that reveal paradoxes in the basic architecture of the virtual world’s code upon which turn fundamental questions of personal and collective identity.
16:00-16:30 Susanna Priest, University of Las Vegas, Nevada, Envisioning Technological Futures: Virtual Environments and Public Debate
This talk will investigate some of the challenges in assessing public opinion about emerging technologies and related policy issues, topics often vital to future generations and their quality of life, but on which many people may not have well-formed opinions. Experiments are ongoing with the use of new media to carry out debates in this area, ranging from simple text-based on-line discussion to more elaborate forums. Can multi-player game technologies such as Second Life – which may be capable of helping people imagine the future impact of today’s choices, as well as facilitating discussion across cultural and geographic barriers – be used to address these challenges?
16:00-16:15 Coffe Break
16:15-16:45 Miri Segal, Just a Second, Life (video artwork)

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