In an article posted yesterday, Mark Ward, technology correspondent for the BBC News website, reports on “Second Life,” the well-known virtual world. According to Ward, Philip Rosedale, a founder of Linden Lab and thus one of the creators of “Second Life,” believes that virtual worlds could even replace the World Wide Web in many instances. Rosedale points out that virtual worlds offer a sense of place and a sense of identity in a way that the Web has never done:
“Virtual worlds are inherently comprehensible to us in a way that the web is not,” said Mr Rosedale. “They look like the world we already know and take advantage of our ability to remember and organise.”
“Information is presented there in a way that matches our memories and experiences,” he said. “Your and my ability to remember the words we use and the information we talk about is much higher if it’s presented as a room or space around us.” Link to full story
Pointing out that some educators and corporations already use Second Life to do online collaboration, Rosedale speculates on the possibilities of a portable online identity, built into some kind of online-world-browser, which would browse online worlds in the way Web browsers now browse the World Wide Web. Rosedale even seems to call for “a sufficiently open platform” that will allow people to “move into it quite rapidly.”
Indeed, one of my big complaints about the World Wide Web is that you never quite know where you are, or how you got to here from the last place you were. In a virtual world, you could move across a virtual landscape to find information/knowlege/social contacts that interested you — and you would know where you are, and how you got there, and how to get back.
Or think about it this way: instead of visiting this blog in your Web browser, you could travel to a virtual place in an online world where my avatar would periodically show up to post new reading matter, videos, etc. If your avatar and my avatar happened to be in that virtual place (a “virtblog”?) at the same time, we could chat; or if I’m not there, you could chat with whatever other avatars happen to be there, and when you got bored you could all head off to some new virtual place.
Or think about virtual online church committee meetings. Or virtual online adult religious education (I’d love to do online Bible study from a liberation/feminist perspective!).
Or who knows how virtual worlds will evolve. Or even if they will evolve. Uh, can someone get Tim Berners-Lee interested in creating VWML (Virtual World Markup Language)?