The SLENZ Update – No 106, June 29, 2009

Addendum  to SLENZ Update, No 105:

Hysteria over Australian SL-block

rumours: fear-mongering or worse …

The Sydney Morning Herald  journalist, Asher Moses, who wrote “Web filters to censor video games” – the story which led to “mass” Second Life hysteria – has disclosed to SLED-lister, Second Life resident  and PhD candidate in the  School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics,  at the University of Queensland, Morgan Leigh, that Second Life was never actually mentioned by Australian Senator Conroy or his spokesperson,  just “online games”.

Moses told Leigh that the story was based on a question the Green’s senator for Western Australia, Scott Ludlam, had asked of the government.

The question was “(13) Will computer games exceeding the requirements of the MA15+ classification be RC (refused classification) and potentially blocked by ISPs on a mandatory basis for adults; if not, what other exceptions to RC would be similarly permitted.”

Leigh told  SLED-listers this information, and other information on Ludlam’s questions on filtering and censorship,   could be found at  http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/content/question/further-details-about-blacklisted-items-and-urls

Leigh said Moses had “expressed surprise at the resultant hype regarding Second Life”.

Leigh, however, also told SLED-listers, “The latest (Australian) Government should have learned from the previous attempts  ( to filter internet content) that unless it wants  to turn Australia into  China it cannot widely block access.

“I for one am totally not worried that I will wake one day soon to find Second Life unavailable to me,” he said. “I am, however, worried by the broader issue of governments seeking to decide for adults what those adults can and cannot do.

“Australia is sadly lacking any kind of bill of rights. Our constitution apparently ‘implies’ we have certain rights, like free speech etc., but beyond that we are still just subjects of  Her Majesty.”

Advertisements

The SLENZ Update – No 105, June 29, 2009

ANOTHER TABLOID BLOG FRENZY

Hysteria over Australian SL-block

rumours:  fear-mongering or worse …

CENSOREDLooks like bulldust to me …

I haven’t commented on the latest round of histrionics and hysteria fomented by “tabloid” bloggers about the Australia moves … but as one of the most authoritative writers on virtual worlds,  James Wagner Au (pictured), has pointed out in NewWorldNotes it’s more about smoke than substance, with Second Life and video games bloggers implying a lot more from the Sydney Morning Herald story than is actually in it.WagnerJAu

I say this  despite the fact that  the Christian Today Australia, an online Christian “tabloid”,  in a blatent, unattributed lift from one of the more rabid bloggers, Duncan Riley,   said today that  Second Life was to be “banned in Australia” and that this had been confirmed by a spokesperson for Australian Federal Minister  Stephen Conroy  that “under the (Australian Rating System) filtering plan,  it (censorship) will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard.” [The MA15+ means restricted to those people ages 15 and above.  Games for 18-plus “adults” are classed as RC (Refused Classification) because of pornographic, illegal material,  certain forms of ‘hate speech” and  copyrighted content, despite some Australian States having legalised brothels and a large  “adult” porno industry both in real life and easily accessed on the net]

The story just grows like Topsy: the interpretation of one trenchant critic of  Australian Government filtering of internet content, quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as referring to the possibility of Second Life being blocked, has become fact. But  whether true or not it’s important to New Zealand residents of Second Life because it gives more “ammunition” to critics in New Zealand even if that “ammunition” is more akin to bulldust than reality.

But one thing that seems very common among Second Life residents is the propensity to have panic-attacks and anxiety complexes and to find rumour and innuendo nutritious.

The possibility of an Australian ban/block  on Second Life has been canvassed off and on for months in various media – but there has never really been anything more than a little smoke.

And, anyway even if the Australian Government does receive “complaints” and goes ahead with a “ban” it need have no effect on educators.

Zindra Alps_002Adult Zindra – virtually another  Second Life game which could be
blocked without harm to Australian educators …

With the creation of Zindra, Linden Labs have virtually created two “games” – to use the Australian reference – and it should be easy enough under the current filtering regime being trialed by Australian ISPs for any Federal Government agency to block the “adult” potentially more raunchy game while continuing to allow access to the “PG, Mature” Second Life without the raunch.

Although not on line this has been done with video games sold in  real life shops in Australia, such as Grand Theft Auto and Fallout 3, with a special edition being created for their Australian audiences.

Given this, for teaching purposes, “blocks” on the “Adult” game should not affect Australian educators because they have no reason to go into Zindra (for education purposes) and so should have little effect on the real life education and business uses of  Second Life  in Australia – unless, of course, the main reason for some Australian “educators” being in the game is “adult” content.

I also wonder whether the Australian video games industry is not promoting this issue and the Second Life connection to it in a bid to deflect criticism and draw Second Life and other virtual worlds into their bed, as it were, to obfuscate the real issues of violence and violent sex  in many video games.

The debate, however,  as noted above is obviously not about pornography because some of the most raunchy pornographic picture and video sites on the web originate from Australia, and have only rudimentary age checks (answer what date you were born before accessing this site) and so are, in reality, open to anyone of any age: as they are not” games” however, they appear not subject to the debate in the on-line games context.

Finally, as an afterthought, I think money could be well spent on doing research on Second Life residents and Second Life bloggers to see whether they have a higher propensity for hysteria  and paranoia than the average person who doesn’t get “addicted” to SecondLife. *grin*

The SLENZ Update – No 23, November 08, 2008

**ALERT: FOR SLENZERS **

Version 4 of the “Process for learning design for the SLENZ project” has been published by joint project leader Terry Neal and Leigh Blackall. Its aims are to set out a process for designing learning activities to achieve the SLENZ project objectives. The full text is available for SLENZERS at http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dd2zdcf6_0c5trmf3n or on this blog under the heading to the left, SLENZ Project.

Social network + Web 3 = VWs

If you have been thinking that Virtual Worlds are not the wave of the future a recent report from In-Stat should help to dispel those thoughts.
But, given the current world economy, there might be few at the New Zealand end of the world who can afford to read the US$2995, 58-page report.instat
“Evidence supports the conclusion that the ‘killer application’ that is critical to virtual worlds-and, by extension, to Web 3.0-is, in fact, already here and it is none other than social networking,” said Vahid Dejwakh, an analyst with In-Stat, a part of Reed Business Information and a segment of the US$8 billion Reed Elsevier global information network.
As blogging and the ability to comment on news items online are, in essence, popularising and decentralising the news industry, so too are virtual worlds popularising and decentralising the gaming, meeting, and 3D graphic design industries, In-Stat reported. (http://www.in-stat.com/press.asp?ID=2405&sku=IN0804326CM)
Virtual worlds – especially the 3D kinds, such as Second Life – were classified under the Web 3.0 category because of their profound ability to integrate multiple types of content, information sources, and feeds into one highly engaging and interactive format, the research organisation said.
In-Stat found:
* Total registered users of virtual worlds are expected to exceed 1 billion and total revenue is expected to exceed US$3 billion by 2012.
* 70 percent of the more than 300 million registered users of virtual worlds are younger than 18.
* Virtual world companies earn close to 90 percent of their revenue from the sale of virtual items, currency, land, and fees associated with these items.
In addition to Web 3.0 applicability, In-Stat identified nine other critical components of virtual worlds, including user-generated content, social networking, virtual items, an economy, and business integration. In-Stat then rated each virtual world company according to these ten components. All ten platforms scored the maximum points possible in the social networking category, which emerged as the one critical element to virtual worlds.
The research, Virtual Worlds and Web 3.0: Examined, Compared, Analyzed (#IN0804326CM), covers the worldwide market for virtual worlds. It provides analysis of this form of gaming and social networking including profiles of 17 virtual worlds.
It also includes forecasts of worldwide registered users and revenue for virtual worlds through 2012. User demographics and market shares of virtual worlds are also provided.
Info: http://www.instat.com/catalog/mmcatalogue.asp?id=212

Where will the girls be?

Given the ubiquity of Playstation buffs, especially  young (18-35) men, could “Home”, the upcoming, console-based virtual world for the PlayStation 3, eventually develop into  a serious rival for the current crop of  Virtual Worlds?

That question arose from a recent interview with Jack Buser, Sony’s Director for PlayStation Home who told Virtualworldnews that the immersive platform which is due to launch as open beta late this year “will always be evolving and living and breathing.”http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/11/playstation-home-to-be-evolving-living-and-breathing-platform.html

“We’ll launch within open beta,” he said. “That means two things. It will be available to all PlayStation users at no cost. But there will obviously be a certain percentage of people who want to stand out from the crowd andplaystation3 customise their avatar with certain items or have a premium space and they will have that option within the PlayStation Mall, but it is not required. Second, we are calling it an open beta for a specific reason. Home will always be evolving. You will be seeing new stuff, including new technology.

“It’s important to realise the scope of PlayStation Home. When you look around, it’s just the icing on the cake,” Buser was quoted as saying. “The cake is that it’s a development platform for third parties to develop content on. We want Home to scale rapidly, and we figured the best way to do that is to get third parties involved. After launch, you’re going to see Home grow rapidly with new media, new content, and new experiences, coming quite rapidly. That’s absolutely been the demand from the users.”

Given the demographic and social networking needs of the age group the only question is where will the girls be?

Stopping trash talk

censored

I’ve always been dead against censorship in Second Life believing that thought processes should never be censored but I recently received  my comeuppance while showing an elderly and rather conservative new user into  a PG-rated welcome area.

I had not been into a Welcome area for a long time (pre-voice days) and I was appalled -she was too – by the bad language in SL voice and trash talk by all and sundry, but especially loud-mouthed yobbo males, who referred continuously to various parts of their anatomy and what they planned to do with it or what they wanted to do with the girls present.

Muting worked but  my uncalled for feeling was that the Lindens should police PG welcome areas much more proficiently if businessmen and women, educators and their students are going to move freely through this michael-leeworld.

Thus I was interested in Michael Lee’s (pictured) blog  http://www.redherring.com/blogs/25281 in which he noted Microsoft had been granted a patent to filter and censor undesired words in real-time. The automatic system would process everything being said and alter the unwanted words so that they are, according to the patent, “either unintelligible or inaudible.”

Microsoft, he said, understood that “censorship of spoken language can be annoying if each obscenity or profanity is “bleeped” to obscure it so that it is not understood, particularly if the frequency with which such utterances occur is too great.” The company, theefore, has opted to either lower the volume below audibility, replacing the word with an acceptable word or phrase, or taking out the word completely.
Lee said Microsoft’s proposed technology would work in real-time – a practical solution when it comes to the many simultaneous conversations that take place in online multiplayer games.

Now when is SL going to avail itself of the technology?

Virtual crime

thief2

With virtual crime in virtual worlds on the rise, Nick Abrahams,  a Partner and Sydney Office Chairman of law firm, Deacons, has published an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald looking at online and virtual world theft, fraud, sex and relationships and their failure .http://www.smh.com.au/news/technology/biztech/virtual-crime-is-on-the-rise/2008/11/03/1225560726242.html

[Illustration: Screenshot from: “Thief: Deadly Shadows,” published by Eidos http://www.eidos.co.uk/gss/thief_ds/]

EVENTS

November 15 (SL time, 9am- 5pm): Virtual Praxis: A Conference on Women’s Community in Second Life will be held on Minerva, the teaching and research space in Second Life maintained by The Department of Women’s Studies, Ohio State University. Registration free, conference registration/information. http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/collingwood7/minerva/conference.html. Workshops for conference attendees who are new to Second Life will be held at noon and at 5:00 pm SL time on Friday, November 14. To participate IM Ellie Brewster, or e-mail collingwood.7@osu.edu.

September 24-26, 2009: SLACTIONS 2009, research conference in the Second Life® world as well as real world: “Life, Imagination, and work using Metaverse platforms”. Important dates – Current: Scope and call for papers covering full spectrum of intellectual disciplines and technological endeavors in which any Metaverse platforms are currently being used: from education to business, sociology to social sciences, media production to technology development, architecture and urban planning to the arts. February 28, 2009 – Deadline for paper submissions. OpenSim, Open Croquet, Activeworlds, Open Source Metaverse and Project Wonderland are among the other VWs are on the agenda. SLACTION currently has chapters in Brazil, Hong Kong, USA and Europe. The organisers, from some of the world’s leading tertiary insitutions, have invited Australian and New Zealand academic institutions or private research institutions to set up  local physical chapters. Information:  http://www.slactions.org/