Archive for October, 2007

A friend just sent a link to a presentation by computer scientist and visionary Alan Kay on the topic of predicting the future. It’s a great piece with a lot to consider. There certainly are significant implications in Kay’s observations in terms of education and the use of some of the technologies that are the focus of this blog. Here’s the link along with a few quotes of interest from the presentation:


the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

“Humans beings can’t exist without communication. It’s one of those basic human traits, and we’re always willing to pay more for a better communications amplifier.”

“McLuhan had a great line about the 20th century. He said, ‘the 20th century is the century in which change changed.’ ”

“In some sense our ability to open the future will depend not on how well we learn anymore but how well we are able to unlearn. Can you imagine a course at Stanford on unlearning? That would be revolutionary.”

“I think the weakest way to solve a problem is just to solve it; that’s what they teach in elementary school. In some math and science courses they often teach you it’s better to change the problem. I think it’s much better to change the context in which the problem is being stated. Some years ago, Marvin Minsky said, “You don’t understand something until you understand it more than one way.” I think that what we’re going to have to learn is the notion that we have to have multiple points of view.”

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You know an area of interest has hit the mainstream when one of the “Dummies” series of books is published on that topic (Massively Multiplayer Games for Dummies by Scott Jennings (2006)). In recent years a number of books have been published that examine various aspects of the virtual world experience, some of general interest while others take a more academic approach. Having previous experience in one or more worlds will certainly provide a more meaningful context for your reading, but it is not required. In some cases the books may encourage you to explore virtual space. Here are two books that I found of particular interest as starting points:

1. Play Money (2006) by journalist Julian Dibbell reads like an adventure novel as it documents his attempt to make “play” his full time job for a year. For that year he sold virtual coins and objects that he acquired while playing the MMO Ultima Online for real money. In the book he raises a number of thoughtful issues regarding the nature of the virtual worlds and their relationship to real life. Here’s an excerpt from his blog that was written prior to the publication of the book:


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Types of Virtual Worlds

Lord of the Rings Online

There are a large number of virtual worlds in existence with memberships that vary from a few thousand to several million inhabitants. For the most part they can be seen as falling into one of two categories, the open-ended, non-structured (sandbox) virtual worlds, and the theme based, game-like Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (know as MMORPGs or MMOs).

“Real Life” Virtual Worlds

The first category has been more widely used for educational purposes. These worlds allow you to create your own environment as well as utilize environments created by others. They often simulate real life surroundings and activities. Academically, classes can be taught in these spaces, meetings or conference sessions held, and experiments and simulations created.


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