Science in Virtual Worlds

I’m speaking tonight at the Apple Store on Regent Street as part of the Royal Institute’s evening discussion about the science taking place in virtual worlds. My topic will be Ethics (relevant, considering yesterday’s foiled meeting – let’s see if I can get to an ethics discussion in the real world).

A brief bit of coverage is here, on this week’s Guardian Science podcast, featuring Dave Taylor from the National Physical Laboratory (aka NanoDave) and myself. We discuss SL in general, and more specifically why it’s a relevant platform for science.


~ by aleks on June 19, 2007.

2 Responses to “Science in Virtual Worlds”

  1. Hi Aleks,
    Good podcast 😉
    I’m a french student in Sorbonne faculty?. I make a survey on sociologicals aspects of SL and I was yesterday in Social Sim to discuss about ethic in research. Theses questions was greats for my survey. And than I read your blog with attention.( but sorry i’m an english learner too ;-))

    My reflexion on SL is very academic but with passing days I wan’t introduce more fun in my personal reflexion (not in my survey lol)

    I think more scientifics concepts around SL have several links with science fiction like the word “metaverse” for exemplpe.
    More, have you seen this video intutuled : the media revolution ) it’s pure science fiction and funny aspects.

    But beyond theses funny aspects, what do you think about the influence of a metaworld like second life (metagalaxy or metaverse like you want) on science ? Science will be become really “fictionnal” ? In a “pospectivist”, futurologist” sense ?

    How change the pertinence of science in front of virtuality ?

    Thanks for your work and your ressources sharing, maybe see you on SL one day lol. I go frequently on Social sim to have references 😉
    I work my english to have betters discussions before ++

  2. Mathieu, all great questions (and much better English than my French!). They deserve to be answered by more people than just I; a Thinkers meeting should be called to discuss!

    But perhaps to stimulate conversation here, I suppose I could start…

    I don’t envisage virtual worlds as contributing anything greater to science than many new innovations. Virtual worlds are communication tools, and that’s where they will emerge as most powerful in terns of scientific research.

    Dave Taylor at the National Physical Laboratory discussed this at this event, where he explained how his relationships have been facilitated by the “presence” between different physically proximate institutions and his own. The collaborative opportunities are the most fundamental, particularly within the parameters dictated by the current technological constraints of most virtual worlds.

    As Joanna Scott from Nature argued, the visualisation capabilities offer tools for the general public to engage with science in a way which has traditionally be limited to physically situated science museums. Perhaps in future the 3D graphical in-world representations of scientific discovery could offer discoveries which weren’t obvious using out-of-world techniques. But the technologies of virtual worlds will need to outstrip those of offline tools before that’s possible!

    Finally, there are some possibilities socially, which people like Ted Castronova at the Arden Project are exploring. Using virtual worlds to conduct social experiments (economic, psychological, sociological and others relevant to, for example, policy and governance) by splitting population samples into shards of identical virtual spaces bar a few key variables in order to understand social questions pertinent to offline, is an exciting possibility. But it presupposes virtual worlds represent a mirrored reality, a perfect fit between who we are offline and who we are online. Which I think misses some of the point of the uniqueness of online interaction.

    Then you’ve also got to ask whether people who are inside these virtual shards are OK being manipulated like that 😉

    What do you think?


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