Great balls of fire! This is a flash-based augmented reality.
Virtual worlds introduce a complex new aspect to society. In allowing for the creation of an avatar, virtual worlds create an alternate identity for an individual. It is important not write off virtual worlds and those people that choose to participate in them because the line between virtual reality and true reality is not clear cut.
Many virtual worlds incorporate a system in which virtual world money can be exchanged at a certain rate for real-world money. The exchange rate in virtual worlds gives ethics violations more weight. The fact that people in Second Life can be making millions of dollars a year calls for some sort of regulation. The current model of regulation is more similar to an oligarchy than anything else. Virtual worlds are run by corporations and the corporations have the power to do whatever they want to their world at whatever time they want. A game that can allow users to earn substantial amounts of money calls for government regulations. This is particularly important when it comes to enforcing rules and laws within the world related to ethics.
A second major issues is that people are developing virtual identities in addition to their real identity. The two identities are not at all separate from one another. The link between the two has relevance to many different aspects of society. The article on retail discusses how using a person’s virtual identity can be beneficial to marketers. Virtual identities and virtual interactions can allows companies to gain insight into the consumer in new ways. Virtual identities could also provide an opportunity for scholars to learn more about human psychology and interaction.
An interesting theme in this course has been related to who governs online spaces. Thus far, it has been a case in which corporations rule for the most part. However, corporations need to satisfy the wants and needs of individuals in order for their business models to thrive. Lawrence Lessig talks about this give-and-take in his theory of the hybrid economy. In this economy, user-generated content brings together the user as a producer and the corporation as a platform provider. The user needs the corporation for the platform and the corporation needs the user for the content.
With online citizen journalism, we see the emergence of for-profit business models as platforms for news delivery, just as we saw with broadcast journalism. However, broadcast journalism operates on a traditional business model in which employees produce content for the corporation. With online citizen journalism the journalists are users of the site, not employees. Therefore, it is in the sites best interest to keep the users, aka citizen journalists, happy.
I think that this is the key to avoiding the concentration of ownership of for-profit citizen journalism in the hands of a few. Under the model of the hybrid economy, users hold more power. As long as users act on their agency in this system, they can have an influence on what the future has in store.