Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Virtual Worlds as Teaching Tools

Interesting piece about the Arden, the World of Shakespeare project (run by virtual world economics theorist Edward Castronova), which it seems is not quite closing down (as reported on Massively)

Castronova is still planning to pursue experiments in virtual worlds. Social sciences need to be able to do controlled experiments, such as those done in the natural sciences, he says, and virtual worlds could be a good venue for that. In order to use them credibly, Castronova says, scientists need to test how accepted theories hold in game worlds. Political scientists should set up experiments to confirm that people in games vote in tune with their interests; sociologists should set up experiments to confirm that people's relationship to conformity is similar; and economists should test the basic principles of supply and demand. "A virtual world is a tool like a petri dish," he says. "We need to find out what you can do with a petri dish, and what kinds of things need a live rabbit."

In relation to the Can the Humanities Save us? entry I posted earlier today on the HUMlab blog, the following passage from the Tech Review is interesting:

Still, many academic researchers have high hopes for the potential uses of virtual worlds. Tim Lenoir, the Kimberly Jenkins chair for new technologies and society at Duke University, sees virtual worlds as powerful training tools. Lenoir is working on a world called Virtual Peace, intended to train people heading into difficult negotiation scenarios. For years, he says, the military and other organizations have used paper-based role-playing games for trainings. Virtual worlds are a natural step up from that, since they allow people to become more immersed in the scenario, and allow for richer background materials, he says.

The traditional boundaries between the so-called 'two cultures' are clearly under pressure in a technology that allows "people to become more immersed in the scenario." The aesthetics of virtual worlds is something I find very interesting.

The next project for Arden, how to "make it fun" will go by the title Arden II: London Burning. Sounds like fun.

No comments: