Monday, April 9, 2012

Working in Virtual Worlds

Before reading the articles, I already had my own views of virtual worlds and its effects on its users. I didn't think the effects were as extreme as Castronova (which I will discuss below) described them to be and I never saw the benefits that Linden Labs discussed either. However, I did believe that virtual worlds were a place of solace for its users, allowing them to release their inhibitions and freely express themselves. I never thought too much about it because, like Castronova observed about others, I didn't think it was that serious. 

After reading both articles, I definitely have a pretty broad view of the effects of working in a virtual world. While Linden Labs highlights the positive outcomes of using virtual worlds, they fail to pinpoint how virtual worlds can also negatively effect its users and those around them. Linden Lab discussed how IBM's business meeting in Second Life was cost-saving, convenient for those who would have needed for travel and beneficial to the attendees who took the opportunities to network and socialize. While those are great reasons for any huge organization to implement virtual worlds into their business, Castronova discusses how virtual worlds can shift and cause harm to the social lives of its users. It's understandable that people can become too absorbed into their virtual worlds, but when Castronova speaks about the freedom of movement, it confuses me a tad bit. I think Castronova was trying to make the point that your virtual reputation/life follows you and interferes with your social interactions/life with other online users. He writes: "If Everquest bothers me, I can quit and go play Counter-Strike all day, but at the cost of losing every asset and friendship I have built...", which seems as though this virtual life is actually real.

While Linden Labs describes virtual worlds as just that, a virtual world, Castronova is describing these virtual worlds as reality. Linden Labs' example depicts Second Life as an outlet of convenience for IBM's business, being that is was a great implementation for IBM because it helped save money and was a great way to have people network and socialize. Second Life was not that big of a deal where social relationships and lives were affected, which is how Castronova depicts virtual worlds; these virtual worlds are to be treated as if it were real. It is no longer just a game to Castronova because they have real-life effects on its users. I think Castronova's claims are pushing it a bit, but I understand and respect his work and research that was done to argue his claims.

J. Howard

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