Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Virtual World Ideal

I have this ideal of the real and inherent social value of virtual worlds such as Second Life. 

I have this ideal that virtual worlds loosen the chains of individual access, and the resultant freedom allows people to explore areas of themselves and others without the tension presented by the tedious confines of the physical world. 

I have this ideal that this new virtual freedom might even spark some tiny bit of enlightenment and even enhance our empathic capacity, if only on the smallest scale.

I have this ideal that even the tiniest shift in empathy could make a meaningful and lasting difference.

But recently I've felt my idealism waning and my enthusiasm for virtual worlds as a vehicle for meaningful change teetering. In the small Second Life echo chamber in which I am transfixed, there is an air of nastiness, a spoiling of trust, a tolerance for vitriol and a tendency to swing with a mighty force at anything that seems unfamiliar. 

Something seems to be seeping into our virtual potential well and poisoning the water.

For what it's worth, every once in a while we should stop and think about what's going on. 

Matthew Taylor was good shot in the arm for me this morning.

Creative people who want to make a difference have a million and one opportunities and distractions. To engage them means an ethic which is intolerant to negativity, rigid thinking and self promotion - and instead keeps people constantly in touch with the words of the anthropologist Margaret Mead.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.   
- Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist (1901 - 1978)

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