A blog by George Engel

Archive for January, 2011

A Second, yet more disruptive Life

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/410

The video I have posted here is a discussion of the nature of the virtual reality call Second life. Second Life is an online world where people of any race, creed, color, culture, and orientation may go to socialize, learn, and even make money. Philip Rosedale speaks at length about why he created Second Life and its qualities. He mentioned several powerful and disruptive properties of the world that Second Life represents. The very nature of the symbolic nature of the world allows for a new level of learning. Concepts are represented as images and symbols instead of words. This is an amazing way to organize information. It reflects why so many instructors want us to symbolically represent our thinking through mind maps. According to Rosedale, this graphic organization enables a greater linking of information in our memories.

A second point that he made was that Second Life is a world that is inherently social. However, the social interactions are not limited to the English speaking population of the United States. People from all over the world are able to gather within the confines of Second Life. This gives them an opportunity to learn and gain from each other, creating a virtual blending of global cultures. This connection has the potential to change the world and disrupt the abilities of an established government to manage this behavior.

Another aspect that I found fascinating was the ability to explore a new identity in this realm. Sherry Turkle, in her book Life on the Screen, speaks of this identity development on the web. She says that our web identities are forms by this type of exploration. In Second Life, we can be any personality type we wish to be, bold, shy, arrogant, charismatic, and so on. Eventually, this leads to the development of an online persona that is a “pastiche” of these explored personalities.

Rosedale, finished the video by stating that virtual worlds like Second Life create the potential for its members to change, to become more than they are.


Rhymes and Reasons: The Internet in the hands of Gutenberg

I wonder if Gutenberg, in the invention of the printing press, realized what he had unleashed into the world. That single invention, even in its simplest incarnation, changed the face of the earth forever. It gave, eventually, even the common man access to information that he or she had never possessed. It gave the common man education, science, mathematics, literature, music, entertainment, and so on, on a level never seen before. Now, that printing press is represented in the internet. The internet has had a similar revolutionary effect on the world that the printing press had in its day. The Internet has not just granted access to information like the printing press, but it has also sped up the delivery of that information and changed the way the information is accessed.

This leads me to the talk that Kevin Kelly gave on the First 5000 days of the Web back in 2007 shown in the video below:

This talk brings up many images of various science fiction themes from the concept of the “Skynet” in the Terminator series to the open access of the Minority Report. I even see shadows of Movies like the Matrix and concepts like Battlestar Galactica in play with Kelly’s discussion of the web becoming a world mind… These are interesting thoughts worth of exploration at another time.

Kelly mentions three basic concepts of the changing Web in the next 5000 days of its existence, embodiment, restructuring, and co-dependency. In a way, though these are separate concepts, they all are linked closely together through the Web. The concept of embodiment focuses on the idea that the Web will be a part of everything, from our cars and phones to the lights in the ceiling and shoes on our feet. Everything will have a piece of Web technology in it. We will be a part of that “everything,” so that not just the machines but also humanity becomes an integral part of the body of the Web. It will measure and record everything that is done.

The restructuring will come from how information is shared on the Web. Until recently, the Web was a collection of pages with links to on another. Now, instead, it is becoming a series of links of data points. Now the Web links ideas and concepts and data instead of the page. This will change how we perceive things and access information.

Finally, the Web is leading us toward co-dependency, not dependency. Co-dependency in that we will depend on the web for every aspect of our lives. It will be the source of travel, diets, and any other need that we have. However, that need is reciprocal because the web will need us to gather and input information into its structures.

I leave this post with one final thought. Will the Web eventually become sentient?