I'd like to let you know about a conference being held at Emory University on February 11. I know there are many virtual worlds conferences these days. This one is different. Let me set a historical context.
There have been virtual worlds conferences for many years. The industry itself has run the Austin Game Conference, and there have been several academic conferences centered on the humanities: interesting discussions without the intent of having a practical impact one way or another. (And there's nothing wrong with that.) Then came State of Play in 2003, at New York Law School, the most influential conference of that era. That conference produced a community of hard-headed people, a community that then developed the advice and reasoning that courts and legislatures are using today to deal with the virtual worlds legal issues we knew would come.
Soon, firms became interested in virtual worlds, and a series of Virtual Worlds Conference and Expos have allowed that community to develop marketing methods, business models, and interoperability standards. Second Life has been the main driver in that area.
Throughout this period, many of us said that the next thing would be a revolution in social and behavioral science. Virtual worlds will change society, making them a research subject in their own right. But virtual worlds would also be an important tool for researchers, a controlled environment for studying macro-scale questions, a social science petri dish. As such, virtual worlds would revolutionize the academy as well as society.
These possibilities have now been thrust into the spotlight by the publication, in Lancet and Epidemiology, of research on the Corrupted Blood plague in World of Warcraft. A trickle of virtual world social science papers is appearing. It appears we are now entering the next phase, in which hard-nosed, quantitative, social and behavioral scientists will address the likely impact of virtual worlds across all society. A community is forming, and the first conference of this nascent community will meet at Emory University on February 11, 2008.
The subject of the conference is the evolution of virtual worlds and their broad impact on society. Research fields include economics, business, political science, anthropology, sociology, psychology, public health, and more. Developers of virtual world-making software will be on hand to discuss and demonstrate the possibilities for building pocket virtual worlds for research. The full announcement is below. The public is invited.
I think this is likely to be seen as a very important conference. If you have questions, please address them to the organizers: Benn Konsynski (Benn.Konsynski@bus.emory.edu), Holli Semetko (firstname.lastname@example.org), and David Bray (email@example.com).
**** CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT ****
Virtual Worlds and New Realities in Commerce, Politics, and Society
11 February 2008
Emory University, Atlanta GA
Virtual worlds are now a reality. Virtual worlds allow everyone to create
a digital character representing themselves and interact with other
computer-generated individuals, landscapes, virtually-run global
businesses, and in-world institutions in real-time. Fascinatingly, both
endogenously produced economies and social orders are emerging in these
virtual worlds. Political candidates are campaigning in virtual worlds,
while some sales of virtual assets are producing demand in the real world
for equivalent items.
On Monday, 11 February 2008 Emory University will host a public forum
discussing both research and long-term implications of virtual and
real-world interactions with regard to commerce, politics, and society.
Four panels will be held, to include:
(1) Evolution of Virtual Worlds
(2) Emerging Virtual Institutions both in Business and Politics
(3) Mirrored Influence of Virtual and Real-World Elements
(4) Possible Futures of Virtual Worlds and Society
Interested members of the public, practitioners, and academics from
multiple fields (to include political science, business, information
systems, public health, psychology, sociology, anthropology, library
sciences, and more) are all invited to participate in the forum. As part
of Emory University’s strategic plan, “Where Courageous Inquiry Leads”,
this conference seeks to engage scholars in a strong and vital community
to confront the human condition and experience and explore twenty-first
century frontiers in science and technology, specifically involving
virtual world phenomena.
Co-chairs: Benn Konsynski, Holli Semetko, David Bray