Many of the presentations at the Visualization in Science and Education conference that I’m currently attending have evolved around games, simulations, and virtual worlds, and in one of today’s talks the presenter showed us this picture:
Picture from “Motivate Us Not”
In this particular talk, the “problem” with reality was linked to the complexity of the world’s many challenges, e.g. in terms of risks we’re facing – which evidently can be quite overwhelming and most likely will cause some people to withdraw from the “real” world, and ultimately leave it to others to try and meet these challenges. However, the picture also pointed to a theme that has been recurring throughout the conference, namely why we need virtual games, worlds etc. in the first place – why not stick to (the reality of) this world? If the skeptics at this conference leave with the impression that those of us in favor of such immersive/augmented technologies want to replace Reality, then I think we have failed (and note that was not the view of the presenter).
Both I, and the colleagues I know who use these technologies in education are not trying to replace, but rather to supplement and work with mixed realities in a re-situated perspective, drawing on the best affordances from each. In another talk, the presenter distinguished between the “game” understood as software, and the “Game” understood as the social context; the community, the practice, the artifacts, and the interactions surrounding the game. I found this to be an important distinction, which could be applied to my own work, and while as an educator I also have an inherent interest in the nature and development of the software (from an instructional POV), I do believe that the context is crucial – and probably could make the difference as to whether people would use these new types of technologies to escape or improve our reality … regardless of how we choose to define it. I’m not done thinking about this, but this morning’s talks provided really good food for thought, and proved that Reality isn’t such a bad Game after all ;-)
Together with several colleagues from different Danish universities/companies, I’ve been invited to participate in a workshop at Stanford University that aims at exploring different kinds of virtuality.
The workshop is inviting researchers and practitioners from across a great number of disciplines to come together and inspire each other in discussions on 4 overall themes:
- The sensational organization
- Embodying the Virtual
- Transformations of time and space
- Virtuality and affects
Jeremy Bailenson, Director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab will open the workshop with a keynote on the book “Infinite Reality“, which he co-autored with Jim Blascovich. Since I’ve been using the book in my PhD-work, I’m really looking forward to getting the opportunity to hear Bailenson elaborate and discuss some of the issues raised. My colleague, Anders Drachen and I are currently trying to establish a research center on virtual environments, and we are hoping to use this opportunity to connect with relevant partners both at Stanford and some of the other universities and companies in the area.
More on this will follow when the program is finalized.