At the American Museum of Moving Image this past Saturday, March 29th, there was an excellent symposium featuring Sherry Turkle, noted author/digital culture expert; Linda Stone, Director of the Virtual Worlds Group at Microsoft's Advanced Technology and Research Division; and Scott Kurnit, Founder, The Mining Company. Following are some synopses of their presentations:
Turkle argued that computers allow us to assume several identities, explore other sides of ourselves, and have it be relatively safe. Our life on the screen is not "RL" (real life) so we can zone, role-play, release, gain perspective. Stone talked about avatar development--how what we put on the distributed network can, in some ways, "become us." She showed us the demo of Microsoft's V-Chat, which lets users make their own avatars or use one of the standard ones. Backgrounds are animated, for instance, in the "Fish Bowl," seaweed swirls in the water, fish swim by, and bubbles move upwards. Another fun area is the Comic Chat. Here everyone's avatar looks like a comic book character, the backgrounds and speech captions also have a comic book feel. Some people have begun using VChat as a lobby area on their web page. But the really cool part was the "Emotion Dial," which allows the avatars a full range of emotions. Kurnit argued that "different people use the Net differently." He said Mining Company has already hired 260 "guides" to more than 1,800 sites.
Tery Spataro of Stir.net and Chris McCarthy, Director of Strategic Planning for Avalanche were present. I also spied Jamie Levy, Ruth Shanen, former List-Mom of the WWWAC and NancyJaffe, Director of Strategic Planning at Oglivy & Mather.
(Appeared originally in @The Scene in the @NY newsletter)