Monday, August 11, 2008

Virtual worlds and memory

Last week, Heidi Ballinger invited me to a metanomics meeting. It was my first time inside Second Life doing something real and not just observing how Second Life is (yes, I've been an SL newbie for years). Indeed I was not really immersed in the world, learning on what to click, being annoyed with the lag, the somehow noisy VoIP and all other imperfections of SL. Surely, if I get regularly into SL, at some point my brain will get rewired and I will feel immersed in SL in the same way when using a mouse I “feel” my hand is “inside” the screen dragging documents and touching things.

The strange thing was the day after when I wake up I had the feeling to have been in a real meeting “somewhere”. My memory had build a sort of fake souvenir. I remembered things in a way that look more real than what really happened. For example, Zha Ewry who works for IBM and talked about opensim is in my memory a forty something guy with a white shirt while in SL he is a twenty something girl.

After this probably common experience I got puzzled and spend some time reading SL related blogs. I do not find much related to the topic but a blogger as puzzled as I am with a short post about memory and virtual worlds.

An incomplete conclusion is that virtual worlds are not only about being efficient and useful communication systems. They have a “trick”, a mental trick that hooks the users. At first sight, 3D does not seems very efficient and useful. 3D is not easy to deal with and it do not convey a lot of information since the gestures are stereotypes. But it gives the user a feeling of something that really happened, a feeling of shared human warmth. And that helps the communication.