Virtual Labor Lost

There’s more coverage today on the perceived failure of the Arden project. The project was the brainchild of Edward Castronova, Indiana University, and funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Technology Review (published by MIT) has a good article covering this project, and where they are going next with this project:

Virtual Labor Lost

As was stated in the recently released Gartner study,

“Gartner recommends that enterprises should experiment with virtual worlds, but not plan massive projects, and look for community benefits rather than commerce.”

The Arden project had lofty goals, and sought nothing less than a World of Warcraftian Shakespeare experience for students. The price of admission to these large MMO’s is high, and that seems to be what buried this project.

Projects like Multiverse are seeking to flatten the development curve, and provide virtual world architects the tools to build their worlds without the lengthy and costly setup that is usually associated with these platforms. I had thought that Arden was going to be one of the first projects released using the Multiverse platform, but the final project ended up using the Neverwinter Nights engine. I have yet to find an article that covers the reasons they switched platforms midstream.

Virtual Worlds and education are still in their infancy. Every day we are reminded of this when we can’t log into Second Life, inventory items vanish, or some other critical component goes off-line. The technology is getting there, but until we have platforms that are rock solid and low cost, these projects will remain on the fringe and not part of the mainstream. I suspect we are still a few years away from this transition (and that may be optimistic). And that is where groups like SLED play a vital role. Those out using this technology now need to document their efforts, share their experiences, and celebrate their successes. Without pioneers, there would be no frontier to explore.

To date, Second Life (with all of its flaws) is still the platform of choice for educators. It allows them to rapidly prototype, develop and deploy engaging 3D environments for their students at a relatively low cost. And the beauty is that there are many places on the main grid of Second Life where educators can come together, collaborate, and share with each other in an open setting. Life on the frontier is never easy, but keeping an eye on the future will keep things in perspective as we push through the difficulties of today.

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