Posts Tagged ‘virtual worlds’

Thing 8 – Virtual Worlds

Monday, June 4th, 2012

What is a Virtual World?

Virtual worlds are online communities that interact in some simulated space. Text-based

ivillege house

games and educational environments open to people via the Internet mark the beginnings of these virtual worlds. Current technology makes it possible for virtual worlds to now by 3-dimensional spaces with full multi-media capabilities. They still represent gaming and educational communities, but also are inhabited by other social groups.

Much of what follows has been taken from ipl:15 things – Virtual Worlds

About Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds, sometimes also known as MUVEs (“Multi-User Virtual Environments”) are online virtual spaces through which users navigate remotely by operating an avatar – a virtual representation of themselves – using a mouse, arrow keys, and keyboard text commands or joystick controls to “walk” around and interact with objects and other people’s avatars within the virtual environment.

The visual virtual world environments grew out of text-based virtual worlds such as LambdaMOO which portrayed the virtual world with text descriptions rather than visual images. The original text-based worlds were known as MUDs (multi-user dungeons) and MOOs (MUD, object oriented).

There are hundreds of virtual worlds in existence, although most people have only heard of a handful of them. Active Worlds, established in 1995, is one of the older visually-based virtual worlds, although Second Life, launched in 2003, is probably the best known.

How Do Virtual Worlds Work?

They are communities, so you need to register to access the world or community. Since many of these include visual representations of the world, you will likely  need to download software that acts as a client to access the representation. Virtual worlds are social spaces where users can chat using voice or text and engage in a variety of activities, from playing games to working and training collaboratively, to working in or running a virtual business.  A headset is also useful so that you can hear the sounds of the virtual environment and also to speak to others present.

Some virtual worlds are accessed through web browsers, while others require downloading a ‘client’ software. While typically users log in to servers and proprietary software owned by a company (such as Linden Labs for Second Life), there are some open source variations for virtual worlds software such as OpenSimulator (“OpenSim”) and Oracle/Sun Microsystems’Red Dwarf.    It is possible for organizations to purchase space on an existing virtual world, or if they have the expertise, to set up their own closed, ‘private’ world restricted to their own affiliated users only.


Some virtual worlds offer choices of different “starting” avatars (e.g. male, female, non-human). Both ‘paid’ and ‘free’ accounts may be available, in which the free accounts have more limited functionality. Virtual world users can usually convert real-world money into virtual world currency to purchase items for their avatars, or may be able to ‘earn’ virtual world money by performing tasks in-world. In addition to paid accounts and selling virtual items, virtual worlds may generate money through selling advertising or virtual land. Second Life features the ability for users to rent, own and sell land as well as to create and sell virtual items of their own design, which famously resulted in the first avatar millionaire. For discussion about economics in virtual worlds, see these two longer YouTube videos: Ge Jin discussing his dissertation about gold farmers and Julian Dibbell on economics and gaming.

Virtual World Examples

The Internet Public Library was an early pioneer in virtual worlds for reference services. Elizabeth Shaw (1996) described the initial pilot testing in late 1995 of IPL’s text-based virtual world reference service in “Real-time reference in a MOO: promise and problems.” The IPL MOO reference service operated from 1995 to 2001, and during that time provided a virtual learning laboratory for librarians interested in exploring real-time reference services.

Virtual worlds exist for users at every age level; some examples include Disney-owned Club Penguin

virtual world dance party

for six-year-olds and up, Gaia and Habbo Hotel for teenagers, for young adults and Second Life for adult users.

Many toys for children also now have associated online virtual worlds such as Webkinz stuffed animals, LEGO building blocks, Bratz dolls andBarbie dolls.

The 2011 edition of The Blue Book: Consumer Guide to Virtual Worlds lists over 250 virtual worlds. A YouTube video by Gary Hayes shows 50 virtual worlds in a quick tour, including some which no longer exist.

Things to Read & View

Hands-on Exercises:

This hands-on activity explores the virtual world of Second Life. To get started with Second Life, register for a free new account at You will need to download and install the ‘client’ software and run that on your computer to access Second Life.

For useful information in getting started, see Torley Linden’s Second Life Quickstart Guideand Torley’s video tutorials

Activity 0: View Introduction to Second Life Viewer 2, 2010, and The Viewer’s built-in help – Second Life Viewer 2 Tutorial, 2010,

The remainder of these are sugegstions. Try a couple of them and write about them in your blog.

Activity 1: Lets have a class meet-up on the 2nd floor of the TOC Art Museum in the gallery that holds the paintings by Johannes Vermeer.

Activity 2: Then  head over to a dance club to hang out for a while. Make  group decision to find a suitable dance club.

Activity 3: Visit IPL 15 Things in Second Life for information about getting started and places to visit:

IPL 15 Things in Second Life (While Second Life is running, click this link in your Internet browser and use it to teleport)

Activity 4: Visit a virtual world library reference service. Alliance Virtual Library offers a virtual world reference service staffed collaboratively by librarians worldwide at Info Island in Second Life:

Second Life Library Info Island (While Second Life is running, click this link in your Internet browser and use it to teleport)

Activity 5: Visit a virtual world health and medical library. Alliance’s Health Info Island has a medical library and a consumer health library:

Health Info Island