Kindling

Some years ago, I was surprised to discover that anyone could resell their books on Amazon. (Until then, I assumed Amazon was only available to businesses.) Two things happened as a result of this revelation:

1)      I became much more sceptical about buying books not sold by Amazon itself
2)      I started selling my own second hand books

Then came eBooks, and the Amazon Kindle store. My first assumption went along the lines of “well, you can’t sell second-hand eBooks, so everything here must by sold by Amazon”. Right? Of course not. I soon discovered that anyone can sell any text on the Amazon Kindle store.

So again, my perception of the store’s reliability dropped, albeit for a different reason.

It strikes me that virtual worlds suffer from the same kind of problem, only in reverse. When the first contemporary public virtual world (Second Life) was launched, anyone could create their view of a desirable world. And thousands did. Some creations were beautiful, some were downright weird. The press, obviously, couldn’t resist poking fun at some of the public spectacles.

Given time, the virtual world “publishers” came along and created spaces intended to be useful to large numbers of people (rather than being one personal idea of a useful world), and using evidence-based design. There are many such places now; in our case, it’a a laboratory for teaching and learning laboratory skills in genetics.

Now that stories of weird goings-on in virtual worlds are yesterday’s news, virtual worlds appear to have “had their day”, but this is not so, they have merely “had their 15 minutes of fame“. Many virtual worlds are now available, some now a good alternative to Second Life, and many organisations are developing successful educational and other professional spaces.

If the Kindle was meant as kindling for eBooks, Second Life has done the same for virtual worlds. I’m looking forward to seeing both become the roaring success they deserve.

Paul Rudman, BDRA

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