Virtual Web, Real World

raphael.raph.koster.jpg Muddying the web:
Raph Koster makes the point that virtual worlds are becoming more and more intertwined with (and perhaps indistinguishable from) the web. Anything with an avatar, a way to have both real-time and not-real-time communication, and some spatial metaphors is both a virtual world and… Facebook.

So here’s a downloadable manuscript called The Web: Hidden Games. It’s not the deepest piece of writing, but it’s an implementation of the Raph idea. The author cheerfully suggests that Facebook, YouTube, and Digg are addictive because they’re really games. They’ve got set rules, they’re fun, and you can try to beat the other guy.

Are you winning at Digg? Susan Crawford, Susan Crawford Blog, 10 Jan 2008

I think this is right, and it’s just an extension of how Mosaic, the original web browser came to be: Marc Andreesen decided to mix computer game interfaces with Internet access.

I don’t think Raph or Susan goes far enough. It’s not just online virtual worlds and the web that are mixing together, it’s online and offline. Take reddit, for example. The goal there is partly the same as digg: to get your story to the top. But it’s also to inform and to convince. Sometimes even to research. You know, the kind of things people used to depend on newspapers to do. But newspapers are too slow, too dumbed down, and too controled by their owners to do as much of it as online users would like, so they are doing it themselves. This is what is going to force net neutrality: the users revolting. Or, in other words, Internet users acting politically.

Bill Gibson projects:

Totally ubiquitous computing. One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible. The distinction between cyberspace and that which isn’t cyberspace is going to be unimaginable. When I wrote Neuromancer in 1984, cyberspace already existed for some people, but they didn’t spend all their time there. So cyberspace was there, and we were here. Now cyberspace is here for a lot of us, and there has become any state of relative nonconnectivity. There is where they don’t have Wi-Fi.

—William Gibson, The Rolling Stone 40th Anniversary Interview, by Andrew Leonard, Posted Nov 07, 2007 8:45 AM

He’s been right before.