Saturday, May 20, 2006

Yet Another Virtual Iraq

Virtualpolitik has provided commentary on the Tactical Iraqi language-learning videogame and the Virtual Iraq simulation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and even the plan to create a virtual museum to catalogue missing and recovered treasures from Iraq that were looted during the post-invasion chaos. Now students at Purdue University are creating one more "Virtual Iraq," although I think they've come on the scene too late to trademark the brand.

With Assistant Professor Stacy Holden, students are working closely with Simulex, a private government contractor, to build a database that can model the urban environment of Baghdad.

So how are the students finding such specific information about a city nearly 6,500 miles away?

Guided by a list of 700 research terms provided by the Department of Defense, a half-dozen students are scanning English-language Web sites. They’re looking for Iraqi memoirs and blogs and taking information from media reports and non-governmental organizations. Any little bit or detail that could be useful is added to the database.

Richard Oloffson, a graduate student from Naperville, Ill., working on the project, calls it “Virtual Iraq.”

He says if he’s looking at a neighborhood he wants to know, “the ethnic makeup, the religious makeup, is there raw sewage in the street, is there disease?”

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