Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One If By Land and Two If By Sea

I'm always interested in how official government agencies represent themselves in online environments such as Second Life, so when I read the following post in The Click Heard Round the World -- a blog about "virtual worlds, Web 2.0, civil society," and "politics" -- I had to check it out.

The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has done some amazingly cool builds in Second Life on their two islands Meteora and Okeanos. This US government agency has commissioned lots of innovative, interactive displays that really show the potential for virtual world education and awareness-raising -- from a hurricane simulator to a live map of the US showing weather patterns to an iceberg showing the impact of climate change.

Some of the site clearly replicates the built environment of their Boulder, Colorado facility. Prominently posted rules warn against naughty avatar behavior that would be contrary to public decorum and their islands' youth-friendly image.

There were also some drearily unimaginative displays of the presentation poster and PowerPoint variety, as well as replication of conventional lecture and boardroom spaces.

Nonetheless, much of the space seemed to welcome unfettered experimentation, although I was disappointed at not figuring out how to ride the balloon that was supposedly on site during the time that I was there. Yet, in light of the site's emphasis on scientific inquiry and technical precision, I found it amusing that not all the collision detection was configured as it should be, so that one could "sit" inside some of the solid objects in entertaining ways. Here I am sticking through one of their displays.

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