The VR Bu(g)zz

Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus, CastAR by Technical Illusions, Glyph by Avegant, Google Cardboard VR, Mark IV by Gameface, Durovis’s Dive VR, InfinitEye by InfinitEyeVR

VR is ON… and in a big way.

It is not surprising that the gaming industry is leading the innovation. And that it started as a grassroots initiative… If we’ve learned anything from the past, it is that the gaming community thrives on modding and tinkering.  True to form, Oculus Rift was first developed by a gamer.

The real question is, will it become popular? Will it be a disruptive technology? Hard to say, but it is changing the way we consume media, that’s for sure.

CCP has been working on its own version, Valkyrie (a multiplayer dogfighting shooting game) set in the EVE universe (I tried it in EVE Vegas, it’s fantastic) and Linden Lab just announced that it too will be working on a next generation Second Life that includes VR technology.

In addition to gaming, film creators are quick to jump on the Rift-wagon. Private Eye is working on its psychological thriller based on Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Thriller and VR, the best combination since ARG and thriller… In fact, thriller goes well with everything, like that beige top you like to wear whenever you can’t find anything else clean in your closet.

And a good friend of mine is releasing the first VR film, Banshee Chapter… Here is a recap on Fast Company.

It is true that content built using VR technologies currently does not have a killer app to make it go viral. So there is that…

But let’s drink the VR cool aid for a moment here… and fantasize.

Now that Facebook purchased it (or at least purchased one of the VR companies), it could possibly evolve into some form of communication platform other than be used exclusively for entertainment purposes. Zuckerberg did not buy a VR company and a drone company just to to expand his personal collection of companies. It could allow us to consume media together, similar to how Twitter is currently being used amongst  television audiences. Television audiences watch and re-watch episodes of their favorite shows and comment via Twitter and respond to  each other as they are watching them. Think how that would change with VR.

Or experience news on site with the anchor.

Mind blown…

iPhone with its outrageous purchase price and unusual interface revolutionized the mobile phone industry. Nobody saw that coming. So too could Oculus Rift combine communication, entertainment, and gaming and package it as one unified experience.

Interactive TV could be the real deal, movies could offer a  genuine immersive experience that you watch with your Facebook friends, you know, virtually, healthcare industry could change, training simulations can be something more than simulations.

It is already happening, all you have to do is to peek at the International Society for Presence Research’s site.

Let’s put the cool aid down.

Privacy? I’m glad you asked. Because that too will change (not disappear, just morph into something unrecognizable as businesses and digital rights activists negotiate).

I submit that the killer application of VR will likely be social networks as the technology becomes the data powerhouse of the future.

But first, let’s get this goggle a bit smaller. Dev guys, I’m talking to you!

New article draft: When Inmates Run the Asylum

So, I just finished the first draft of my article on peer surveillance in virtual worlds. The draft is available here. This will be a chapter in the current book I am working on, Grief Play: The Art of Disruption in Virtual Worlds. Feedback welcome. Abstract:

When the Inmates Run the Asylum:

Grief Play in the Virtual Panopticon of Second Life

In this article I sketch out how governance is negotiated through grief play in virtual worlds particularly when peer surveillance is involved. Characterizing virtual worlds as having legal pluralism determined by different stakeholders whose interests may or may not align, I argue that surveillance exists in a decentralized form which leads to the establishment of data powerhouses at the hands of unauthorized persons or groups. Using Second Life as an example, I demonstrate how these practices result in power asymmetries and abuses that allow player groups to gather intelligence for the purpose of gaining power in-world, thereby exacerbating conflict among player groups. It is in this political climate that griefing in Second Life developed from a set of practices including irreverent language and dicey pranks into a tactic used to negotiate power.

Alternate Reality Games & Transgressive Fan Play in Lonelygirl15


My latest article, Bull In a China Shop:Alternate Reality Games and Transgressive Fan Play in Social Media Franchises, is published in Transformative Works and Cultures this month.

Here’s the abstract:

In this article I examine the role of fan-ARGs in Lonelygirl15 (LG15), a video blog that became one of the first social media franchises of YouTube. Eager to explore the narrative possibilities of Internet technologies, its creators set out to provide community-based storytelling that embodied the general spirit of co-authorship. To ensure viral distribution, the videos were shot to evoke the maximum amount of curiosity, teasing their viewers with a seemingly simple plotline laden with clues that promised a deeper mystery. While fan creativity was encouraged, the concerns of creating a commercially viable story led to careful management of fan activities and strict definition of the boundaries of the LG15 canon. Intrigued by the mysterious beginnings of the show, some fans created ARG spinoffs to deliver a more engaging experience than the show initially offered. I argue that early fan ARGs became tactics through which fans engaged in transgressive play and negotiated a more meaningful role within the franchise.

wicked thoughts on media and technology…