Virtual worlds (social networking)

Description

These are chat rooms and communities which exist in an online simulated environment. A virtual world produces visual representations of places and practices. They sometimes mimic the real world, and they sometimes add a touch of fantasy. Individuals can log on as an avatar and participate in social, business and educational gatherings as “physically” as is currently possible online.

Examples

  • University of Plymouth Sexual Health Sim in Second life
  • Second Health explores what the healthcare of the future might look like and explores complex topics in a lively way

Benefits and advantages

  • Can be used to hold a simulated public meeting.
  • Low cost or free
  • Can be used to create exhibitions
  • Can create and sustain communities online
  • Are highly visual
  • Virtual worlds are already popular with educational institutions and businesses.
  • People find it fun!

Risks and disadvantages

  • Usage is dependent on an internet connection and a relatively new computer with a dedicated graphics card
  • Certain social classes and age groups may be excluded 
  • Their game-like appearance might be seen to trivialise some issues
  • They are often associated with a small “gaming” subculture and are not yet a mainstreamed way of communicating online