Virtual worlds are real worlds

Virtual worlds have been the object of study for a while. There are legal and governance issues worthy of debate. The MacArthur Foundation sees digital media and learning is a separate and important education. Businesses communicators and marketers are finding new business frontiers.

What's different now, Edward Castronova says, is that the social sciences are now beginning to look at virtual worlds as real worlds, and not simply as an interesting subject with real world implications.

Lancet and Epidemiology [have published research] on the Corrupted Blood plague in World of Warcraft. A trickle of virtual world social science papers is appearing. It appears we are now entering the next phase, in which hard-nosed, quantitative, social and behavioral scientists will address the likely impact of virtual worlds across all society. A community is forming, and the first conference of this nascent community will meet at Emory University on February 11, 2008.

The subject of the conference is the evolution of virtual worlds and their broad impact on society. Research fields include economics, business, political science, anthropology, sociology, psychology, public health, and more. Developers of virtual world-making software will be on hand to discuss and demonstrate the possibilities for building pocket virtual worlds for research.

That's why Castronova would have you attend "Virtual Worlds and New Realities in Commerce, Politics, and Society" on February 11.