Virtual Worlds Avatars and the Future

AVATARA (2003)
by 536 (Donato Mancini, Jeremy Turner,
with Patrick “Flick” Harrison)

It was with much happiness that I discovered this morning that Avatara is now streamed online. Avatara is a full length documentary on a community that is based in the virtual online world of DigitalSpace Traveler. The film is a fascinating account of how networks can be built in virtual worlds (more about it here). The Traveler community has been in existence since 1993, making it one of the earliest such groups in a shared online virtual world. Today 3D online worlds like Second Life, Meez, Twintity, Lively, Eve and so many more are taking up an increasing amount of time in the lives of millions of people. Looking at the Avatara film provides an insight into the communicative and social value of such media.

The educational value of virtual worlds is another subject close to my heart and it is shaping up to be a dynamic topic for the coming Fall term in HUMlab. There will be two courses taught next term that will included sessions in, and use of, the HUMlab Island in Second Life. These are the Digital Culture and Technology course and a Museum Studies course. The Island itself has been active over the summer break with Oz (who features heavily in the Avatara documentary) working on a number of projects. As well the Virtual Sustainable Communities project is continuing and the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse has been practicing. I have recently made contact with author, digital media and culture critic and theorist Mark Meadows in Second Life (Mark was in HUMlab in 2003). His recent book I Avatar: The Culture and Consequences of Having a Second Life is a sound introduction to the cultures and practices of the present day Second Life community.