In the UK in November there was a debate on the Internet and Video Games in the House of Commons, to give you a flavour of the debate I quote MP John Hayes concluding remarks “We will all be brutalised, because those who are malign or malevolent have access to a different kind of media” - Yeah pretty strong stuff. Actually the point of agreement among MP’s arising out of the discussion was a suggestion that the Green Cross Code Man, the road safety character from 1975, should be used to warn people about dangerous Video Games. Yes looking at Hansard on what was said in Parliament on this issue leaves the impression that the dialogue was largely backwards looking (Green Cross Code Man!) and negative about an area that should be treated more as opportunity than threat by our politicians.
Compare this conservative attitude by UK MP’s with American Congressman Ed Markey who in order to save fuel emissions spoke to delegates of the 2007 United Nations climate change conference in Bali using his avatar from the Virtual World Second Life.
Makey’s intervention, however effective, sure shows willingness to embrace new media and use it positively in particular in connection with climate change. A key sign to people in the UK parliament that confident steps into virtual worlds can help communication and leadership on real world climate change issues.
Second Life is an example of a Collaborative Virtual Environment and another example of what they can do in respect of social issues is provided by Jim Purbrick’s Carbon Goggles initiative which allows avatars to view the emissions they would be emitting in the real world as they go about their virtual day.
Carbon Goggles aims to deliver information about emissions from AMEE (http://www.amee.cc/about) in a different way and projects like this – another example is the BBC game Climate Challenge, there are many more - have the potential be educative on climate change with added accessibility and participation.
The “other reality” media I discuss here can be seen to have three functions in relation to the 100 month effort to avoid dangerous climate change: Firstly education and changing real world behaviour (see Carbon Goggles), secondly Makey’s Second Life foray is about discharging real world tasks by virtual means, in this case communication other examples are planning and prototyping. The third function is other reality as fantasy outlet, doing what is unsustainable in the real world. The video games MPs are concerned about because they don’t reflect real life values, thought about from a different perspective, may be useful as virtual outlets for stuff you can know longer do… not Grand but Green Theft Auto!
Virtual reality is perhaps most conspicuously connected with climate change through the laptop presentations of people like Al Gore and Mark Lynas showing the consequences of not doing enough. It would be nice for other reality media to be used more, in these 100 months, to do what is necessary to avoid those consequences.