CoolCat blogger Vicki Davis posted a few of her thoughts on SL and education and the implications for learning with the advent of a 3D web that is getting attention here and here. While she builds a heroic argument for why 3D worlds are important for the future of education, I believe this idea needs to be carried farther.
It is true that 3D virtual worlds are growing in number, but I don’t necessarily believe that this growth will culminate in the development in a Stephenson-style metaverse. Negotiation of 3D virtual spaces as they have developed so far leaves too much to be desired as far as interface and mechanism for how humans interact with the data in these spaces – it is still painfully cumbersome. It will remain this way until the convention of the “window” is surpassed.
I believe the virtual worlds in which we interact with today are the first steps in developing a vernacular for accessing information and interacting with each other in 3D spaces – not just virtual spaces. The 3D virtual worlds of today are where we are refining access to data and communication. With the exponential development of technologies we see today (ie. Moore’s Law, photonics, ubiqitous computing, and wearable devices) it will not be long before the virtual landscape transcends its own “virtuality” to become our own augmented reality. Where data is able to overlay our every day reality to provide us with information about the world around us and where we refine the concept of HUDs – turning them into powerful pluggable tools instead of the fragmented bits of two-dimensional noise they are today. Vernor Vinge’s book Rainbows End gives an inspired and realistic view of a world in which networking and computing are becoming truly ubiquitous.
3D virtual worlds in the form of MUVEs, MMORPGs, MMORTS, and the like are developing in us the skills that will contribute to our technological literacy in the future.