The internet, with its endless capacity for facilitating community and collaboration, has increasingly become a place of complex social interactions, where real-world transactions are negotiated through the medium of cyberspace and where virtual worlds emerge complete with laws, social norms, currencies, political structures, and economies.
But virtual worlds are more than just mere entertainment. They can serve as effective teaching tools as well.
Socialstudygames.com reports that the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy has announced finalists in their “Reinventing Public Diplomacy Through Games” Awards. Finalists as reported on the USC web site are:
Exchanging Cultures, a diplomatic game built inside “Second Life,” was created to facilitate the creating virtual communities and relationships based on the exchange of cultural items like: dances, art crafts, food receipts, architectural models, clothing, cultural routes and images of real original places for travelers and explorers.LINK.
Global Kids Island: Fostering Public Diplomacy Through Second Life Global Kids, Inc. envisioned a Public Diplomacy program within Second Life where the youth in the after-school program will spend the month learning about a global issue, experience an interactive and experiential workshop designed to educate about the issue. Their demonstration will be shown at the awards ceremony. For more information on the organization: LINK
Hydro Hijinks is a class project designed to promote discussion about international water issues and to educate players from around the world about sources of international conflict over water rights. Watch the video tour of the game at: LINK
Peacemaker is a cross-cultural political video game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which can be used to promote a peaceful resolution among Israelis, Palestinians and young adults worldwide. More information, please visit their website: LINK
Winners will be announced at a ceremony on May 8.
USC is currently involved itself in a Public Diplomacy and Virtual Worlds project designed to “explore how virtual worlds can be used as effective tools to bridge cultural gaps, to foster new ways to resolve conflict, and to learn and teach new skills in dealing with each other to build a better world.”
In addition to these projects, the gang at odr.info recently reported on the outstanding efforts of one inventive team of peer mediation educators, Jennifer Nieto and Peggy Ward, to utilize Second Life, a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (a virtual world in which numerous participants can interact simultaneously), as a tool for enabling high school students to role play in mediation simulations and practice mediation skills in a non-threatening virtual environment. (I was totally psyched to discover a link to Online Guide to Mediation on their site, for which I am most grateful.)