‘Law ‘n’ order’ in virtual worlds

It's a fledgling concept, but there are some interesting community-policing efforts afoot in virtual worlds such as Second Life, VZones, World of Warcraft, and mobile-phone-based Cellufun for mobile phone users, the Washington Post reports. For example, "in World of Warcraft, a popular online fantasy game, a character who is acting out runs the risk of being attacked by a group of self-appointed sheriffs. While the avatar doesn't face official penalties, the interference from other players can deter future crimes." In one of Worlds.com's worlds, users created a novel sort of virtual scarlet letter: "an animated bird that drops an unpleasant [virtual] substance on the heads of outlaws, known as 'griefers' in virtual-world lingo." There needs to be a flip side too, of course. I love the way London-based Childnet International put it recently: "Digital citizenship isn’t just about recognising and dealing with online hazards. It's about … using your online presence to grow and shape your world in a safe, creative way, and inspiring others to do the same" (see this item) – an important focus for parenting and schooling going forward along the lines of "an ounce of prevention," "a stitch in time," etc., etc…. Speaking of which, virtual world safety expert Izzy Neis recently blogged about how a kids' world itself will be used to teach civility. She wrote that Dizzywood.com for kids 8-12 was "selected by the YMCA of San Francisco to enhance the youth program’s technology curriculum … to reinforce its program emphasis on activities that promote values such as caring, honesty, respect and responsibility."

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