Thursday, 30 August 2007

Second Life, Aleks Krotoski and 1984

Toilets that monitor your pee and offer you baby clothes instead of pregnancy tests, gaming giants taking away your land like a digital Chinese government - if you listen to Aleks Krotoski and Martin Sadler, we’re going to party like 1984.

By 2057, Martin Sadler of PC firm Hewlett Packard, said there could be at least 1m sensing devices for every UK resident. That means everything from my toilet to my fridge would tell me how poor my diet is and that I should get more exercise. Not a problem. On the occasion I buy a packet of cigs, there’s a glaring black and white message that says, ‘smoking will kill you.’

‘Shit, how will I every have another packet again with the truth placed so starkly in front of me?’ Easy, you forget, or rather it falls into the background. In the same way that you can watch a bomb going off in Iraq and think how terrible and seemingly hopeless the situation is over there, you just as easily forget when your favourite program starts straight after the news. It’s in our very nature to force things to the back of our minds.

My sensor fridge would say, “You need to eat more fruit Dave.”

“Hush Hal 9000 or I’ll wipe your memory again.”


Aleks Krotoski used to star in the Channel 4 gaming shows Bits and Thumb Bandits. She was ok in both but paled to Ian Lee’s humour in Thumb Bandits (he is a comedian after all). These days she passes herself off as an academic and journalist for the Guardian’s games blog.

She writes from the State of Play conference in Sing-a-prison that the parallels between the, essentially benevolent dictatorship of the country and those who control the virtual worlds that many of us inhabit i.e. Second Life, World of Warcraft etc are basically the same.

“Second Life resident Marc Bragg who owned approximately $3,000 (£1,500) worth of virtual land discovered a loophole in the land auction processes and proceeded to buy thousands more acres at knock-down prices. Linden Lab discovered that he was gaming the system, banned his account and took away all his land.”

Similar to a Chinese government peasant, smash and land grab. She then goes on to ask what happens to the data kept by World of Warcraft developers Blizzard and Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Google. What Blizzard can ascertain from where you go and what you do in WoW seems mute. I remember having to condemn an idea by ………….. when they proposed to have a branded avatar walking around in the World of Warcraft game. I think people aren’t as mindless as these kind of reports make out.

We live in interesting times where old mediums of advertising are waning but monitoring every aspect of your life in both the physical and virtual world wont be enough to shift products any more efficiently. The combination of the human mind’s ability to blank things out and the incompetence, so far, of brands and advertisers to truly understand and penetrate the new virtual spaces means we’ll be safe from 1984 for a little while longer.

1 comment:

Aleks Krotoski said...

cheers for the mention,