May 12, 2005

USC: Public Diplomacy and Virtual Worlds

From USC Center for Public Democracy has a new project:
New Technology and Public Diplomacy: “Public Diplomacy and Virtual Worlds”

The Public Diplomacy and Virtual Worlds project is a research project examining one aspect of new technology and public diplomacy: the role of video games, specifically Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), in public diplomacy.

The study explores the role of MMOGs in the following ways:

  • For U.S. games, as extensions of the U.S. brand and their role in shaping how the world sees the U.S. (for non-U.S. games their role as extensions of identity, image and brand of their respective country);
  • As online venues (or virtual worlds) in which people from different cultures come together and shape or form ideas about each other and their respective cultures;
  • The unique role that ‘localization’ plays in public diplomacy (How does framing a game for a community outside the game’s country of origin play a role in its impact?);
  • Game Design: As public policy play tools that can be used to educate (not train) people about how different cultures work and/or function (e.g. Roleplay Kofi Annan or the President of Russia, etc.).

Early research has confirmed that within these spaces, there is a unique opportunity to create, foster and sustain intercultural dialogue and that perception of national values, ideals, and character are both reinforced and altered by the real time interactions that occur in these spaces.

The results of this work should be interesting to read. I hope that it includes an accounting of such events as the anti-chinese-adena-farming bigotry. I think that Second Life might be a good place to expore some of the cultural education issues (at least for cultures that value personal land ownership), but I’m not clear what kind of methodology makes sense for this project – is this some sort of strange ethnography?

[Thanks to Tom Glaisyer for the pointer.]

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