"Taking Out the Trash" - On Virtual Worlds and Academia

trash.gif There's an interesting response to a pretty bitter piece by Malcom King in On Line Opinion, "Australia's e-journal of social and political debate", over at Terra Nova. Now, I think the author of the Australian piece makes some good points about the overhype of the potential of virtual worlds - let's face it, there's been an onslaught of media that's been heralding the amazing potential from on high. But talking of "faddist academics" and "the fall of the humanities and the decline of post structuralism" (Then why do I spend 3 hours a week talking about Japanese history in a post-structuralist framework? We're obsolete? REALLY?) really damages his overall point. Which is precisely what they take up at Terra Nova:

Polemical rhetoric is its own art form: sometimes the extreme viewpoint must be taken in order to meet somewhere in the middle, particularly when discussing topics that are somehow beyond reproach (technophilia frequently falls into this category, as anyone who denies how great it all is tends to be immediately labelled a luddite)... but taken too far, one diminishes one's credibility (Jack Thompson is a pro at this) and completely undermines the entire effort to be a little balanced when it's more fun to get carried away by the promises of technology.

Mr. King has made this error, unfortunately. He's almost certainly right about overhype, and yes, I suppose we could be accused of some overenthusiastic mental masturbation on this topic. But, he's missed the forest for some trees to which he has assigned erroneous characteristics ....

In any case, both pieces are worth a read. This sort of backlash is inevitable, I think, when dealing with anything is overhyped, but declaring it's "time to take out this intellectual trash" is more than a bit harsh. Let's not paint all the academics concerned with virtual worlds and (gasp!) video games with the same trashy brush. It's not their fault Second Life has rocketed to the position of 'media darling.'

Talking trash about intellectual trash... [Terra Nova]


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