Filippa and Lina are two Master’s students in the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University in Lund, Sweden. They are researching how social VR users express identity in virtual environments, and they wish to conduct interviews. Filippa told me via Discord chat:
We are hoping to learn more about how social VR users express identity in virtual environments because we think that it is the future, and we have noticed more and more physical retailers that are showing an interest in selling virtual goods. Our field is called consumer culture theory, so we believe that there is a link between our possessions and identities.
Once again this March, the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference (VWBPE for short) will take place in Second Life, running from March 23rd to 25th, 2023. According to the EventBrite description of the conference:
This year, we celebrate Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education’s 16th Annual International Conference on Education in Virtual and Augmented Reality. The main conference takes place March 23-25, 2023, with immersive experiences happening two weeks before and after the main event.
Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education is a global grassroots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments. This open conference is organized by the education community to provide an opportunity to showcase the learning that takes place using virtual and augmented environments. Educators and content creators alike are encouraged to attend, present, and take part in this discussion of collaborative deeper learning and co-presence in virtual worlds and games.
To the best ability possible, VWBPE provides educational and networking opportunities that are relevant to educational curriculum development utilizing virtual environments and “best practices”.
helping to build community through extension of learning best practices to practical application of those ideas and techniques;
providing networking opportunities for educators and the communities that help support education; and
providing access to current innovations, trends, ideas, case studies, and other best practices for educators and the communities that help support education.
Over 1,200 people from 30 countries attended our last conference in March 2022. In just the past several years, over 200 hours of video footage has been captured and has been made available free to the academic community in addition to other video broadcasts, with thousands of views.
Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education is a meaningful way for presenters to share their research and experience about the rich learning systems in virtual worlds and games. This free online conference is produced entirely by volunteers.
This open conference is organized by the Second Life community to provide an opportunity to showcase the learning that takes place using virtual worlds. Everyone is encouraged to present, attend and take part in this discussion of collaborative deeper learning and co-presence in virtual worlds and games…
Over 2,000 attendees representing 90 countries participate in 150-200 online presentations including theoretical research, application of best practices, virtual world tours, hands-on workshops, discussion panels, machinima presentations, and poster exhibits. You do not have to be a formal academic to participate.
While the VWBPE conference proceedings are apparently published as the Journal of Virtual Studies published by Rockcliffe University Consortium, my Firefox web browser threw up a security warning when I tried to access the journal’s webpage:
Indeed, Rockcliffe University Consortium (a gold-level sponsor of VWBPE, and a primary organizer of the conference) is a “university” which, as far as I am aware, exists only within the virtual world of Second Life, as opposed to an accredited, real-world university. According to their website:
Rockcliffe is a registered non-profit C-Corp in the United States, however we are not a 501(c)3. Structurally, we are organized along the lines of a B-Corp. The organization is made up completely of volunteers. The entire organization is a collection of global SOHO [small office/home office] locations tied together through a common technical infrastructure that serves as a proxy for a brick and mortar location. While the majority of our volunteers are from the United States, Rockcliffe also [has] volunteers based in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
While those who seek the reassurance of academic rigour and scholarly structure might turn up their noses at a self-proclaimed Second Life “university” with a glitchy journal website, I would remind you that the current organization also embraces those virtual world educators and researchers who might otherwise feel excluded from a professional, academic conference. And I can attest that I have attended some truly excellent presentations at previous VWBPE conferences over the past 15 years, such as this 2021 talk by Dr. Marie Vans about social VR.
I will be taking some research days (mostly, successive Mondays) from my regular job as a university librarian to devote to these projects. It will likely take me the rest of this winter and probably well into spring to do this work. Thank you for your patience as I head out to herd cats!
There is simply no better place to watch as the dominoes fall in the beleaguered world of cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) than the cryptosnark subreddit, r/Buttcoin (tagline: “ButtCoin. It’s a scam. At least we’re honest about it!”).
Crypto lender Genesis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Thursday night in Manhattan federal court, the latest casualty in the industry contagion caused by the collapse of FTX and a crippling blow to a business once at the heart of Barry Silbert’s Digital Currency Group.
The company listed over 100,000 creditors in a “mega” bankruptcy filing, with aggregate liabilities ranging from $1.2 billion to $11 billion dollars, according to bankruptcy documents.
A list of the 50 largest unsecured creditors was leaked, and it turns out that both of the co-founders and the current Chief Financial Officer of blockchain metaverse Decentraland are owed an eye-watering US$55 million. Crypto news website The Block reports:
Virtual world platform Decentraland has not one but three of its executives and founders listed among the 50 largest non-insider unsecured claims against Genesis Global, the crypto lender that filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday.
Decentraland CFO Santiago Esponda drew attention after his Decentraland email address was listed in court filings as the contact for Heliva International, a Panama-based company owed $55 million by Genesis. But a closer look reveals that Decentraland’s two co-founders are also listed in the documents with non-Decentraland email addresses.
Esteban Ordano, a Decentraland co-founder who now acts as an adviser, is listed as the contact for an entity called Winah Securities. Genesis owes Winah, which is located on the same floor in the same building as Heliva, almost $27 million. Ordano told The Block that Winah has no relationship with Decentraland.
Gaming company Big Time Studios is owed $20 million. It’s run by Ari Meilich, Decentraland’s other co-founder. He started Big Time in 2020 but also remains a Decentraland adviser. Meilich declined to comment.
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the point of this particular editorial: how I will be covering blockchain-based metaverse platforms going forward on this blog.
In a previous editorial, I explained that I was substantially cutting back on my coverage of Second Life, to refocus my blog on virtual reality in general, and social VR in particular. Likewise, I have also decided that I will no longer be writing about any blockchain-based metaverse platform unless it incorporates virtual reality. According to my comprehensive and reasonably up-to-date list of virtual worlds and social VR, the only platforms which incorporate blockchain technology (cryptocurrencies and/or NFTs) and support virtual reality are three:
NeosVR (a social VR platform with an associated cryptocurrency called NCR, which was planned to be the in-world currency but has not been incorporated; please note that Neos does not have NFT-based virtual real estate, or use NFTs at all)
Sensorium Galaxy (this ultra-high-end social VR platform uses the SENSO cryptocurrency to purchase avatars in their online store; as far as I am aware, Sensorium Galaxy does not use NFTs)
Somnium Space (a blockchain-based virtual world that supports VR, with a cryptocurrency and NFT-based real estate)
All the other blockchain metaverse platforms I have written about on this blog (including the one that first attracted my attention, Decentraland) are either flatscreen virtual worlds which do not support virtual reality, or they have not yet launched (and, in the current crypto nuclear winter, are increasingly unlikely to do so; the only exception being The Sandbox, which is still in extended alpha testing).
And (as illustrated by my initial anecdote about the Decentraland co-founders and executive entangled in the Celsius bankruptcy case), those platforms which had the great good fortune to launch well before the current crypto carnage, are possibly still entangled in the web of interconnected crypto companies lending and borrowing from each other, in highly speculative cryptocurrencies whose actual value is based only on what the next greater fool is willing to pay for them. In particular, those who purchased overpriced NFT-based real estate on such platforms as The Sandbox, Somnium Space, and yes, even pioneering Decentraland, are going to find it very difficult, if not impossible, to make any sort of profit off their investments.
And one only has to observe the travails which NeosVR has gone through, after a cyncial pump-and-dump instigated by cryptobros, to see how a social VR project with such technical promise can be hamstrung by attaching a cryptocurrency to it. There has, to my knowledge, been no active development on the platform in over a year, and it is unclear what 2023 holds for NeosVR. It breaks my heart and it angers me.
While I will continue to follow the current crypto winter shenanigans as an interested (and bemused) observer, I have decided that I will no longer be writing about any blockchain metaverse unless it has launched, and it supports virtual reality. In particular, I will no longer waste my time (and your patience) writing about all the blockchain metaverse projects which consist of little more than an .io website, a Telegram or Discord channel, and a white paper long on hand-waving, but short on actual technical details. Enough with the bafflegab and bullshit.
If you happen to actually launch a product which incorporates blockchain in some way (cryptocurrencies and/or NFTs), and it supports users in a VR headset, then I will gladly write about it. Otherwise, I’m no longer interested.
The SWIFT payments network has made an extraordinary decision that will have widespread implications on cryptocurrencies.
Asia Markets can reveal SWIFT will no longer process fiat currency transfers from bank accounts to cryptocurrency exchanges, with a value of less than US$100,000, effective from February 1, 2023.
The move will thwart cryptocurrency access to tens of millions of people worldwide.
One of the first crypto giants to notify users of the development this weekend, has been the world’s largest exchange, Binance.
“The banking partner that services your account has advised that they are no longer able to process SWIFT fiat (USD) transaction for individuals of less than $100,000 USD as of February 1, 2023. This is the case for all their crypto exchange clients,” said Binance.
“Please be advised that until we are able to find an alternative solution, you may not be able to use your bank account to buy and sell crypto with USD via SWIFT with a value of less than $100,000 USD.”
Time to go get more popcorn; this three-ring circus is just getting started!
Binance sent a notice to customers that starting February 1, their banking partner, Signature, would not be processing SWIFT transfers of less than $100,000.
Retail customers of Binance have until the end of the month to get their US dollars off the exchange. After that, their money is stuck.
Rumors are swirling around this — not helped by an early news report (rapidly corrected) claiming that the SWIFT system itself was cutting off all crypto exchanges. Here are the facts that we know so far:
Binance is cut off from Signature for transactions below $100,000.
Signature’s other exchange customers have not said they’re affected, and we haven’t seen their customers saying so either.
We haven’t heard of other banks putting such a condition on Binance or another exchange.
So it’s so far just Binance, via Signature.
Still, it is significant that Binance, the biggest cryptobroker still standing, is facing such a stringent sanction by one of its banks. (By the way, Attack of the 50-Foot Blockchain is well worth following, for its expert analysis of the ongoing crisis in crypto!)