Virtual Worlds at the Center of Technology and Society Trends

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by: Rick van der Wal  via Business and Games Blog

Ross Dawson over at created an interesting ‘map’ of webtrends for 2008 called the ‘Trend Blend 2008+‘ (click to see the complete map, PDF warning).The map is based on the Shanghai underground, having 5 major lines (Society, Politics, Economy, Technology, Demographics) – connecting 5 big trends (Digitalisation, Globalisation, Ageing, Anxiety and Virtual Worlds) trough smaller trends, hypes and phenomena. Dawson places Virtual Worlds at the heart of Technology and Society for 2008 webtrends.


The reason we could place Virtual Worlds at the ‘center’ of Technology web trends is because it will lift on the ‘push for performance’, the demand for faster, better, prettier. On the hardware side it gains a lot more from technologies such as internet speed improvements, shared CPU, 3D graphical options and server improvements than more commonly used internet technologies such as HTML etc. The existing technologies of streaming video and 2d ’scripted’ mark up don’t stand a lot to gain from all hardware improvements while the quality of virtual worlds will jump forward with every new ‘break trough’ in either one of those fields.

Also all promising technologies we’ve just began to explore seem to enrich the virtual experience. Organic Interfaces (controlling your computer without having to sit at your desk – like the Wii), Augmented reality, head tracking and Artificial Intelligence offer a lot of additional potential to the growth of the Virtual Platform.


The great debate on Social Networking and Society: “How Social are these websites and Virtual Worlds?” What are the consequences of many people creating fast and superficial connections to our real life community – the society? I can see a combination of mobile internet an the fast pased, shallow networking ‘facebook style’ become a trend in real life. Just because you’ve met, you are now a connection. You update each other trough blogs, you get to know this person well through information, but this could also mean genuine interest in someone decreases. With so many people you now know ‘well’ trough this new way of connecting, we could start to lose a little bit of focus on those friends around us that will support us in real life, the ones that truly matter.

Another society trend which put Virtual Worlds at the center is Escapism – A growing demand for creating your own reality, being the master of a YOUniverse. A world you can create, shape and control completely, a vision that might sound like sci-fi fiction, but one which is in fact becoming a reality on a day to day basis. Given the option, is reality enough to make people choose this over their own world, or will this ‘fictional’ environments slowly leave the ream of theory and become part of society as we know it.

Trends of Tomorrow

The trends the ‘Trend Blend 2008′ describes however, are more the trends we can already see in the mainstream, and have been developed long before 2008. I am guessing Ross Dawson means these will mature in 2007, and get accepted by an even broader audience over the course of 2008. Or as the author tells us on his own blog: “Remember that our trend maps are generally for stimulation rather than being taken too seriously.

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