Making things public democracy and government-funded videogames and virtual reality simulations

Making things public democracy and government-funded videogames and virtual reality simulations

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Copyright © 2006 by the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or al of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers, or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Request permissions from Permissions Dept, ACM Inc., fax +1 (212) 869-0481 or e-mail permissions@acm.org . Sandbox Symposium 2006, Boston, Massachusetts, July 29–30, 2006. © 2006 ACM 1-59593-386-7/06/0007 $5.00 Making Things Public: Democracy and Government- Funded Videogames and Virtual Reality Simulations Elizabeth Losh University of California, Irvine Humanities Instructional Building 188 U.C. Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697 USA 01-949-824-8130 lizlosh@uci.edu ABSTRACT This paper discusses two computer graphics-intensive projects at the University of Southern California that are being developed with funding from the U.S. military: Tactical Iraqi , a computer game designed to accelerate a soldier’s acquisition of spoken Arabic to assist in volatile tactical situations, and Virtual Iraq , a virtual reality simulation intended to lessen the effects of Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder among combat veterans. Both initiatives have received extensive national media coverage and may serve rhetorical as well as pedagogical or therapeutic ends by making individual, private digital experiences aimed to effect the personal education or rehabilitation of military personnel accessible to a wider public. This paper examines the debate in the serious game development community about working on behalf of government-funded projects that support current military efforts. It also considers the potential for what Bruno Latour has called “object-oriented democracy” that these games and simulations could represent. Categories and Subject Descriptors K.4.1 [ Public Policy Issues ]: Ethics General Terms Design, Human Factors. Keywords Public Rhetoric, Digital Experience, Virtual Reality, Computer Game, Foreign Language Learning, Exposure Therapy. 1. INTRODUCTION In “Welcome to the Desert of the Unreal” written in the days after the September 11 th , Slavoj i ek expressed his belief that the gap between "traumatic event" and "symbolic impact” could force Americans to appreciate the everyday violence and privation of the rest of the world, from which he claimed the U.S. had been shielded by an artificial but ideologically comforting socio- economic, political, and cultural virtual reality environment. “If there is any symbolism in the collapse of the WTC towers,” i ek writes, “it is not so much the old-fashioned notion of the ‘center of financial capitalism,’ but, rather, the notion that the two WTC towers stood for the center of the VIRTUAL capitalism, of
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This note was uploaded on 06/19/2011 for the course IT 2254 taught by Professor Adelhassen during the Spring '11 term at Abu Dhabi University.

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Making things public democracy and government-funded videogames and virtual reality simulations

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