Mixed Reality Portrait: Gatsby Crumb, PhD Candidate Studying Real Politics in Virtual Worlds
Known as Gatsby Crumb in Second Life, Max Burns is the author of Pixels and Policy, a promising new blog covering the intersection of real politics and virtual worlds. His most recent post summarizes a fascinating experiment in racial prejudice recently conducted in There.com, which sadly seems to suggest that white avatars receive somewhat better treatment than black avatars. (He references some New World Notes posts which anecdotally suggest the same.) Burns' blog is an outgrowth of his academic studies, which he is now pursuing as a subject for a doctoral degree.
"I got into virtual politics/culture as a serious prospect after watching how Iran's pro-democracy activists made a seamless transition to Twitter, Second Life, and Facebook after the Iranian government basically made real-world protesting a death sentence," Max tells me. "The idea that these networks and virtual worlds we'd built for fun could be engineered to serve a real purpose in political speech and improving the lives of people motivated me to make Pixels and Policy into a kind of clearinghouse of research and information on the ways virtual worlds are slowly creeping into our real world media and policymaking."