Public Release:  Virtual activities: Virtuous or perilous?

Three University Of Southern California experts discuss at AAAS 2007 in San Francisco, Feb. 15-19

University of Southern California

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IN VIRTUAL WORLDS
JOSHUA FOUTS, director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, will discuss: the first competition to develop an online game that promotes public diplomacy; the center's use of its island in Second Life as a laboratory for experiments in virtual public diplomacy by the State Department, foreign ministries of state, and prominent think-tanks; and the advantages of virtual worlds over web sites or other media for public diplomacy and cultural exchanges. Fouts presents at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18 in the Da Vinci Ballroom, fourth floor, Renaissance Parc 55.

VIRTUAL THERAPY FOR MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
SKIP RIZZO, research scientist in the USC Institute for Creative Technologies and clinical psychologist, plans to take a cautious position on the ethics of virtual therapy. While acknowledging the value of virtual worlds for support groups and other applications, Rizzo will discuss the possible consequences of patients choosing to forego professional care in favor of self-diagnosis and treatment in-world. Rizzo has developed several virtual reality applications that extend rather than replace conventional therapy, such as a game-based treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. He presents at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18 in the Da Vinci Ballroom, fourth floor, Renaissance Parc 55. Rizzo will participate in a news briefing at 10 a.m. that day.

EXPANDING THE LITERARY MIND BY VIRTUAL PLAY
DOUGLAS THOMAS, associate professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communication, will argue that massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), such as World of Warcraft, provide a fundamentally different type of learning than available through traditional education. A longtime MMOG player and scholar, as well as editor of the journal Games and Culture, Thomas believes MMOGs allow players to form "conceptual blends" that provide a better understanding of both the physical and virtual world. Thomas presents at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18 in the Da Vinci Ballroom, fourth floor, Renaissance Parc 55. He will participate in a news briefing at 10 a.m. that day.

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BACKGROUND

Stories on Fouts and Thomas:
http://www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/11718.html
http://www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/12430.html
http://www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/12031.html

Stories on Rizzo:
http://www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/11070.html
http://www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/11330.html
http://www.usc.edu/uscnews/stories/7254.html

Recent coverage: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-virtual9feb09,0,6132803.story?coll=la-home-headlines

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