You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2008.

$4 a gallon - coming to your neighborhood soon!Presented without comment, from the front page of the San Jose Mercury News.

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Energy Alternatives 2025Here’s a chart showing the energy alternatives for the U.S. moving forward to the year 2025, plotted by their effect on energy security (horizontal) and climate effect (vertical), as well as by scale of effect (size of circle). So: options that move us up and right from center improve our situation over business-as-usual, and those which move us left and down from center produce more negative effects than business-as-usual. Two things of note: (1) advancing our auto efficiency standards to 30 mpg is the clear winner in every respect, yet seems rarely talked about, and (2) why does the chart not include raising the tax on fuels to stimulate efficiency across the board, as most other oil-importing countries of the world have done?

Uh-oh. Fuel surcharge surpriseThis is what happened in WWO: as rising fuel costs impacted businesses, they passed them on to consumers, often with very little warning. (More and more consumer contracts today have a fuel surcharge clause in them somewhere)

Silicon Valley Hummer - runs out of gasPresented without comment.

In case you haven’t seen it…

SXSW People’s AwardWWO was a people-powered, democratic game, and thus a natural candidate for the People’s Choice award at the SXSW Interactive festival. Follow this link to vote – and vote once a day through March 3. (I’m certainly making my preference known every 24 hours.) Help put oil consumption on the national radar!

It’s a sign that investors think that crude oil prices “will keep climbing despite evidence of plentiful supplies and falling demand,” says John Wilen of AP. He goes on to say, “The fact that there was no overriding reason for such a price spike could be a bad omen for consumers already bearing the burdens of high heating costs and falling real estate values.” The reason: investors are moving to the oil futures market, driving up prices, as a hedge against the falling dollar. (And let’s not forget: demand from China and India continues to forge ahead, even as the U.S. economy sputters.) The Energy Department said that it expects gasoline prices to peak this spring well above the record – $3.227 a gallon average – set last May when the WWO game was going on. When, it should be noted, oil prices were “only” $65 a barrel.

The BuZz about the new WWO metasiteThe WWO metasite (the site that talks about the game archive) has grown up a little bit – we’ve made some changes to make it more readable and useful for our new visitors. Fear not – the game archive itself is unchanged, still brilliant in Grassroots Green. Give the new metasite a look – pass the URL to friends – your comments welcome and appreciated as we put the finishing touches on over the next few weeks…

League of Extra Ordinary ScientistsJane McGonigal has exciting news – she’s announcing “The X2 Club” this week, a massively multiplayer science game. She says X2 is “an alternate reality game, light on fiction and heavy on real-world data, that scientists will play” and that the game “combines collaborative forecasting (World Without Oil-style) and prediction markets with RSS feeds of scientific journals and popular science publications.” Should be the sort of thing that many WWO players can get their teeth into: a fiction with fact close underneath.

Petroleos de Venezuela SAOil prices up over $2 a barrel, to $93 or so, upon tumults legal and illegal. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez reacted with threats when a British court ordered over $12 billion in Petroleos de Venezuela SA assets frozen (PDVSA is Venezuela’s state-run oil company). In the Niger Delta, unidentified attackers fired on a vessel escorting oil workers, killing a sailor, and furthering fears that Royal Dutch Shell will lose yet more production in Africa’s largest oil-producing nation (an earlier attack on a Nigerian pipeline has already taken 130,000 barrels of oil a day off the market, possibly for months). To WWO players, this all seems familiar, as players forecast similar events in Venezuela and Nigeria during the game . . . especially since the nationalization of a multi-billion Exxon-Mobil facility in Venezuela (the action that caused the British court order), occurred in real life on Day 2 of WWO.

South By Southwest Web Awards 2008World Without Oil has been nominated for a number of web awards, and yesterday we got word that it’s a Top Five finalist in the 2008 South By Southwest Interactive competition, in the “Activism” category. You can see the list of finalists here (some pretty cool sites, yow). Plus WWO sponsor ITVS has its Independent Lens website as a finalist in the “Classic” category… plus WWO’s participation architect Jane McGonigal (some of you know her as mpathytest) will be a keynote speaker at SXSW Interactive on Tuesday, March 11. So we look to be well represented at SXSW – let me know if you’re gonna be around.

Continuing a theme I started in January – is the WWO scenario coming true, but slowly? In the news today: retail sales sink as consumers wrestle with rising fuel and food prices; GM announces gas-guzzler incentives to try to move stock in the face of an industrywide slump; major airline shakeup brewing, in the wake of plunging share prices due to skyrocketing fuel prices; and the foreclosure crisis in suburbs continues. These are all headlines pulled right out of the events in last year’s World Without Oil oil crisis scenario.

Also today, Congress approved an economy boost package of $152 billion. Compare that dollar figure with the estimated economy drag of last year’s oil price hikes – $150 billion, as reported earlier here. In other words, the  boost is calibrated to counter the  damage being done by last year’s oil prices. What will happen this year? Sooner or later, we’re going to stop being able to spend our way out of the problem, and will need to address the underlying causes.

Making Your Media Matter“Making Your Media Matter” is the yearly conference put on by the Center for Social Media at American University. It starts tomorrow (Feb 7), and World Without Oil will be represented in their first panel, “Games for Social Change,” by Dennis Palmieri of ITVS. Other games represented include A Force More Powerful, Peacemaker, and ICED!, so Dennis is in good company. You can follow events at the conference starting here.

Henry Jenkins, Wikipedia, and WWOI’m cribbing today from these notes that Doug Foxgrover made of a talk by Henry Jenkins, transmedia/new media guru at MIT, at Educause. The talk was on “What can Wikipedia teach us about new media literacies?” The talk itself is podcasted here.

I bring it up because education was (and is) very much a goal of WWO. It’s part of the mission of ITVS, our sponsor, and very much on my mind these days as I work to shape the WWO lesson plans for high school teachers. (Looking at first drafts now; ready in about 3 weeks?)

This gets important, as Jenkins, Jane McGonigal and others say that “new media literacy” is exactly what people are going to need to be capable learners and contributors as the world moves into a participatory digital culture. Jenkins’ checklist for that culture maps really well onto World Without Oil:

  • Low barriers to artistic and civic expression (people played WWO by email or even by phone)
  • Strong support for creating and sharing what you create
  • Some kind of informal mentorship (peer to peer, mostly, but our WWO characters filled this role)
  • Members feel their contributions matter
  • Some degree of social connection between members

The new media literacies are social skills and participation skills, and there’s nothing like a shared crisis to get people talking and working together – even if that crisis is of the “what if?” variety.

Three other things in Jenkins’ talk resonated with me: one, you must take the students’ participation seriously – it must matter. In WWO we pretty much let our “students” drive the bus, to really good effect I think. Two, you should let the participation emerge from students’ own cultural life – again, something WWO explicitly did. And finally, Jenkins identifies a core challenge as ethical: as the traditional forms of professional training (such as journalism) break down, how do you prepare ordinary citizens, and young people in particular, for their increasing role as participants? This is exactly the big deal about WWO, I think: to democratize real-world problemsolving, to empower people to collectively forge their own solutions.

Jenkins lists “four big ideas”: Collective intelligence, Judgment, Networking and Negotiation. And cites WWO as an example of the first big idea. WWO Lives!

In other news, the price of oil – not. Anyone else noticed how it has completely fallen off the news radar lately?

It was the world's first serious alternate reality game, a cooperative pre-imagining of a global oil crisis. Over 1900 players collaborated in May 2007 to chronicle the oil crisis with their own personal blog posts, videos, images and voicemails. The game ended after simulating the first 32 weeks of the oil shock, but its effects continue, as game designers analyze its unique gameplay and we all watch the continuing drama with global oil prices and supply.