Virtual Reality for the Real World


Colleague Anne Haywood (in Austin, Texas) and I (at NatGeo headquarters in Washington, D.C.) got together virtually last week to discuss the ways National Geographic is using new media to inspire people to care about the planet—and to help them understand it. We gave our presentation (or, at least, our avatars did) at the New Media Consortium’s Symposium for the Future in Second Life, an immersive, 3-D virtual world.

NMC staff created an evocative base camp for us, with a campfire and tent, tall grass, binoculars, laptop, and the requisite pith helmet…


… all set on a revolving stage texture-mapped with a bona fide National Geographic map of the world.

Anne and I walked the audience, including NMC Vice President Rachel Smith (guised as a small blue dragon) …


… through a number of National Geographic programs designed to support research, exploration, and conservation and to engage the public, including the Society’s century-plus legacy of nearly 9,000 grants, our Explorers Program, Genographic Project


Ocean Now


Big Cats Initiative


BioBlitz, Education website for K-12 teachers and students, Your Shot, Photo Camp, Student Expeditions, My Wonderful World, and FieldScope. All that, and we even left a few minutes for questions at the end!

We also shared some of National Geographic’s educational goals, which include promoting the geographic literacy of people in the United States and around the world. We envision (and are working for) a future where most individuals…

  • are aware of environments locally to globally,
  • grasp the concept of sustainability and strive for it,
  • appreciate places—and who and what inhabits them—through exploration in the field and through media,
  • actively engage in citizen science, and
  • connect with others through communities on- and offline.

National Geographic Education recently joined the NMC, which describes itself as “an international consortium of more than 260 world-class universities, colleges, museums, research centers, and technology companies dedicated to using new technologies to inspire, energize, stimulate, and support learning and creative expression.”

Images by Anne Haywood, Ford Cochran, and courtesy the New Media Consortium