The SLENZ Update – No 30, December 02, 2008

REGISTER NOW FOR SLENZ

OPEN WORKSHOP

December 15, from 9am to 5pm (New Zealand Time) (SL Time 2pm – 10 pm December 14) : New Zealand’s leading virtual world learning research group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), has invited interested educators to attend a free, one-day workshop in real life on Wellington Institute of Technology’s Wellington campus and in Second Life on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27). Registration essential on first-come, first-served basis as numbers limited. For registration email: Susan.Jenkins@weltec.ac.nz

Virtual peace training

Virtual Peace: Turning Swords to Ploughshares (http://virtualpeace.org), a humanitarian/disaster assistance training simulation brings together digital learning technologies and international humanitarian assistance efforts. It has been funded by the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC. Created by Duke University’s Tim Lenoir (full project team: http://virtualpeace.org/people.php) in collaboration with Virtual Heroes, Duke-UNC Rotary Center, Duke’s Computer Science Department, and Duke Information Science and Information Studies (ISIS) it allows students and educators to enter an immersive, multi-sensory game-based environment that simulates real disaster relief and conflict resolution conditions in order to learn first-hand the necessary tools for sensitive and timely crisis response.

Interestingly the simulation uses the avatars of real people and simulations of real places for what is a realistic training scenario based on reality. Learn more about Virtual Peace.

Species ‘change’?

cardenas

In an era when biotechnology has made it possible to alter the basics of what we eat, how we provide energy and even the makeup of our genetic structure, a graduate student at the University of California is to attempt to “smash” the species boundary, by living as a dragon for 365 hours – virtually

Pushing the limits of what it means to be human she  is exploring the intersections of biotechnology, art and virtual-reality in a fully immersive performance, “Becoming Dragon,” according to Tiffany Fox writing in net magazine, PhysOrg.com (http://www.physorg.com/news146932385.html)

To fulfill the final project requirement for her MFA in visual arts, the student Micha Cardenas (SL:Azdel Slade) (pictured above) (http://secondloop.wordpress.com/), a transgender person, will spend 365 consecutive hours immersed in Second Life, wearing a head-mounted device with a stereoscopic display that blocks all but the virtual world from her view, in a to-scale virtual model of the actual performance space (complete with the black leather couch that will serve as he RL bed). She will spend the entire duration of the performance in a laboratory at UCSD’s Center for Research and Computing in the Arts (CRCA) at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

The performance began with a two-hour session on December 1 and will continue until December 17 (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Seventh%20Eye/186/12/35)

Cardenas’ movements are being mimed by way of a Vicon motion-capture system, which allows her avatar’s movements to correspond with her own in real-time. In essence, Cardenas will “become” the dragon, moving and even speaking as her avatar by way of a Pure Data patch called “Lila” that modulates her voice.

The project is also a means of questioning the one-year requirement for “real-life experience” that transgender people must fulfill in order to receive gender confirmation surgery (also known as sexual reassignment surgery).

“The general theme for my project is to explore the possibilities for transformation, to ask the question, ‘Is change really possible, or do you get what you’re given, and that’s it?'” Cardenas explained to Psyorg. “I’m asking if it’s possible to replace this real-life experience requirement with Second Life experience, but I’m also asking a question that is somewhat rhetorical or fantastical: Could you really become your second-life avatar?

Linden disappoints

There was some rather disappointing news for Kiwis and Okkers (New Zealanders and Australians)  at the Australasian Virtual Worlds Workshop 2008 Conference in Melbourne  last weekend

It came from Linden Lab’s Chris Collins, who, when asked about the delay in the proposed creation of an SL server farm in Australia, admitted that the “real soon now” of 18-months ago had stretched considerably, with no commitment given on when, if ever, this may occur (http://www.metaversejournal.com/2008/11/29/standalone-servers-soo/)

Looks like our lag performance, although in New Zealand mainly attributable to  the lack of foresight or investment by either Telecom or TelstraClear, will not be improving in the near future. Of course the New Zealand Government could use private enterprises such as NetFx ( the fastest commercial internet service in the country) to end the provincial internet problems cause by the two main players. Given the right funding NetFx could easily implement its optical cable system in provincial towns throughout the country as is currently being  done on a local government basis in places like Dannevirke.

But on the plus side he said that the 2009 beta of a standalone Second Life grid which will allow users to run their own grid was progressing.

Further reporting on the AVWW has been scheduled for the next few days by http://www.metaversejournal.com

The SLENZ Update – No 24, November 12, 2008

SL learning “fun”

lecture_in_sl

Second Life provides options for multi-modality in communication that “make learning fun – always a desired outcome,” according to two Finish researchers.
This was only one of the findings from their recently completed in-depth study of distance learning in Second Life, published recently in First Monday, the peer-reviewed journal of the University of Illinois (Chicago). http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2178/2033
Reflecting other research Kim Holmberg and Isto Huvila (both have researcher/lecturer roles in Finland’s Department of Information Studies, Åbo Akademi) found that, although virtual learning is reshaping what happens in the classroom and will be a valuable add-on learning tool in the future,  Second Life and other virtual worlds can never fully replace in-class learning.
But they said, “To place Second Life, Web-based learning environments and face-to-face education in order according to which one is the best is hardly useful.

“According to the results of this study, the three learning environments compete very well with each other,” they said. “There are benefits in face-to-face education and in real physical presence that are difficult to achieve in other learning environments.
“Education in Second Life is closer to face-to-face education than traditional methods in distance education that are based on asynchronous communication and two-dimensional media. Second Life provides options for multimodality in communication (voice, chat, gestures, space) that make learning fun – always a desired outcome.”
The researchers said they were convinced that the concept of interreality – the integration of physical and virtual worlds – is “an advantage in distance education, if it can bring distance education closer to face-to-face education.”
Interestingly of the 30 students that participated in the study of a course in information studies – 28 female, two male – few had difficulty navigating through SL and most felt that it was superior to other Web-based learning environments.
Second Life was used as a platform to deliver lectures and as a place for organising group assignments and having discussions.
“One reason why the barrier to participation in Second Life was lower may be the fact that SL provides means for multimodal communication, even in-world,” the two researchers said.
“Students could use text-based chat inside SL to ask questions and participate and the teacher could answer and respond at a suitable time without interruption. It is possible to communicate through different channels at the same time, and students can use a channel that best suits them. Another possible explanation might be that the use of avatars gives students some level of anonymity with students ‘hiding’ behind their avatars.
But they added, provided that participating face-to-face education does not require too much travelling and learning outcomes are satisfactory, “Second Life does not necessarily provide any significant benefits, at least not when using it only as a platform for lectures and teamwork.
“When considering distance only as a physical measure of separation, Second Life provides a means to overcome it. The existence of multimodal and non-interfering means of communication and socialisation by using chat, instant messages and voice calls in personal and group interaction provides users a wider range of possibilities to communicate than in face-to-face sessions.”

Browser wars?

My belief that the creation of a universal generic browser (carrying assets) will be the key to the widespread adoption of virtual worlds received somewhat of a setback this week with Wagner James Au reporting in Newworldnotes, about a leading open source developer creating a non-SL compatible viewer.
Asking whether there was a fork ahead in the road to the Metaverse (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2008/11/a-fork-in-the-m.html#more) he wrote about KirstenLee Cinquetti’s, development of the Openlife R16 viewer, (pictured, courtesy nwn) cinquettikirstenleewhich, although based on the original open source code of the SL viewer, only works with Openlife.
Au said the move was significant because the work by Cinquetti, previously renowned for her SL-compatible viewers, especially her dynamic lighting-enabled Shadowdraft viewer, could complicate attempts by Linden Lab, IBM, and other organisations to create full interoperability between Second Life and OpenSim servers as well as possibly lead to browser wars a la the early days of the net.

SL prize details

Every educator believes they are working not only for the good of their students but also for the good of the world and even the universe.
Well, Linden Labs has now allowed them – as well as every other Second Life resident – to compete in a “superlative achievement” award in what would appear to be a made for education prize opportunity (http://lindenlab.com/lindenprize)
Robin Linden and Everett Linden gave further details of the Linden Prize in SL this week. The prize will see one Second Life resident or team receive US$10,000 (paid in $L) for an innovative inworld project “that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world.”
When originally announced four months ago by Mitch Kapor the prize was described as rewarding “superlative achievement” exemplifying the mission of “elevating the human condition” through using SL.
“We expect and want to create a wide funnel of people thinking, ‘Hey that might be me,'” said Everett Linden (Everett Harper in RL and Linden’s Director of Community Initiatives).
He said entries were expected from people in healthcare, people-creating communities with real impact, scientists with psychological studies, people with diplomacy projects, and architecture among other things.
“The key thing is that can you document tangible evidence of improving and having a good impact on people’s lives, and I say that broadly,” he said. “And it’s got to be compelling and high-quality, from compelling to aesthetics to technical to pure execution. It should really have a sense of being influential to creating future development across virtual worlds into the real world. ” Applications close January 15, 2009, with the winner and finalists announced no later than April 30, 2009.

campuspeople1

SL Community

For those of you who missed it previously Jennifer Ragan-Fore (SL:Kittygloom Cassady), SLEDcc Co-Chair, has again provided the slurl of the streaming pages and blogs of the successful “edu track” of the Second Life Community Convention in Tampa. http://sledcc.wikispaces.com/Audio+Visual+Archives; http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=blog+sledcc08&btnG=Search; Flickr uploads http://www.flickr.com/groups/sledcc08; RezEd discussions http://www.rezed.org/ ; and tweets http://twitter.com/sledcc .

Kemp on SL strength

Building community in Second Life is “really a matter of fostering user ownership and getting users involved,” says Jeremy Kemp, assistant director of San Jose State University’s SL Campus and wellknown virtual world guru. “That’s the strength of Second Life,” he said, “it’s a world created by users.”
And, in Second Life, according to Kemp, where a group of students meets at the same time online, there’s a sense of embodiment, a feeling of being in the classroom and a sense of presence.
“They get the feeling of being there,” says Kemp, and “they can see me in the classroom.”
Kemp expressed this view to Samantha Cleaver in an article in the ecommercetimes on Virtual Learning and the Avatar Generation – diverse issues in higher education, which looks at distance learning up close. http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/web20/65082.html?wlc=1226309206&wlc=1226353422

Events

November 17, 1-5pm (SL time) “Real World Impacts from the Virtual World” including a “sneak preview” of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s new sim “Foundations” should be of interest to educators and researchers. Interactive events covering how groups use virtual spaces like Second Life to build opportunities in preserving native peoples’ cultures, creating accessible spaces for people with disabilities, helping obese people make healthy life choices and teaching underprivileged youth about paleontology and science. Venues: (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Foundations/119/233/36) and the neighboring archipelago that includes the Network Culture Project, Justice Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/The%20Justice%20Commons/134/130/29) and Aloft Nonprofit Commons (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Aloft%20Nonprofit%20Commons/88/52/23/).

November 18, 2008, 7-8am (SL time) – Edward Lee Lamoureux (pictured at right), associate professor, Multimedia Program and Department of Communication, Bradley University) (SL:Professor Beliveau) participant in the recent lamoureuxInternational Distance Learning Day event. will share a portion of his IDLD talk with the Healthcare Education group (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Health%20Eduisland/174/144/25) Info on Lamoureux http://slane.bradley.edu/com/faculty/lamoureux/website2/

November 28-29, 2008 – Australasian Virtual Worlds Workshop 2008, EN 101, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia, and selected locations in SL. Keynote speakers include: Larry Johnson (CEO, NMC), Chris Collins (Director of Enterprise Business Systems, Linden Lab) and Bruce Joy (CEO, Vast Park) This workshop builds upon foundations established by the Second Life Discovery Day held in 2007 at Monash University, Australia. Registration for presenters and students is A$20 and for other participants A$50. In-world attendance slurls will be emailed following registration. http://avww.org/files/AVWW%20programme%20Panel%20and%20Presenters.pdf

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