The SLENZ Update – No 44, February 4, 2009

Strangers: off to the world

rollo-mike-fiona

UK-born Mike Baker (SL: Rollo Kohime),  a senior lecturer in the Degree in Arts and Media programme in the School of Arts and Media at Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology, Nelson, NZ-Aotearoa, has had papers on his Masters project accepted for three national and international conferences in February and June.

The papers will be delivered at intercreateSCANZ Symposium, at New Plymouth, in Taranaki, New Zealand, PSI15 Performance Studies International Conference, in Zagreb, Croatia, and the SDHS Society of Dance History Scholars: Topographies: Sites, Bodies, Technologies, at Stanford University, USA. He has  also been named to an international panel to deliver/discuss the paper of Isabel de Cavadas Valverde: Envisioning virtual cartographies for corporeal interaction: dance and performance convergent applications of Second Life 3D Metaverse social environment, at the SDHS Conference at Stanford.

Baker (pictured above with wife Fiona), who has danced and worked with: BodyCartography Project, (USA/NZ) Wilhemeena Gordon, (NZ) Nancy Stark-Smith, State-of-Flux Dance Co, (Melbourne, Australia) Martin Keogh (USA) jzamal Xanitha (USA) and Catherine Chappell – Touch Compass Dance Trust (NZ), is completing a Masters in Art and Design (majoring in dance and video) with AUT University,  Auckland.

His performance-based Masters project, “Company of Strangers – Negotiating Meetings, Exchanges and Conversations in Urban Spaces”, critically explores both in the real world and Second Life the forces of indeterminacy which he maintains are responsible for the dynamics which create the personna of the ‘stranger’ in encounters between people in urban spaces. He uses interventionist dance strategies to prompt and then interrogate the formation, nature and parameters of encounters in designated public places. The experimental movement frameworks employed are informed by the discipline of Contact Improvisation Dance. The working process is documented using a range of video narrative and internet blogs.

The Second Life portion of Baker’s dance project is based on the NMIT/SLENZ island of Koru. His blog is at: http://hoststranger.blogspot.com

Better SL viewer ahead?

On the face of it the churn rate of “newbies” entering Second Life is probably unacceptable in business terms but 15 percent of those trying out Second Life for the first time, deciding to “settle” in world, to my mind, is nothing to get discouraged about.

Given similar problems to those Second Life has had over the years many five-year-old – old hat? – businesses would be pleased with the on-going, steady retention rate. philip_rosedale

Linden Labs’ executives, Philip Rosedale and Mark Kingdon appear far from discouraged even though they would like to “triple that number,” according to an exclusive report by Ian Lamont, in The Industry Standard. (Story and transcripts http://www.thestandard.com/news/2009/01/30/exclusive-linden-lab-executives-plot-second-life-growth-interface-concerns-persist?page=0%2C0&source=nlt_daily)

Both Rosedale (pictured right) and Kingdon (pictured left) said in the Lamont interview that on-going, significant work to make the user interface less complex would have a huge impact on the retention rate of the virtual world.kingdon2

Singling out search, the user interface and new user orientation as needing major improvements, to up the on-going user retention rate, Rosedale told Lamont, “We need to collapse the orientation experience on learning the interface down to a 30-minute timeframe. We’re not there yet.”

Going on to describe the current interface as “overwhelming,” Rosedale said, “The basic UI of the software also needs to change. “It has too many pixels,” he said referring to the buttons, numbers, and other data presented to users on the screen. “They’re all kind of demanding your attention — your [Linden] dollar balance, your inventory window, all the buttons on the bottom bar, chat and text that are visible in the window, that’s asking something of you, blue pop-ups that are coming up.”

Rosedale said that Second Life had moved beyond an emerging application for technology-savvy users. “There is a lot more diversity in use, demographics and behavior in Second Life today than there was, say, at the end of 2003,” he said.

Kingdon added. “There is a very compelling set of activities that virtual worlds are incredibly powerful for. They erase geographies, they allow for a type of interaction that you can’t get in the real world and they bring with them really interesting economic and business opportunities for users.”

Kingdon detailed localisation projects for countries in Europe, Asia, and South America, and cited in-world training and remote meetings as compelling activities for companies. Both he and Rosedale portrayed Second Life as a competitor to enterprise video conferencing, which they believe is unable to match Second Life’s ability to make people feel comfortable interacting with other remote users.

VW education/meetings do work

lbj_close_talker

On Mark Kingdon’s case (above) for the benefits of holding real world meetings in virtual worlds Metaverse developer Caleb Booker has provided a compelling argument for the use of virtual worlds like Second Life for real world education environments and meeting spaces.( http://www.calebbooker.com/blog/2009/01/27/roi-in-virtual-worlds-1-why-webcams-fail/)

I have to agree with Wagner Au  in New World Notes (http://nwn.blogs.com/) that up until now, “the notion that the professional world should prefer meeting in the metaverse over speakerphones or web cams or other technologies seemed roughly crazy.”

He based this on the assumption that  in-world meetings put on by companies like IBM and Microsoft “were mostly limited to the early adopters already familiar with Second Life.”

However, Au goes on to say, that Booker lays out his reasoning lucidly for why the professional world should change its view through comparing being “close” to  people in an avatar sense to getting the “close-talker” feeling of  being trapped counting the other speaker’s nostril hairs, as in the Lyndon Baines Johnson picture above or a la webcam, and not being able to look away.

Suffice to say, Caleb argues cogently that Virtual space experiences work better than a webcam experience because one can maintain some “personal space”;  whatever learning mode one is in, chances are one will do fine;  and the experience fills one’s field of vision far more readily.

Read Caleb’s article: its one of the best expositions on just why education as opposed to other forms of elearning WILL work in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

Kermit for the third time..

intellagirltully

My final word on the saga of  the believability of Kermit. Intellagirl Tully (real life Sarah Robbins) is recognised as one of the foremost researchers/educators operating in Virtual Worlds. She probably has thought more about academic identity in a non-academic world than most other people. I’m indebted to a SLED list poster for pointing me to her “enjoyable and insightful” piece for the SLCC Education Workshop in 2006 titled, ” ‘Image Slippage': Navigating the Dichotomies of an Academic Identity in a Non-Academic Virtual World.” You can read it at: http://secondlife.intellagirl.com/SLCC-Robbins.doc

Is the writing on the SL wall?

blumenthal

The on-going debate inside the walls of Linden Lab and among Second Life educators and others on the benefits or not of merging the carefully policed, but poorly-patronised Teen Grid with the well-patronised adult grid, has been brought into sharper focus by MySpace’s decision to remove the profiles of about 90,000 US-registered sex offenders.

The question is not whether Second Life can survive the addition of a teenage group of possible hell-raisers (grin) but whether it can survive the imposition of more stringent controls such as proof of age, identity, location and possible background checks being placed on the general population of Second Life, things which may be required by some US regulators to ensure the safety of the teens.

Personally I’m not a proponent of the Nanny State and think this would be a step too far. I have enjoyed, for better or worse, the “anything goes, frontier” feel of Second Life – even the griefers – for the past four years and hope to continue to be surprised and astounded by the activities/art/works of my fellow residents for years to come, no matter what their real life backgrounds.

Proof of age is currently not mandatory within Second Life and is required only for specific “adult” areas – I’ve only come across one proof-of-age-barred area over many hours of exploration – but given the general in-world penchant for privacy I don’t think the introduction of mandatory proof-of-age on the general grid would be a good thing.

[Interestingly the Linden Lab ban on casinos and sexual age-play among adults has, as predicted, reportedly only served to drive these activities underground.]

The thoughts on this issue were sparked by comments made by Connecticut Attorney-General Richard Blumenthal (pictured above at an unrelated occasion, but appropriate-looking “friend”) who initiated the release of the MySpace figures which were almost double the number that News Corporation-owned MySpace officials originally announced last year. (http://preview.tinyurl.com/c62qqs)

Blumenthal said the “shocking revelation” backed up his campaign to ensure that social networking sites should be barred as “playgrounds for predators”. “

Almost 100,000 convicted sex offenders mixing with children on MySpace is absolutely appalling and totally unacceptable,” he said. “For every one of them, there may be hundreds of others using false names and ages.”

Blumenthal said the new data unmasked what he called MySpace’s “monstrously inadequate counter-measures” and noted he would continue “to fight for reforms and safeguards at MySpace and other social networking sites to protect children, including age and identification verification.

“I urge MySpace and the social networking industry to end their resistance to age and identify verification,” he said.

One wonders how long it will be before he and his fellow travelers look at virtual worlds, now that social networking and virtual worlds are coming together.

The SLENZ Update – No 19, October 26, 2008

Auckland ‘ER’ in SL

Vital signs - a patient is checked

Vital signs - a patient is checked

Dr Scott Diener (Professor Noarlunga, pictured) [http://scottdiener.edublogs.org/], at the University of Auckland, has created a simulated hospital emergency room where small teams of medical and nursing students can learn to diagnose and treat patients requiring emergency treatment.

Sited on an University of Auckland island, appropriately called the Long White Cloud [ http://slurl.com/secondlife/Long%20White%20Cloud/31/39/28 ], the medical facilities are only one of several temporary and ongoing experimental developments, all aimed at using Second Life as an educational environment.

The island project has been directed, created and currently ‘financed’ – almost single-handedly – by Diener, Associate Director IT Services for Academic and Collaborative Technologies at the university.

Speaking recently on the Emergency Room side of the project, Diener said, “This project is just in the beginning design stages, and is contingent upon grant funds becoming available.  The intent is to initially develop a hospital ‘ward’ for use with  3rd and 4th year medical students.”

A visit to the island demonstrates just what Diener has achieved from his sometimes frustrating “labour of love” with its initial goal of developing several “experimental” medical simulations (e.g. a hospital environment), along with interactive spaces for students and staff.

The simulations already created relate to medicine, surgery, nursing, psychology, and disaster preparedness. Already instructors can assess “student”  abilities in the diagnosis of instructor-determined medical scenarios in real time and it is planned to have real life actor/avatars play patient roles based on specific symptom/attitude etc scripts as a learning aid.

Diener notes that medical students/interns from distant places could be tested in this way via broadband and Second Life without the cost of either traveling to  a specific campus or the cost of having to “hire” and train actor- patients to “work” on a number of university campuses.

Currently the ground floor of the Auckland University simulated medical school houses the Medical Clinic/hospital Emergency Room and related facilities (doctor offices).   The Second floor houses an intensive care unit. The nursing unit  being built in collaboration with Boise State University, US, will attempt to mimic the real-life nursing simulation environment at Boise. A study is currently being designed to compare the effectiveness of this environment against the Boise RL simulation.

Various medical components, monitors and instruments are being or have been designed for the simulations and PBL (problem-based learning) scenarios are being developed. The interactive Emergency Room instrumentation was built by David Bodily, a nursing educator from Wyoming University.  He also is a participant in the study with Boise.<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –>

Diener has invited international participation in the simulations.

Tim Shadbolt visited? Did he?

Tim Shadbolt or only a facsimile?

Tim Shadbolt or only a facsimile?

The Second Life paparazzi recently spied what they thought was Tim Shadbolt, New Zealand politician and Invercargill Mayor, enjoying a stroll around the grounds of the Southern Institute of Technology’s handsome build on the  Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology’s collaborative island sim, Koru. http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27

“The Southern Institute of Technology’s (SIT) presence within Second Life was initially proposed by a team of three third-year Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) students as the subject matter for the programme’s compulsory Project 701 paper,” according to a mid-year announcement of the developing SIT presence on Koru. “Primarily the team is to produce an area for the promotion of SIT, in general, while subsequently promoting current students achievements in the Arts, Digital Media, Film, and Information Technology. Additional deliverables include providing a medium in which current and/or prospective students can meet, develop, and secure positive relationships. Further investigation into the educational value of Second Life will be assessed by the success or failure of this initial stage.”

Now the paparazzi all know that Tim has been a major supporter of the Southern Institute but in handing us the picture above they just could not confirm whether it was him or not. But it sure looked like him. Dear reader we will leave it up to you to decide.

Business without borders

There has been considerable discussion in Second Life business and education   circles about “work spaces in a box” following the Linden Lab  announcement  that Rivers Run Red’s Immersive Workspaces 2.0, a comprehensive virtual world collaboration solution, is being made available on the Second Life Grid.

The companies have also announced a strategic partnership to sell and market each other’s products, either individually or jointly, and to explore developing and deploying additional offerings for Linden Lab’s growing base of enterprise customers.

Announcing the collaboration Linden Labs said that with enterprise use of the Second Life Grid on the rise, organisations were investing more in their virtual environments and moving mission critical aspects of their businesses into the virtual world such as distance learning, product prototyping and collaboration.

“This migration has created demand for a solution that enables organisations to quickly implement, configure and populate a virtual world environment suitable for their needs,” Linden said. ” Immersive Workspaces meets these needs by pre-configuring workspace options and wrapping the Second Life Grid solution in a web-based framework rich with familiar tools and interfaces.

“… Immersive Workspaces enables organisations to construct custom virtual work environments – including meetings rooms and design centers – that can dramatically change the way they collaborate and communicate. A set of tightly integrated web-based applications and the ability to seamlessly upload and integrate real world content – eg PowerPoint – brings enterprise-level efficiency and flexibility into a virtual world.

“In today’s financial climate, every enterprise regardless of size or industry is looking for ways to increase productivity, reduce costs, and boost overall profitability,” said Mark Kingdon, Chief Executive Officer, Linden Lab. “With documented benefits and use cases and enterprise-ready applications such as Immersive Workspaces from partners such as Rivers Run Red, the Second Life Grid is the ideal platform for enterprises looking to add a virtual element to their operations.”

For more information about Immersive Workspaces on the Second Life Grid please visit http://www.immersivespaces.com, http://www.secondlifegrid.net or contact business@lindenlab.com.

Useful videos

We owe  Australian SLED lister Bruce Sommerville for pointing us the five useful YouTube videos on the topic of ‘Second Life Education’ collected together on the SLEDevents playlist at:http://au.youtube.com/user/sledevents

He also noted that the AUSTAFE conference in early october was simulcast in  Second Life

Event

A special panel on Assessing the Student Experience in Second Life at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Orlando will be streamed into Second Life on (Second Life time) Wednesday, October 29
from 7:30am – 8:20am SLT. SL SLURL:http://slurl.com/secondlife/ClevelandPlus/191/106/25

Difficult timing for Kiwis but this panel will bring together practitioners from four institutions that have experimented with using virtual worlds such as Second Life to enhance student learning.

The speakers are:Tanya Joosten, Lecturer and Educational Technology Consultant, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; AJ Kelton, Director, Emerging Instructional Tech, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Montclair State University;Deborah Keyek-Franssen, Director of Academic Technologies, University of Colorado at Boulder; and Wendy Shapiro, Senior Academic Technology Officer, Case Western Reserve University.

The session will be moderated by Steven J. Taylor, Director, Academic Computing Services, Vassar College, and session convener is Lloyd Onyett, Assistant Dean for Technology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

The SLENZ Update – No 18, October 22, 2008

Educator newbie help

Linden Lab, in partnership with ISTE, has a streamlined, educationally-focused starting point to Linden Labs for educators entering Second Life for the first time.

The New Educators’ Pilot Program has been designed to ease entry into Second Life  and provide a guide for educators who might at first be overwhelmed by the “rezzing experience” which can be made worse occasionally by some who appear to enjoy harassing new avatars as they appear on Orientation Island.

The New Educators Pilot Program (sometimes referred to in ISTE circles as the Educator’s Experience Pathway) changes all that. The NEPP begins with a dedicated sign-up form (http://secondlifegrid.net/programs/education) that guides a new user through the registration process.

SL getting younger

The 18-24 bracket now makes up 45 percent of total registrations in Second Life, a change which Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon has described as “the platform getting younger as we get older.”

Opening Virtual Worlds London with a brief overview of Second Life, Kingdon said the application of the world was changing  with 600 million user hours of activity and projections this would hit the billion-hour mark next year. (http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/10/notes-from-vi-2.html#more)

“In the first wave, there was all kinds of very dynamic experimentation,” he said. “We’re entering a second wave as the platform expands and matures with what people can do. In the first wave there was a great deal of early adoption … It was very much about enjoyment. It was very much about escape. But it was also very much about unconnected virtual worlds. In the second wave, we see enterprises thinking about virtual worlds in a very different way. Instead of experimentation, we’re seeing businesses ask for solutions that work. We’re starting to see that the virtual world is not a substitute for the 2D Web experience. It’s what I guess you could say is the assimilation of the virtual world into the 2D Web space. And it’s a change I very much welcome.”

Driving the innovation, said Kingdon, are global workforce needs, economic pressures, and carbon and cash concerns. Those drive users to stay home instead of travel for work, which promotes the use of innovative collaboration tools.

It’s not all business, though. Social computing is going mainstream, broadband and more advanced hardware are pervasive, and sub-par substitutes for interaction, like video conferencing, are driving the need for alternative solutions, he said, noting that at Linden Lab, 20 percent of the staff work off site, spending their time in-world as a tool for collaboration.

(Mark Kingdon, Linden Lab picture)

EDUVERSE speakers

In New Zealand getting to international conferences can sometimes be difficult and expensive.

However, through the benefits of video one can get the highlights of many conferences. The third Eduverse symposium  held in  De Balie, Amsterdam, in September is no exception

With many leading educationists and Virtual World experts sharing their work, experience and ideas the videos at Eduverse website ( http://www.eduverse.org/index.php/symposium3) provide a sustainable option for those who could not get there.

Among the presenters were“Philip Rosedale (former CEO of Linden Lab);  Julian Lombardi (head of Opencroquet at Duke University www.opencroquet.org), Christian Renaud (virtual world guru), Chuck Hamilton (IBM Centre for Advanced learning), Karl Kapp (noted virtual worlds author), David Williamson Shaffer (founder of Epistemic Games), Tim Johansson (head of Opera 3D develeopment), Philippe van Nedervelde (Foresight Nanotech Institute) and David Burden (Daden Ltd).

The highlight was the panel discussion of the future of all the major virtual platforms, including: Second Life, Opencroquet, Adobe 3D, DEEP, 3Dxplorer, ExitReality and others.

1st SL paramedic course

Paramedic students studying at the Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, a partnership between St George’s, University of London, and Kingston University, today learn how to treat emergencies  on-the-job in Second Life. (http://www.yournursing.com/2008/10/16/first-paramedic-course-to-use-second-life/)

Students entering Second Life as virtual paramedics can assess and treat “patients” in the street by doing things such as checking their pulse, dressing wounds and administering drugs. They can also access a toolkit, including all the equipment one would typically find in an ambulance, such as oxygen masks and an electrocardiogram (ECG).

After assessing the patient and giving emergency treatment, the students are able to decide how to get the patient into the ambulance and set a GPS device to take them to the hospital. Once they have reached the hospital, they submit handover notes on the patients, which are emailed to their real-life tutor for feedback.

The Paramedic Science degree, in which the Second Life component is included, has a strong practical focus, with solving problems based on real-life scenarios forming a crucial part of the course.

The application has been developed by St George’s, University of London’s e-learning unit as part of the PREVIEW project, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). It has been tested by both tutors and students.

The SL librarian

The story of Second Life’s Alliance Virtual Library and the Second Life spaces of the Alliance Library System volunteer educators  and  what has been done in promoting libraries  in Second Life, was contained in a machinama used as an introduction to Bernadette Daly Swanson’s (HVX Silverstar) presentation at the Bridging Worlds 2008 Conference  held in Singapore.

The conference: http://www.bridgingworlds.sg/ with the conference slides at  http://www.slideshare.net/bridgingworlds2008/slideshowsThe machima is entitled: “I am Library: an ode to self-discovery and collective creativity in Second Life.” The success of the Alliance Virtual Library has been such that it now has the virtual equivalent of 1.26 square miles  in Second Life.

There is a high quality version of the machima http://blip.tv/file/1375957/

Have a giggle!

http://www.getafirstlife.com/

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