The SLENZ Update – No 10, September 29, 2008

Need an upgrade?

For Kiwi educators who want to upgrade their Second Life skills the Second Life Kiwi Educators group will be running a number of sessions in world during the second week week of the New Zealand semester break to familiarise users with a number of different aspects of this multi-user virtual environment.

Led by Kiwi Educators co-founder Aaron Griffths/Isa Goodman these sessions will generally last two hours and cover topics such as terraforming, sound and music, particle systems and animations.

Sessions are restricted to Kiwi Educators group members (membership is open) and will consist of a maximum of 10 participants for each session.

The first session on terraforming (shaping the landscape of Second Life) will be held on October 8 between 12 pm and 2 pm. Isa will look at the basic theory of terraforming, the terraforming toolset. Participants will get to play with these tools on NMIT’s new island, Kowhai. Kowhai is currently a bare piece of land and is ideal for such a session. As the opportunity for terraforming is rarely avaiable to most people this session is expected to fill fast so if interested it is suggested that you get in quick.

To finish off the session a guided tour has been arranged on the private sims of Avilion, a beautifully crafted in-world land, which uses terraforming extremely well as part of its design. Enrolment in the session is inworld at the general Resource Centre on Koru ( http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/143/151/30 )

IBM’s thoughts on VWs

The video of  Erica Driver’s Los Angeles Virtual Worlds Expo interview with IBM’s Colin J. Parris makes interesting viewing and is a must watch  if one wants to know why and what Big Blue, the instigator of OpenSim and a major Second Life participant, is doing in Virtual Worlds ( http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/09/video-of-erica.html )

The is particularly important given the ongoing Otago University-led OnGens project ( http://www.gni.otago.ac.nz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16&Itemid=6)

In the interview Dr Parris, VP Digital Convergence at IBM,  exposes a lot of the thinking behind IBM’s’s significant investment in virtual worlds. He talks about how the 3D internet became a focus and internal startup within the company. He then covers collaboration and training and it’s work with companies like Aviva and the recent integration of SameTime and Lotus Notes with OpenSim.


Under Dr Parris’ leadership IBM has formed an emerging business which takes an end-to-end systems perspective to bringing highly visual, interactive interfaces into the world of business, science, healthcare and education

The embedded video on this link cuts out after five minutes but you can download the entire 205mb file from the page also ( http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/09/video-of-erica.html )

Biases in VWs?

Charley Lemon and Hinemoa Hudson – stereotyping?

Amazingly  the colour of one’s avatar’s skin appears to matter in Virtual Worlds. This  is even more surprising when one considers that all sorts or avatars/creatures inhabit Virtual Worlds from ordinary humans, to nekos, to furries, to anthromorphs, centaurs, minotaurs, vampires and demons and other assorted monsters from fairytale, legend and some very creative imaginations.

But, as ScienceDaily reported earlier this month ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080909074104.htm ),   the fun and games do not appear to be divorced from the real world when it comes to colour – an interesting observation for a hopefully, colour-blind country such as New Zealand, even though most Kiwis on-line with some notable exceptions – as when they are overseas – appear to be New Zealanders rather than Pakeha or Maori.

Two social psychologists from Northwestern University, Paul W. Eastwick, a doctoral student in psychology, and Wendi L. Gardner, associate professor of psychology and member of Northwestern’s Center for Technology and Social Behavior, who conducted  experimental field studies in a virtual world found that avatars responded to social cues to help one another — and revealed racial biases – in the same ways that people do in the real world.

In both of the classic door-in-the-face (DITF) social psychology experiments used for the study in There.com, a relatively unstructured online virtual world, one avatar tried to influence another to fulfill a request.

In one of the most striking findings, the effect of the DITF technique was significantly reduced when the requesting avatar was dark-toned. The white avatars in the DITF experiment received about a 20 percent increase in compliance with the moderate request; the increase for the dark-toned avatars was eight percent.

“For decades, research has shown that the outcome of that reciprocity-inducing technique is affected by how the requester is perceived, whether a person — or in this case an avatar — is deemed worthy of impressing,” Gardner was quoted as saying..

Despite the world being fantasy the finding is consistent with studies in the real world as well as the few in the virtual world that clearly demonstrate that physical characteristics, such as race, gender and physical attractiveness, affect judgment of others.

But Eastwick said, “You would think when you’re wandering around this fantasyland, operating outside of the normal laws of time, space and gravity and meeting all types of strange characters, that you might behave differently. But people exhibited the same type of behavior — and the same type of racial bias — that they show in the real world all the time.”

For Librarians

The soon to be released Virtual Worlds, Real Libraries: Librarians and in Second Life and Other Multi-User Virtual Environments (Paperback), by Lori Bell (Author), Rhonda B. Trueman (Author) at $US39.95 will be available from Amazon shortly ( http://www.amazon.com/Virtual-Worlds-Real-Libraries-Environments/dp/1573873616/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1222371587&sr=1-10 ). Best to wait for the first reviews before ordering though.

Kiwis under radar

Kiwis, probably because of its small population and the lack of a 21st century telecommunication structure or pricing regime – yes dear Kiwis, Telecom and TelstraClear are still ripping us off and treating us like mushrooms – failed to make it out of the “others” class in the latest Second Life measurements.

The figures which show New Zealand in the “others” grouping  were reported by Tateru Nino  late September in  gaming blog Massively.com

( http://www.massively.com/2008/09/24/second-life-august-metrics-no-significant-growth/ )

Concluding that Second Life had had no significant growth in the latest reporting period she mourned the fact that  Linden Lab is not publishing detailed monthly information anymore.

She summed up the changes for August compared to the July figures as: User hours showing little or no real growth, only 120 new private simulators (no growth in mainland), Accounts with positive monthly flow down, L$/US$ exchange rate stable, Lindex currency exchange activity down, premium accounts continuing to fall.

On the other hand, she said, demographically Second Life is still firmly in the hands of Baby Boomers and Generation X, with younger users statistically remaining unengaged with the platform.

As expected the US leads the user count with  40.13%,  but Germany is second with  9.99%, the UK third with 6.82% and Japan fourth, with 6.09%. While New Zealand remains in the “others” at a total of less than 8%, Australia holds 11th place with  2.01% of the users.

2 Responses

  1. Hi there. Small comment. IBM is not the instigator of OpenSim – they’ve contributed significant developer time and resources (both paid and unpaid), but a guy with the avatar name Michael Wright was the original founder of the project (who now belongs to a company called Tribal Media).

  2. Mea culpa – Michael Wright should obviously get the credit…. I may have been seduced by the IBM promotional material but as you note Big Blue has contributed significant developer time and resources and I feel, rightly or wrong, that IBM s now driving OpenSim to a major extent….

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