The SLENZ Update – No 93, May 29, 2009


“Getting close by going far away,

going far by staying here …”

‘Departed – In the Company of Strangers’

The ineffable sadness of departure – of leaving, of death – is mirrored more and more in the work of Mike Baker (SL: Rollo Kohime) who has used  Wellington Railway Station both in Second Life and in Real Life to  show that   we, as human beings, can occupy,  two separate spaces and times in one mixed reality.

Baker, a noted improvisational contact dance exponent,  is to showcase his latest work at two events on the same day at the SDHS Conference 2009 (Society of Dance History Scholars) – Topographies: Sites, Bodies, Technologies at  Stanford University – in California and Second Life, between 2.00pm and 3.30pm (Pacific time) on Saturday, June 20, 2009.

He wont be there in person but will  make both presentations as Rollo Kohime, in Second Life.

The first is a paper presentation on his AUT Masters project, “In the Company of Strangers” (Abstract Title: In the Company of Strangers – Negotiating the parameters of Indeterminacy; a study of the Roaming Body and Departure in Urban Spaces) from his Wellington Railway Station build on Koru.

Later, between 5.30pm – 7.00pm (Pacific time) , he will participate in a round-table discussion with a shared presentation and question time (conceived by Isabel Valverde), Yukihiko Yoshida and himself.

The title is, “Dancing in Second Life: A roundtable – “Envisioning Virtual Topographies for Corporeal Interaction: dance and performance convergent applications of the Second Life 3D Metaverse social environment.”

Yoshida`s input has the title, “Real Dance and Dancing in metaverse : from the activity by INETDANCE Japan,” while Baker’s is titled, “The Human Analogue in Mixed-Reality.”

Following the presentations the panel will be asked, “How might dance work be created around the premise that we as humans can occupy, simultaneously, two separate spaces and times in one Mixed Reality?” and ” ‘Belonging’ in Mixed-Reality?


Meanwhile Baker has had a paper selected for the ‘”Time, Transcendence, Performance” conference at Monash University, in Melbourne, in October.

Recently he also had one of his works, focusing on Second Life and mounted on, presented at the Artist Salon at Chez Bushwick ,in New York.  The work,  ‘A Facet of the Real?’, is  a study combining his Real Life video work projected in his Second Life Wellington railway station. It was shown along with works by the New York City Ballet and Troika Ranch and a number of other outstanding international contemporary pieces.

Jaki Levy, a media artist and new media consultant in the USA, said after the “performance”: ‘”A Facet of the Real”explored how performance in “first” life and Second Life can intersect, creating a trippy situation in which a live performance is viewed in real time by online avatars in a virtual venue.”

“A Facet of the Real?”

The SLENZ Update – No 92, May 29, 2009


The splatter effect of virtual bulldust …


courtesy Suzie Austin

When the  bulldust hits the fan, somebody or something inevitably gets splattered. Almost forever.

No, Dilbert, journalists, bloggers and others of that ilk often don’t get it right, whether its about adultery in Second Life (20/20,  it is not ubiquitous) or the tabloid press obsession with movie stars and other celebrities, especially if they lapse for a moment into normalcy.

This was brought to mind today by Gary Hayes (pictured right) in his blog, PeronalizedMedia, who has been moved again to give a full rundown on the so-called  “griefing, bombing, nuclear attack” on the ABC Island in Second Life two years ago which NEVER happened, but sparked warnings of terrorism and Al Quaeda in virtual worlds as well as questions in the Australian Parliament.

It was nothing but a technical glitch which was restored after two hours but still the bulldust keeps rippling around the world.
His account is worthwhile reading just to comprehend  how well rumours, untruths and inuendoes grow in the fertile  landcape  provided by bulldust, and to reflect on butterfly wings in the Amazon jungle being the start of a typhoon in the China Sea, or something like that.garyhayes

It’s also worthwhile reflecting on the fact that much of what is written/spoken about controversial news is 90 percent rubbish – especially if its about  virtual world –  and that  virtual world’s, because they are so subjective with their beauty or otherwise in the eye of the beholder,  are probably more difficult to report than most other facets of human endeavour.

That said, there’s a lesson in this for all of us. Don’t believe the hype about virtual worlds, but also don’t believe the bad press.

By the way Gary, an inveterate blogger and machinima-creator, is currently the Director the Australian Laboratory for Advanced Media Production run through AFTRS (Australian Film TV and Radio School) and based in Sydney.

On virtual world issues he has few parallels. His organisation, LAMP, is probably Australia’s premier emerging media R&D and production labs. His teams actually create prototypes, develop  presentations and evolve the business, technical and creative aspects of their property leading to pilots and user testing with a unique mix of seminars, workshops, immersive rapid prototyping residentials and industry focused product development.

Through AFTRS he also runs workshops in multi user virtual environments (MUVE) for cinematographers, designers, script writers and directors exploring the potential of shared social online virtual spaces for collaborative production, creativity and education.

Finally I wonder how many more sex-starved  Kiwi “newbies” are going to be causing chaos on New Zealand’s inefficient Broadband system now that they’ve seen 20/20’s version of “Love the Second Life way” on Channel 2. Thankfully they wont stay too long before getting bored.

The SLENZ Update – No 91, May 28, 2009


Early teens  learn from  playing

video games in class

While this blog is generally about virtual worlds there is a connection between multi-user virtual environments  and video games which  demonstrate the efficacy of learning by “playing” among adults, teenagers and children, whether in a distance education setting or a classroom.

There are lessons from  all sides which can inform debate on the issue.Dubbels

One Minneapolis teacher, Brock Dubbels (pictured), at Seward Montessori in Minneapolis, and quoted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune,  is using video games to engage and teach 12 to 14-year-olds a variety of skills.

Students in Dubbels class spend their school time together playing off-the-shelf video games for the Nintendo Wii and other gaming systems.

“It connects to their lives,” Dubbels said. “Research shows that kids want to perform where they have competence. Games are part of their lives.”

Over a three-week period, the kids split up into groups and play video games with the goal  explaining how the game is played, how a player might win and how the game is designed.

By the end of the session, the students will have created a multimedia presentation, including lots of writing about their games that is then uploaded to the Web as a modern version of a book report.

Dubbels, who has a background in cognitive psychology, says they’re also improving reading comprehension, learning to work cooperatively, building technical-writing skills and incorporating technology into their studies.

The SLENZ Update – No 90, May 27, 2009


The SLENZ Guide for Learners

SLENZ Project developer Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker, pictured), learning designer Leigh Blackall (SL: Leroy Goalpost) and  members of the project team  have put together a collection of notes, links, pictures, videos and comments aimed at helping people to use Second Life before and when they first enter the virtual world.koru meeting250509_002

For   both the experienced computer user and the virtual “newbie” – to the computer and virtual worlds –  Cochrane’s “Using Second Life – a guide for learners” in WikiEducator in an attractive and easily-digested format should prove both useful and fun for those wanting  a rewarding experience in the virtual world of Second Life.

The  simple-to-use guide covers among other things: Creating your account; Landing in the right place; Moving your avatar and camera control: Personalisation; Search, locate, retrieve, store and manage information on locations; Inventory management; Safety; Appropriate behaviour – “SLetiquette”; Communicating in learning groups; How to build; Exercises – practising your skills; Education and training in MUVEs.

Although expressly created for the SLENZ Project, the guide provides a welcome addition to the growing body of  material on Second Life in that it pulls a number of strands together in one place, in a practical, free-to-use format.

The SLENZ Update – No 89, May 25, 2009

Distance education with a difference

Otago Midwifery students to learn

about birthing in virtual world

Birthing Centre_002

Today, for the first time,  New Zealand midwifery students began  to enhance their regular study programme with learning in the virtual world of Second Life.

The 27 first year students and 23 second year students were introduced to the Otago Polytechnic’s virtual “model” birth centre (Te Wāhi Whānau), on the Government-funded SLENZ Project’s Second Life virtual island of Kowhai.

The students will be joined by another 15 third-year students in June as the School of Midwifery further develops the “blended delivery tools” it is using in its newly-revised midwifery education programme. Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and midwifery students will also join the virtual world part of the programme in June.

The students range in age from their 20s to 40s, with a variety of life experiences and varying degrees of computer literacy.

According to Dr Deborah Davis, the school’s principal lecturer, students will eventually access The Birth Centre from home via the Internet through Broadband links.

In February Otago Polytechnic in collaboration with CPIT began a new “flexible” programme which allows the students to remain in their home town or community while accessing course material on line and working alongside local midwives and women and meeting for face-to-face tutorials. Their virtual world experience will be part of this.

‘Intensives’ face-to-face

“They are supported by a midwife from their area who provides face-to-face tutoring and support,” Dr Davis said, adding that these students travel to the polytechnic for “intensives” (two weeks, four times/year) where they “focus on skills and other learning that is more suited to face-to-face” teaching.

Dr Davis said the virtual Birth Centre would also “provide an important learning opportunity for second-year students, who are currently focusing on the physiology of normal birth.

“While students are currently engaged in real life midwifery practice they may not have the opportunity to facilitate physiological childbirth in a home or home-like environment … we hope that the virtual birth centre will provide them with an immersive experience and one in which they start to feel the sense of responsibility and accountability that comes with being a registered midwife.”

Dr Davis said the virtual birth centre should also provide a useful opportunity for third-year students to hone and practice their midwifery decision-making skills while participating in an “apprentice” style year on clinical placements with midwives all over New Zealand.

The SLENZ Project, which is running two pilot education programmes in Second Life, is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand.

The SLENZ Update – No 88, May 21, 2009


Worlds of difference  but  ones  that Kiwi

developers should probably try out

My experience in  OpenSim, OSgrid, OpenLife and New Zealand’s own ONGENS would suggest to me that  the variety and usability of  multi-user virtual worlds are really opening up and educators should not rule  out any of the possibilities.

I have not previously quantified/qualified my feelings about the OpenSim movement,  which is based on Second Life software – as opposed to being a resident of Second Life itself –  and I must admit I have had problems in a number of OpenSims, which have at times made me somewhat critical of them

But I am  not as critical as some of the Second Life experience, still having fun, building memories, and feeling it is a “real world” despite the Linden’s often-criticised, totalitarian-appearing regime and changing rules – many changes that I believe, in hindsight, have been beneficial.

However,  Zonja Capalini (pictured right and below)Capalini, Zonja1,  in a recent article, “The Open Space fiasco: six months later,” clearly sets out the benefits and pitfalls of  joining the  OpenSim movement.
At times I feel she is hypercritical of  Second Life but  her article and the comments are worth reading if one wants to really get a feeling of what a move to an OpenSim is like.

But I will let you form your own opinion: I think it is essential reading if you are interested in multi-user virtual environment technology and the changes that are taking place every day.

Although there have been some stability problems in the past the best opportunity for Kiwi education developers to get a look at the OpenSim movement is probably through ONGENS, running on KAREN, but accessible via Broadband internet.

The major thing these worlds don’t yet have for the general user is people, clothes, SHOPPING (products and goods to buy in world) entertainment, both live and recorded, and social networking.

Social networking to me is the major advantage of Second Life.

One can choose to benefit from the Second Life world, with up to 100,000 people on-line at any one time, and make “friends” from around the world, or one can choose to ignore them – become a recluse on your own little island – and get on with building, terraforming or just exploring a far richer environment than any of the Second Life-based other virtual worlds currently have.

For education, however, the opportunity to be on your own server and in an education world  of your own creation might be attractive.

Even if you don’t move now you should watch these spaces.

PS: I’m indebted to SL resident Wendy Steeplechase for pointing me to the Capalini blog.

capalini, Zonja

Update your viewer

For Second Life residents Dessie Linden has announced:  “The third iteration of the 1.23 viewer, Release Candidate 2 (RC2), is now available for download as a mandatory upgrade. As always, this RC may be installed along side any official viewer, and remember… on Thursday, May 21, anyone still using version 1.20 will be required to upgrade to either 1.21 or 1.22.”

It should be noted that the new release viewer also gives you the option of choosing whether you are PG, Mature or Adult, in the first page of preferences.

The SLENZ Update – No 87, May 20, 2009


Students learn those communication,

teamwork, clinical  skills – virtually

Virtual simulation in an Auckland University, New Zealand, virtual medical centre  training environment is returning similar results to a  real life training facility at a fraction of the cost of a facility of that type, according to Dr Scott Diener PhD (Pictured at right).

Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) (, the university’s associate director of IT Services, an enthusiastic proponent of learning in virtual worlds and creator of the University’s Academic and Collaborative Technologies’ Long White Cloud Island sim in Second Life, made this remark in  a YouTube video presentation on the Virtual Medical Centre.

The University of Auckland’s interest in virtual worlds is such that it has also taken up 12 islands on the ONGENS OpenSim Virtual World Grid (on the ONGENS Test Bed Facility), a start-up being run by Otago University and the University of Canterbury on the KAREN network. ONGENS (Otago Next Generation Networks and Services)  is supported by the Global Network Interconnectivity Project which is funded by the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission Growth through an Innovation Pilot Initiative.DienerScott

American-born Diener (right), who is also a blue-water yachtsman, notes that  to set up a similar training facility in real life, using mannequins, would cost something like US2.5 million.
In the SL Medical Centre simulation, however, Diener said, the instructor could set various similar simulations/situations that students teams had to diagnose and treat.

“Readings and charts change when someone becomes a patient,” he said, adding that the students, through working in the simulation, learned teamwork and communication skills alongside the clinical skills.

In the virtual  ward, actors could sit in beds  (as avatars) acting as patients with specific problems, he said. He didn’t mention it  in the video but this means they can be accessed/interviewed/diagnosed by students and interns – and even working doctors needing to upgrade their skills – with access to Broadband internet anywhere but not the time to travel to New Zealand’s two medical schools, one in Auckland and  the other in  Dunedin.

“Participant take a survey to determine if virtual simulation provides comparable results to laboratory settings,” he said, adding, “So far, the virtual simulation is offering comparable results at a fraction of the cost.”

The SLENZ Update – No 86, May 19, 2009


The world’s first  ‘real’ virtual graduate?

Texas State Technical College’s virtual college (vTSTC) student Julie Shannan (pictured in SL left)  earlier this month became the first known student to graduate from a recognised learning  program done completely within a virtual world.

She graduated with a certificate in digital media.

Shannan, who has a bachelor of arts in biology from the University of Texas at Austin, now also holds the distinction of being the first graduate of the vTSTC digital media design program as well as the first student to take an entire college curriculum within the virtual world of Second Life.

She now plans to take the next step in the digital media design program, and obtain an Associate’s degree at vTSTC.Shannan,Julie

“This is a significant milestone for education not only because it is the first graduate from an environment of this nature, but due to the fact that this single event represents the validity of virtual world education as a real method for educational delivery,”  Chris Gibson, associate vice president of Educational Technology at TSTC, said.

Shannan said of her course,  “… In my second life I have explored the inside of computers and servers, collaborated with people across the world, traveled to world class art museums, built 3D products for my logo designs, explored a tsunami from the ocean floor, and many more experiences I could never do in my real world. … Thank you again for this once in a (second) life opportunity.”

Additional vTSTC certificate and degree offerings are set for release in September this year.

Texas State Technical College bought its first island in Second Life in January, 2007, and founded the college’s virtual learning environment in the fall of 2008, offering a Certificate of Completion and later an Associate’s degree in Digital Media. TSTC is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award Associate of Applied Science degrees and Certificates of Completion.

The SLENZ Update – No 85, May 19, 2009

More in mind of beholders than real?

A new take on internet addiction


Internet addiction – a question of perception.
Picture courtesy:

When the preconceptions of  “digital newcomers” and “digital outsiders” are removed from the equation, the prevalence of internet addiction  appears to be limited, according to Dr Nicola F. Johnson, of the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia,  in a recently released a book.

“Digital outsiders (and some digital newcomers) find it unfathomable to understand the preoccupation that digital insiders have with their online lives,” Johnson argues in her  The Multiplicities of Internet Addiction – The Misrecognition of Leisure and Learning, which is available on Amazon at US$99.95.Johnson, N book

This is because, Johnson says, those those who are not experienced online (digital newcomers) and those who are not interested (digital outsiders) find it difficult to understand the value, worth and social capital received by avid users (digital insiders or those for who have been connected all their lives)  in what appears to be an unhealthy obsession. It is not what they – the newcomers and outsiders – did in times past.

“As I have argued,” Johnson (pictured lower left), a lecturer in curriculum and teacher education, says, ” these practices are not only misrecognised as obsessions or addictions, but they are misunderstood.”

Contesting the claim that computers – specifically internet use – are addictive, Johnson argues that the use of the internet is now a form of everyday leisure engaged in by many people in Western society and one which is reflective of the benefits and employment of microcomputers within society.

She does not assert, however, that internet addiction does not exist, just that it is a much smaller subset of use than usually claimed.

Leisure and learning

Instead she offers an analysis of the nature of addiction alongside an evaluation of the current  usage of computers, and explains how new learning spaces have developed which are also sites of leisure.

“These sites,” according to a publisher’s review of her book, “challenge traditional notions of childhood …”

Discussing  both leisure and learning in this digital age she “informs our understanding of the discourses surrounding internet addiction and our grasp of the emerging relationships between leisure and our learning, as well as the increasing blur between our private and public spheres,” the publisher says.

Blogger Lowell Cremorne describes the book in  Metaverse Health as an engaging read, “not least for the very objective look it takes at the concepts of internet addiction and framing the issue within the realities of a net-connected society that has changed immensely in the past 20 years or so.

She says, Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice is the frame for Johnson’s qualitative study of eight New Zealand teenagers and the illumination it provided on the perception of  dgital insiders, digital newcomers and digital outsiders. Additionally, Cremorne says, there’s some fascinating discussion on how expertise is being developed by digital insiders and how this expertise is, at best, only partially gained from the traditional educational institutions in place at present.

Johnson, Nicola F.It’s the elaboration of the experiences of these eight teens that allows Johnson to weave in a great deal of the substantive research that’s occurred into the nature of addiction in regard to online activity.

Although, according to Cremorne, the book’s research base means it’s more likely to be consumed and digested by those who are doing research or study in the area,  the book deserves wider recognition and debate.

“Work like this balances out some of the excesses on the mainstream media side of the equation,” she says. “It’s only a lack of dissemination of this perspective that will ensure the sensationalism camp prevails for some time to come.”

Born and bred in Tauranga, New Zealand, Johnson moved to the University of  Wollongong in February, 2007, to become a lecturer in the Faculty of Education (her blog). She previously taught in a New Zealand intermediate (middle school) for five years, working full-time while completing her Bachelor of Education degree, and beginning her Master of Education degree. In 2002, she opened a private music school teaching classical and contemporary guitar to students aged from 6-60 to support her full-time postgraduate study. She was awarded a Deakin University Postgraduate Research Scholarship in 2005 and 2006 and received her Ph.D in  2008 for her thesis on “Teenage Technological Experts: Bourdieu and the Performance of Expertise.”

The SLENZ Update – No 84, May 18, 2009


Memorial University  wins Canadian award  for  SL  shipyard project

memorial shipyard

Distance education – Memorial University’s shipyard.

Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the province of  Newfoundland and Labrador – similar to New Zealand  with its rural isolation –  has  just won a Canadian  national award in recognition of its innovative use of Second Life’s virtual technology in teaching and learning.

The Award for Excellence and Innovation in Use of Technology for Learning and Teaching from the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE)  was presented, for the second year in a row,  to Memorial’s  Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT), in partnership with Dr David Murrin, adjunct professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and director of R&D/senior engineering specialist at IMV Projects Atlantic in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The project, according to Pathfinder Linden,  involved the application of Second Life as a teaching and learning tool in Engineering 4061: Marine Production Management, in which faculty and engineering students  incorporated classroom theories and principles into a simulated, immersive environment where students could enact the role of an engineer, and design and construct their own shipyard.

“I was interested in using 3D virtual world technology in my class to better engage students in their learning and generate excitement about the course content,”  Dr Murrin said. “I wanted students to experience and realize the scale of real life shipyards, and gain a deeper understanding about the importance of material flow and the positioning of materials when building something of such enormity.”

Shipbuilding Yard

Students were provided with space on one of Memorial University’s islands in Second Life to build a shipyard with given parameters that would be capable of building three vessels in a year. Using this virtual world, students could meet online and walk through the shipyard to evaluate the functionality and suitability of what they had built. If flaws were discovered, students could then go back to redesign and rebuild to make it more effective.

Memorial is the largest university in Atlantic Canada, offering more than 100 degree programs to a student population of 17,000.

Memorial has two campuses in St. John’s, including the Marine Institute, one in Corner Brook, on the Gulf of St Lawrence, eight hours west of St John’s by car,   adjunct campuses  at Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Labrador,  and in Labrador City, co-located with the College of the North Atlantic , and one in Harlow, England.

Given the geography and climate of Newfoundland and Labrador, DELT, a division of the university, has 40 years of experience as a leader in the field of distance education, Memorialmaking Memorial unique among Canadian universities in that it offers online and distance education, media, design and production capabilities and teaching and learning support all under one roof.

Darin King, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Education, offering his congratulations to Memorial, said, ”  Given the rural nature of Newfoundland and Labrador, our province has been a leader in the use of technology and distance learning, particularly at the post-secondary level.

” The award of excellence recognises how well the Second Life team integrated the 3D technology into a typical engineering course, helping engineering students build a successful, working, virtual shipyard. The students became the designers and the engineers and their level of involvement enhanced their overall performance in the course.

“Our government is a strong supporter of technology in the classroom, recognising how well it can supplement teaching and learning.,” he said. “At the K-12 level, for example, we recently allocated C$2.2 million for computer replacements and C$1.5 million over a three-year period for a technology integration plan. At Memorial, C$1.5 million has been allocated to increase the number of courses available through distance education. In addition, government has supported the implementation of a common cutting-edge technology for distance learning in the K-12 system, Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic.”