The SLENZ Update – No 93, May 29, 2009

‘TRIPPY” JOURNEY WITH ROLLO KOHIME

“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?

MikeBaker

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 dance-tech.net, 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 48, February 25, 2009

Missed Conversations

in Urban Spaces

An RL-SL experiment/experience

rollo1_004

Dancer and arts lecturer Mike Baker (SL: Rollo Kohime) believes in a “real” life of departures – involuntary departures leading to   “a state of  ‘ leaving’ which co-mingles with and unerringly erodes our efforts to engage with another in the here and now.”

This belief  in on-going alienation has led the 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, to explore the idea as part of his  AUT Masters in Art and Design project (majoring in dance and video), ‘In the Company of Strangers’. (Full text of presentation available on  (http://hoststranger.blogspot.com)

“Indeterminacy as a force, responsible for sustaining in us the dynamic of the stranger, is explored in encounters between people in urban spaces,”  he said in a paper recently delivered to the   intercreateSCANZ Symposium, at New Plymouth, in Taranaki, New Zealand,  a presenation which took place with audiences both in real life and in  Second Life at his urban railway station on the NMIT island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/63/47/22)

Baker (http://hoststranger.blogspot.com) is  investigating concepts centering on disjunct-conversations and departure  through his research-practice which, as a scrutinising lens, attests to the contemporary theories which reside in the states of ‘becoming’ evidenced in selected writings of  Henri Bergson and Brian Massumi.
The Baker project posits the formation of a new “Urban Myth: Experienced through the vehicle of the roaming body, our engagements, meetings and encounters in urban spaces frequently manifest as disjunct, ‘missed conversations’.”

rolloposter_003

As part of the project he 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.

“I am asserting that this is due to the inevitability in our existence of indeterminacy occurring as a significant mediator of our behaviour,” he says. ” Indeterminacy implies motion and emerges, as Massumi so ably asserts, through ‘… an unfolding relation to its own nonpresent potential to vary …’.

“We, all of us, are constantly being drawn away – always either approaching or embracing involuntarily, a state of ‘Leaving’ which co-mingles with and unerringly erodes our efforts to engage with another in the here
and now,” he said.

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. Joint real life-Second Life performances have been staged with audiences/participants interacting from both sides of the screen.

Besides the New Plymouth conference Baker  has  had papers on his Masters project accepted for the 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  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).

rolloaudience

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.