The SLENZ Update – No 90, May 27, 2009

USING SECOND LIFE

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.

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The SLENZ Update – No 82, May 15, 2009

The reality of unreality

When an avatar changes his/her appearance

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Tere Tinkel aka RL, Terry Neal

Immersed in Second Life one thing you notice, as in the real world, is when another resident changes his or her appearance – especially if they  are close to you, as in a work or social relationship.

I don’t mean just a little tweak mind you – but a real change.  These changes, often made once one gets comfortable with the technology, often mirror the reality and dreams of the personality  behind the avatar and sometimes the real appearance, if one is really confident.

But one, I would say particularly a student,  can determine the level of confidence – and competence –  behind an avatar just from one’s appearance no matter how fantasy the figure is.

This is why I believe it is important for educators to have an avatar that  builds respect, in an educational environment in virtual worlds such as Second Life, or at least an avatar which gives the appearance of being intelligent and friendly, not matter what the advocates of “stick men” and box figures argue.

Sometimes that avatar might mirror your real life physical appearance, at other times the reality  that you perceive inside yourself.  An avatar  based on Freddie Kruger from Nightmare on Elm Street or Chuckie  might  be fun and create some fear but  loses out on credibility, unless of course one is a man or woman who carries a hatchet and wants the virtual world – and one’s students to know that, even if only subliminally.

This was brought to mind recently at a SLENZ working meeting on Koru  when SLENZ project co-leader Terry Neal (SL: Tere Tinkel), returned from a real life trip to India into  world as a n ordinary girl next door, rather that the blue-haired houri she has been for all the time I’ve know her in-world.

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Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker) when he is in working garb
rather than being a dragon.

It also was brought to mind when I first saw the human-like lecture room presence of SLENZ developer and Weltec lecturer Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker ) rather than  his more normal presence as Puff the magic dragon, or some dragon  of that ilk, who has been pictured in this blog a number of times.

This normalisation of appearance must be catching because Manukau Institute of Technology lecturer and Foundation pilot lead educator Merle Lemon (SL: Briarmelle Quintessa – right middle) arrived  at the in-world meeting in conservative garb rather than her normal more flamboyant, and one might say more limited attire,  while Otago Polytech Midwifery pilot lead educator, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) also has changed her appearance, somewhat in the run up to the launch of that pilot.

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Merle Lemon in the form of the “conservative” SL educator Briarmelle Quintessa.
Arwenna Stardust (Clare Atkins) is in the background.

There are some who never change, however, and strangely to me in real life I have begun to recognise their avatars as being really who they are. They include joint project leader Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) who, for me, has almost become the  light-bathed, elfin princess with golden tresses in real life, and  lead developer, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman) ,  who I see in my mind’s eye as being Isa the “good man” rather than Aaron when I speak with him in real life.

Petal Stransky

Sarah Stewart as  SL’s Petal Stransky.

And,  of course, there is SLENZ learning developer Leigh Blackall (SL: Leroy Goalpost) who sometimes term’s himself the group contrarian, and is little changed  from his early days with SLENZ and I don’t think ever will.

For me it’s all a matter of perception  – and  immersion –  and I suppose my own superficiality when it comes to appearance both in  Second Life and real life. I am a great fan of  WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).

The problem is we do all make subjective judgements  – no matter who we are – based on appearance, especially in learning environments in all worlds.  Our judgment depends   on who we are., and where we’ve come from. After all in both worlds beauty  (and one might say the appearance of brains) are solely in the eye of the beholder.

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The never-changing persona of Leroy Goalpost – in real life, Leigh Blackall.

Progress on Kowhai

Meanwhile, according to joint project leader, Terry Neal, on the SLENZ sim, Kowhai,  good progress has been made on on the SLENZ pilot, Foundation Stage 1,  with Griffith completing   an easily rezzable/de-rezzable  interview room, a catwalk, and the “outfit shop”. Lemon  is  currently making an introductory video and wells as planning the specific scenarios needed for Foundation Stage 2.

Midwifery Stage 1  is almost complete while the context and learning design has been completed for Midwifery Stage 2, with working beginning on animation poses.

With Orientation Stage 1 completed Cochrane and Atkins  were able to successfully use  a subset of the lesson plan developed by Cochrane and Blackall  to orient the initial batch of educators connected with  Midwifery Stage 1.

Neal said that work on Orientation Stage 2 was  focused on creating a resource package that distance students and others  could use on their own rather than in f2f environments.

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The Foundation pilot’s catwalk, like its outfitter and various interview rooms,
can be rezzed on demand.

 

 

The SLENZ Update – No 81, May 12, 2009

MIDWIFERY TUTORS ‘ENTHUSIASTIC’

Exciting introduction to SL with bonding  and play

Petal- group with Sarah

Trainers, Dr Clare Atkins and Todd Cochrane with Kate Spencely, Dr Deborah Davis
and Sarah Stuart. (Pictures from Sarah  Stewart)

The importance of a time for “play” when people are initiated into Second Life was reinforced for  the SLENZ Project’s joint leader, Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), when  she led an orientation workshop for a group of mainly SL “newbie”  midwifery educators from Otago Polytech’s  School of Midwifery.

“I learnt again just how important it is to allow people the time and opportunity for play when they first get into Second Life,” she told a SLENZ Project meeting on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s Second Life  island of Koru. “They want to play around with how they look and how they can change themselves and what they can do. I’ll never forget them all doing the chicken dance and laughing (in real life). It was very much about bonding and the creation of confidence.

“… nobody, but nobody, is  not concerned with how they  look,” she said, adding that although there had to be time for “play” the learning process had to be focused and based on a clear structure of what had to be achieved in the time frame.

Atkins, of NMIT, and SLENZ developer Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker), of Weltec, conducted the training session  for the eight educators from Otago and Canterbury midwifery schools, in person, on the Otago campus and on the SLENZ island of Kowhai, in what was both a real life and Second Life “bonding and learning” workshop.

Human nature

Cochrane said, “Working with the midwifery instructors was absolutely fantastic.

“I also I learned a lot about, well, human nature.

“They were completely interested in the way their avatars looked and moved,” he said. “Getting the right clothing and the shape of their avatar’s figures right turned out to be the major activity. I had expected this to take some time but not to the extent that it did.

“I was completely stunned when one pulled out an animation that made her avatar walk , in a more than catwalk manner, and that everyone wanted their avatars to walk that way too.”

The lead educator for the midwifery pilot programme, one of three SLENZ Project pilots, Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), said she had been “very encouraged by the enthusiasm” of the educators who attended the two-day workshop.

Noting that some had been apprehensive about the move into virtual worlds, she said, “They were extremely enthusiastic, very reassured and very excited at the end.

“It was good to have it face-to-face. There were some ups and downs during the two days but everyone is now a lot clearer where we are and where we have to go in the next few months.”

Stewart, however, noted that while the majority of participants had found the “play” – trying on new clothes, doing the chicken dance etc – “valuable”, there has been some who had wanted to focus only on what needed to be done and felt they didn’t have time for those sort of things.

SLENZ learning designer Leigh Blackall (SL: Leroy Post), who had a major hand in setting up the training session, said proof of the success or otherwise would be in seeing  if and how the midwives came back to Second Life … “we need to observe these midwives,” he said.

From his point of view, though, the workshop  had been “very successful” and he had enjoyed “watching it from a distance … The fact that the midwives were physically together  might have lifted the spirit. It will be interesting to see if it really does translate into persistent use.”

The pilot is scheduled to put its first  real students into Second Life May 25.

Petal Midwives do the chicken dance

The chicken dance – need for a moment for play in orientation.

The SLENZ Update – No 78 , May 7, 2009

STUDENT EXPERIENCE

Patience, persistence needed,

but  its ‘not boring’

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Rittirong Damrongkitkanwong is aey Viper in Second Life.

The international nature  of virtual worlds  and of New Zealand education in general  is typified by Weltec student Rittirong Damrongkitkanwong, from Phuket Thailand (SL: aey Viper)  who is in his  third year of  a Bachelor in Information Technology  programme.

As a class project  he has created a”follow the instructions”  demonstration of how to set up a Surveying Level. Other students in the class  have created scafolding use projects and one a plastic moulding machine.aey-viper

Damrongkitkanwong (pictured right), 22,  has been at Weltec for four months after doing diplomas at Tairawhiti polytechnic, in Gisborne, New Zealand. His experience as a virtual world student demonstrates again that patience, persistence and time are needed if one is to get the best from a virtual world education.

Not fazed by the learning curve of virtual worlds, he  believes Second Life provides an interesting, new  way of learning which is “not boring”.

“I think it is an interesting high technology tool to use for teaching and learning especially for interaction design classes,” he said. “‘In the virtual world I never feel bored. I have a lot of fun doing my assignment.

” It was hard at the beginning learning how to move and building things, but after a while, after spending a lot of time in Second Life doing all the hard work, I now feel it is easy to build things and add animation to it(scripting). However, spending MORE time (in world) is the emphasis here, dealing with the problems, solving them if you can.

“If I can’t solve it, I leave it and fix it tomorrow,” he said. “That is how I adapted to the virtual world and this class.”

On graduation Damrongkitkanwong plans to work towards his Masters  at Victoria University, Wellington, specialising in computer science, before moving into programming.

He still sees his main problem in initially adapting to Second Life as scripting, adding scripts  and working with scripts.

The class is run by SLENZ developer, Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker).

The SLENZ Update – No 73 , April 29, 2009

SL:  import-export with ‘SLENZ Shuffle’

The new ‘Arfur Daley’?

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Import-export “expert” bot, SLENZ Shuffle, with creator, Toddles Lightworker

SLENZ Shuffle? Well he might not be the new “Arfur Daley” (of TV Minder fame) but it looks like he might be able to do a good job in the virtual world import-export business.slenz-shippingnode1

He has already successfully “shifted: the lower floor of the  Foundation build on Kowhai, in Second Life, to one of Nelson Marlborough Institute 0f  Technology’s regions on a node on the ONGENS OpenSimulator, set up by Otago and Canterbury  Universities, in the SouthIsland of New Zealand.

A creation of WelTec’s Todd Cochrane (SL: Toddles Lightworker), a  SLENZ developer, he can only export-import an object’s textures and prims, including mega-prims and sculpties, rather than scripts, at the present time but, according to Cochrane (pictured left), it  should be possible “to drop stuff onto an object which wakes up our robot avatar. “

“The robot then exports the objects and with the help of in-world script other items,” he said, pointing to the SLENZ shipping node (right). “Eventually we could get the robot to logout and then login to ONGENS and complete the transfer.

“At present the object wakes up our robot and under the right conditions it exports the object … I’m using the same avatar name in both universes.”

The robot is being developed as part of the SLENZ Project to ensure all project builds and other elements created by the SLENZ team can be  backed up outside Second Life as SLENZ-owned IP.

img_0501The team has  previously trialled other “back-up” methods but found them not to be suitable for the SLENZ needs, mainly because the IP is held in another organisation’s storage.

Cochrane stressed that SLENZ Shuffle could not be used to export IP  developed/owned by Second Life, Linden Labs and other Second Life developers and residents.

Cochrane also pointed out that the creation of the import-export facility is not unique, it is an extended version the existing OpenMetaverse code.

And for example IBM has already done something similar as well, teleporting avatars led by Second Life’s Zha Ewry RL: David Levine) between Second Life and OpenSim.

WelTec currently is running two regions in the WelTec Virtual Lab, and at the Petone Campus, as part of the Weltec programme to trial a varietyof virtual worlds for education under a variety of conditions.

Cochrane  is currently considering allocating space in Weltec’s ONGENS regions for Human Computer Interaction students doing Interaction Design projects.
“Having our own node means we are contributing to the New Zealand Virtual Worlds grid.” Todd said.

The node is currently on WelTec’s 3D server, deep.weltec.ac.nz, but may eventually be connected through KAREN, New Zealand’s tertiary institution high-speed Broadband link.

The SLENZ Update – No 69, April 20, 2009

PERFORMANCE ART

Bridging the  Second Life,

Real Life  divide  …

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Dancing fingers from reality – Butler2 Evelyn (RL: Isabel Valverde) and
Toddles Lightworker (RL: Todd Cochrane) in Second Life.

What are we losing through living more and more encapsulated lives in crowded urban areas, following the consumption driven “modernist-technical” standard of living, becoming disconnected from sensing ourselves, one another and earth’s living-system cycles of which we are and will be always part and dependent on for survival and well-being?

That is the question that Portugals’  Butler2 Evelyn (RL: Isabel Valverde) and Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Toddles Lightworker (RL: Todd Cochrane)  will attempt to answer in SL with the transnational  “Weathering In / Com Tempo: An Intervention towards Participatory Multi-modal Self-organising Inter-corporeal Environments”, in Room E104. Whitireia Community Polytechnic, Wellington, New Zealand, and in Seccond Life, above the SLENZ Project island of Kowhai,  between 10:30 -11:30 am on Friday,  April 24,  New Zealand time.

The event is being staged as part of the  Whitireia learning and teaching conference with the theme of: Engaged Teachers, Engaged Learners: Partnerships for Success. The keynote speaker is Professor Russell Bishop, of Waikato University.

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“We lose and suffer in exchange for communication and knowledge gains by using awesome but at the same time restricted, exclusive, unbalanced, un-integrated technology,” Valverde and  Cochrane said in an abstract on what is basically an integrated, interactive, real world/virtual world performance.

“For example, large parts of our lives are spent sitting still with screen, keyboard and mouse,” they said. “”Due to this extreme stillness we do not have truly an embodied, inclusive attitude where the physicality is expanded, not compartmentalised into less-demanding intellectual activity.

Playful interaction

The pair – Valverde (pictured right), of the Institute for Humane Studies and Intelligent Sciences,  Almada, Portugal, and Cochrane (pictured lower right), of the School of Information Technology, Wellington Institute of Technology ,  Petone, New Zealand – will attempt to provide answers in an” immersive embodied environment” where five invited participants  “will playfully interact with one another physically and virtually as hybrid-embodied entities within intelligent, physical and virtual sites”.

The event, Valverde and Cochrane said,  would “capture motion, location and biometric information through non-invasive clothing and motion capture investigating new modes of human-human and human-environment dialog/sociability, by expanding inter-corporeal interactions through non-intrusive non-restrictive technology, adapted to the participants’ way of moving in space”.

“Performing arts’  knowledge directs the work, providing perspectives for example as in: Postuman Embodiment [1], Mobious Strip [2], rhizome body [3], reversibility as described by Merleau Ponty, and distantiation as coined by Bertolt Brecht,” they said. “Environmental, biometric and meteorological data is captured using well understood techniques, for example, motion capture that uses the AR Toolkit as in [4]. We also investigate pragmatic application of self-organising information systems theory [5] to feature recognition from multi-modal data streams and to the automatic determination of system control.

“Weathering In intervenes using cross-disciplinary practice in performing arts and computing engineering with the goal of more inclusive, integrated and connected human-environment (physical and virtualised) hybrid living systems,” they said.img_0503

Valverde  and Cochrane, previously  staged an Emergent Hybrid Performance Environment for Second Life avatars and video-mediated guests, from Kowhai and a physical site in Lisbon where they offered partipants opportunities for converging their physical and virtual possibilities for creative embodied communication.
“We believe Second Life provides the most inclusive, embodied mode of being with people around the world in a free, networked platform,” they said of that performance. “(This) Real Virtual Games Project is interested in questioning and developing more corporeally inclusive physical interfaces for this type of embodied global network mode of communication.”

Performer/choreographer

Isabel Valverde is a performer, interdisciplinary choreographer and researcher originally from Portugal, with a PhD in Dance History and Theory from the University of California, Riverside. Her work was  supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology/PRAXIS XXI (Portugal). Her dissertation is titled “Interfacing Dance and Technology: a theoretical framework for performance in the digital domain”, (publication forthcoming by FCG/FCT). Valverde is continuing her research as a post-doctoral fellow of the EU/FCT, affiliated with the Institute for Humane Studies and Intelligent Sciences, the Visualisation and Intelligent Multimodal Interfaces Group (VIMMI/INESC-ID/IST/UTLisboa), College of Social and Humanities Sciences/UNLisboa, and Lusófona University of Arts and Technologies. She holds an MA in Interdisciplinary Arts from the Inter-Arts Center, San Francisco State University, with a Fulbright/IIE fellowship. Her dance studies include the Licenciatura in Dance from the FMH/UTLisboa, and diploma from the School for New Dance Development/Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, under the ERASMUS Fellowship Program.

Todd Cochrane, a developer with the SLENZ Project, teaches a range of topics in Wellington Institute of Technology’s  Bachelors, Diploma and Cybertechnology programmes including client-side and server-side scripting (ASP JavaScript), Ecommerce Website Design (DB), Human Computer Interaction, Operating Systems, Software Engineering, Software Quality Assurance, Prototyping, Programming Practice (Visual Basic). He is a polyglot programmer, writing software in a number of imperative/procedural languages (C/C++,Delphi, Visual Basic, JavaScript, Java, Flash ActionScript) as well as being able to produce code in functional (RUFL and Hope+C) and declarative languages (Prolog).  His current research is focused by the development and extension of a visual programming language. He ran Human Computer Interaction using Second Life as the development platform last Trimester and is delivering Computer Systems Architecture in Second Life and Real Life synchronously this trimester. He has become proficient at Second Life development, and Second Life to Real Life crossing. He recently presented Cross-worlds art work , also known as Club Temp, at the International Symposium on Electronic Art  in Singapore.

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A stranger on the shore …  part of Isabel Valverde’s beach in the sky
above Kowhai, with a visitor.
[References: 1.Hayles, N. K, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatic, The Univ. of Chicago Press: Chicago and London,(1999); 2. Grosz,E. A.,Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Indiana University Press (1994); 3. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (1987); 4. Sementille, A. C., Lourenço, L. E., Brega, J. R., and Rodello, I. A motion capture system using passive markers. In Proceedings of the 2004 ACM SIGGRAPH international Conference on Virtual Reality Continuum and Its Applications in industry (Singapore, June 16 – 18, 2004). VRCAI ´04. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 440-447 (2004); 5.Haken, H. Information and Self-Organization A Macroscopic Approach to Complex Systems 3rd Edition. Springer Series in Synergetics , Springer Berlin, Germany (2006). Note the abstract was accepted by HCii2009 as a poster]

The SLENZ Update – No 55, March 11, 2009

SLENZ Project progress

Gearing up for RL

face-to-face …

Gearing up for a face-to-face meeting in Wellington, New Zealand,  in two weeks time ( March 23-24) the SLENZ Project team is  now moving  steadily forward with its three pilot programmes – Foundation learning, Midwifery and Orientation – according to joint project leader, Terry Neal (SL: Terre Tinkel) in her latest project update.

With co-leader Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust)  she expects to be able to post the agenda for  the face-to-face meeting early next week.slenz-workshop-003

Speaking about the individual pilot programmes Neal reported that Foundation learning  lead educator Merle Lemon (Pictured at right, SL: Briarmelle Quinetessa) , of  Manakau Institute of Technology, had written a context and learning design for Foundation Stage 1 (blog, best  in Firefox, describes the foundations students and the issues simply and extremely well: http://briarmelle.edublogs.org/2009/02/26/foundation-education-context/ )with work to begin on the build (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Kowhai/138/177/26 ) shortly. The Foundation pilot group plans  to hold an in-world meeting at 9am on March 17 with the aim of  understanding potential access issues for  fellow educators in the programme and  to give them an opportunity to provide feedback on the learning design and as much of the build as is completed.briarmelle-todd

Briarmelle Quintessa & Toddles Lightworker

Neal said  that work on the in-world build for Midwifery Stage 1 had been delayed by challenges in deciding which items to include in the birthing unit for Stages 1 and 2 and by finding suitable images. As a result team members Deborah Davis  and Leigh Blackall, project learning designer (SL: Leroy Post) had even visited a local hospital to take pictures.

“Then,” Neal said, “we have had challenges in where to put the images and how Aaron [Aaron Griffths (SL: Isa Goodman),  project lead developer], can access them – all part of our process development. Hopefully, these are resolved now and Aaron, Clare and Todd ( Cochrane, SL: Toddles Lightworker and project developer), can make good progress on the build in the next week.”

The midwifery team, Neal said, had organised an interview session for the video that  was being made “to engage” tutors and learners before they entered Second Life, while Sarah Stewart (Pictured lower right, SL:  Petal Stransky and midwifery pilot lead educator) and Blackall had begun developing lesson plans. At the same time Davis and Stewart had devised labels  for the various objects which would be in the birthing unit. A feedback session for the pilot’s educators  has been organised for March 2o.

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Birthing unit … decisions on wall colours/covering and furniture

Commenting on the Orientation pilot, Neal, noting that Blackall had put up a wiki with a list of agreed skills for orientation,  asked SLENZ team members again  for links to other good orientation packages. The
place to do this is the Googledoc for  orientation linked from the one stop shop SLENZ blog  as the Context Summary Document-Orientation ( https://slenz.wordpress.com/slenz-project/project-processes).sarah-op-2007

Neal said the protocols for the evaluation of the project were still being determined.

Concluding, Neal hoped the introduction of  the “one-stop shop page (for “understanding our process and accessing the various documents we are creating to communicate with one another”) in the SLENZ blog would help  team members all feel they could navigate “through our many files more easily and help us differentiate between ‘thinking out loud’ and ‘decisions’.

“I want to echo Clare’s ‘thank you for your patience’ message,” Neal said. ” We have  some minor tweaking still to do, such as linking to images effectively, but we have made a lot of progress beyond where we were
two months ago. Clare and I both believe our discussions to date have  helped us create something that will work well for the rest of our project, and beyond.