NZVWG Update, VLENZ No 166, March 14, 2010

NZ Virtual World Grid hosts

international  guests

NZVWG Auckland portal now accepting

‘resident’ avatar applications …

Educause Roundtable meeting on New Zealand Virtual World Grid

The  University of Auckland portal of the New Zealand Virtual World Grid (NZVWG)  has successfully hosted its  first international seminar, attracting  a number of leading MUVE educators and researchers from  around the world.

The meeting coincided with the announcement by Dr Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga), the virtual meeting host,  that the University of Auckland portal of the grid, although  still in a trial phase,  was now open for  virtual-world users to apply for ‘free’ registration from the Auckland portal.

Dr Scott Diener.

It also coincided with a ‘demonstration’ of just how easy it is to teleport an avatar from the University of Auckland portal MUVE on the NZVWG ‘Hypergrid’ to the MUVE of   the University of Otago and return with inventory intact and retention of all abilities.

The NZVW Grid based on OpenSim software has grown out of the original ONGENS  grid, developed by the University of Otago in concert with the University of Canterbury, and the University of Auckland.   Weltec has also developed a portal for the grid and Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology has associate status.

Welcoming the 20 plus guests from Educause’s Virtual World Roundtable  to the meeting in the Great Hall of “Kapua Castle” on the island of Kapua 3 in the New Zealand Virtual World Dr Diener said, “This is a really exciting development for us.

“We are stand-alone…we run our own asset server (database) with  the University of  Otago and Canterbury University having  similar setups, which have been linked together.”

Members of the Virtual Worlds Roundtable, who have previously visited a number of other Virtual Worlds  as a group for their meetings to assess and monitor MUVE development around the world praised the  apparent stability of the University of Auckland portal MUVE, the ease of entry, the fact  that it was open source and free, and  the  use of the Hypergrid, which opens up possibilities for easy, transparent connections to tertiary institution   MUVEs around the real world.

“We have found the Hypergrid does work, albeit with problems, “Dr Diener said, explaining that the goal of NZVWG was first to experiment and eventually to link to other grids.

Detailing the  setup of the MUVE, he said, the Auckland University portal is running on two virtual servers (VMware), and has a total capital investment of some $NZ10,000 ($US7000). This compared to an investment of say $US55,000 for signing up for SL Enterprise (previously Nebraska), the Linden Labs’ “behind the firewall” solution for standalone virtual worlds.

The Auckland MUVE is running on two dedicated, virtual machines with one server running a database and six sims. CPU usage has never got above five percent. Freeswitch voice is available on the MUVE but not yet completely activated.

“We can duplicate them (the virtual machines) in about 30 minutes – to scale if necessary,” he said in answer to a question, adding that OAR content was backed up automatically.

A  University of Auckland staff member is assigned one day a week to the MUVE , he said, with most of the work involved with things like getting voice working, and getting the Hypergrid fully functional.

He said the portal had been created out of his own budget as associate director of IT Services at the University of Auckland.

Dr Diener's Kapua Castle where the Roundtable meeting was held in the Geat Hall.

The portal, Dr Diener said, “is focused mostly on proving the concept of Hypergrid.”

“This is how our Writing Center began,” Iggy  Strangeland, of the University of Richmond, observed. “I bought a server out of budget, and then eventually got it supported by our data center. Now they maintain it and I just design content.

“We proved the concept. If it works for 2D Web, it can work for Virtual Worlds,” Strangeland said.

The major current problem with using the NZVWG MUVE for education purposes was the fact that there were as yet few resources “in world” … “all scripts have to be brought in,” Dr Diener said.

Given success for the NZVWG, however,  Dr Diener said, he would be excited to work on connecting  the that portal  with any other university  grid in the world.

Commenting on this, Lindy McKeown, of the University of Southern Queensland, said education.au in Australia was trying to set up a Hypergrid for all Australian universities to join.

Dr Diener, who is also a Lecturer at the University of Auckland, is well-known in Second Life and virtual world education circles around the globe for his and his associates’ creation of successful medicine/nursing/architecture simulations on the three University of Auckland Second Life islands in Second Life, the first of which was “Long White Cloud”.

Dr Diener mentioned that the “very active” New Zealand virtual world  group  VLENZ was represented at the meeting by Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology  and Second Life Education New Zealand Project founder and joint leader,  Dr Clare Atkins (SL and NZVWG: Arwenna Stardust). Dr Atkins, on behalf of SLENZ and NMIT, operates two islands in Second Life, Koru and Kowhai.

“I think it WILL be a viable alternative (to Second Life) soon,” Dr Atkins said.

Other speakers agreed with Dr Atkins’ view that NZVWG and OpenSim were a good replacement for Second Life: “for me (as an educator) one of the huge benefits to OpenSim is that we can use it with under 18s,” she said.

Visitor Margaret Czart, of the University of Illinois,  said that all of the virtual worlds the Virtual Worlds Roundtable group had visited over time had provided good alternatives to Second Life but, “it is not so much the place but how you run it.”


A sitting room in Kapua Castle.

Dr Atkins’ and Czart’s comments about possible replacements for Second Life followed a remark that the Linden Labs’ position of Second Life education guru Pathfinder Linden had been disestablished and that the Lindens appeared to be showing  less interest in education.

Lindy McKeown foresaw the development of a “Hypergridded federation universe of locally-hosted worlds with some access by others but some private spaces” as appearing to be “a great education alternative for many reasons.”

But, she added, that for these alternative worlds to be successful “we need an SLexchange type (virtual worlds sales) system for other grids since Linden Labs had bought out virtual world goods sales competitors.

Iggy Strangeland replied that http://imnotgoingsideways.blogspot.com/2009/11/alternatives-to-xstreetsl.html was a good source for other sales portals. Lindy McKeown added that one also could buy OAR files full of content one  the net and there were lots of free ones too.

James Abraham (SL: Calisto Encinal  and http://calistoencinal.spaces.live.com/) said he was writing a grant to  “roll out a 10 college zero-cost OpenSim virtual world program for the Maricopa Community College District [James Abraham's Mi Casa Es Su Casa won a prize for full sim builds at the recent SLPro! Conference sponsored by Linden Labs for Second Life content creators.]

On this point AJ Kelton, director of Emerging Instructional Technology at Montclair State University, founder and current leader of the EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds Constituent Group and Roundtable moderator, agreed with Mirt Tenk who suggested that it would be good for tertiary education providers to share the “stuff  WE have built in Second Life as  open source for OpenSim users. Others agreed with this view, including Dr Atkins who noted that all SLENZ Project builds were free and open source.

Asked how close he thought tertiary educators were to replacing Second Life with other virtual worlds, Dr Diener said, “ I don’t think we ARE close … and in fact, I don’t think that is even the question…I think we need to ask how we can augment our Second Life resources with Virtual World like this.”

There was also a question, raised by Liz Dorland, of Washington University, in St Louis,  and others, of the importance of virtual world students and educators being able to connect with the rest of the world community as they could in Second Life.

Dr Atkins said that she thought the “richness of Second Life and its diversity” would be hard to grow in an OpenSim environment although other speakers noted interoperability between all MUVEs, including Second Life, to get the best of all virtual worlds, was a possibility.

Another "resident's' Castle on the NZVWG portal grid.

The SLENZ Update – No 111, July 08, 2009

New spirit of NZ tertiary ‘cooperation,

collaboration’ across  virtual  worlds

ADA Keynote Conversation 001-1

ADA Symposium Poster

With New Zealand tertiary institutions – polytechnics and universities – sometimes at loggerheads with each other  its good to see a  spirit of cooperation and collaboration in their working with  and within virtual worlds.

This was brought home to me 10 days ago when The 6th Aotearoa Digital Arts Symposium, Critical-Digital-Matter, supported  by  the Victoria University School of Design, of  Wellington,  New Zealand, and by Creative New Zealand, Enjoy Public Art Gallery, None Gallery, De Balie Centre for Culture and Politics, Amsterdam, Leonardo Education Forum, and Otago Polytechnic, chose  Mike Baker’s (SL: Rollo Kohime) Wellington Railway Station build on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s Second Life  island of Koru, as  one of the venue’s for a keynote international debate.

This was as part of the three-day symposium’s examination of  the critical intersections between digital materials and art practice in a bid to determine the relationship of the digital to matter. Other issues explored, included:  How do we forge connections beyond art practices? And, what is the role of critical discourse in contemporary art practice?

The symposium featured a keynote presentation by internationally-renowned sound and intermedia artist Phil Dadson, and a remote conversation with London-based media theorist Matthew Fuller via De Balie, the centre for Culture and Politics in Amsterdam.

The “Keynote Conversation” was distributed through real life and Second Life as a live broadcast between London, Amsterdam and Wellington with projections screened at ‘Debalie’ in the centre of Amsterdam, on a screen at Goldsmiths College in London and Victoria University in Wellington. Interestingly, Victoria University leases space in the real life Wellington Railway Station, looking down upon the concourse space in which Baker have been carrying out his dance work for the past two years.

The initiators of this event were Eric Kluitenberg (Amsterdam) , Su Ballard (Wellington) and Matthew Fuller (London) with additional guests.

The other conference sessions included materiality in digital art; developing critical discourse in a small digital arts community; and forging connections beyond art. A wide range of artists and researchers from Wellington and around New Zealand presented their current projects.

ADA Discussion 006-2

Conversation across the world.

The new spirit of collaboration between tertiary institutions in the virtual world field in New Zealand was noted by the  joint leader of the SLENZ Project, Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) at a recent regular SLENZ team meeting on Koru.

But it is also expressed in the cooperation and collaboration taking place  in what is scheduled to become the new New Zealand national virtual world grid, ONGENS, a development virtual world project which was initially launched by Otago and Canterbury Universities.

Although still virtually just out of OpenSim embryo  the ONGENS  virtual grid’s collaborators already include  Auckland University (12 sims), Weltec, NMIT and SLENZ among others.

The ADA symposium followed another successful Second Life  presentation by Mike Baker to the PSI#15 conference, in Zagreb, Croatia, from Koru’s Wellington Railway Station  (Baker as Rollo pictured below) which is becoming known in academic and dance circles around the world for his  “In the Company of Strangers – Negotiating the parameters of Departure in Urban Spaces; a study of Indeterminacy and the Roaming Body.”

The title of his Zagreb presentation with participants both in Second  Life and real life was: “Misperformance: Misfiring, Misfitting, Misreading.” The title appeared rather fitting given the trauma of a previous presentation at Stanford where Second Life crashed during the key part of his address. Fortunately he was able to finish in Skype.

rolloZagreb_022

rolloZagreb_013

rolloZagreb_009

The SLENZ Update – No 109, July 07, 2009

SLENZ PROGRESS

Otago’s birthing centre pilot

goes live with real students

Birthingcentre070709_001

Open for class…  SLENZ Project lead developer Isa goodman (RL: Aaron Griffiths)
“polishes”  the  Te Wāhi Whānau (The Birth Centre) build before students “arrive”.

Otago Polytechnic and  Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology midwifery students have begun taking part of their midwifery course on the SLENZ Project island  of Kowhai in Second Life.

The 27 Otago Polytechnic and CPIT Year 1 extramural students from Central Otago, Southland, and Nelson/Marlborough, began for the first time on Monday to use  the specially-constructed  Birth Centre (Te Wāhi Whānau) with the help of  qualified midwife facilitators from their home areas to do the “virtual world” portion of their coursea via Broadband from their homes.

The joint co-leader of the SLENZ Project, which has sponsored the pilot programme, Terry Neal, said she was excited that “the real learning” had to begun.

The movement of real life students onto “real learning tasks” within Second Life, she said,  meant an important milestone had been achieved on schedlule by the SLENZ Project which is one year old.

“We will now find out whether the students value the opportunity of being able to learn in a virtual world,” she said. “Later, as part of the evaluation process, we will find out how great the benefits are they receive from this type of learning.”

Lead educator for the pilot Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky), talking about the first day, noted that  students had had a variety of reactions to their first day, with some having the usual minor difficulties and thus needing help  and others wanting to be left alone to find their own way around.

Sarah quoted one of the students, who had joined the class Facebook group, as saying of her initial experiences, “”I have popped in a couple of times to the birthing unit (after Petal Stransky got me out of the underwater bubble – which I am very grateful for!) and had a look around. Then my hair fell off. “Another student from ChristChurch took me to a shop where I got new hair and I got some proper clothes from the same place rather than my warrior outfit. So far I seem to have spent a lot of time ‘fixing myself up’. Apparently I had elf ears … I am still walking into walls and getting stuck to the ceiling and getting lost. So it’s taking me quite a bit of time to get orientated.”

In another aside, Sarah (Twitter: SarahStewart) said interest in the midwifery pilot had been growing on Twitter, with the pilot YouTube video being passed around.

The innovative pilot programme has been funded by the New Zealand Government’s Tertiary Education Commission as part of a project to determine how multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) might benefit New Zealand education and how this can best be done.

The project, which has selected midwifery and foundation learning for its two pilot programmes, aims to delineate and demonstrate to New Zealand educators and students the educational strengths or otherwise of learning in a virtual world.

To celebrate the milestone and the first birthday of the project  the SLENZ Project team held a well-attended celebration “party” on the adjacent Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology  island of Koru on Sunday night.

korupartI_014Line dancing in celebration …
korupartI_001Toddles Lightworker, with the dragon wings, appears to be directing the dancers.

EVENT

Kiwi Educators Group

to be revitalised

Meanwhile SLENZ Project lead developer Isa Goodman RL: Arron Griffiths) and joint leader Arwenna Stardust (RL: Dr Clare Atkins) are keen to re-vitalise the Kiwi Educators group and in response to popular demand plan to hold regular meetings again.

The duo have issued an invitation to all past and potential members – in fact, anyone with an interest in education in New Zealand – to a meeting on Sunday July 12 from 6pm – 8pm (NZ Time) (Saturday, July 11 11pm-1am SLT) beginning at Kauri Grove, Koru.

The plan is for attendees to gather at 6pm and then visit  the Particle Lab to see the wonderful fireworks display which starts at 6.30pm and runs for an hour before returning to Koru to chat and catch up, and plan for the futureof the organisation.

Birthingcentre070709_002A useful addition to the SLENZ Project build
… “all” the information you need to get started.
Birthingcentre070709_003and the Skill Mastery Hyperdome

􀀁

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 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 49, March 3, 2009

As real as it gets -

architecturally speaking

Almost since the  inception of  MUVEs such as  Second Life, architects have seen the potential of being able to create exact, real life, fullscale, 3D, building models within virtual reality for such things as architect/designer/client walk throughs, design visualisation and tweaking. No one has been quite able to pull it off properly until now without  onerous in-world ‘building” work rather than the straight importation of an architectural model.

The announcement that it has been done effectively using Realxtend,  a  development of the OpenSim platform, was made by freelance  virtual architect and founder of Crescendo Design, a studio specialising in creating innovative, cost effective architecture and strategies for virtual reality platforms such as Second Life and OpenSIM,  Jon Brouchoud (SL: Keystone Bouchard) in  his blog, The Arch  (http://archsl.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/the-future-is-here-full-scale-architectural-model-from-revit-imported-into-a-virtual-world/ ) .

Brouchard (pictured) described the  importation of a full-scale architectural model from Revit using Visibuild (http://visibuild3d.com/index.html )  into the virtual world – the combined 3-part effect of being able to import contextual structures shared by others and import professionally built CAD or BIM-derived models and model bits and pieces using the familiar in-world building tools -  as a “pretty astonishing new opportunity.”brouchardjon

“Of course there are still kinks to be ironed out, and some parts of the work-flow that would benefit from further optimization, but that’s where Visibuild’s value becomes most apparent,” he said. “They have the capability of streamlining that process for you, and serving as a one-stop service and hosting environment for architects, urban planners, realtors, city governments and anyone else with a vested interest interest in architecture and the built environment.”

“Since most modern architectural software automatically generates 3D models anyway, the gap between your model and a virtual environment is no longer treacherous or time consuming – but relatively simple (or cost effective if you’d rather have someone else import it for you). If you already model in SketchUp, for example – you’re only a few clicks away from enjoying the benefits of experiencing the model virtually and inviting others to experience it with you in realtime. “
The house was furnished with   “model” tables, chairs, sofa, stove,  Jenn-Air appliances, Kohler fixtures and more imported from Google 3D Workshop.

[I'm indebted to SLED Lister and Auckland University senior lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture and Planning Judy Cockeram (SL: JudyArx Scribe) for the headsup. Cockeram is scheduled to launch architecture studies on the university's  second island sim,  Kapua, adjacent to  Long White Cloud ( http://slurl.com/secondlife/Long%20White%20Cloud/128/128/2 )  just north of the SLENZ project sim of Kowhai, which adjoins the original Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/150/124/27)]

The SLENZ Update – No 47, February 23, 2009

A pattern of  NZ  islands?

longwhitecloud_002

Long White Cloud

The original initiators of the  SLENZ Project, Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust), joint project leader,  and Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman), lead developer,  have always dreamed of creating  an Aotearoa -New Zealand education archipelago within Second Life.

It now seems that their dream is about to come true with the movement of the University of Auckland’s land of the Long White Cloud ( http://slurl.com/secondlife/Long%20White%20Cloud/128/128/2 ) to just north of the SLENZ project sim of Kowhai, which is adjacent to the original Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/150/124/27) .

“In the early days Isa and I used to talk about how good it would be to have a New Zealand education archipelago, and now it’s beginning to happen,” Atkins said in a joint announcement with Land of the Long White Cloud’s creator Scott Diener (pictured) (SL: Professor Noarlunga) (http://scottdiener.edublogs.org/)  at a SLENZ meeting on Koru. Diener is currently the Associate Director, IT Services at the of University of Auckland, and is responsible for the Academic and Collaborative Technologies Group at the University. He also teaches in a large stage III research methods course in the Psychology department.

The scenically attractive University of Auckland (http://www.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/)  island, houses a dedicated medical centre simulation that includes a project run in conjunction with Boise University, USA.  This island is soon to be joined by another Auckland U island sim, named Kapua, which will be initially dedicated to architecture studies under the direction  of Judy Cockeram (SL: JudyArx Scribe) a senior lecturer in the university’s Faculty of Architecture and Planning. She also hopes to establish an architectural community of scholars in Second Life that stimulates Real Life architecture.

Atkins and Diener said that  it was planned to join the Koru-Kowhai sims to  the Long White Cloud sim by a “void” ocean sim.

Diener, who will be presenting at the EDUCAUSE Australasia Conference 2009 – Innovate, Collaborate & Sustain, in Perth, Western Australia,   May 3 – 6, also disclosed that his  Auckland group  is in the process of entering into a virtual world consortium with  Australia’s  Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Wollongong University and other educational institions  to  establish a high performance virtual world environment group.

He also noted that the Boise end of the  nursing student pilot study being done in conjunction with Auckland had been  receiving considerable good press in the United States over the last few months.

Meanwhile the SLENZ Project’s specialist midwifery pilot  has made further progress with the virtual completion of the Learning Design stage.  Lead educator Sarah Stewart (SL: Petal Stransky) has said in her blog, Sarah’s Musings, of February 21 (http://sarah-stewart.blogspot.com/2009/02/linking-objects-to-information-in.html)  that she is feeling “at last I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the first stage of the Second Life Birth Unit project.

“My feelings of frustration are changing to optimistic excitement,” she said. “Yesterday, Leigh Blackall (SL Leroy Post), Deborah Davis and I had a meeting which has led to an agreement to the learning activities and time lines for Stage 1 of the Project.”

birthunit

Picture: Courtesy Sarah Stewart

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 40, January 20, 2009

Birth Centre takes shape

birth1_001The beginning …

The SLENZ project’s “ideal birthing unit” is taking shape quickly with the  basic walls constructed on the  floor plan and already trialed for ease of  avatar use (movement, camera views etc).

The trials were done by  Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman), the Lead Developer for the SLENZ Project,  Deborah Davis (Aastra Apfelbaum) of the birthing unit design team and Sarah Stewart (Petal Stransky) (midwifery lead educator).

Griffiths, announcing progress on the build, said, “Consideration has been given to the fact that many of the users will be new to the SL environment. Therefore the overall plans have been scaled up to accommodate this in terms of  ‘room to move around’.

“Doorways have been made wider than they would be normally and the ceiling height extended for the same reason,” he said. “The central corridor, which contacts almost all the rooms has been given semi-transparent walls to allow users to view their surroundings and better orientate themselves, especially on occasions their camera crosses a wall boundary (the “my camera is here but where’s my  avatar” syndrome).

The build is taking place on Kowhai [the sim situated next to Koru(http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27) ] which has been dedicated to the SLENZ project for both the midwifery and the foundation studies units

Believing the basic layout is now satisfactory the team has started  to “flesh out” the the detailed physical aspects of the build; cupboarding, mantels, furnishings, shelving etc., and the relationship of each object to the design in terms of its assistance of the  birthing process.

birthx_001Progress…

It’s not Google but …

What is claimed to be an unique virtual world search engine has  been developed by a team at the University of Teesside, UK. (http://www.tees.ac.uk/sections/news/pressreleases_story.cfm?story_id=2903&this_issue_title=January%202009&this_issue=188)

Although not yet live Meta-Mole.com (http://www.meta-mole.com/Default.aspx), the Meta-Mole, created by the Centre for Design in the Digital Economy (D-LAB) based within the University’s Institute of Digital Innovation, will ultimately be a dedicated searchable online resource for the 350 plus virtual worlds currently existing on the Internet.mole

‘We were analysing virtual world platforms and realised that there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive service offering to list and compare key data for major 2D and 3D environments,” Philip McClenaghan, deputy director of D-LAB said. “This surprised us considering the current popularity of virtual worlds. We intend to fill the gap with the Meta-Mole.”

The Meta-Mole has been designed to help both new and experienced users looking for virtual world environments as well as platform developers who want to gauge competition through providing a searchable directory of available platforms, “easily definable according to the need of the user”, according to Dan Riley, a Metaverse Architect at D-LAB. All data contained within the Meta-Mole will be  provided by the platform developers themselves along with official images and videos. The Meta-Mole allows for the sharing and comparing of information and provides access to the latest core, technical and specialist features on current virtual worlds, as well as those in development.

The Meta-Mole will initially be released as a Beta version focusing on 3D virtual world platforms. Forterra, Blink 3D and Twinity are among those who have already uploaded their details.

Watch out for

Watch out for  Virtual World developments at the Uni of Auckland’s, Architecture and Planning School.  Judy Cockeram (JudyArx Scribe), a senior design tutor at the school,  is doing the ground work for a proposed  100-student  virtual world course in and about Architectural Media.

Recipe for success?

forterra-whitepaper

To prepare for the coming hard times in the real world  its worth reading a white paper authored by Chris Badger,VP Marketing, Forterra Systems Inc, entitled “Recipe for Success with Enterprise Virtual Worlds.” http://www.forterrainc.com/images/stories/pdf/recipe_for_success_10509.pdf

He notes that with the slashing of budgets for travel and gabfests, virtual world applications are significantly cheaper than video conferencing, telepresence, and travel, yet represent a more engaging and enjoyable learning medium than Web or audio conferencing and most Web-based learning content.

The study is based on a Masie Center Learning Consortium’s (a think-tank focused on enterprise learning and knowledge)  exploration of   learning use cases in a virtual world through the use of  a virtual world sandbox provided by Forterra and using  Forterra’s On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment(OLIVETM) software platform.

The balance of the white paper describes the use cases for Accenture and ACS Learning Services, the results of their efforts, the lessons learned, and the “recipe for success” going forward for new organisations considering how to convert their interest in virtual worlds to tangible field pilot programs that deliver business results.

Useful links

Links to transcripts of the weekly meeting of the SL Education Roundtable as well as transcripts of the annual EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds sessions. All transcripts open in a new tab or window. http://homepage.mac.com/jessid/slroundtable/

Good free skins, shapes, hair, clothes etc for the newbies amongst us -

The Free Dove: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Gallii/113/54/33

The Changing Room for Women-Ladies at Noob Island: http://slurl.com/secondlife/NOOBISLAND/245/13/22

FREEBIES STORE of Free Union: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Thinktank/33/23/24

Free clothes etc – men and women in cubes: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Richmond/42/142/23

The SLENZ Update – No 28, November 24, 2008

koru1_0031

YOU ARE INVITED

‘Open’ SLENZ workshop

New Zealand’s leading virtual world learning research group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), has invited interested educators in both Second Life and “real life” to attend a one-day workshop in Wellington, New Zealand.

The open workshop will be held on Wellington Institute of Technology’s Wellington campus and in Second Life from 9am to 5pm on December 15 (NZ Time) as part of a three-day workshop to establish the  learning activities needed to achieve the SLENZ project objectives.

Registrations are required for the one-day event which will take place in both the real world and in Second Life on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s island of Koru  (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27). It is hoped to webcast part of the real world proceedings.

Announcing that the first day of the workshop would be open to the public, joint project leader Terry Neal said that places at the WelTec campus were limited to 50.  As a result registrants would be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

‘We are inviting others to the first day so that we can benefit from brainstorming possible activities  and therefore better raise awareness of the potential for Second Life to improve adult learning experiences.’ she said

The public workshop is the first to be held by SLENZ since it secured funding from the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission to determine the benefits of virtual world education in New Zealand, particularly for adult learners.

The announcement of the workshop follows the selection of two pilot education projects: the Manukau Institute of Technology, with a foundation learning proposal, and Otago Polytechnic with a midwifery proposal. Both proposals include a number of partner institutions.

The lead educators for each project will detail their proposals to the workshop.

Guest speakers at the one-day workshop will include students already studying in Second Life. They will discuss their experiences live via Second Life with other students attending in person,. One of Australia’s leading Second Life educators, Joanna Kay (SL: JoKay) will detail and demonstrate   what other educationists are doing in Second Life.

A key part of the workshop will be a discussion of critical perspectives for education within virtual worlds. The SLENZ literature review will also be presented at the workshop.

In the afternoon participants will work together to come up with relevant project ideas for activities in Second Life  as well orienting project staff and students. Over the next two days, the project team will use these ideas as a basis for implementation of the two projects.

The one-day event is free.

Neal said that the team hopes the event will attract other foundation and midwifery educators as well as interested educators and e-learning staff.

For first come, first served free registration email: Susan.Jenkins@weltec.ac.nz

ekids don’t waste time

Dr Mizuko Ito discusses why time spent online is important for teen development

“It might surprise parents to learn that it is not a waste of time for their teens to hang out online,” according to Mizuko Ito, University of California, Irvine, researcher and the lead author of the most extensive US study to date on teens and their use of digital media.(http://www.macfound.org/site/c.lkLXJ8MQKrH/b.4773437/)

The study showed that America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills online, often in ways adults do not understand or value, she said. The study also has implication for adult learning as the youth of today are the adult learners of tomorrow.

“There are myths about kids spending time online – that it is dangerous or making them lazy,” she said. “But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age.”

Released mid November at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, the study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s US$50-million digital media and learning initiative, which is exploring how digital media is changing how young people learn, play, socialise, and participate in civic life.

Together with the late Peter Lyman, of the University of California, Berkeley, and Michael Carter, of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, Ito led a team of 28 researchers and collaborators at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley. Over three years, they interviewed more than 800 young people and their parents, both one-on-one and in focus groups; spent more than 5000 hours observing teens on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and other networked communities; and conducted diary studies to document how, and to what end, young people engage with digital media.

The researchers identified two distinctive categories of teen engagement with digital media: friendship-driven and interest-driven.

While friendship-driven participation centered on “hanging out” with existing friends, interest-driven participation involved accessing online information and communities that may not be present in the local peer group. Significant findings included: -

There is a generation gap in how youth and adults view the value of online activity.

  • Adults tend to be in the dark about what youth are doing online, and often view online activity as risky or an unproductive distraction.
  • Youth understand the social value of online activity and are generally highly motivated to participate.

Youth are navigating complex social and technical worlds by participating online.

  • Young people are learning basic social and technical skills that they need to fully participate in contemporary society.
  • The social worlds that youth are negotiating have new kinds of dynamics, as online socialising is persistent, public, involves managing elaborate networks of friends and acquaintances, and is always on.

Young people are motivated to learn from their peers online.

  • The Internet provides new kinds of public spaces for youth to interact and receive feedback from one another.
  • Young people respect each other’s authority online and are more motivated to learn from each other than from adults.

Most youth are not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities of the Internet.

  • Most youth use the Internet socially, but other learning opportunities exist.
  • Youth can connect with people in different locations and of different ages who share their interests, making it possible to pursue interests that might not be popular or valued with their local peer groups.
  • “Geeked-out” learning opportunities are abundant – subjects like astronomy, creative writing, and foreign languages.

“This study creates a baseline for our understanding of how young people are participating with digital media and what that means for their learning,” said Connie Yowell, PhD, Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation. “It concludes that learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to re-imagine education in the 21st century.”

Ito and her team of researchers found that participation in the digital age means more than being able to access serious online information and culture. Youth using new media often learn from their peers, and notions of expertise and authority are being redefined.

More information about the study and the MacArthur Foundation’s digital media and learning initiative can be found online at digitallearning.macfound.org.

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