SLENZ Update, No 147, November 2, 2009

Kiwi ‘speaks on ‘  Obama world vision panel

Machinima role recognises

Cockeram’s  SL/RL  standing …

The University of Auckland’s Judy Cockeram (SL: Judy-Arx Scribe) (picture, right)  has been recognised  as a leader in  virtual world architecture  by being selected  as one of  four real world architects – from the US, New Zealand and Egypt –  to “star” in a US State Department  machinima discussing  the Obama vision enunciated in Cairo and how it is already being implemented in  Second Life.

President Obama recently promised in his Cairo speech  an online network, facilitating collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries, something that Draxtor Despres (RL: Bernard Drax), a real life winner of the international ” Every Human Has Rights” media award in France in 2008 and director/producer of the machinima, “Cross Cultural Collaboration In Second Life”,  argues SL has been  doing for some time.Cockeram,Judy1

The quotes by the four architects, along with  excerpts of their Second Life work,  were taken from a recent panel discussion in Second Life on Architectural Design and International Collaboration in a Virtual World (CNN Report).  The event was hosted by the US Department of State on Public Diplomacy Island.  Besides Cockeram, the panelists were:   Amr Attia (SL: Archi Vita) (picture left), architect, Urban Planner and professor of architecture and urban planning at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt; Jon Brouchoud (SL: Keystone Bouchard) (picture, lower right), owner, The ARCH Network and Founder of Studio Wikitecture, based in Madison, Wisconsin; and David Denton (SL: DB Bailey), Architect and Urban Planner located in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, California.

Cockeram, a senior tutor in architecture, with the School of Architecture and Planning, at the University of Auckland, was speaking  from experience when she told the  Second Life audience drawn from more than  12 countries, that working and learning together in a virtual world “generates empathy” across cultures.Amr Attia

Cockeram first entered Second Life after hearing a presentation by The University of Auckland’s Dr Scott Diener in November last year, which “rang true” for her because  of her experience of having students entering university with good modeling  and drawing skills but little hands-on digital experience, even though members of the so-called “digital native” generation.

The first project Cockeram and her students engaged with  involved support from the US-based  virtual community of practice for nonprofits to explore the opportunities and benefits of Second Life, the  NPC  ( Non- Profit Commons) organisation.

“Right from the start the experience of Second life has been about reaching out and getting away from the introspective, ego-driven architect, ”  Cockeram explained. “The work done in that first project looked at virtual office space and proposed things that were understandable but were not four walls and a flat ceiling.

“When you are building a wall together, rubbing shoulders with another’s  avatar it changes your decision-making. We tend to realise our similarities but we can observe differences and it generates an empathy for each other.”

“Working with such things as sculpties,” she added, “gives them a  different way of thinking about the surface of architecture.”

Second Life also led to  a big change to Cockeram’s  teaching methods.

“Previously I had always insisted on working with computers in the rich environment of  the studio,” she said. “With Second Life the much richer environment for students to respond to means that anywhere is a studio. Second life has led to them understand design decision-making from contextual information.

Today Cockeram has  more than 120 plus students from her classes participating in Second Life on The University of Auckland Second Life islands of Putahi and Kaiako.

And, although her Second Life student body is already cross-cultural with 45 percent Asian, 40 percent Pakeha (New Zealand-born Europeans) and Europeans,  and five percent Maori and Polynesian, Cockeram intends to continue extending the exchanges her students have to include more students and clients from Pakistan to America.

“I believe we are seeing an improvement in the quality of a students ability to lead with design rather than react because of what is easy in a computer package,” she said. ” The virtual world has not interfered with their design decision-making in the way some of the more complex design packages do for early learners in the field.

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“Cutting edge … design”

Problems she has  overcome include  inappropriate student behaviour in-world  – a number “went absolutely nuts, with no idea how their behaviour was impacting on the rest of the class” at an initial  class with a guest lecturer;   identifying that a student’s work is his or hers, and that the student  in Second Life is the authentic student; and the problem of students leaving “unlabeled objects” littering the landscape. The first problem had been solved, she said,  by establishing  a similar ettiquette in-world to that prevailing on a real life campus, the second had been solved through  use of oral testing, and the third, through policing the issue and stressing the need for labeling in all worlds.

The “unlabeled object” problem has also led her to plan the creation of  an “unlabelled object” finder, which she hopes to include in a Toolbox she will be creating over the southern summer vacation.

Cockeram says that she does not think  that virtual worlds such as Second Life  should be seen only as developing early learner skills.

“Part of my summer  will be spent developing a collection of scripts so we can spend time developing some of the cutting edge of architectural design as well, ” she said.

Next year Cockeram plans  to take 10 to 12 fourth year students, 115  first years, and 115  second years  into Second Life.

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The SLENZ Update – No 118, July 23, 2009

Dayam … I missed this

Brouchoud, Cockeram  work  together

for a striking  architectural machinima

The University of Auckland

Jon Brouchoud (picture right) (YouTube: Keystone1111 SL: Keystone Bouchard ), of the ARCH Network has mounted a striking  machinima  of  the work of  Judy Cockeram (SL: JudyArx Scribe)  and her Second Life class project from the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland.

Brouchard say in his orginal report ( here) that  as Cockeram and Auckland University have continued to leverage their virtual ‘Living Sketchbooks’,  when the machinima was made there were 115 first year students exploring the virtual space of Putahi Island which continued to evolve each day.

“After visiting the site several times since construction started, I can confidently say that it does, in fact, feel as though the place is alive,” he said. “Instead of pinning up sketches on a wall, students are exploring design concepts in an immersive virtual environment, where they work amidst the growing virtual community that has grown to hundreds of thousands of users strong, along with a rapidly growing number of architecture schools that are actively exploring virtual worlds in education.”

At the time Judy described the project thus: “They are currently in their first semester doing an Architecture media course, ARCHDRC102 which includes paper based drawing/collage etc for the first six weeks then in the second six weeks we are considering technology –the aim is to get them working in a creative way – they come with strong drawing and modeling skills that enable them to design in an unimpeded way and we are using Second Life to put the focus on design rather than the interface of a ‘big’ cad package.”

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It’s something I shouldn’t have missed from the New Zealand Second Life scene because it’s so good. I take my hat off to them both.

Thanks to Dr Clare Atkins, SLENZ Project joint leader,  for the heads-up.

The SLENZ Update – No 63, April 2, 2009

A lesson in architecture

‘Bar-raising’ Frenzy on Auckland U sim

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Described by  Jon Brouchoud (SL: Keystone Bouchard), noted blogger on architecture, a freelance virtual architect and founder of Crescendo Design, as set to become a bar-raising effort for demonstrating the benefits of using virtual worlds in architectural education, Auckland University senior tutor, Judy Cockeram’s (SL: JudyArx Scribe) Putahi prototype “Frenzy”  March 30 was definitely something to talk about.

That was despite being a little confusing, sometimes uncomfortable and at times difficult to  find one’s way around.

But  architects, students and others who attended – about 100 in all – described the event  as “extraordinary,”  “inspiring” and “fascinating”.judyarxfrenzy_0091

And the nine Auckland University third-year architecture students who had burned the midnight oil preparing the “Frenzy”, exhibited simultaneously in real life on a large screen, also were “rapt”, according to Cockeram, a senior lecturer in architecture and pictured as JudyArx Scribe at right.

The students had spoken in-world with real life architects, academics and “expert”  Second Life builders/designers, receiving  both advice and feedback.

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Cockeram   had invited her students  from the University of Auckland to explore architectural and urban strategies within the “existing and vibrant” Non-Profit Commons archipelago in Second Life, through building in their living sketchbook , allowing the effectiveness of their “urban intervention”‘ to become immediately evident.

The students, none older in-world than 40-days, let it all hang out  – the good, the bad and ugly –  asking the general SL public  to play with and talk about their ideas.

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Cockeram said, in her invitation to Brouchoud, who attended, “As an Architect in SL you have a unique perspective on the role of the crit in our education.

“In SL a traditional crit makes very little sense so we are trailing a different way of engaging in the process of exchanging and debating the ideas and fit of proposals and projects. The students are working on a project for the Non Profit Commons, a group who host a large number of RL Charities – the issues are most like those of a small town needing an urban intervention. But importantly because this is SL the students are still in a building phase so they can hear and take on ideas to improve their project before they have to walk their peers though.

“We hope the students of Tab Scott (noted SL architectural writer and academic) and the students of the Living Sketchbook will meet up for an in-world (and i dont know what to call it) debate/crit/party/presentation/ but a sharing of architectural ideas and ideals a couple of days later. We need your help to invent a format that stands the test of the Architect’s and Academic’s stare. As someone who has helped set those standards we want you to come and talk and push ideas and continue the climb to a an even more extraordinary world and Second Life.”

As she requested  visitors did “come and run, jump and fly through the thoughts of the first group of nine students to venture into the Metaverse from the University of Auckland’s Architecture and Planning School.

“Because they are the first this event will be on the big screen with nine others computers in front of the whole school over the three hours – we would love to have the metaverse wave back to the physical world.”

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After the event Cockeram described it as “absolutely fascinating for a first time. As a teaching event it was extraordinary. The level of student enrichment was far higher than expected and well outside the normal criteria.”

She noted that both academic and architectural students from around the world had visited and discussed the “projects” with the students involved.

Among the lessons learned, Cockeram said, however, was the need to determine how better to interface and present Second Life or virtual worlds  to people in  real life (even with the big screen most watched the students at the keyboards, rather than SL on the screen) to allow more real life interactivity and participation even if one is not in world.

The frenzy is now in the process of being dismantled.

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