SLENZ Update, No 150, November 17, 2009

The potential: “Daddy, Miss America wont share her toys.”

Obama vision could be crippled

by rich, greedy US institutions

… and commercial interests who want an arm  and two legs.

Birthunitdemo131109_0021. Sharing knowledge – The Gronstedt Group begins tour  of the SLENZ birthing unit.

The more time I spend in Second Life and  other virtual worlds the more I become convinced  that  SLENZ  joint leader Dr Clare Atkins (SL: Arwenna Stardust) is right: Collaboration and sharing is the key to success in  world education in virtual worlds.

But its not just collaboration within the United States, or New Zealand. It’s collaboration around the world.

The rich, big universities of North America and Europe might be able to afford to go  it alone, but for the smaller and the often poorer tertiary institutions of  the United States,  countries like  New Zealand, and Third World countries – if they even have reliable, affordable Broadband services – don’t have the luxury of NOT collaborating and sharing,  both at an institutional level and at an academic level.

The creation of complex builds, huds, animations and all the other paraphernalia of teaching successfully in a virtual  world, as well as aquiring the skills/knowhow to use them  can cost megabucks: to not share them under OpenSource and Creative Commons license with institutions and academics around the world would seem to be me to be both profligate and selfish. It also could regarded by some , particularly when sold at a high price or with an exorbitant  license fee attached, as both  neo-colonialist and  greedy capitalism of the kind that brought about the most recent crash of world markets.

Second Life behind the firewall

The collaboration thoughts, although first ennunciated  for me by  Dr  Atkins, were brought to mind more recently by  five things: the move by the Lindens, admitted an avowedly commercial organisation,  to  promote Second Life behind the firewall, previously Nebraska, to  commercial, Government and educational institutions at US$55,000 a pop, a princely sum for many cash-strapped institutions around the world;  President Obama’s Cairo vision, proclaimed in June;  a visit by the KiwiEd group to the University of Western Australia, Second  Life site; a Train for Success Gronstedt Group  35-avatar tour of the SLENZ Project’s virtual birthing unit on the Second Life island of Kowhai; and  finally, but not least,  the one-hour keynote address on copyright  by  Harvard University  Professor of Law Lawrence Lessig to  EDUCAUSE09 in Denver earlier this month.

Lessig-certificate-of-entitlement-700x524

2. Sharing the knowledge: Lessig’s certificate of entitlement.

Obama told  the world,  “We will match promising Muslim students with internships in America and create a new online network … ” something  which  Second Life arguably has been  doing for sometime with  the collaboration already  occurring between individual academics and many smaller institutions creating an “online network, facilitating collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

The problem with his vision is that  US commercial – and often Government –  interests  have almost always  worked against  facilitating collaboration and sharing across geographic  and cultural boundaries. Look at Microsoft software. Look at Apple and ITunes licensing. Look at software regionalisation. Look at the record industry. Look at the book industry, where rich English language publishers in the UK and the US split the world into at least two markets.  Look at the way copyright law has moved into  education – and science.

But its not a new phenomenon. Look at banana republics, created out of Boston,  as a rather ironical and destructive facilitation of collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries.

Triumphs of reason

On the other hand there are triumphs of reason over idiocy. Look at the rise of the ubiquitous PC, compared to the Apple computer, even though using a proprietary Operating System  the rise from the “underground” of  Moodle, compared to say Blackboard; the slow advance of bilateral free trade agreements, even if not the much desired mutilateral  free trade agreements, instead of the trade siege mentality,  which  affected most of the world in the 1930s (and still threatens); the growing popularity of Linux compared to proprietary Operating Systems; and finally the astounding growth of  Wikipedia compared to Encarta or Britannia.

Despite my misgivings I have been heartened over the years by the surprising degree of co-operation and collaboration that has been happening in virtual worlds. That is despite the actions of  those  few Scrooge McDuck-like educational institutions which have purely commercial interests at heart and appear to run closed shop operations, sharing with none.

I was even more cheered recently by a visit to the University of Western Australia when I found that  university, which is in the forefront  of Australian virtual world education, was entering into bi-lateral  virtual “free trade” and/or “free exchange”  agreements with  the likes of Stanford University and others. This mirrors the agreements put in place  by  Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga) at the University of Auckland with the University of Boise; and Judy Cockeram (SL: Judy-Arx Scribe) and  her work with architects around the world;  and those “handshake”   agreements  or informal sharing arrangements put in place by a myriad of other relatively smaller institutions who have already recognised the benefits of world-wide collaboration.

3.Sharing the knowledge – KiwiEd group tours University of Wester Australia site.

And then there is the SLENZ Project, which 18 months ago adopted as its ruling credo,  complete transparency, with OpenSource under Creative Commons license for all its virtual educational products, developments and knowledge in the hope that others would be able to build on the team’s work. Even though the adoption of this credo was probably due more to the persistence and bloody-mindedness of a then non-Second Life “immersed” and relatively sceptical SLENZ Learning Designer Leigh Blackall than anything else, it has worked and is working.

One has to  agree now that Blackall was right, even though  there is obviously a place for fair payment to commercial (virtual world creators, builders, developers etc) interests, something Linden Labs has recognised  with its protection of its own virtual world product lines (and  unfortunately those created and developed by its residents, even if Creative Commons, full permissions and OpenSource) behind  the walls of Second Life.

Linden Labs is not alone, however, in usurping user/creator rights.  The way  they have covered the issue in their rather draconian and very American Terms of Service is little different from other major US on-line social networking services: if you put it up on their service, they own it.

Virtual World Free Trade/Exchange Pact?

This is despite, or perhaps in spite of “renegades” like the  onetime Arcadia Asylum, making all her magnificent “builds” available to “anyone to use anywhere,  how they like, even blowing it up.”

Like  the tyrants behind the old Iron Curtain the Lindens realise that keeping  control of their residents’ creations inside  their world (and keeping them there), guarantees that they will have to stay there unless they want to pour their creativity, time and work down the drain and start a new virtual life elsewhere.

This leads  me to the thought that President Obama, although paying lip service to “collaboration across geographic and cultural boundaries,” needs to put his Government’s money  where his mouth is and promote a world-wide free trade/exchange agreement for  virtual world education if not for virtual worlds themselves, guaranteeing rights of both personal ownership of  individual products when created or bought in a real world sense,  but also opening up US educational institution virtual knowledge and creativity for the rest of the world to freely add to, and build on.

The President  has the vision  for a better on-line world – which could lead to greater understanding between peoples through education.

If he does nothing except talk. Nothing will happen.

And, I believe, we will find the major educational institutions moving more behind their Ivy Walls – if they are not already there – and American educational institutions (and others in UK, Germany, Brazil etc) adopting  a siege mentality   even though  virtual worlds (all virtual worlds, whether emanating out of the US or China or anywhere else) will only fulfill their true potential of levelling the playing field for all educationally if they are free and open to all.

That is something America can do for the world – all worlds.

The SLENZ Update – No 123, August 07, 2009

THE COUCH IN THE COMPUTER

Virtual psychology, therapy

to get own  OLIVE world

InWorld

Using the On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment (OLIVE™) virtual world platform from Forterra Systems, InWorld Solutions™, of Palo Alta, California,  has developed a virtual world specifically designed for behavioral healthcare.

Created for use by clinical institutions and individual therapists, the online application, InWorld, has been designed to  overcome emotional and cognitive barriers to therapy, counseling, and education by engaging clients and mobilising their active participation.

Like health and medical applications in Second Life, InWorld can also be used for therapist training and supervision. Although in a different virtual world it will join a number of pioneering medical training and health care applications being run in Second Life such as  the SLENZ Project’s midwifery education pilot program being run by  Otago Polytechnic,  Auckland University’s Virtual Medical Centre,  and  a myriad of other universities and organisations around the world who are doing pioneering medical and healthcare work in  MUVEs.

The InWorld application was scheduled  to be unveiled in Toronto, Canada,  today, Friday,  at an American Psychological Association (APA)  117th Annual Convention  plenary session entitled Next Stop: Virtual Psychology and Therapy.

“We founded InWorld Solutions to bring new technology to the field of behavioral healthcare,” said InWorld Solutions co-founder and CEO Walter Greenleaf, a pioneer in medical virtual environments and a Stanford University-trained research scientist specialising in behavioral neuroscience and cognitive rehabilitation.

“I’m excited about the convergence of several technical and social trends that enable us to provide InWorld today: the advancement of virtual environment technology, the penetration of broadband Internet, the affordability of computing power, and the growing adoption of virtual worlds,” he added.

Les Paschall, InWorld Solutions co-founder and CEO of CFG Health Systems, a 450-clinician behavioral healthcare provider in Marlton, New Jersey, said, “The potential demand for this kind of program is enormous. InWorld is designed to manage a wide range of disorders, and we’re seeing unprecedented levels of engagement and participation in our first use with clients who suffer from oppositional defiance disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as patients dealing with issues of anger management and substance abuse.”

The pair claimed that  InWorld is the first and only product to offer therapists a complete solution by combining a virtual world with important clinical functions such as session notes, appointment calendar, clinical illustrations, a clinical manual, and the management of avatars, the personalized characters used by therapists and their clients.

Complements traditional therapy

Interactions use speech, so keyboard skills are not required. Sessions are recorded and can be saved for review and playback from different viewing perspectives.

It complements traditional talk therapy, helping the therapeutic process to go deeper and progress more rapidly for individual, family, and group therapy. In addition, InWorld can increase access to behavioral healthcare by allowing therapists and clients to meet in the same or different locations.

It was first used in residential care facilities for teens more than two years ago and was found to be a successful treatment option, making it possible to engage patients in the therapeutic process in ways that not only enable therapy, but facilitate faster progress.

In every setting where it has been used, clinicians and patients have reported, according to the company, that it is an important addition to the tools available for the management and treatment of behavioral health.

InWorld, which runs on the Windows operating system and requires broadband Internet access, will be available for download from the InWorld Solutions website in October 2009 at an introductory subscription-based pricing of  US$95 per month per clinician.

See also:  Use of Virtual Environments in Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and  here.

inworld2

The SLENZ Update – No 102, June 19, 2009

An invitation to  another

happening on Koru …

Stanford

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology’s Mike Baker (SL: Rollo Kohime) will be presenting a paper at The Society of Dance History Scholars Conference 2009 at Stanford University, California, USA, from Wellington Railway Station on the Second Life NMIT island of Koru [Koru: 81,57,21 (PG)] at 3:00pm SLT/PDT on Saturday,  June 20 (10am NZT Sunday,  June 21.

He has issued a special invitation to SLENZers and others to participate in the event in Second Life   and hear his paper, “In the Company of Strangers – Negotiating the parameters of Indeterminacy; a study of the Roaming Body and Departure in Urban Spaces”.

There will be a notecard-vendor  in the station proper which will, once touched, give participants instructions for the presentation, one of a number which Baker has been invited to do this year at universities and conferences around the world.

Baker, who specialises in improvisational contact dance,  is currently completing a Masters  in Art and Design, majoring in dance and video,  with  AUT, Auckland, New Zealand.

An abstract of his presentation will be available from a dispenser in the wall next to the station cafe in a corner of the concourse.

He has asked participants to select the appropriate ambient lighting for viewing the videos, making sure that their media is enabled  with loudspeakers turned off  to avoid feedback.

He will be responding to questions  from the audience  at the end of the presentation with the real life audience taking precedence over the virtual audience.

Rollo Mike & Fiona

Mike and his partner, Fiona.

The SLENZ Update – No 95, June 8, 2009

Teleporting between  Virtual Worlds

‘Seamless, intuitive and immediate’

travel  between OpenSims

The future  is here:  a seamless virtual world environment where one can teleport  transparently between any OpenSim virtual world  – no not SL yet but wait for it –  no matter what the OpenSim virtual world is and where in the real world it is mounted.

If it lets you in and door is open you will be able to teleport there.

Zonja Capalini referred to  teleporting between OpenSims via hypergrid  in her comment and video on THE ‘OPENSIM’ EXPERIENCE – Worlds of difference but ones that Kiwi developers should probably try out but now  OpenSim boundary crossing was given the imprimateur  of  the mainstream virtual blogging community  by  virtual world guru Wagner James Au (pictured right) (SL: Hamlet Au) in NewWorldNotes  last week.WagnerJAu

Au described it as a “milestone breakthrough”  following the Second Metaverse U  conference(Stanford University) demonstration of Science Sim, the Intel-backed, OpenSimulator project linking a number of 3D science experiments into an interconnected network.

The ” exciting” and “jaw dropping” event was presented by  Tom Murphy, professor of computer science at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Ca

“In the demo,”  Au said, “Murphy ran an OpenSim viewer on a big video screen, teleporting from a science project running on sims located in Oregon, to another in Utah, to another at NorthWestern University in Illinois, and back again. From the viewer’s perspective, the teleport procedure looked exactly like it does in Second Life, except instead of TP-ing from one part of the grid to another, Murphy was going from one private cluster of OpenSim servers to another.

“The process was seamless, intuitive, and immediate,” Au said.

“This strikes me as a profound innovation,” he said. “From an avatar’s prospective, it’s now possible to travel from private OpenSim sim to private OpenSim sim in a way that’s indistinguishable from Second Life.

“Of course, teleportation of virtual money and assets is another question, but for metaverse experiences which don’t require those, OpenSim is now a viable alternative.”

Au noted that the teleportation code had been created by Cristina Videira Lopes (pictured right) (SL: Diva Canto), Associate Professor in the School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to joining Academia, she worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.  She is co-inventor of AOP (Aspect Oriented Programming), a programming technology featured in the MIT Technology Review (2001) as “one of the 10 emergent technologies that will change the world.”Cristina Videira Lopes

She’s also the visionary behind OpenSim’s hypergrid, which Au and Capalini have  previously written about.

Maria Korolov commenting on Au’s report said  that on OpenSim residents had been  happily using hypergrid teleports for some weeks now. For example she recently took her avatar shopping at OSGrid (picked up a free hot tub) and took  it back to her standalone grid, and installed it there.

Assets transfer fine, including clothing and hair and inventory,” she said. “I still have the same rights to them as I did on my home grid — I can’t give something that’s marked “no transfer” or copy something that’s marked “no copy.

“If I make a backup (by saving an OAR) file I will have a copy of all the assets that are on that region. for the purposes of restoring them later if something happens. If I distribute that OAR to other grid owners for them to load up on their grids, I will be violating the IP rights of the producers of my assets — same as if I made a backup of a computer program and then distributed it.

“So we already have cross-dimensional shopping.  Currency is still an issue — it would make more sense to keep currency in an on-grid account, rather than with your avatar. For example, if you go to a website that gives you credits, those credits aren’t stored in a cookie, but in a secure database owned by the website.

“That way, when you go from one website to another, the money doesn’t go with you — it stays where it’s safe.

“Or one can use PayPal or Google Checkout, which  can use on OpenSim as well,” she concluded.

Zonja Capalini  videos about hypergrid teleporting are here and here.

All I can say: The whole wide world is waiting out there, baby! Well virtually anyway.

The SLENZ Update – No 33, December 10, 2008

SLENZ ‘open’ workshop

Registrations Closed December 12: December 15, from 9am to 5pm (New Zealand Time) (SL Time 12 noon – 8 pm December 14) : New Zealand’s leading virtual world learning research group, Second Life Education New Zealand (SLENZ), has invited interested educators to attend a free, one-day workshop in real life on Wellington Institute of Technology’s Wellington campus and in Second Life on the Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology’s island of Koru (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Koru/156/122/27). Registration essential on first-come, first-served basis as numbers limited. For registration email: Susan.Jenkins@weltec.ac.nz

OLIVE has a silver lining …

Self-proclaimed  market and technology leader in enterprise virtual world, Forterra Systems, is using the economic downturn and collaboration with IBM, to spruik  its virtual worlds’ experience as being “better” and less costly than conference calling, the mainstay of world business.

Offering innovative collaboration features and IBM Lotus Sametime Integration with its OLIVETM(On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment) 2.2 Release, Forterra Systems plans to ship the new software later this month.

The video demonstration of the new software shows it will be of interest to educators around the world given some of the vagaries of other virtual world systems.

Forterra Systems says the new features have been prompted by feedback from several customers in global organisations and analysts who have noted that virtual meetings in OLIVE are both more engaging and less expensive then traditional Web and audio conference calls.

“The combination of OLIVE’s spatially accurate VoIP-based audio along with several new media-sharing features and Lotus Sametime integration provides the next generation of interactive communications infrastructure,” Forterra says in a press release. (http://www.forterrainc.com/index.php/resources/109-forterra-announces-olive22)

“With the challenging financial times most enterprises are curtailing travel and rethinking how their organisations hold events, training sessions, conduct periodic meetings, or improve their collaboration processes.

“Audio and Web conferencing are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and generally easy to use,” the release says. ” However for meetings involving complex or longer topics the participants can be challenged to grasp the discussion context and maintain focus due to multi-tasking. Virtual meetings in OLIVE are proving to be less expensive yet more engaging and productive for users. Most enterprise-grade teleconferencing systems charge $0.10 to $0.25 per person per minute which can equate to thousands of dollars of expense per employee every year. OLIVE pricing is an order of magnitude less.

“Forterra believes the fastest path for large-scale virtual world adoption within organisations is for 3D meetings to be an easy-to-use extension of the existing unified communications tools employees already use every day. Forterra’s integration of OLIVE with Lotus Sametime is the first robust offering in the market to pursue this strategy. When integrated to Lotus Sametime, immersive 3D environments built with OLIVE provide an interactive communications platform that is unsurpassed for collaboration, training, and knowledge management use cases.”Second Life: ‘Second China’ Offers Foreign Service Workers First Impression

Diplomatic training

chinasl1

Picture courtesy ScienceDaily

United States diplomats or military envoys making their first trip to China may soon have a chance to visit a Chinese office building, stop in at a traditional teahouse or hop a cab – all before they board a plane, according to US web-based publication ScienceDaily (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081029154856.htm)
A team of University of Florida computer engineers and scholars has used the popular online world Second Life to create a virtual Chinese city  for users who want to familiarise themselves with the sights and experiences they will encounter as first-time visitors.

The goal of the federally funded research project is to educate and prepare foreign service or other government professionals to arrive in the country prepared and ready to work, .ScienceDaily reported.

Julie Henderson, an international program specialist at the UF College of Pharmacy and co-principal investigator and project designer for the effort, was quoted by ScienceDaily as saying: “I think what we hope is that this kind of environment can provide a bridge between knowledge alone and actually being in the real-life environment.”

One wonders how long the US’s three-letter agencies have been doing the same thing in Second Life.

Medical  VWs ‘suspend disbelief’

Evaluations of  virtual world simulation exercises for medical trainees  have shown that the trainees themselves find VWs to be adequately realistic to “suspend disbelief,” according to a Stanford University research project entitled, “Simulation for Team Training and Assessment: Case Studies of Online Training with Virtual Worlds.”

The results of the study done by  William LeRoy Heinrichs, Patricia Youngblood and Parvati Dev, Stanford University Medical Media and Information Technologies (SUMMIT),  Phillip M. Harter, Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine, Stanford University,  were published by The World Journal of Surgery. (http://www.springerlink.com/content/82211030u48h01l5/)

The authors said the trainees quickly learnt to use Internet voice communication and user interface to navigate their online character/avatar to work effectively in a critical care team. surgery

“Our findings demonstrate that these virtual ED environments fulfill their promise of providing repeated practice opportunities in dispersed locations with uncommon, life-threatening trauma cases in a safe, reproducible, flexible setting,” they said.

Earlier in their abstract of their paper they had noted that individuals in clinical training programs concerned with critical medical care must learn to manage clinical cases effectively as a member of a team.

“However, practice on live patients is often unpredictable and frequently repetitive,” they said. “The widely substituted alternative for real patients-high-fidelity, manikin-based simulators (human patient simulator)-are expensive and require trainees to be in the same place at the same time, whereas online computer-based simulations, or virtual worlds, allow simultaneous participation from different locations.”

In the paper they present three virtual world studies for team training and assessment in acute-care medicine: (1) training emergency department (ED) teams to manage individual trauma cases; (2) prehospital and in-hospital disaster preparedness training; (3) training ED and hospital staff to manage mass casualties after chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive incidents.

For the project the  research team created realistic virtual victims of trauma (6 cases), nerve toxin exposure (10 cases), and blast trauma (10 cases); the latter two groups were supported by rules-based, pathophysiologic models of asphyxia and hypovolemia.

Event

December 12, SLtime,  10 am-4:30pm: The Louisiana Invitational Conference, Virtual Worlds in Higher Education presented by the University of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University, Southern University in New Orleans and Tulane University, at The Louisiana Regents Estate in Second Life. Keynote speaker: Jeremy Kemp, instructional designer at San Jose University’s School of Library & Information Science. Other speakers:  Thomas Kohler, of the University of Innsbruck, Joshua Squires, of the University of Georgia, Daniel Livingstone, of the University of West Scotland, and Gwenette Sinclair, of Kennesaw State University. No entrance fee. If you would like to attend the conference, visit http://virtualcampus.uno.edu/ and click “Register.” You will need to provide your name, avatar name, and e-mail.