So how much more real does it need to be?!

In a series on virtual World Makers, Draxtor Despres just released this wonderful interview with inworld designer, Eshi Otawara – enjoy :-)

Virtual artwork – just like the physical artwork – stimulates the brain – so how much more real does it need to be?

It’s not a non-existing universe – it’s there, it exists – if you just release yourself of that prejudice of what’s virtual, that it’s not real  – it will make you happy!

/Mariis

Btw: I had the great pleasure of meeting Draxtor and Eshi along with a bunch of other amazing avatars at the SLCC09 – and we were … HAPPY!

Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education 2011 panel

On March 17-19 the 4th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (#VWBPE11) will be taking place in SL and other Virtual Worlds such as OpenSim, World of Warcraft, Eve Online and Club Penguin.

The VWBPE is is a community-based conference that provides opportunities for participants in all virtual worlds to share current research,  teaching, and learning practices in 3D virtual environments. This 53 hour conference will provide opportunities for sharing and further understanding virtual world technology, and will focus on teaching/learning, scholarly work, projects, events, activities and new and innovative tools for virtual education. According to the VWBPE-website this year’s conference is about people, the community, and it’s about being together;

This year’s theme is You are Here. The divide between what is real and what is virtual is a state of mind. We learn everywhere and you are already here.

Here is all around you:

  • Here is where we find the great successes and even failures.
  • Here is where we expand our borders.
  • Here is where we touch what is important to those we teach.
  • Here is where we learn and live and play.

I have been attending the conference for a couple of years as an observer, which has been very inspirational, and I highly recommend anyone interested in 3D Virtual Worlds to participate in this amazing, free event! :-)

Furthermore, this year I have the great pleasure of doing a panel discussion together with 3 SL friends and colleagues: Chimera Cosmos, Spiral Theas, and Gann McGann.


First planning session on my holodeck with Gann & Chimera

Our session is entitled: Hats, HUDs, Wands and Weather:  Building Activities for Engagement in Second Life. One of the things we all appreciate about SL is the fun and playful parts of this environment, which could include changing the avatar’s appearance and using different types of artifacts – e.g. in our first meeting Chimera couldn’t help but show off one of her magic wands ;-)


And in fact after Gann and I left, Chimera used her tornado stick on the holodeck as seen in this photo from Chimera’s KoinUp stream:


Chimera’s koinup

While the user-controlled ability to change both the environment and one’s appearance definitely is an important part of SL, we as educators are also concerned about the kind of activities that can promote, facilitate, and not least sustain engagement in teaching and learning in an environment such as SL.


Gann, Spiral, Chimera and I discussing the call for VWBPE in our second meeting

We all have both positive and a few negative experiences with teaching in SL, and so in our panel we have decided to focus on activities that help overcome some of the barriers for meaningful, and sustained engagement in SL as stated in our proposal:

There are numerous barriers to engagement in virtual worlds. First, new residents must become familiar with the interface. Beyond technical considerations, the nature of their early experiences will determine whether and how quickly they will build an identification with their avatar and a reason to stay. Without this, it is likely that their interest in further engagement in the virtual world will lessen and their participation will drop off. A sense of presence and identity through embodiment and immersion is an important contributor to ongoing and satisfactory participation in the world and finding the motivation to continue to return until the technical and navigational thresholds are surmounted. This roundtable will discuss the essential acts, the “ah-ha” or Eureka moments, the triggering gizmos, features, activities or places that inspire students or colleagues (and have inspired us) to continue to participate.

In other words, what works to help new residents pass these technical and navigational thresholds? The speakers will share their own stories drawn from their work with students in higher education, business people, health professionals, and education colleagues. Presentations will include demonstrations and audience participation.


Spiral and I chatting under the Blue Thinking hat before our third panel meeting


Identity issues are very important in SL – and we will be showcasing Identity-cubes as part of the session

As mentioned above Gann, Spiral, Chimera, and I will be sharing some of our experiences, but we are also very much hoping to hear from the audience, and so we hope You will join us :-)

Update
We will be presenting Friday, March 18th from 8AM-10AM SLT (16-18 Dansk tid) – Building South, Room South Auxiliary, and the rest of the schedule can be found here

Also please note that even though the conference is free, you need to register in order to participate via this link. By registering you will be helping the organizers plan out resources to ensure the conference runs smoothly and that there is allocated enough space to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to participate.

/Mariis

For inspiration here are three posts I wrote about VWBPE last year:

First day impressions

Second day impressions – part 1

Second day impressions – part 2 – this one also includes my reflections on Chimera & Spiral’s 2010 session

Second Life Community Convention 2010

For the third year in a row I’m hoping to participate in the annual Second Life Community Convention (SLCC10). This year the convention will be held in Boston, August 13-15.

As usual the convention will be organized by SL users, bringing together new and old residents in a mixture of business, education, non-profit and not least the music and art scene.

This year I’ve submitted a proposal for the educational track entitled “Contradictions that make perfect sense – remediation strategies for problem based blended learning in SL”, and so I hope to get the opportunity to present and discuss some of the ideas I’ve been working on as part of my recent stay at UC Berkeley.

In any case the convention is a definite must-go, a unique opportunity to connect with old and new friends. If there’s any one event that has influenced my PhD work, this is definitely it! Given that research in 3D virtual worlds still is a rather limited research field it is always a pleasure to connect with other educators and innovative thinkers from various parts of the SL community :-)

/Mariis

UPDATE
Much to my surprise (and regret) my PhD-supervisor has instructed me not to participate in any activities as I should focus on writing my dissertation. I therefore had to withdraw my proposal and will not be attending this year’s SLCC :-(

Virtual Relationships and Roadside Philosophy

Another new friend I made at the SLCC is Pamala Clift also known as The Roadside Philosopher.  Pamala held a well-attended Sunday morning session entitled “Shhh, The Realities of Virtual Relationships”. The crowd seemed diverse with representatives from all the communities, which actually is no surprise since we all have to deal with relationships no matter our in-world intentions. While waiting for everybody to get seated Pamala played this video to set the tone of the session:

As another interesting way of getting us started Pamala asked us all to fill out our 1.life profiles with “catchy” descriptions, she then read out loud our descriptions asking the audience if this particular person was someone people might be interested in meeting RL and then we were asked to stand up and show our RL avatars. This was quite daunting to me – not because I hide my RL identity, but because I’m quite shy RL. I really missed my avatar in that moment, but I did get up feeling safe in the company of kindred spirits. Interesting experience…

Pamala proceeded with a presentation of her thoughts on SL relationships bravely disclosing her own experience with her newbie in-world marriage and her current relationship with in-world partner Yossel – a relationship her RL husband accepts. Others from the audience told their stories of trying to make cross-over from SL to RL relationships – heartfelt stories that were very far from this successful story Hamlet just reported on.

As I understood it there had been some doubts on whether a session like this would be appropriate for the convention, and I’m guessing it has to do with the potential mature content. And yes there was talk about sex and human genitalia, but if anybody could pull off a session like that, it would be Pamala. With her very warm, humorous and open minded spirit she managed the session with elegance, and in all fairness sex was only a very small part of the conversation – emotional relations between humans and avatars were predominant.

I found myself to be quite smitten by Pamala’s personality and back in Denmark I decided to join her in-world group “The Roadside Philosophers”, and yesterday I participated in a 2 hour discussion on Post Mortem Existence at Pamalot.

RP_003

Post Mortem Existence is of course a very complex topic and I’m not able to refer to any conclusions since we evidently didn’t reach any. It was, however a very nice experience. The meeting was well-attended, people were open and friendly and Pamala moderated very well.  The group was founded back in 2007 and holds biweekly meetings on different topics chosen by the members. Here’s the description from the group charter:

1st person group..using SL as a metaphor in the search for truth.. Your thoughts are just as valid as any. Out-of-the box thinkers. Individuals that like to challenge convention by exploring new ideas. No rudeness or hostilities allowed. Brain storming can only work if no idea is stupid but presented with rational thought.

RP_008

To me being in SL is in itself an ontological challenge and I do so enjoy philosophical discussions, so I’ll be joining these meetings whenever possible. Next meeting will be on September 5th, at 8 AM SLT and the topic will be Dreams. Possibly something on the logic and reality of dreams … I’m not quite sure, but Pamala will refine the topic before sending out a group notice.

/Mariis