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Reality – the worst g/Game ever?

Many of the presentations at the Visualization in Science and Education conference that I’m currently attending have evolved around games, simulations, and virtual worlds, and in one of today’s talks the presenter showed us this picture:


Picture from “Motivate Us Not”

In this particular talk, the “problem” with reality was linked to the complexity of the world’s many challenges, e.g.  in terms of risks we’re facing – which evidently can be quite overwhelming and most likely will cause some people to withdraw from the “real” world, and ultimately leave it to others to try and meet these challenges. However, the picture also pointed to a theme that has been recurring throughout the conference, namely why we need virtual games, worlds etc. in the first place – why not stick to (the reality of) this world? If the skeptics at this conference leave with the impression that those of us in favor of such immersive/augmented technologies want to replace Reality, then I think we have failed (and note that was not the view of the presenter).

Both I, and the colleagues I know who use these technologies in education are not trying to replace, but rather to supplement and work with mixed realities in a re-situated perspective, drawing on the best affordances from each. In another talk, the presenter distinguished between the “game” understood as software, and the “Game” understood as the social context; the community, the practice, the artifacts, and the interactions surrounding the game. I found this to be an important distinction, which could be applied to my own work, and while as an educator I also have an inherent interest in the nature and development of the software (from an instructional POV), I do believe that the context is crucial – and probably could make the difference as to whether people would use these new types of technologies to escape or improve our reality … regardless of how we choose to define it. I’m not done thinking about this, but this morning’s talks provided really good food for thought, and proved that Reality isn’t such a bad Game after all ;-)

/Mariis

Off the record – #grcviz2011

I’m currently participating in a Gordon Research Conference, at Bryant University, Smithfield, RI, where I was invited to speak about my research in SL. This has been a great honor, and I’m truly enjoying my time here; meeting a lot of very clever, nice, cool, and fun people from all sorts of different disciplines, and the industry in a very international setting – all people who are engaged in using “Visualization in science and education“.


Unlike previous conferences I’ve participated in, GRC’s have a strict “off the record” policy, meaning that we are not allowed to disclose information from the talks, poster sessions, informal discussions etc. Being used to sharing all sorts of information through various social media, this really is a very different approach to knowledge presentation and dissemination. I’m honestly feeling somewhat ambivalent about this; I appreciate the need for a “space” where you can actually present unfinished/unpublished ideas. On the other hand, the conference has brought together so many interesting and talented people, who present such cool projects, that my immediate response normally would be to share this with my network. Since the list of speakers is public information, we have agreed that it will be ok just to share general information – and this some of us are doing via the hash tag #grcviz2011. Despite the fact that this makes the title of this post an oxymoron, it really is an amazing conference, where I’ve gained a lot of new insights and ideas!

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The beautiful Bryant U 

Since the conference is cross disciplinary, I’ve once again been reminded just how different we approach research and justify knowledge, and in general perceive the phenomena we are investigating. Coming from a very strong qualitative research tradition, I’ve been puzzled and admittedly provoked by some of the more quantitative presentations I’ve seen – and I’m confident this works the other way round. This is, however, a very healthy thing, and if nothing else, I bring back a greater appreciation for mixed methods studies! And it has me thinking that we really need to research and come up with new and better ways of e.g. evaluating learning processes and their outcomes. In fact, I would say that I go home with more questions than answers, but again I think that is a very good thing … :-)

/Mariis

Explosions of Virtuality

Together with several colleagues from different Danish universities/companies, I’ve been invited to participate in a workshop at Stanford University that aims at exploring different kinds of virtuality.

The workshop is inviting researchers and practitioners from across a great number of disciplines to come together and inspire each other in discussions on 4 overall themes:

  • The sensational organization
  • Embodying the Virtual
  • Transformations of time and space
  • Virtuality and affects

Jeremy Bailenson, Director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab will open the workshop with a keynote on the book  “Infinite Reality“, which he co-autored with Jim Blascovich. Since I’ve been using the book in my PhD-work, I’m really looking forward to getting the opportunity to hear Bailenson elaborate and discuss some of the issues raised. My colleague, Anders Drachen and I are currently trying to establish a research center on virtual environments, and we are hoping to use this opportunity to connect with relevant partners both at Stanford and some of the other universities and companies in the area.

The workshop is co-sponsored by Innovation Center Denmark and H-STAR at Stanford.

More on this will follow when the program is finalized.

/Mariis