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Metaliteracy and the Metaverse

November 2, 2022

This week John made an error about the clock change back from Irish summertime to normal time. Students were asked to come to class one hour later than normal but, in fact you should have been told that class was going to be one hour earlier … so, we missed an excellent presentation by Valibrarian Gregg titled ‘What is Metaliteracy?’ Val is the founder of Community Virtual Libraries and as a librarian and author she has a particular interest in books and literacy. Sitearm recorded the talk which explains the concept of metaliteracy in our metamodernist world in 23 minutes. Val also introduces the concept of digital citizenship. You can see the video below.

What is Metaliteracy? presented by Valibrarian Gregg (viewing time 23 minutes).

Following Val’s talk she brought the class to The Darkroom as a metaphor for the dark side of digital culture. She discusses the dark side of the some of the many useful apps we use daily basis. Once again Sitearm recorded the 6 minute presentation.

The Darkroom, presented by Valibrarian Gregg (viewing time 6 minutes).

Finally, Sitearm and Val debated the nature of the metaverse and attempted to unpack their own operational definitions. Is Second Life a Metaverse? records their debate on the characteristics required in a metaverse. Sitearm’s recording has a viewing time of 16 minutes.

Is Second Life a Metaverse? Sitearm Madonna and Valibrarian Gregg debate definitions of the metaverse (viewing time 16 minutes).
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Autumn semester 2022

October 3, 2022

Welcome to the module ‘Virtual Environments: Is one life enough?’ being offered as an elective module to students of Technological University School of Art & Design and Dublin School of Archtitecture.

Classes will start on 5th October on Wednesdays at 2:00 pm for two hours. We meet online every week at TU Dublin in Second LifePlease note: you will need a Mac or PC desktop or laptop to access Second Life – you cannot do so with a mobile device.

Full details about the module are available to eligible registered students on the university VLE, Brightspace, where you may self-enrol. Read the Introduction unit carefully where you will find instructions on how to access Second Life and set up your personal avatar. Learning how to get around the virtual world and familiarising yourself with the environment and how to control your avatar will take a few hours so give yourself plenty of time before class starts.

Please read pages 1 to 9 in the column on the right also. If you would like to find out more about what to expect during the semester read the posts in this blog: all class since 2009 have been summarised.

If you have any problems email John O’Connor at TU Dublin.

Once again, this semester we will be working with Prof Murat Gülmez (aka Magua) and his students at Çağ University in Turkey. We will be spending much of our time with Lynne Berrett/Lissena Resident, (aka Wisdomseeker) and her team at Whole Brain Health on Inspiration Island in Second Life.

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Class 7: Metaliteracy and Digital Citizenship

March 21, 2022

The complexity of issues around metaliteracy and digital citizenship were revealed by Valibrarian Gregg in her talk at the Community Virtual Library today. The visit began with a tour of the lovely facility which is a rich resource of information, data, references and texts while also being a calm space in which to relax – much like a library in RL in fact.

The Community Virtual Library is a place for calm contemplation, much like any good library in RL.

There was a good turnout of students and in addition to Magua and John we were joined by Sitearm and Wisdom also. After the tour Val brought us to the presentation platform which is rich with images and short texts to support the talk, based on her recent book Metamodernism and Changing Literacy: Emerging Research and Opportunities (2020).

A new addition to the space since our last visit is the Black Room where some of the darkness of the worldwide web and the internet is considered.

Valibrarian introduces the complexity of metamodernism and metaliteracy so that we can realise the impact of the digital age on society.

There was a good discussion around some of the topics raised by the talk, including consideration of the implications for democracy and freedom of thought in the metaverse, particularly if it is controlled by private interests. What impact might this have on a free society?

You can see a video of the lecture from last semester here.

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Class 6: Online communities and relationships

March 14, 2022

The visit to Virtual Ability Island (VAI) is always a highlight of the semester. Unfortunately, many students didn’t make it to class as this is reading week (despite the timetable clearly indicating there would be class this week!)

Gentle Heron introduced us to the Virtual Ability Island community.

Gentle Heron welcomed everyone and spoke about the origins and activities of the community on VAI. In addition to hearing Gentle speaking her words were transcribed automatically in ‘nearby chat’ by means of the SpeakEasy HUD she uses on such occasions. This facilitates members of the community who cannot hear. You can view the video recorded by Sitearm Madonna from last semester’s visit or read about the previous semester’s visit to find out more about VAI.

Following Gentle’s introduction Magua and John divided the students into four groups who were sent to four different breakout locations for small group discussions led by members of the VAI community. We are really grateful to Suellen and James Heartsong, Mook Wheeler, The Tinys Slatan Dryke and iSkye Silverweb, Lorivonne Lustre for leading these sessions and sharing their insights and experiences in Real Life and in SL.

When we came back from the breakout sessions Gentle Heron posed three questions…

After the breakout sessions we gathered back in the meeting space where Gentle Heron posed three pertinent questions to the students who had equally perceptive responses before we concluded the visit with thanks to our friends in Virtual Ability Island.

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Class 5: Teamwork and Collaboration

March 7, 2022
Sitearm Madonna spoke about teamwork and collaboration online: working in a new era.

Sitearm Madonna met the class at the landing point in the Çağ University Second Life Campus for his presentation titled Composing for the New Era – Teamwork and Collaboration Online. After ensuring everyone had arrived he led us to the ornamental pool where he had installed a presentation board filled with text and images. He had thoughtfully placed seating around the pool so that everyone had a good view and then seated himself at the top of the board to indicate where we should be focusing our attention. Using his avatar to guide our attention in this manner is a very useful technique that Sitearm has developed in recent years (an interesting example of something that could only really work in a virtual world where you can use the camera to zoom in on the appropriate section of the board).

Last week all the Project Teams were asked to meet in Second Life to complete the task set in the class and discuss the Team Project. After he had introduced some of the basic principles around teamwork, Sitearm asked each team to come to the front and report on their meeting in turn. It didn’t matter whether or not the team had actually managed to meet or not, whether the meeting was considered a success or not, nor whether all the team members were present. The opportunity to give and hear feedback from each team gave us all a sense of how difficult it can be to contact people outside of the virtual world. Teams used email addresses and Instant Messaging (IM) to try and make contact and arrange meetings. Individuals did their best but sometimes received no replies, or were unable to agree to a time that suited everyone. However, some teams were successful and in all cases the conversations have begun and teammates are beginning to get to know each other.

The class in rapt attention as Sitearm reveals the secrets of working collaboratively and productively in teams.

The students engaged fully and shared their experiences, frustrations and successes and it was clear that they did very well for the first attempt. Their enthusiasm for meeting each other and figuring out how to proceed is impressive.

Unfortunately, the TU Dublin campus wifi network would not allow connection to Second Life so only those students who had access via a phone hotspot, or those working off campus, were able to join the class. The IT Support Team are currently reviewing the situation to find out what happened and hope it will be resolved for next week.

John shared a notecard with everyone listing the team leaders from TU Dublin so now each team has a Turkish and an Irish leader to facilitate meetings and progress.

Following the presentation on teamwork Sitearm guided us to an open platform in the sky with an elegant garden populated with blue butterflies. Here he gave a brief introduction to, and explanation of, the metaverse. Not Mr Zukerberg’s Metaverse with a capital M, but the multifarious digital spaces that make up what used to be known as cyberspace (after William Gibson introduced the term in his 1984 novel Neuromancer) but is now more commonly referred to as the metaverse (after Neal Stephenson popularised it in his 1992 novel Snow Crash).

Sitearm concluded with a live demonstration of teamwork. He brought us to a lower platform on which he had placed pianos and drum kits that played when touched. After we had fun making plenty of noise he explained the colour coding and gently led us to a more musical output, leaving us all with an example of a team moving from chaos to harmony.

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Class 4: Getting to know teammates

February 28, 2022

This week we all met at Whole Brain Health where Tooyaa summarised last week’s lesson to ensure everyone has been ‘friended’, joined the ISP group, and is up to date on our progress so far.

The Project Teams were announced with the members of each listed along with the themes each team is to address. WBH also provide appropriated coloured t-shirts for each team member.

John introduced the Project Brief and shared a notecard with full details. We reviewed the details briefly so that everyone had a sense of what they will be working on for the remainder of the semester. He asked everyone to read the brief in detail after the class and to meet in their Project Teams during the week to discuss it. Sitearm Madonna reminded us that his talk on Teamwork next week will outline an approach to working together. He will ask some students to share the experience of the first team meeting to help identify issues around working together virtually – so ensure you arrange your team meetings!

Lissena Wisdomseeker then introduced the Project Teams. The team at WBH had kindly prepared sign boards listing all the team members and made more t-shirts. Each team member could take one from the boxes and each shirt was in the team colour with either Çağ or TU Dublin logos on back. Once everyone had put on their new shirts we teleported to the area where students will be working on their projects and presenting them at the end of the semester. Each team has a large working space sufficiently separated so you can talk without disturbing each other. Lissena explained that each team would produce a Share Board today, to get used to working in SL. She shared a notecard with details of how to carry out the task. But, first, each team was asked to select a Team Leader, one from each university. This will make it easier for the WBH team to communicate with you over the next weeks.

It soon became clear that everyone would finish the task during class time so you were asked to complete before next week.

John wearing his ‘Masters of the Metaverse’ T-Shirt, kindly made for him by WBH.
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Class 3: Visiting Whole Brain Health

February 21, 2022

John realised this week that he had made a mistake about class time, blaming the time zone differences between Dublin, Turkey and Second Life for his confusion. Regrettably, it meant that the Dublin group met an hour before the other groups. After some discussion it was agreed accommodate those who would not be able to remain online after the scheduled finish time. Everyone agreed that they would be able to reschedule to the later time from next week onwards and John apologised for his error.

The extra time did give everyone a chance to catch up on progress so far. John expressed some concern that he had received only two blog links following the last class and reiterated the need for everyone to submit their links this week. Some participants said they were unable to set up a free account so John said he would circulate more detailed instructions following the class. Then we took a break before logging back in to go meet our new classmates in Whole Brain Health.

We were all welcomed to Whole Brain Health on Inspiration Island by Lissena Wisdomseeker and Tooyaa Hynes.

John distributed Landmarks (LMs) to everyone and we teleported to Inspiration Island. We were welcomed by Lissena Wisdomseeker who introduced her team: Tooyaa, Fran and Catseye and made us all feel at home. We also met the Turkish students from Çağ University and their professor Magua. After everyone had found a seat in the circle, which miraculously increased in diameter to accommodate everyone Tooyaa gave us an introduction what we would be looking at this week. She shared the Virtual Whole Brain Health website link which has complete details of all of it and will serve as a really useful reference for consulting later.

After everyone had ‘friended’ everyone else and joined the ISP group Tooyaa demonstrated how to change you avatar’s display name. She asked students to select their first names as display names so that we know who you are. Then we all teleported to male and female changing rooms to put on our new team t-shirts. This remarkably simple-sounding exercise is always much more difficult than it sounds and also requires having a classic avatar to work. But, everybody managed and in due course we all arrived back at the cafe suitably dressed and identifiable!

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Class 1b: Blogging

February 14, 2022

Since the last class John / Tae consulted with the technical support team in the university to ensure Second Life would be available to students on campus. After running tests over a few days it was finally agreed that the required network ports would be opened each week fifteen minutes before the start of class until fifteen minutes after the finish time. Participants need to use their own laptops (SL cannot be downloaded to university computers at this time) and log on using Eduroam. This will allow full access to SL, including voice. Work will continue to identify the appropriate ports so that SL can be accessed on the network at other times.

This all worked well: as the class started the participants‘ avatars began to appear and all were able to hear John and also speak themselves. After last week’s experience of silence it was a relief to be able to hear one other.

Following a recap of last week’s activities John asked everyone to open the module in the Brightsapce VLE and he explained how each unit corresponded to a class meeting. Reviewing the subject for today he led the class through the sections, noting that the same format applied to each class unit. It is important that participants review the appropriate unit a few days before class: complete the reading/viewing material; consider the topics that will guide the class discussion; take the quiz; and be prepared to contribute when we meet in SL.

He went on to explain how the module will be assessed and advised all participants to review the Assessment unit in detail so the requirements are fully understood. The Website Blogs should be started immediately and each student was asked to send a working link to John by email before the next class. It is important to write to the blog each week so that the workload is distributed evenly across the semester. This accounts for 50% of the marks, with the other 50% going to the Team Project, which will be introduced in week 3.

The discursive nature of the classes was reiterated by John. It would make for a very boring module if participants were expected to sit still and listen to long lectures each week. It is far more interesting and engaging if everyone takes part in a lively discussion. To ensure the contributions are relevant and coherent it is necessary to have read and/or viewed the material provided in advance. This means the discussion is informed and grounded therefore it is important that participants engage outside of the formal class times.

It was a great relief to have voice working in Second Life for this week’s class, although attendance remains slightly disappointing.

The first assignment for this week is to visit three different locations around Second Life. John suggested that participants should meet in pairs or small groups for this. We looked at the map of SL just to get a sense of scale and understand how much there is to explore. Interesting places, whether cities, waterfronts, parks or countryside, can be found in the Search panel, or it is possible to wander in expectation of a serendipitous discovery. It is important to note that regions are rated G for general, M for mature and A for adult so do to keep an eye out for corresponding activity. John reminded the class that if anyone felt uncomfortable in a place due to the activity of other avatars it is important to QUIT immediately: do not expose yourselves to unpalatable or unacceptable behaviour.

The second assignment for this week is to write about the locations visited in your blog. Remember that blog are informal pieces of writing but you should adhere to the basic principles of academic writing: be coherent, write to the topic and use all forms of writing (narrative, descriptive, reflective and critical); source your information with discrimination; caption and credit the images you include; and cite sources in support of your arguments (using those given in the reading list).

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Class 1a: Welcome to Second Life

February 7, 2022

It seemed to be more of a challenge than usual for students to access Second Life today. It may be down to the fact that most were on campus and the network security was blocking some activities. Only a few students were able to activate voice so we had to conduct class using ‘nearby chat’ which made everything very slow and tedious. Some students were unable to access Second Life at all. Nevertheless, a majority made it to the class room in virtual TU Dublin and we worked around the problems to do some basic tasks.

Everyone learned how to have their avatars sit in the chairs and we all made ‘friends’ with each other. This means that we know when our colleagues are online and we can contact them. John also invited everyone to join the module group which means students will be able to create objects in the virtual campus, send group chats and receive group notices.

Then we all went outside for the class photo which was a good exercise in learning how to move your avatar and get it into a specific position. It was a little like watching babies learning to walk!

Eventually most of us were able to get our avatars lined up for a photograph.

By this time everyone was exhausted so John proposed putting the discussion about blogging off until next week. He reminded the students to check out their assignment in Brightspace and to review the material for next week’s class.

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Spring semester 2022

February 2, 2022

Welcome to the module ‘Virtual Environments: Is one life enough?’ being offered as an elective module to students of Technological University Dublin School of Creative Arts and Dublin School of Archtitecture.

Classes will start on 7th February on Mondays at 1:00 pm for two hours. We meet online every week at TU Dublin in Second LifePlease note: you will need a Mac or PC desktop or laptop to access Second Life – you cannot do so with a mobile device.

Full details about the module are available to eligible registered students on the university VLE, Brightspace, where you may self-enrol. Read the Introduction unit carefully where you will find instructions on how to access Second Life and set up your personal avatar. Learning how to get around the virtual world and familiarising yourself with the environment and how to control your avatar will take a few hours so give yourself plenty of time before class starts.

Please read pages 1 to 9 in the column on the right also. If you would like to find out more about what to expect during the semester read the posts in this blog: all class since 2009 have been summarised.

If you have any problems email John O’Connor at TU Dublin.

Once again, this semester we will be working with Prof Murat Gülmez (aka Magua) and his students at Çağ University in Turkey. We will be spending much of our time with Lynne Berrett/Lissena Resident, (aka Wisdomseeker) and her team at Whole Brain Health on Inspiration Island in Second Life.

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