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Digital Utopia: the show

May 17, 2017
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The class photo, with everyone in their finery!

The joint show between DIT students and artists from Virtual Ability Island was a great success. There was so much work exhibited that it burst outside the gallery walls to the surrounding spaces. Turnout for the opening was also great with many friends from VAI coming along to see the work and party afterwards.

As part of their final assessment for the module the DIT student groups spoke about their collaborative artworks, introducing them to the assembled guests with confidence.

John and Glenn thanked you all for your enthusiastic engagement and hard work over the course of the semester. We also thanked Gentle Heron and everyone at Virtual Ability Island for their support.

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Students presenting their work.

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DIT individual student work is on show also. The exhibition continues throughout May.

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The evening ended with a party and dancing.

 

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Digital Utopia!

May 16, 2017
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Join us in Second Life (at 8.oo pm Irish Time) for the opening of this semester’s presentation of projects.

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Cape Able Gallery.

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Class 12: Virtual identities

May 3, 2017

Sitearm Madonna visited DIT in Second Life this week to talk about the origin and development of his online persona. An engineer in the US oil industry in RL and manager of Virtual Dublin in SL Sitearm is glamorous female avatar who happens to be male in RL.

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The glamorous Sitearm Madonna discusses the evolution of his avatar.

A resident of SL almost since its inception in the early 2000s Site elected to inhabit the virtual world in the form of a female avatar from the start. Attracted to the classical Greek myth of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals, childbirth and virginity but finding the name already proliferating in SL he settled on the anagram. He muses on this decision wondering how it might have been influenced by his working single mother’s life experience, or a simple curiosity. He soon discovered that not only was there a greater choice of clothing available for female avatars but, male associates were prone to bestowing gifts of jewellery.

In the early days of SL communication was via text chat – voice chat did not became available until late 2009 – so there was little to give away the fact that a female avatar might be directed by an RL male. It was only as Site became more engaged with the virtual world in RL, attending conferences and developing a consultancy practice for companies trying to move into SL that his identity became an issue. This led to some colleagues variously being surprised, irritated, embarrassed or unaffected by the revelation.

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Sitearm, left, introduces one of his alternative avatars.

However, men using female avatars and women using male avatars turns out not to be unusual in SL. Women sometimes refer to unwelcome attention from male avatars as the reason for their choice and, indeed, Site also spoke of this. Locks Aichi also spoke of her decision to use a male avatar saying that she grew up as a tomboy and felt comfortable that way in SL having tried female and male avatars. She does have a female avatar in traditional Nigerian costume which she reserves for special occasions.

We also remembered a past student, Box of Chocolates, who photographed herself in RL with a cardboard box over her head and face, sporting hand drawn features, which then influenced her avatar for the semester.

Virtual worlds such as SL, and social media in general, allow us to explore our identities in new ways. This can be an interesting and revealing experience. In Asian Genders in Tourism Rokhshad Tavakoli reflects on how virtual tourism could be used to overcome barriers to travel for Iranian women. But, one needs to be mindful of the impact this may have on others. There are numerous examples of how it can go terribly wrong from the Syrian lesbian blogger who was revealed to be a married man in 2011 to the outing of a white woman who posed as a black civil rights leader in 2015. They were both seen as behaving fraudulently despite their own insistence that they were presenting an inner integrity.

Somehow, the discussion segued into the subject of robots and cyborgs with special reference to Donna Haraway’s seminal feminist text: A Cyborg Manifesto (1984) which challenges traditional theories of the performativity of gender, proposing the confusion of gender roles against the essentializing of them. For Haraway the Cyborg represents the space to move beyond binary codes into more a fluid and dynamic understanding of identity, she writes;

Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth. (P.108)

Within this conversation Site told us about the Museum of Robots in SL and promptly his avatar become a yellow robot, reminiscent of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2.

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Tasrill Sieyes, an SL Resident who made Duchamp’s legendary painting come alive.

This constant merging and morphing of identities throughout the presentation was resonant with practices in the field of Queer Pedagogy which seeks to use pedagogical techniques to disturb and trouble the way social norms are constructed and affirmed through traditional educational frameworks. In Site’s performance, the ‘Dragging’ of identity expressed a creative space between socially assigned norms ie ‘Male/Female’, Drag being the in-between (/). Such performative pedagogies also subvert the traditional role of mastery assigned to the teacher in education, allowing for more constructivist horizontal approaches reminiscent of Joseph Jacotot’s radical conception of Universal Education discussed in the first session.

As an extension of this discussion and as a way to both engage with the ‘making’ potential of SL and to interrogate and question the formation of identity in SL, Glenn suggested we build a robot for our next project. However, given that this is the last class of the module before the exhibitions and presentations on the 17th May, this ambitious undertaking will have to be postponed until a future point.

This last class has really been the wildest of them all and certainly opened up new questions and new possibilities within Second life. The students have been on a creative and somewhat disconcerting pedagogical journey through this project, one which has been challenging and bonding in equal measure. It has broadened our understanding of what constitutes a world in the contemporary sense and how we might act in worlds that are still too new to be fully comprehended, but which might at the very least give us a glimpse of what is to come. Class ended with Site offering a guided shopping tour in SL. This was received with much interest and we closed a most interesting discussion.

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Class 11: The crit

April 26, 2017

The show of student art work this week was very successful. Each student exhibited one piece of art and, led by Glenn, presented it to the class; explaining the origin, inspiration, context and production.

Treasure Ballinger and her colleagues from Virtual Ability Island and Cape Able Gallery joined us and shared their responses to the work. The range of work was impressive, as was the relationship with the theme of the module this semester.

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From left: AlxMway’s acrylic is a view of Schull from Sherkin through a keyhole; Yashurdoshur painted her reflection looking down on a still pool of water as a symbol of Utopia.

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jackmittens’ painting of the archway within the walls of the Abbey on Sherkin Island – you are neither outside nor inside.

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Fayebubba painted the Abbey from a photo – measured by points on the buildings.

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Shadidame seems to be walking under Saoise’s fairytale bridge over a stream near her house. The fact that it seems like a road yet is a river gives it a heterotopic quality.

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Unfortunately Inchydoney was having trouble with the internet connection and was logged out before she could present her intriguing painting.

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From left: ChipVanCorner’s painting of the community hall in Sherkin; whatyamacallit’s Mocollop graveyard in Co Waterford; Burnsygirl’s painting of the Abbey is a reminder of her great grandparents buried in a similar place.

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Left: Shadidame’s heterotopian space of crisis and deviation – Retirement Home. Right: freddymcfreddy’s Boat.

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freddymcfreddy was inspired by Foucault’s description of a boat being the ultimate heterotopia: a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea.

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Deeuwan’s acrylic of her garden, a heterotopic ‘other’ place for festivities apart from our home.

Glenn, John and Locks complimented you all on the show – it was very impressive that you were able to mount it so successfully. The work was a thoughtful response to the readings this semester and you all presented confidently. Well done!

Afterwards we all teleported to Cape Able Gallery where Suellen Heartsong’s SL photography show is on. Gentle Heron was there to greet us and Slatan Dryke razzed some of his moving photographs and dynamic sculpture on the lawn (see more on his website). iSkye Silverweb showed us one of her interactive sculptures, more of which can be seen at Ethnographpia in SL.

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A moving airborne sculptural work by Slatan Dryke.

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Class 10: Teamwork

April 19, 2017

There was a healthy turnout for class this week, despite the Easter break. The issues affecting voice in SL appear to have been resolved, although some participants were still having difficulty.

John explained that due to an unexpectedly busy period before Easter he had been unable to make arrangements for Sitearm Madonna to join the class this week. Site has frequently presented on teamwork, particularly in the online context. We will try to arrange a visit from him before the end of the semester. In the meantime, John presented the lecture on teamwork based on Site’s slides for Team Building Tips. If you missed the class review the slides and talk about the content with your team partners.

We had an interesting discussion based on our own experiences of team working. We compared that to the theory and put particular emphasis on the fluid nature of collaboration. The stages of team development are not necessarily linear and so teams can move between Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing and back again in almost any order. Similarly, the roles required for a successfully performing team may be taken on by different team members at times. The theory is useful to guide teams as it provides a structure but it must be seen as a useful guide rather than a rigid set of rules.

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Group project: Digital Skies

April 6, 2017

For this project you are required to create a single artwork as a member of a team – a large-scale group canvas. Each individual team member will research and generate their own images which will be combined by the team into a final composite image for exhibition in Cape Able Gallery. The exhibition will open in late May on a date to be announced.

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Digital Skies: Art and Utopian Thought

For the opening of the exhibition each group give a short talk to present their work, and discuss the experience of working in a team, virtually, collaboratively. This will be followed by a crit.

Each participant must also describe the progress of the project in a weekly blog post with particular emphasis on their contribution to the project. (What are you bringing to the group and how does it fit into the team’s work?) Discuss the details of the project and also the issues that arise in working collaboratively online. How easy is it meet up virtually and plan the project? What difficulties arise in development? How easy or difficult is communication? What particular problems arise and how do you deal with them? Focus on the experience rather than writing a ‘correct’ post or having an answer for every difficulty.

See page 6 Module assessment for assessment criteria applying to this project.

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Class 9: Assessment

April 5, 2017

Glenn and John took the class through the requirements for assessment, which is divided into two parts. Firstly, the group project and secondly, the individual blogs.

Firstly, each participant will be producing a series of digital paintings as part of their main module. For the SL module you will produce a large-scale group canvas (in the groups given in week 3). We are asking you to collaborate on a canvas to give you the experience of working on an online collaborative project. You will bring the finished canvas into SL for a group crit and exhibition.

The exhibition will take place in Cape Able Gallery on Virtual Ability Island in May (provisional dates are 17 or 24 May). A team from the class (burnsygirl, freddymcfreddy and whatyamacallit) will coordinate the exhibition with the curator of the gallery and will also invite residents of Virtual Ability Island to take part.  Part of your learning in this module is figuring out how to work virtually with people you have never met in RL.

Each group will give a short talk to present their work and discuss the experience of working in a team, virtually, collaboratively. This will be followed by a crit.

There will be a dry-run in DIT on 26 April. You will show your work in progress more to get a feel for exhibiting in SL than anything else. John suggested that you should review the module website to see how past student groups have presented their work.

Secondly, you will be assessed individually on your blogs. You need to ensure that you have made the five mandatory posts as described in the ‘Things to do before next class’ section of each class summary. Following that you should have at least five more posts describing your engagement in the group project.

Finally, 50% of the marks for this module go on the group project and 50% go on the individual blogs. For full details see page 6 module assessment.

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