h1

Class 2: Blogging to the world

February 14, 2019

This week’s class started with John asking if anyone had visited SL since the last class to complete the assignment. Everyone said they had done so. Then you were reminded that you should send a link to your blog to John. Remember that the first assessment takes place after Class 4 and counts for 20% of your final mark so it is worth getting your posts written on a weekly basis.

We continued by talking about writing to your blog. John explained that regular posting will help your confidence in writing and at the conclusion of the module you should have experience of writing in an accountable manner. We discussed the different voices available: descriptive, narrative, reflective, critical and analytical; along with the importance of references and citing from the module reading lists. Finally, the importance of proof-reading before publishing was emphasised.

Then John asked if some of you would present your bios (About me pages from your blogs) just to get some experience expressing yourselves with voice in SL. Aestheticant volunteered and after sharing a considered bio told us she would be updating it for next week. Nobody else had a bio prepared so it was agreed that you would be ready for next week.

After that we all left the classroom and moved out to the garden to talk about the practicalities of work in on online environment. You agreed that while avatars gave some animation and life to our engagement they fall far short of providing the kind of cues we are used to in Real Life. The ability to read body language is completely missing, as is the subtlety of mood changes and loss of attention. Therefore it is very important to make up for this by presenting cues explicitly. The use of emojis and emoticons arose in response to this realisation. In SL we have already seen that giving regular feedback is necessary. The point to remember is that any virtual space is much less conducive to accurate communication than Real Life so we need to make a conscious effort to address the shortcoming. Each environment will have its own conventions and etiquette and we need to be aware of the importance of learning these and abiding by them.

h1

Class 1: Welcome to SL

February 8, 2019

A new year, a new university and a new class group.

Everyone gathered promptly at 8:00 pm in TU Dublin’s SL campus for the first class of 2019. All students were set up with their shiny new avatars, voices activated and ready to learn – a really great start to the module!

We started off by making friends with each other. This enables us to see if class members are online in SL and to communicate by text when someone is in a different location in SL. John also invited you to join the module group so you are registered as module participants. This will allow you to access the classroom building and also supports notifications and other group communication. John also confirmed everyone’s SL name and matched it to your Real Life (RL) name and student number.

Then we all trooped out to the balcony to stretch our legs (well, our avatars’ legs) and took the class photo. This demonstrated that you all have a high level of avatar dexterity – you would be surprised how difficult it can be to get avatars to post for a photo!

When we settled back into class John talked about the format of the module. Class time is for discussion and, to prepare for that, you will need to read the assigned texts (or view the videos) in advance. This will ensure the discussion is informed and reflective. You will also need to plan for visiting SL between classes to complete the assignments and, after class 4, work on the Team Project.

While we didn’t discuss online etiquette explicitly you were all very good at giving confirmation of your presence, for instance, typing ‘Y’ when asked if you understood what was being said. Avatars do not do body language very well so positive reinforcement is something you need to be aware of constantly. One of the easiest and most immediate ways of providing feedback is through text messages in ‘local chat’. For example, you can type ‘Acuppa Tae nods in agreement’ or ‘coldtoesies has a puzzled look on her face’. This approach supports the discursive nature of the class and ensures everyone remains engaged.

The new Virtual Learning Environment at TU Dublin, Brightspace, is being piloted for this module so John asked for feedback on how it is working – feel free to be as critical as you need to be. Review the section for the next class well in advance to familiarise yourself with the content. Use the short quizzes to check if you understand the topic and don’t forget to do the assignments set after each class meeting.

Finally, John reminded you that while these class summaries are useful they do not replace class attendance!

h1

Spring semester 2019

January 31, 2019

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

The first class meeting will be on Thursday 7th September at 8:00 pm. We meet online every week at TU Dublin in Second Life. Please note: you will need a Mac or PC desktop or laptop to access SL – you cannot do so with a mobile device. If you are new to Second Life, known as SL, then start by reading Getting into Second Life to find out how to access the class. You should then visit SL and find the TU Dublin campus, learn how to get around the virtual world and familiarise yourself with the environment and how to control your avatar. This 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.

h1

Class 11: Project presentations

December 13, 2018

Locks Aichi joined the class for the presentations by each team this week. A variety of approaches was taken including YouTube videos, Google Slide show to illustrate presentations in the classroom and finally, a visit to another location in SL which did not turn out as expected. The group gave us a link to a shopping centre to open their talk with a demonstration. Unfortunately, the owner was online when all thirty of us teleported there simultaneously and she assumed it was a griefing attack! After some serious confusion and much swearing on her part we returned to DIT. An explanation was sent to the shopkeeper by IM and the incident was concluded without any further rancour. It provided an excellent learning opportunity for the final meeting of our group – always ask permission before visiting someone else’s virtual space with a group – much as you would in Real Life. To be fair to the student team it had visited the location during the week and found it deserted and quite reasonably expected the same for our visit.

All teams presented with confidence and obvious preparation. Some presentations seemed more of a team delivery while others came across as a collection of individuals’ ideas but in each case the content was considered, coherent and relevant. Following the presentation each team answered a few questions from John and Locks and explained what tools they used to facilitate their group work.

THINGS TO DO TO COMPLETE YOUR ASSIGNMENT:

  1. Write the tenth post: to your blog reflecting on your team project presentation.

Blue team: PSS12, sarahmurph, RahaJamal, mclmichelle, LukeBob75 and EvoCall.

Green team: LouHug, haithanhnguyen, EmKoz1, NadsCore18, ShaunaHarkin and RoseDuong.

Red team: bennagle, ollyrobyn, Ruifeng Wang, clionabray, PeterKeane and hughkavanagh.

Mauve team: CiaraHoward, OPrincess, zoeobyrne, J98Carey, Assesi and marevatin.

Yellow team: Muriel001, JonathanBK, Whimseyy, maeveobrienny, JeromeZZC and Cmragasa.

h1

Class 10: Preparing your presentation

December 6, 2018

Uploading images to Second Life

This week we looked at how you might present your projects in next week’s class. John suggested that you may do this in the classroom in SL simply through voice, with each team member delivering part of the presentation in order; or you could do it in any other location you choose in SL (but be careful to ensure voice works – it can be shut off in some locations); you could include slides to illustrate the presentation; you might create a video in YouTube or Vimeo and give us a link on which to view it next week; you might act out the presentation in SL; or decide on any other approach that you think gets your message across.

We looked at importing images into SL to use on slides. Firstly, you need to ensure you have selected the module group. This gives you permission to build in the classroom. We created slide boards. Then John gave some of you L$200 so you could import images. Don’t worry, this is worth less than US$1! It costs L$10 to import an image which can then be dragged from your inventory folder to the presentation board, as required. We tried this out a few times to make sure everyone could do it. You were asked not to litter the room with too many boards and to clean up after you are finished.

If anyone else needs some L$ to import images just let John know via the Facebook page. And, indeed, if you have any other questions about the presentation ask them on Facebook too – that way everyone will benefit from the answer.

We agreed on the following order for the presentations:

Red Group; Green Group; Blue Group; Mauve Group; Yellow Group

Each group has between five and ten minutes, so including set up time and allowing for the inevitable glitches, it would be wise to allow some extra time for class next week – we might run on until 9.30 pm.

John reminded you all that you will be required to write two more posts to your blog. One this week describing your final preparations for the presentation and the final one after the presentation, describing how it went and your final reflections on the project.

Some participants have not yet submitted a link to their blogs. If your blog is not listed here it means I have not seen it and will be unable to assess it so send me your link immediately.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Write the ninth post: to your blog describing your final preparations for the group project presentation.
h1

Class 9: Walking away…?

November 29, 2018

Ursula K Le Guin, author of The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas, 1973. Photograph by Benjamin Reed in 2008 from the obituary by Margaret Atwood in the Guardian 24 January 2018.

 

Glenn Loughran, lecturer in Fine Art and Programme Chair of the BA in Visual Art on Sherkin Island joined us this week. He took us through Ursula K Le Guin’s short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas in a way that gradually revealed the rich ideas contained in the story. Glenn suggested that there are many questions to work through in the text but began by asking for  reflections on the first part of the story and the sense of the world presented by Le Guin. What is the atmosphere, the underlying theory presented? It was agreed that it is a happy and peaceful world; it feels like a fairytale and has an old-fashioned quality. The community lives a simple life but could have technology if it wanted to – it seems to have consciously rejected that option. Did anything in the description give a sense that it is too good to be true? What is the philosophy of the community? Glenn suggested that it could be seen as an expression of Utilitarianism described by 18th Century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham and developed in the 19th Century by John Stuart Mill.

The relationship between the narrator and the text in the story is not fixed, with the narrator seeming to slip in and out of the story. This literary technique keeps the timeframe ambiguous: it could be past, present or future while also not revealing who the narrator is. It even sets up an ambiguity about who the reader might be. Why does the narrator say that the people are happy but also sophisticated? They are not banal but complex human beings living in a highly-developed society. Some of you felt that Omelas is a fake perfect world because it is one-dimensional but it was agreed that it is a society that has determined its own way of being.

Then Glenn asked what the turning point of the story is, suggesting that the community is conditioned by something. It took a while to arrive at the conclusion that the introduction of The Child turned the utopia into a dystopia. The child is kept in a degraded way and its situation never changes. Most importantly, everyone in Omelas is aware of the child’s existence. This is the condition on which the perfect society is founded. While everyone is shocked initially they eventually come to accept the condition. Why do they accept it? The Deal.

The moral dilemma at the heart of the text is how the community resolves the condition of the child on which its comfort is based. If we review this element of the story as an analogy to the world in which we live today the child becomes, for example, the slave labour that produces the commodities we use daily. They are frequently manufactured in conditions of oppression and dejection by what Marx described as alienated labour.

Are we aware of this? Do we know? Should we know?

On another level the analogy may be read as the dominance of one country over another or one continent over another – the Western World over Africa, for instance.

In conclusion, is it wrong to walk away? Many of you felt it is wrong and suggested it is refusing to take responsibility. The story makes you ask yourself if you would stay or walk away. It is not an easy decision. Nor is is easy to consider the consequences of either action.

Returning to the opening question of the text – can we escape technology? Again, many of you felt we are too used to it and would be reluctant to give it up. But, you did go on the demonstrate an awareness the impact of digital technology and, indeed, are taking action to limit your engagement. You talked of taking deliberate breaks from your phones, closing down computers so that you can read undisturbed and free from distraction, and you spoke of being aware of the influence of technology over your emotional state.

Glenn explained that many digital devices have inattentiveness built in. They are designed for a certain kind of hyper-attention which is why they can be difficult to turn them off. He referred to Stiegler (who we met in class 4) and his proposition that technology is both a poison and a cure, describing it as a pharmakon. The point is that technology is inherently neither positive or negative: we negotiate this position on an ongoing basis through our choices on when to engage and disengage.

After thanking Glenn for leading a very stimulating discussion and complimenting you all for engaging so thoroughly John suggested that it would help inform your preparation for the project. There were some questions about how the project might be presented. It is entirely your own choice. You may have your avatars present verbally, as we do in class; or through a written text; you may take us all to any other location in SL or use the classroom; you can direct us to a slideshare webpage or even produce a YouTube video. It is also possible to bring images into SL to support your presentation. It was agreed that we will devote next week’s class to discussing your options and describing how to achieve some of the effects you might want to try out.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: the summary of last year’s class discussion on this story and some insightful analysis by Mook Wheeler.
  2. Work: on the presentation for your Group Project.
  3. Write the eighth post: to your blog describing your final plans and preparations.

ADDITIONAL READING:

  1. For some context on Karl Marx’s theory of alienated labour read Anatomy of an AI System, by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler. Their essay uses the Amazon Echo to describe an anatomical map of human labour, data and planetary resources [accessed on 29/11/18].
  2. To read more on the effect on attention by digital devices see Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes by N. Catherine Hayles in 2007 [accessed on 29/11/18].
  3. Relational Ecology and the Digital Pharmakon, 2012, by Bernard Stiegler is a good introduction to the author’s ideas.
h1

Class 8: Content and the Produser

November 22, 2018

One of the links to the reading material for the week was broken so John gave the class some time to catch up before getting into the discussion around content creation and the concept of ‘produsage’ proposed by Prof Axel Bruns.

We spoke of the changes brought about by the migration from the print medium to digital. One of the principal outcomes is the shift from mediated content, where ‘gatekeepers’ such as newspaper editors, publishers and so on, commissioned and controlled the flow of information to the public. Digital media has eliminated this necessity – authors are now free to connect directly with their readers and viewers through blogs, YouTube and even sites like Wikipedia where the public is invited to edit contributions. As a result, consumers of news and information are required to be their own editors. We need to be more discriminating in our consumption, unable to rely on the frame of reference that was previously provided by knowing the perspective of the newspaper we read, for instance.

Bruns’ proposal is that the web has facilitated the rise of new types of collaborative communities that require a new word to describe their activities:

Produsers engage not in a traditional form of content production, but are instead involved in produsage – the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement. –produsage.org

John suggested that your own blogs are another example of content creation. The ubiquity of the internet supports the niche interests in a way that mass media publishing never could. The extremely low cost base means that anyone with access to the web can share their interest with like-minded individuals and develop a community.

Finally, I referred to the question of value. Does all content have value? How can content developers monetise their material? How can you protect it? For more on copyright read the post from this time last year A Word about copyright.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: the short story The Ones who walk away from Omelas by Ursula K Le Guin, 1973 [accessed on 24/11/18].
%d bloggers like this: