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Class 1: Welcome

September 27, 2018
First meeting of semester one class 2018/9

A collection of angels, a horse, werewolf, witch, unicorn, vampire, some warriors and normals gather for the first class of the semester.

 

With almost 30 participants turning up for the first class this semester looks like being the busiest yet (for John, at any rate!). Everyone arrived in good time and ready to engage. Despite the fact that nobody identified as gamers all appeared comfortable and relaxed in the virtual environment.

We started with some basic housekeeping as John identified each participant and linked your avatars with your student identities. One interesting thing that emerged was the anonymity of participants – many of you chose avatar names that are different from your real names and want to retain that anonymity. John agreed not to reveal real names unless you agree in advance! We will use avatar names throughout the semester. We all ‘friended’ (is that really a word?) each other so we can keep in contact and you can see who else from our class is logged in to SL at any time. It also allows you to send private instant messages (IM) to each other, even when you are in different locations in SL – very useful if you cannot find the DIT campus or get lost somewhere in SL.

John will add everyone to the DIT Module group over the next few days. You should remember to activate this group when joining the class on Wednesdays: think of it as your virtual student card. It gives you special privileges in virtual DIT (more on that in later classes) and facilitates closed group conversations.

We discussed the most suitable social media platform to facilitate conversations outside SL. It seems to come down to two choices: WhatsApp or Facebook. A quick poll suggested Facebook as the favourite but we agreed to think about it over the week and make decision in the next class. Recent classes have set up a private Facebook page – it is useful for asking questions about the module, sending notifications about changes in meeting times, for John to post links to these class summaries etc. Perhaps a volunteer will come forward to set up the page?

John explained that class time will be discursive and interactive during the semester. Reading material will be set in advance to inform the discussion so please ensure you make time to review it, starting with the link below; read before next week’s class! Please engage in the class discussion, either by voice or text chat: the more you do so the more you will learn. You will also need to spend some time in SL between classes to complete tasks and activities. Specific activities will be set for the first few classes to get you started.

Each of you will need to create a blog in your avatar’s name. You will be expected to post to it at least once per week for the duration of the semester. Once again, you will be given specific topics for the first few weeks to get you started. If you keep this habit and post weekly you will avoid the burden of having to write a complete paper at the end of the module. John also explained that you will divided randomly into groups next week to work on a project which will be presented at the final class of the semester. You are encouraged to read through the pages listed in the right hand column of this website to get full details of the project, see examples of previous student blogs and get an idea of what to expect in the rest of the course.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Explore: SL with some colleagues from the class. Visit at least 3 different locations. Find them in search or ask other residents for recommendations, or simply select places at random.
  2. Read: How to Write a Blog People Want to Read by Susan Gunelius in Lifewire, 23 June 2018.
  3. Set up your blog: using bloggerwordpresstumblr or any other blog site. Complete the ‘About Me’ page (read some of those pages on other blogs first) and remember it is different from the first post on your blog. Write from the perspective of your avatar: the persona you will be using to explore in this module. Send a link to your blog to John by email or post it in the FaceBook group.
  4. Write the first post: to your blog reviewing the locations you visited. Describe the places and include photos, if you can. Explain what you liked and disliked about the locations and describe any interaction you might have had.
  5. Visit the following: Dolce Merda, Brain PickingsIllustration Friday, Chris Brogan. Think about how you would identify these blog authors…what impression do you get of the person behind the blog?
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Autumn semester 2018

September 27, 2018

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

The first class meeting will be on Wednesday 27th September at 8:00 pm. We meet online every week at DIT 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 DIT 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.

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Class 8: Content creation

November 29, 2017

Class began with a discussion around reputation, and in particular, reputational damage, arising from the texts given for reading last week. We started by considering the difficulty in conveying subtlety in the online environment where text alone makes things like humour, emotion and empathy difficult to create. Emojis, CAPS, bold and italic can only go so far! In addition, we have to be careful of auto-correct, reply-all and the plethora of time-saving options that can cause untold problems if triggered accidentally. The examples discussed show that while our digital history coming back to haunt us may seem unfair, it is a very real phenomenon.

This led on to a discussion about creating and generating ‘content’. Content was described as anything we make: text, image, illustration, photograph, graph, chart, music, recorded speech, etc. Ascribing value to this content is not a science but an art. The beauty of the web is that its scope and span means there is nearly always someone somewhere who will value the most obscure content.

However, copyright is an issue. It was somewhat simpler to protect copyright when the means of copying required skill, access to tools, time and funding. Now, digital copying is instantaneous and simple. It is becoming more difficult to protect our work.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Write the sixth post: to your blog describing the final preparations for the presentation of your project. Concentrate particulary on your own contribution and how it aligns with that of your fellow team members.
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A word about copyright

November 26, 2017
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Copyright law can be complex in today’s world but the concept originated in 6th Century Ireland when books were created from vellum.

Some of you have been asking about copyright, in the context of using images for your projects. Copyright is an automatic right and it means that anybody who creates an image or a text that can be copied is the automatic owner of the right to copy that creation. Therefore, if you want to copy something created by somebody else you need their permission first.
Nevertheless, some people are happy to allow others the use of their work, in fact they may want wide exposure and so encourage the use of their creations, so long as the user doesn’t earn any money for it. You may have seen such work listed as Creative Commons – this blog is covered by Creative Commons for example. In addition, many copyright owners do not mind if their work is used in an educational context by students, so long as it is not for profit, or wide circulation.
Copyright provides limited protection because it is not enforced by the state. Any individual who believes their copyright has been infringed has to take a private case to court and prove it – this can be costly and risky.
However, copyright runs out in time. Once an image or text is out of copyright anybody may use it freely.
Copyright originated in Ireland in the 6th Century when a dispute about the ownership of a copied vellum (calfskin) manuscript led to the judgement that ‘To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs the copy.’ You can read more about copyright in the wikipedia History of copyright law. For more on copyright law see wikipedia on Copyright.
So, the best guidance is that if you use images from the web be careful that you are not using copyright images unless absolutely necessary. There are many images to choose from that are free of copyright. Also, it is always a good idea to credit anybody else’s work so you cannot be accused of passing it off as your own.
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Class 7: Personal branding

November 22, 2017

John was unable to get his voice working this week so the class had to be conducted entirely through text chat. This slows the conversation down considerably and forces everyone to be more precise in what they say, using the minimum amount of words – a little like conducting a class entirely in twitter.

We started off with some feedback on the participants blogs. John gave the following pointers:

  • Include your About Me profile in your blog.
  • Make sure it is easy to follow your blog – approach it as a first time visitor.
  • Tidy up your blogs – delete the template pages and widgets.
  • Caption your pics and illustrations.
  • Include references to the reading and cite them correctly.
  • Be reflective – discuss what you are learning (or not learning!)
  • Proof read before you post.
  • Make sure you approve any comments. Comment on your peers’ blogs.
  • Some of you need to ensure your have written all the required posts – don’t be a mean writer!

These comments will be supplemented by more specific comments for each student that will be sent by direct message in Facebook.

John also reminded the class that one blog post per class is the minimum requirement for assessment. From now on you should be writing about how your team is functioning on the group project. Refer to the talk on team work by Sitearm Madonna and describe you own contribution to the group in particular. Be constructively critical and remember this is a learning exercise not an exercise in perfection. In fact, you are likely to learn more from what goes wrong than what goes right.

We then discussed the reading from the last week in the context of our own online personas. The issue of ethics and morality surfaced almost immediately. Identity theft, catfishing (using social media to pretend you are someone you are not), trust and gender were discussed in similar terms to the issue of privacy, transparency and opacity last week. Glenn suggested there is no essential self to find… much in the way that it is not possible to have true transparency. But, he went on to suggest that trust is very important. We considered how difficult it can be to build trust yet how easy it is to shatter it. barrrttyy suggested that developing a personal brand might be important when we consider it may last longer than a single job or career.

John asked everyone to consider the difference between our personal identities and our professional ones in the online environment. Do we always distinguish between the two? Should we? How might we do so? This is where the importance of digital literacy becomes clear. We need to be aware of our online behaviours to ensure our current behaviour doesn’t exclude us from future opportunities.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: about the girl who resigned her position as UK police youth commissioner in 2013 due to previous tweets. [Accessed on 27 November 2017.]
  2. Read: about another example of person losing their job over a racist tweet. [Accessed on 27 November 2017.]
  3. Read: User Generated Content and Virtual Worlds  from the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, 2008. [Accessed on 27 November 2017.]
  4. Write the fifth post: to your blog about how you might convert your personal presence online into an identity for professional networking.
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Class 6: Opacity

November 15, 2017

We don’t often see class participants on horseback at DIT…

 

Following on from last week’s discussion about the project Glenn introduced one of the text‘s from the reading list. Édouard Glissant is a poet from Martinique, a small island in the Caribbean, who in the late 20th Century formulated a demand for the right to opacity – ‘We clamour for the right to opacity for everyone’. He was writing from the context of a small island community where residents’ privacy is often violated – a perspective that will resonate with the Visual Arts participants from Sherkin Island. In addition, Martinique is a former French colony and Glissant is acutely aware of the post-colonial discourse. However, his thoughts are finding a new audience with the rise of social media and its implicit demand for transparency. Glissant suggests that the process of ‘understanding’ people from the perspective of Western thought is based on the requirement for transparency. Of course, total transparency is not possible and, according to Glissant, not even desirable. Difference must be recognised and opacity acknowledged. The opaque is not the obscure though, it is that which cannot be reduced.

This apparent conflict between transparency and opacity is also explored in the TEDx talk by Tranberg and the film by Krotoski also.

This led to a very lively debate with a range of views expressed and many concerns about the quantity and nature of data gathering by social media corporations such as Facebook, Google, YouTube among others.  We talked about how easily we gave away our rights in exchange for the convenience of using online apps, frequently without even reading the terms and conditions before ticking the box. We need to be careful because if something appears to be free then it generally means we are the product.

Glenn referred to a symposium After the Future…of Work and a presentation by his colleague Conor McGarrigle in which he explores how we are training our own AI (artificial intelligence) replacements in the workplace by using digital applications.

We also touched on the generational difference in response to these issues; the notion of data in a ‘cloud’ whereas in reality it is stored in very grounded physical locations; the range of legislative jurisdictions versus the ubiquitous internet and the impact on governance and oversight; the use of anonymised big data versus data on specific individuals.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: Digital Identity Development is a Process. [Accessed 17 November 2017.]
  2. Read: Syrian lesbian blogger is revealed conclusively to be a married man. [Accessed 17 November 2017.]
  3. Read: Your Employee Is an Online Celebrity. Now What Do You Do? a Wall Street Journal article about employees developing their personal brand and implications for their employer. [Accessed 17 November 2017.]
  4. Look at: the infographic Personal Branding: 10 Steps to a New Professional You. [Accessed 17 November 2017.]
  5. Write the fourth post: to your blog describing your contribution to bringing the group project team together.
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Class 5: The group project

November 8, 2017

Glenn and John started the class by thanking you all for your attendance on Thursday last week and apologising for the change in schedule to those who were unable to make it. Then Locks Aichi joined us for a discussion about the brief for the group project #MeToo.

We started by asking you to reflect on last week’s discussion about Marshall McLuhan which had strong contributions from class members as everyone had read the assigned texts. This was informative in the context of the project so John asked for feedback on what the class felt was expected of them for the project. As you were a little shy to contribute at first we asked for thoughts on what the title #MeToo might mean.

Some of the points raised were that it was easier to engage in this debate online as you only needed the hashtag; and how the medium made a difference in a single month when the issue had been raised originally many years earlier, prior to the coming of online social media. It was pointed out that the anonymity of the internet gives a certain level of comfort to speak up on issues where people might usually have been less ready to speak out. It also can be easier to type than to speak and many are more comfortable about coming forward that way: the greater the momentum the greater the impact. There was a sense that the internet supports greater transparency while at the same time results in greater opacity.

For some of you the hashtag aroused different feelings – #MeToo raises the question of the difference between harassment and assault and whether the use of the hashtag, as part of disclosures of both, conflate the issues unhelpfully. The use of the hashtag was also identified to have removed the taboo around talking about this. Strikingly, Uma Thurman demonstrates a particularly sophisticated understanding of the medium when she responds about standing with those who are affected but not being ready to give a ‘tidy soundbite’. Clearly, she is aware of the permanence of whatever might be said and is not prepared to respond in anger. The impact of the medium is becoming obvious and is a cause for concern when people are ‘tried’ by the masses rather than an objective process. The danger of the bandwagon effect also becomes obvious.

So in considering all this, where is the accountability…? The court system supports due process; the tradition of mass media is only to publish articles when facts have been verified. Whether or not we see this being adhered to there is, at least, an agreed process. The question now is where are the checks and balances on the web? The legal profession struggles to address the age of social media…. the question of who is responsible for defamatory remarks on social media is constantly evolving. As the discussion reached this critical point Glenn referenced the movie Circle (2015) which considered this issue.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. View: Fake It – to control your digital identity. In a 2013 TEDx Oxford presentation Danish journalist Pernille Tranberg, who wrote the book Fake It – Your Guide to Digital Self-defense with the German journalist Steffan Heuer, explains what happens with your data, what it can cost you now and in years to come. [Accessed 12 November 2017.]
  2. View: The Power of Privacy. In this 2016 film by The Guardian, Aleks Krotoski travels the world to undergo challenges that explore our digital life in the 21st century. Watch her be stalked and hacked, fight to get leaked documents back, dive into open data and live in a futuristic home that monitors her every move. [Accessed 12 November 2017.]
  3. Read: Who’s watching me on the internet? Technology Correspondent for the BBC, Rory Cellan-Jones writes about our digital footprint and explains data trails in iWonder 2016. [Accessed 12 November 2017.]
  4. Read: Poetics of Relation (1997) by the philosopher Édouard Glissant. He argues against the ‘obviousness of a transparency’ from a post colonialist perspective but it seems to resonate with the discussion in class. Or, you can read a summary of the argument here. [Accessed 12 November 2017.]
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