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Class 6: My Avatar and Me – virtual identities

March 12, 2020

Discussing self and identity is more complex than it seems!

Very few of you had reviewed the reading/viewing material before coming to class this week so, John asked you do so before we began a discussion. It is pointless trying to have any discussion without some prior exposure to the concepts presented by Daniel Dennett and David Chalmers. This is quite challenging territory so we all need to start off from the same point of departure.

Although this took up a considerable amount of class time it was necessary.

Locks Aichi sent apologies and regrets that due to work commitments she was unable to join us as guest speaker this evening. However, she had done considerable preparation and sent notes to John to guide the discussion.

We started by remembering Sitearm’s introduction to the concept of ‘persona’ in class 3. John then asked everyone to answer the question ‘who are you?’ in the context of the two presentations, ‘how do you describe your self?’ The questions were more difficult to respond to than we might have thought but the following emerged after some prompting:

  • 20 year old male
  • student
  • a mind in a body
  • outgoing, extrovert
  • introvert
  • fair
  • fun
  • cheerful
  • honest
  • concerned
  • considerate
  • careful
  • curious
  • creative
  • musical
  • visual
  • aspiring (to greatness)
  • positive

Sitearm asked you about your skills, do they contribute to who you are? John wondered what impression you would like to give to someone you are meeting for the first time. How would you like them to describe you?

  • inventive
  • swimmer
  • process (eg, design process)
  • kind
  • good humoured
  • charming
  • open and approachable

Then John asked if you consider these descriptions to be real, or are they illusions? So, what makes your self real? You suggested that it is social interaction, how others reflect you back to yourself. One of you put it as ‘I am what other people think of me’. This led to the proposition that while we are one person we have many different layers. John asked if there is a core ‘you’ an unchanging sense of your self underneath all the layers? The response was that you have some core qualities that are more stable than others and that might change much more slowly than others.

You spoke of how your presentation of your selves is somewhat determined by the social situation. For example, your persona at home with your family is very different from your persona when out with friends.

Another interesting comment from one of you was that you don’t sit down and have a conversation with yourself.

Ultimately, it seems difficult to grasp exactly what our ‘real’ self might be. John suggested that the notion of an unchanging ‘you’ that lies at your core is what we tend to think of as our ‘self’ whereas the manner in which we present in different social situations is seen as a range of ‘identities’ that we can assume depending on the situation.

This led on to a discussion about social media and how we might present ourselves there. Do online environments give a greater opportunity for controlling our identities? Or does it simply result in a more detailed digital footprint that you leave behind? Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Facebook and LinkedIn we mentioned as the main apps used. Some of you use aliases when using them, just as we do here in SL. Your use of the apps reflected your earlier references to different identities.

Sitearm asked an interesting question about how your use of social media might also change over time. For example, if you were using social media before college have you felt the need to change your profile since leaving school? or do you anticipate having to change again when you enter the workplace? John wondered if you had heard of the phrase ‘the internet never forgets’? Are you aware of the nature of ‘digital footprints’?

This led the discussion to the difference between your personal identities and your professional identities. How do you present your professional skills in the digital online environment? John suggested that you need to take control of your social media – it is too important to simply allow your image to develop randomly. So, activities such as blogging can support the development of your ‘personal brand’. Your social media profile is an opportunity to demonstrate your professional attributes.

Before we concluded Sitearm asked for a quick ‘likes and wishes’ reaction to the class. The ‘likes’ included the opportunity to dig deeper into the topic; support for developing professional profiles; shared examples of our ideas on personality and identity; open conversation with no right or wrong answers; Sitearm appreciated how the everyone participated and shared their experiences. The ‘wishes’ included viewing the reading/viewing material in advance of class; and also doing the reading together during class!

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Class 5: From Hammer to Pixel

March 5, 2020

Prof Dudley Turner (aka Dudley Dreamscape) from University of Akron and Dr Glenn Loughran (aka Feilimy) of TU Dublin presented this weeks class.

John was unavailable this week and so guest speakers Prof Dudley Turner (University of Akron) and Dr Glenn Loughran (TU Dublin) led the discussion. Dudley introduced the key concepts of late 20th Century thinker Marshall McLuhan which led on to Glenn’s insight into some of the issues around digital reading. Glenn provided a text The Importance of Deep Reading in advance of the class to support the discussion.

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Team Project – Future Direction

February 27, 2020

How much distance do we need to form an objective opinion? Photo by Tyler van der Hoeven on Unsplash.

As you prepare to leave college with your degree the prospect of seeking a fulfilling career will become increasingly important. Much is being written now about the changing nature of work. As long ago as 2012 Forbes suggested that Job Hopping is the New Normal for Millennials. But, the Guardian newspaper reported that the trade unions in Britain are concerned about the abuses of the gig economy suggesting it results in lower wages. TUC wants clampdown on ‘poverty pay’ in gig economy revealed that almost half of adults aged 25 or over were earning less than the minimum wage.

The World Economic Forum report on The Future of Jobs 2018 provides a comprehensive analysis of trends on an industry-specific and country-specific basis. In the section on Strategic Drivers of New Business Models it concludes that the unfolding of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is resulting in a variety of new and emerging jobs while the more traditional job roles are declining. But, there is some good news for you as the Economist reported in 2016 that people working in creative fields are less susceptible to automation in Automation and Anxiety.

Taking a more holistic perspective raises deeper concerns for the future of not just work, but the entire ecosystem of society. French philosopher Bernard Stiegler suggests that the world is heading rapidly towards a dead end thanks to the consumerist model. Speaking in London in 2018 he argued that a radically new approach to shaping our society is required. Rather than allowing capital and technology to dictate we need to bring epistemological, technological, artistic, judicial, social and economic questions together in order to shape the future.

In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a Warning to Humanity suggesting that vast human misery would ensue if we did not change how we are impacting the planet. They ‘feared that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life.’ In 2017 the warning was updated when 15,000 scientists from around the world published World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.

This is a real challenge to you, individually and collectively, as you consider your emergence into society from college. For this project you are asked to consider how you might address the problems facing society while earning a living and living your lives. Do you accept the premise of the World Scientists? Can you see ways in which it is possible to work for a more sustainable engagement with our planet?

The Brief

Your team has been commissioned by a global firm in the communications sector to convince senior leaders that the time has come for change. The Board of the organisation has acknowledged the imminent destruction of our planet and decided that the company needs to lead the world to a new way of working. You have been briefed personally by the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer who have arranged a day-long workshop in mid-May to which all senior executives have been invited. It is intended that the outcome will be a completely new direction for the organisation that is fully sustainable and indeed, will lead the way in rejuvenating the planet and our relationship with our home.

Your task is to kickstart the session with a dynamic, exciting and informative presentation. You must inspire a group of hard-nosed executives who have been ruthlessly successful in exploiting the planet’s resources for the company’s benefit, without any consideration for the consequences, to review their behaviour and plan a new future.

You will work on this project in your groups to make your presentation in an entertaining, informative and lively manner using whatever medium and format you wish as long as it can be stored for later review (e.g. a talk, short film, narration+visuals). Each team will present live in Second Life. The presentation should be no shorter than five minutes and no longer than ten minutes. You are encouraged to use visual, audio or any other aids to support the presentation during which each member of the team must take part.

Each participant must also describe the progress of the project in a weekly blog post with particular emphasis on your own 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.

Important note: If you use images or sound be mindful of copyright, particularly as presentations will be posted to the module blog.

Presentations should be no less than 5 minutes and no more than 10 minutes in duration.

Your presentation can be made in the TU Dublin campus or any appropriate venue in Second Life selected by the group. Presentations will be delivered in the last class at the end of the semester.

For full details on the Team Project specifications and the assessment criteria see the Assessment Unit.

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Class 4: Team Project – New Direction

February 27, 2020

Before starting the class John asked if everyone had read the brief and, while some of you had, many had not. So, everyone was asked to read it now. John also asked that you read the requirements of your submission in the Assessment Unit on Brightspace to ensure you are aware of the deadline for completion, assessment criteria, along with the part of the project that will be group-assessed and the parts on which you will be assessed individually.

Once that was completed John asked for some initial reactions. Most of you agreed that while it is a difficult topic is is current and highly relevant. The main problem to contend with in addressing climate change seems to be our reluctance as humans to acknowledge the problem, to consider the changes we need to make in our own lives and to demand that those with greater influence face up to the reality and do something. We acknowledged the iron will of people like Greta Thunberg, who are unafraid of power and willing to name the issues and those responsible. You also indicated that presenting your projects to a room full of senior executives in a global corporation sounds intimidating. However, John reminded you that the two most senior people in the organisation (the chairman and the chief executive) are backing you.

John outlined your assignments for the coming week: to make contact with your group and hold the first meeting. He suggested that it might seem a simple task to complete in a week but in previous semesters many groups failed to achieve it. There was some discussion on how to make contact: do you share email addresses now? try to find each other in social media? hope to bump into teammates in RL? The logistics of arranging meetings online is somewhat different to doing so in RL. You need to ensure a common approach is understood by, and available to, all team members.

What do you do when (if) you manage to meet? John reminded you that the presentation board from Sitearm Madonna’s talk on Teamwork and Collaboration is still available in the class meeting room. Use it when you meet. Remember the stages teams go through when working on a project. Try to be aware of that when you meet so you can get the most out of your time together as a group.

Sunrise at Lauk’s Nest, the oldest complex build in SL, it dates back to 2004.

John proposed a visit to Lauk’s Nest for the final part of class. Notecards with information about the park were circulated along with landmarks and we all teleported there. Before allowing everyone off to explore John reminded you of the forthcoming deadline for submission of the Website Blog, part 1 for assessment. You must make the submission in Brightspace or John will be unable to award a mark and give you feedback.

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Class 3: Teamwork and Collaboration

February 20, 2020

Sitearm Madonna presents the theory of teamwork and collaborative working.

 

John introduced Sitearm Madonna, our guest speaker on the topic of teamwork and collaboration this week. Site began by asking each of us to jot down one experience of poor teamwork and another positive experience of teamwork for later discussion. He then pointed us in the direction of a short video to introduce the topic.

Site also provided this link to his slides.

Projects involving teams go through different stages and each stage requires different energies or has different flavours, as described in the sestet (a poem made o fix lines) displayed in the class – if you haven’t seen it make sure to visit SL and review it along with this summary.

Sitearm’s sestets give a flavour of teamwork dynamics.

 

Teamwork is like breathing: it is a process not a one time event. There are four aspects to understanding how teams function. Firstly, teams have effective members. Each of us brings some commitment and some level of competence. You can compensate for the lack of either in team mates to ensure a positive outcome. Secondly, effective teams develop in stages. Starting with the forming stage where members are getting to know each other and find their place before moving onto what can be the most difficult stage known as storming. This is where everyone is pitching ideas and working out how to proceed. Then teams usually move on the norming stage when the members are beginning to work together comfortably and settle down to performing and getting the project done.

Thirdly, effective teams use best practices. For example, using brainstorming to generate ideas and then agreeing a protocol for deciding how to progress: majority vote, consensus or some other way. You will find that you move back and forth between brainstorming and deciding until the project begins to take shape. When you meet in your teams get into the habit of briefing yourselves. Ask questions like: what are we going to do in this meeting? Then do it. At the end of the meeting leave some time for debriefing: record any decisions made or what happened. Also ask each to member to say what they liked about the meeting and what they wished had happened. This helps your team meetings to become more efficient, effective and enjoyable.

Finally, effective teams share roles: research shows that there are nine key roles for highest performance and success in teamwork. As many teams don’t have nine members it is often necessary for people to take on more than one role. Each of us has a natural affinity to some roles but you can practice taking on new roles also. The disadvantage of this is the discomfort as you move into unfamiliar territory and the extra work involved but the advantage is seen in performance and success on both the personal and team levels.

Collaboration is a technology – proven and time tested with a vast number of academic papers describing the process. Think of it like that and you will find it less daunting.

Always remember to practice your presentation before the final deadline, have backups and expect catastrophe. Prepare for it and you will be successful no matter what happens. Ease the typical headaches of teamwork, whether you are a member or leader, by trying to discover what you can rely on from yourself and others on your team.

We then revisited the experiences Sitearm asked us to jot down at the beginning of the class to compare them against the theory outlined in the talk. This helped to root the theory in practice.

In closing, Sitearm introduced Persona theory. The concept originated in ancient Greek theatre where the actors wore wooden masks with a hole for speaking through. Humans develop multiple personas during our lifetimes – tailored for multiple purposes and taken on in different social situations. An awareness of persona increases your competence in moving from one role on a team to another as necessary.

Finally, John posted the team members for the Team Project. In the next class we will consider the brief for the project and answer any questions you have about working on it for the rest of the semester.

For the rest of the semester you will be working in the following teams.

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Class 2: Blogging to the World

February 13, 2020

The second class of the semester gets underway as everyone settles down.

We had a few more students join us this week and John arranged for them to join the module group after class. But he began the class by showing the blogs set up by three of you so far and reminding everyone to read the assessment criteria for the assignment. You will see that it is a requirement to write a post every week. On the one hand this is to ensure that you don’t have a big demand on your time at the end of the semester but, more importantly, to ensure you have time and space to reflect on your learning and progress continuously during the semester. Everyone who hasn’t already done so must submit a link to their blog this week (email it to John). The links will be posted here on the module website so that you can all see each others blogs, and even post comments to them.

John suggested that you probably don’t make a habit of reading blogs… When the module first started, over ten years ago, blogs were very much in fashion and many students were already avid bloggers. You confirmed that this is no longer the case. You more commonly use Instagram or, perhaps, twitter and occasionally, YouTube. However, you did not think changing the assessment element to a vlog would be a good move – preferring to remain with the traditional written blog.

During the discussion it was clear that many of you are not preparing for the class in Brightspace. You are not reviewing the Reading List, looking at the topics given in advance of the class discussion or availing of the Quiz. John reminded you that this is an essential part of the module. The in-class discussion must be informed by the reading or you will simply be sharing uninformed and relatively valueless opinions. The reading and viewing material has been specifically selected for accessibility and to be varied so it is not asking too much that you engage with it each week.

When asked if you had seen the class summary for last week many of you seemed unaware of this module website so John shared the link again. He reiterated that this resource is at your disposal and you should use it. It is particularly useful if, as in some cases, you crash out of SL during class, or your mic fails for a while and you end up missing some of the discussion: you can review the class content in these weekly summaries and catch up on the detail.

When writing your blog posts remember to adhere to academic writing standards and protocols that you are expected to apply in your critical theory classes. Use all forms of writing: narrative, descriptive, reflective and critical. Refer to the reading and viewing material from the module reading list and cite it correctly. The additional reading list this week gives links to manuals describing how to do this and will be useful resources for you to refer back to over the course of the semester.

We also spoke about the conventions and etiquette that you need to be aware of when working virtually. When you join a new group, whether in work or socially, you take time to see how people behave. The same thing applies when it comes to online working. Here in SL I have already suggested that you need to provide feedback to me to confirm that you understand what I am saying: typing a ‘y’ into the nearby chat window for instance. This also reassures me that you haven’t gone off to make a cup of tea and it replaces the body language and facial expressions we are so used to relying in real life. If you find yourself working in a virtual space that uses live video feed different work-arounds will be needed. The key is to remember the importance of reaction and feedback in human communication.

Finally, John asked everyone to prepare for next week’s class carefully and attend on time because we have our first guest speaker joining us.

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Class 1: Welcome to Second Life

February 6, 2020

The first class of the semester is always a little fraught as everyone is meeting in Second Life (SL) for the first time. Getting used to operating in this virtual environment takes a little while: trying to find the location of the class, learning how your avatar walks, talks or sits and trying to keep up with the content of the module can be an intense experience. But, after a week or two everything will settle down nicely. This semester was no different – it took a little longer than usual for everyone to find their way to the classroom in SL but eventually we settled down and got started. John asked everyone to ‘friend’ each other and ensured that all became members of the module group which gives you access to the TU Dublin campus in SL and supports remote chatting by allowing you to send group Instant Messages (IMs).

The plan was to take the class photo after that but in the hustle and bustle John completely forgot.

John forgot about taking the class photo until after the class had concluded and everyone had gone home!

 

Instead he introduced the content and structure of the module to come as the semester proceeds. Each class is quite self contained and will have a unique topic. You can preview the topic for each week on page 4 of the this blog (see the link in the right hand column) or in Brightspace. The first three weeks will see you all getting used to operating in SL until the Team Project is introduced. From then on you will be assigned to your teams and will work on developing your project which will be directed by the content coming from the following classes. You will also need to spend time working in SL between class times. At first you will be assigned specific tasks to complete  but as the module progresses you will use it to meet in your teams and to work on the Project.

The module has been constructed to be as interactive as possible – you are expected to preview the content in Brightspace well ahead of each class meeting: working through the reading and viewing material provided so that you can contribute to a discussion in class each week. This approach engages all participants actively allowing each to contribute appropriately. In addition, there is a specific assignment to be completed following each class. The details are given in the Brightspace unit for the relevant week.

John also explained how the module will be assessed and asked you to read the Assessment unit in Brightspace very carefully. Pay particular attention to the assessment criteria and the Assessment Rubric as these will guide you on what to submit. It is important to ensure that you write a post you your blog every week and don’t forget that the first assessment occurs after week 4.

The summaries of each class that are posted here are intended as a support for class not a replacement. Use them to catch up only if you unavoidably miss an occasional class meeting. John asked that if you cannot make class for any reason please let him know, by email, in advance.

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Spring semester 2020

January 16, 2020

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 in February on Thursdays 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 Second Life – you cannot do so with a mobile device.

Full details about the module are available to registered students in Brightspace, where you should self-enrol.

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 at TU Dublin.

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Team Projects

December 19, 2019

The presentations by the four teams were excellent. The Green, Yellow and Red teams opted to present live in class with the support of slides while the Blue team directed us to a YouTube video. Each participant contributed to the delivery and there were none of the glitches often associated with technology. Everything went smoothly and according to plan. Except for one thing: John recorded the live presentations and a Q&A with Sitearm Madonna so they could be included in this post but… the sound failed to record. So the only shortcoming was my own. Sincere apologies for the error and the lack of sound on the following videos. But well done to the participants this semester. You did an excellent job.

Sitearm asked you to share your experience of working on a virtual team and compare it with team work in RL. Most of you found it slightly easier to present in SL but more difficult to work collaboratively. Nevertheless, you agreed that it required a more disciplined approach to achieve success.

John concluded the module by thanking Sitearm for his attendance and contribution. I also thanked you all for your attendance and engagement throughout the module. I enjoyed it and learned something from your contributions. I hope you also enjoyed it and found it useful and informative.

*Note: since this post was written John received sound files recorded by the wonderful Sitearm Madonna. The videos below have now been updated with full sound recordings. In addition, the Q&A video has also been posted.

Green Team presentation:

 

Yellow Team presentation:

 

Blue Team YouTube video:

 

Red Team presentation:

Here is the script for the Red Team presentation and the slides.

 

Q&A with Sitearm Madonna:

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Class 11: Warning!

December 12, 2019

Prof Noel Fitzpatrick (aka Oshinn), Head of Learning and Research Development, was interviewed by Acuppa Tae (aka John). Some very interesting topics around the meaning of Anthropocene, the future of work, individual and social responsibility and the importance of the local were discussed and you asked some searching questions. (Runtime: 47 mins 33 secs.)

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