Posts Tagged ‘Community’

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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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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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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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Class 7: Akron Island

March 22, 2017

The class visited the University of Akron island in Second Life this week. We were hosted by Prof Dudley Turner (aka Dudley Dreamscape) who took the module some years ago and then co-taught it with DIT for a number of years. Many of you also met Dudley at the seminar for National Digital Week in the West Cork Arts Centre last November. Unfortunately the problems with voice in SL have persisted so the class was conducted in nearby chat text.

Dudley described the origin of the island. When it was planned the faculty wanted to make sure there were a variety of areas for small group gatherings. These are scattered around the island. Originally there weren’t any big classroom spaces but Dudley built the larger lecture hall type space for larger meetings as the requirement grew. The learning spaces include a tree house and a glen with its own waterfall. Glenn noted that the rural design was reminiscent of the hedge schools that sprang up around Ireland under the Penal Laws.

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Akron Island with the life-size pie chart maker in the foreground.

We moved to the life-sized pie chart maker for a discussion on virtual identity. As we were forced to chat through text this was a useful to device to encourage debate. The facilitator (me, in this case) asks a question. Participant avatars then move to the appropriate section: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree and a pic chart is built in the centre. We worked with the following questions:

  1. Do you think you share too much online?
  2. Do you know who is watching you online?
  3. I would be happier not to have social media apps
  4. I keep my business and personal stuff separate online.

The second question resulted in discussion around free apps and the ‘price’ we may unwittingly pay. Chip Van reminded us that if it is free we are the product. In response to John’s question if people feel in control of their online information Inchydoney suggested we tend to throw caution to the wind for the sake of convenience. However, there was an acknowledgement that different age groups are behaving in different ways online.

The discussion around social apps resulted in many comments about ‘addiction’ to the buzz from them. Yet everyone agreed they were useful for keeping in touch when physical distance is an issue. Once people have met in RL the online engagement can be more satisfactory.

The class meeting finished with thanks to Dudley for hosting us at Akron Island and an invitation for him to join us in Dublin anytime.

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Class 6: Discussion

March 15, 2017

Following on from last week the group discussed the visit to Virtual Ability Island. It seems that this experience had a deeply affective impact on most of the group and for whom the second life environment has taken on a whole new meaning. There was a lot of discussion about the benefits of the virtual world for individuals with disabilities, how the community has created a social space that supports engagement with others, conversations, showing art, providing information and to move about freely. Whilst many in the group felt that Virtual Ability Island was like a utopia for the community that engage with it, it was also suggested that it could be seen as sad that the participants needed to create an alternative social life due to the limitations in real life. Another way to think about this issue might be that instead of feeling sorry for themselves or complaining about their limitations or lack of access the community has been affirmative and residents get on with their lives creatively and constructively in SL as opposed to accepting limitations. In many ways, this might be one of the most therapeutic aspects of Virtual Ability Island, that it is an active creative space, a space of human subjectivity and agency against the odds.

Within this discussion, the group touched briefly on the possibility that the aesthetic dimension of SL might also have a complex sensorial value for the Virtual Ability community, and it was on the back of this conversation that the group proposed a brief exhibition of their Digital Skies work in the Gallery in Virtual Ability Island. John has agreed to discuss this possibility with Gentle Heron and it would be a great event to share with that community. Burnsygirl, freddymcfreddy and whatyamacallit volunteered to liaise with the community and see if artists from Virtual Ability would like to take part also.

Finally, the group briefly discussed Richard Noble’s Lecture: The Politics of Utopia. Some of the key discussion points revolved around the tensions in utopia artistic practices between autonomy and instrumentalisation, which provoked questions concerning the use of art as a social-political form and the function of art and aesthetics as political in and of itself.

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Class 5: Virtual ability

March 8, 2017
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Gentle Heron introduced the class to Virtual Ability Island.

This week the class was hosted by Gentle Heron in Virtual Ability Island. Comprising three islands, the community (of over 1,000 people from six continents in RL, and growing all the time) supports and enables people with a wide range of physical and mental abilities to thrive in online virtual worlds. For many, SL has become integrated with their RL. Gentle introduced us to some members of the community who spoke of this experience, Mook Wheeler, camaro and Eme Capalini. Although disability may be less apparent in SL where, for example avatars can walk even though their human counterparts may need a wheelchair, those with visual or hearing impairment require particular consideration.

The principles of universal design and access for all underpin the development of the environment so that colour schemes, landscaping, materials and access all promote integration – there is no segregation between the able and the disabled. You won’t find any stairs here, only ramps, colour schemes are soothing to promote calm stress-free engagement and support those with visual disability, while speech is accompanied by text in local chat so those with hearing impairment are not disadvantaged. The Virtual Ability website is worth a visit if you would like to read about the history and development.

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There are many activities, supports and exhibitions in Virtual Ability Island.

Mook, a former academic with a doctorate in a social science field, has Aspergers and manages clinical depression and anxiety. Mook described ‘being an autistic social scientist as somewhat of a paradox: trying to understand the production/politics of subjectivity without being able to negotiate it in a personal or practical sense, for the most part.’

Eme and Mook told us that in SL they can leave the ‘difficult’ parts of their lives behind in RL. In fact, Mook’s avatar has evolved away from human form to become a sphere with various attachments and bubbles because ‘being human brought too much of RL’s physical difficulties and memories into SL.’ In fact, a lot of people in SL are not aware of Mook’s autism whereas they would be fully aware of it in RL.

We had a fascinating and enlightening discussion exploring and comparing experiences. Gentle commented that people with disabilities often experience a lack of respect in RL and asked if it also happened in SL. Burnsygirl told us of her experiences as a teacher with a disability organisation in RL and how people would pat her students on the head as if they were pets.

Acknowledging the theme of the module Mook said that ‘SL is perfect for me, as close to a social and communication utopia as any medium can be for me, because I can talk (in type) to people without having to deal with their physical presence or eye contact … I can adjust all of SL’s settings, avatars, environments, visuals and sounds to accommodate my sensory needs. SL is a space of pleasure, interaction and comfort to me which RL cannot duplicate.’

Mook also shared her insightful and searing analysis of Le Guin’s short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas which is well worth reading!

We all appreciated the generosity of Gentle, Mook, Eme and camaro for taking the time to welcome us to their community and share their experiences. It really exemplified the possibilities and opportunities offered by this technology. Gentle said we were welcome back anytime – the islands are open to the public. Many of us remained after class to explore and chat.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. View: The Politics of Utopia by Richard Noble, professor and lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths. From Utopia Revisited conference at ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, 2011.
  2. Write the fifth post: to your blog reflecting on our visit to Virtual Ability Island and the notion of a virtual Utopia.
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Class 4: Walking away

March 1, 2017
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Looking in on the discussion from the outside.

Last night was the fourth Digital Skies session with the group and it was the second theory-based session after we looked at Stephen Duncombe’s intro to Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia in the first one. This week we updated the concept of Utopia by reading Ursula Le Guin’s text: The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas (1973). A deeply provocative rendering of a Utopian society that is conditioned by a darker reality, the picture painted by LeGuin in the text falls between Utopia and Dystopia. By implying that a perfect society will always be structured by some kind of exclusion or exploitation, Le Guin draws a parallel between the fantasy of Omelas and the social economic order that has dominated since the industrial revolution. It seemed that for most of the participants in the group the story was an analogy of contemporary democracy and the ethical challenges of living in a globalised economy. Whilst much of the discussion focused on the moral dilemma faced by those citizens in Omelas there was also an ambivalence towards their final response, the act of ‘walking away’. In many ways we could argue that this is a negative response to the situation, an abandonment, however by refusing to be a part of the situation, to leave it and go towards the unknown, we could say it also is a utopian act. It may not be Utopia in the macro sense of the word, as in the creation of a new society, but rather in those micro acts of freedom that happen in everyday life and that have the potential for greater change. Anyone interested in following this train of thought could look into the work of Avery Gordon who is developing the Hawthorne Archive which sets out to ‘record the living and intellectual history of the arrival and existence of a group of runaways, secessionists and in-differents who form autonomous zones and settlements and have receded from living as obedient (and also resistant or resisting) subjects’. Further within this discussion, an important point was raised about how one might even begin to imagine resisting in an overwhelmingly oppressive situation, such as the Nazi Regime, and a reference was made to the White Rose student movement, as an example of non-violent resistance, which led to a discussion on a more contemporary (and virtual) act of resistance in the online critical game Escape from Woomera.

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Escape From Woomera. 2004

As can be deduced from this summary, the session got a little dark as the group entered into a deeper discussion on the politics of the utopian imagination. We will lighten this discussion a bit in the next session by looking at a lecture by Richard Noble on ‘The Politics of Utopia’. All being well, we will be joined in this session by German Artist Susanne Bosch who will talk about her residency at the Utopia Festival in Austria in 2015.

Finally, each student was asked to send in some landscape photos of their travels in second life, these will be used on Sherkin Island to develop a series of visual investigations around the question: what is nature? We might try to show some of these works in second life in the next theory session.

It was really great to get over most of the technical issues the group have been having and to focus on the content of the course. Last night was a very impressive discussion to have on a Wednesday evening with a bunch of weird looking avatars (No Offence!!).

Next week will be led by John and below are the requirements for this session:

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.
  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.
  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.
  4. Write the fourth post: to your blog reflecting on the discussion of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. Ursula K Le Guin. 1973.
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