Posts Tagged ‘online presence’

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Class 6: Persona, identity, presence

November 8, 2018

This week John started by reminding the class of the importance of re-reading the assessment criteria for your blogs. You will notice that one criterion relates to ‘timelines’ and suggests that regular updates each week are required. So, those who have yet to submit a link to their blogs should do so on the Facebook page as soon as possible. Please check that your blog is listed on the Student Blogs page and let me know if it is not.

Many of you have not completed the ‘About Me’ section of your blogs. It it important to provide a short and appropriate bio to your readers so that they understand your background and perspective. In that context you should also review your blog – try to approach it from the perspective of a first time reader – to ensure it is coherent. Tidy up the layout, deleting any leftover template placeholders or widgets. You have all included photographs of your SL experiences in your blogs. Ensure they are appropriately captioned and, if you are using images from any other source, remember to credit the author/creator.

We also spoke about how the nature of your writing should be developing over the last two blog posts. For the first three posts your were asked to describe your experience of SL and the module but now you are being asked to reflect on the experience of team building. Write about how you are finding the application of the theory we discussed in the third class meeting, what you think you are learning (or not learning!).

Finally, it is important to proof read your writing before posting. This is to eliminate not only typos and errors but also to improve your communication style. The more you re-read your posts  before publishing the tighter the writing and, usually, the better the final outcome.

As we began to discuss the concept of personal branding it emerged that almost none of you had read the two short texts set from the previous class. John explained that they were essential for any meaningful discussion so class was adjourned for a short period to give you time to read them now. Then John asked you to consider your own online identities and how they are made manifest. You talked about using social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. You are aware of the impact on your profile that posting to these apps is having. You also spoke of the need for compatibility between your Real Life (RL) and your online personas. While it was not explicitly declared there is also an implicit understanding of the need to differentiate between you personal and professional profiles. However, John spoke of the difficulty in doing this in the era of Google and Facebook: these global enterprises are very effective in eliminating boundaries. In addition to collecting as much information about you as they can they also seek to compare the data and combine it in order to build as full a picture of you as they can. They don’t respect the boundaries you might like to keep. As a result it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain anonymous. It is very important, therefore, to be aware of the nature of the online environment and to maintain a high level of digital literacy.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: the Guardian article Yourth crime commissioner Paris Brown steps down over Twitter row from 2013 (accessed on 08/11/18).
  2. Read: another Guardian article Justine Sacco, PR executive fired over racist tweet, ‘ashamed’ also from 2013 (accessed on 08/11/18).
  3. Write the sixth post: to your blog about how you might convert your personal presence online into an identity for  professional networking.  
  4. Read: the academic paper User Generated Content and Virtual Worlds (accessed on 11/11/08). From the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, 2008.

Beach bum in the sun!

POSTSCRIPT
John has often thought, since starting to teach this module, that the ultimate benefit of teaching online is that it affords the opportunity to teach a class from any location, with the ultimate ideal of doing so while sitting in the sun on a beach. Travelling to conferences has required me to deliver the module from places such as Nantes, Vilnius, Poznan, Florence and other locations around Europe. We have also has participants join the module from Sherkin Island off the west coast of Ireland and various countires around Europe, the US and Australia. But this class was the closest I have come to delivering from a beach: on holiday in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Unfortunately, the vagaries of international time zones resulted in my having to teach this class at midnight local time! But at least my avatar got to wear a hawaiian shirt…

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Class 3: Team work and collaboration

October 11, 2018

We began class this week by reviewing the Elevator Pitch discussed last week. John admitted he had forgotten to refer to it in the main summary of the class so added it as a comment later, with a link to an article from the Harvard Business Review describing an elevator pitch. You should all prepare a 30 second pitch on any subject you wish. I will call on you at random to deliver it over the next few classes.

John went on to identify the groups in which you will work for the module project. He assigned you to one of five groups each with six members. You are asked to try working online and avoid working together in Real Life (RL) if you can, so that you get as full an experience of online collaborative working as possible.

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As class progressed it was noticed that some students are having a few problems logging in to SL or getting their voices working. John asked you to help each other sort out these issues outside of class, if you can.

Many of you have sent links to your own blogs to John and these have been posted to the module website – please have a look at the blogs and comment on each other’s posts. You can find a link to them to the right on this page. Those who haven’t yet sent a link to John should do so as soon as possible but at least before next week’s class. You were reminded that the first assessment of your blogs will be after that class – if you haven’t already done so make sure to read the page on module assessment.

LouHug shared the Facebook group he created for us to communicate outside of SL. Second Life 18 is a private group and will be active only for the duration of the module this semester.

John gave a talk on Team Building to the class. Normally, this is delivered by Sitearm Madonna, a graduate from the module with extensive experience of online collaboration but I didn’t have time to contact him in advance. Hopefully, he will be able to join us for a later class to share his wisdom. In the meantime I, rather cheekily, used his excellent slide show Virtual Collaboration Tips and Tools to illustrate my presentation. We discussed the content of slides 2 to 5 in some detail; we just touched on slides 6 and 7 and will revisit the content in the other slides in a later class when it will be more relevant.

For now, you are asked to review the Form, Storm, Norm, Perform paradigm in your own teams to help form a bond. Also, consider the roles within the team you may be best at playing.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Meet in SL: in your team groups.
  2. Write the third post: on your blog describing the first meeting of your team or, if the meeting did not occur, describe how you tried to facilitate the meeting and why, in your opinion, it didn’t happen.
  3. Read: Living Structures in Second Life Virtual Worlds Projects by Sitearm Madonna. [accessed 13 October 2018].
  4. Read: Painfully Coming to Grips with The Medium is the Message an amusing and accessible introduction to the philosophy of Marshall McLuhan. [accessed 13 October 2018].
  5. Optional reading: Extrapolating on McLuhan: How Media Environments of the Given, the Represented, and the Induced Shape and Reshape Our Sensorium provides a deeper analysis of McLuhan. [accessed 13 October 2018].
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Class 2: Settling in

October 4, 2018

A few new participants joined the class today and settled in almost immediately.

Two participants sent links to their blogs to John during the week. Just before class started he noticed a bunch of emails arrive with links to many more which he will review after the class. He will post links to all the blogs here (see the link in page 9 in the column to the right) and encouraged you all to review the blogs and make comments on them.

John spoke about one of the key shortcomings in a virtual world such as SL: the lack of facial expression and body language. Because our avatars do not react or present non-verbal responses it can be difficult to establish rapport. Indeed, sometimes it can be difficult to know if the person behind the avatar is even there at all. Maybe she or he has gone away from the keyboard (AFK) to make a coffee or answer the phone! Therefore, feedback and response via text message or voice needs to be more frequent to reduce anxiety. You can text message ‘Acuppa Tae nods’ or ‘John smiles’ or even ‘y’ from time to time to reassure others that you remain engaged or agree with what they are saying.

We had a useful discussion on the different voices of the sample blogs given last week (Dolce Merde, Brain Pickings and Chris Brogan) and analysed when and why you might read them. We also tried to determine the purpose of the blogs. So, for example, Chris Brogan is essentially reinforcing his reputation as a thought leader in online marketing whereas Dolce Merde is playfully offering eye candy. The discussion incorporated a review of your own reading habits: where you go for topical news; how you verify the facts presented to you; your unconscious trust in some media sources compared with others etc. Many of you joined in the conversation and contributed well. John concluded by reminding everyone that you should be cautious around your consumption of information and practice analysing sources to develop discrimination.

John commented that the tone adopted in your blog posts last week was appropriate for the content. It was mostly informal and informative, using a chatty style. You will find that you need to vary this tone from week to week depending on the topic you are writing about. You should also remember the basic conventions of academic writing and apply them appropriately during the semester. Be aware of writing in a narrative, descriptive, reflective and critical voice. It is also important that you refer to your sources and cite them appropriately. There are many different styles that can be used for citations but the main thing to remember is the purpose: your readers needs to be able to check your source for themselves. The College favours the APA Style so it is usually best to use it. Here are some useful links on the subject.

We agreed to use a private Facebook page for communication outside the class. One of you (I didn’t catch who it was) agreed to set it up and John gave his Facebook address to be added. If you aren’t already on Facebook you should set up an account for the duration of the semester. You may do this in your avatar’s name if you wish but please note that while this is a common practice it is, strictly speaking, a breach of Facebook’s Terms of Service.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Make contact: with two or three residents of Second Life. Introduce yourself and try to engage them in conversation. Always remember: if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation for any reason QUIT Second Life immediately. You can log in again in a different location.
  2. Write the second post: on your blog describing your encounters.
  3. Read: 5 steps to build a productive and tight knit remote team by Diogo Costa in Tech Co, 5 February 2016.
  4. Read: 10 Rules of Professional Etiquette for the Digital Workplace by Aaron Orendorff in Lifehacker, 27 April 2016.

OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL READING ABOUT VIRTUAL WORLDS:

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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 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 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! [Note: this has been updated with with additional comments on 30 November 2018]

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 8: Content creation

November 17, 2016

John started this week by discussing the student blogs. He recommended that you have a look at each others blogs for reference. Compare them with your own blog for insights into how you could improve. You have until 8.00 pm next Thursday to bring your blog up to date before the week 8 assessment. One or two of you need to complete your bios in the ‘About’ section. In response to a question John did not recommend revising old posts but rather, put any effort into your future writing – this will give a better opportunity for improving your mark as it will demonstrate improvement and that you are learning. If any of you would like direct feedback on your progress speak to John after the class and we can discuss then or make any appropriate arrangement.

From now on your blog posts should report and reflect on the group project. Discuss how your team is functioning, how roles are filled, meetings are organised and conducted, decisions are made, work schedule agreed etc. Look at your own contribution in a critical light and describe what you discover about working in an online team: what makes it difficult and what supports it. Remember, you don’t need to use SL – any online tool or application that works for your team is good.

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Does this qualify as a diverse range of class participants…?

We went on to discuss the project in a little more detail after that. Some of you have been meeting in your teams while others are just getting started. Some of you have begun researching your own and your team mates digital footprints using Google searches. This is a good way into the project and should be a feature of each team’s approach. However, be sensitive to each other’s right to privacy and don’t go so far as to cause discomfort to your colleagues. This is a class project not a private investigation! Back away if it starts to become personally uncomfortable for anyone. The final presentation should describe your methodology (how you researched the project), a summary of what the team discovered about the members online presence, a reflection on your reaction (were you surprised by anything discovered?) and a possible scenario where the information could be exploited by others.

On a daily basis most of us are generating ‘content’ online and broadcasting it to the world. Whether anyone is interested in it, or even aware of it, is a different matter. Before the internet facilitated such easy access to broadcasting there were gatekeepers in the form of newspaper and book editors, financial controllers etc. This provided some form of quality control. Now, much of what is published on the web is worthless making the issue of ‘value’ more important.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Look up: the infographic Things that can and can’t be copyrighted.
  2. Read: this thoughtful blog post Content and licensing in virtual worlds about the legal issues around protecting ‘things’ you create in SL and online in general. Read the comments also.
  3. Write the ninth post: to your blog reflecting on the progress being made on the group project.
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