Posts Tagged ‘online presence’

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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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Class 7: Communities and identity

November 10, 2016
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Online identity versus ‘real’ identity.

This week we had a lively discussion that was informed by our visit to Virtual Ability Island in the previous class. The differences between real and virtual spaces became apparent when we considered the limitations of  Second Life. For example, avatars can have difficulty negotiating stairs, particularly spiral staircases, but this has not led to their replacement: experience of Real Life building has shaped our approach to building in virtual worlds for the same reason that early motor cars resembled horse-drawn carriages.

An understanding of what helps us to feel comfortable in a virtual space is very important in the development and support of online communities not just in SL but in general. The rules of engagement need to be clearly defined as do the conventions around acceptable behaviour. Regulations, conventions and etiquette help to define a community and support the feeling of belonging to a group and participating. Joining a community requires patience and a certain amount of commitment – while the rules may be published, conventions and etiquette are less clear. It take time to observe and learn them as you gradually become engaged.

This is also an important aspect of team building. Even in Real Life teams can be difficult to manage and tend to be successful when the social glue that holds them together is given attention. This is even more important for online teams that  meet only virtually. For success you must consider how to support social interaction before you get down to the ‘real work’.

Another important criteria for successful group work and team building is trust. This fundamental human condition can be delicate in Real Life so how much more so is it in virtual environments? Building an online identity is really a matter of building trust. The example of the Syrian lesbian blogger demonstrates how easy it can be to build a persona and how devastating it can be if it emerges that the persona does not match Real Life.

John gave some feedback on your blogs reminding everyone to ensure you are writing on the required topic. Generally, the descriptive writing is good and posts are well illustrated. Now it is time to become more reflective. Write about your own response to your learning, how you might apply it and where you are finding it difficult.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Write the eighth post: to your blog describing how your team has approached planning your project, dividing the work and addressing conflict.
  2. Lecture: watch From Prosumer to Produser: Understanding User-Led Content Creation by Prof Axel Bruns (Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland Institute of Technology) who explains his theory of user-led collaborative content creation.
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Class 5: personal branding – presence online

October 20, 2016

Class began with a review of the student groups. Some of the groups have been unable to make contact with one of their members so John suggested that we would consider the groups again next week. By then the pattern of class attendance will have emerged and if some realignment of membership is required we can do it then.

Most of the class have now joined the Facebook group and everyone agreed that it is a very useful way to keep in touch with class issues because most of us access the app regularly throughout the day. John asked how the group members intend to communicate online and it appears that many of you will use Facebook messenger. In addition to the advantage of regular checking it is also accessible across may platforms – phone, pc, tablet etc. This gives it an advantage over WhatsApp, WeChat and other apps that are limited to the phone.

Only some of you had read the articles posted here last week so there was a limited discussion on how employers might interact with employees who have a very public social media presence. In the four years since the Wall Street Journal article was published the landscape has changed so much that it appeared quite dated. However, it did begin a discussion about the ubiquity of social media and how our real lives are becoming synonymous with our online profiles. We will return to this subject next week.

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Lauk’s Nest, one of the oldest parks in Second Life, was built in 2004 by Laukosargas Svarog.

The class finished with a visit to Lauk’s Nest, one of the oldest natural parks in SL. Symeon Siamendes greeted us by offering cocktails and a notecard giving the history of the park. It was created only two years after the launch of SL itself, in 2004 and, almost uniquely for the virtual world, it has been sold to different owners four times since then. Each has maintained the integrity of the original creation.

John commenced disbursement of L$300 to each participant and said he would ensure everyone received their payment before class next week.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Look at: the infographic Personal Branding: 10 Steps to a New Professional You.
  2. Explore: Humans of New York Facebook page and related social media see how Brandon Stanton has used social media to make an impact- an example being his use of instagram, facebook, twitter alongside the blog. Take note of how he has identified and positioned himself.
  3. Read: about the Heron Sanctuary which we will be visiting next week. Virtual Ability Inc. 
  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 2: Settling in

September 29, 2016

The class started out with some housekeeping. All participants were reminded to select the DIT Module group and activate it. This will allow us to keep in contact and also provide security and privacy for the class. We did have a stranger wander into the building during class and although he didn’t say anything it is distracting when somebody is walking around. John will restrict access to the DIT campus to DIT Module group members so remember to activate the group or you will not be able to get into class next week!

Seven of you had given John a link to your blogs during the week. All blogs included the first post and John commented on each one. Many of you also wrote something for the ‘about’ page. This is important because it gives visitors a hook, something to let them know who you are, your credentials, and why your opinion is valid, important, interesting or otherwise. Those of you who have not yet set up your blogs are now a week behind in the required activities so hurry up and get blogging! Don’t forget to send a link to John so it can be given on the Virtual Environments website. John also encouraged you to read each others blogs and comment on them: get used to engaging online, opening up conversations about shared interests, opposing views or anything else. You should also read about how and when the blog will be assessed so you focus your efforts appropriately. The first assessment point is now only two weeks away. You will be expected to have the first four posts made to your blog by then so get writing.

We had a discussion about the sample blogs given in last weeks class, looking at the variety of ‘voices’ and styles. You were asked to consider these and try to identify what the authors were trying to convey and how they supported this through the design of the blog, the tone of voice used in the writing, and other aspects of the blogs. The examples showed more serious academic style bogs, a professional blog clearly used as a marketing tool and a fun blog show casing images that appealed to the writer. Explore this further, find other blogs and attempt to identify the features that make them successful or otherwise.

A straw poll was taken to identify a social app we would use for notifying any last minute changes to class, letting you know when this summary is posted, and to use as a communication platform for any other issues that might arise outside class. Two apps were proposed, Facebook and WhatsApp. Neither is currently in use by everyone in the class but the result of the poll, below, indicated a majority in favour of Facebook. We agreed to consider the outcome over the coming week and make a final decision in the next class.

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THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Explore: Get to know your class mates and explore SL together. You are to visit at least 3 locations that are new to you. Find them in search, or ask other residents for recommendations or select them at random.
  2. Write the second post: on your blog reviewing the locations you visited. Describe the places and include photos, if you can. Explain what you liked and disliked about the location and talk about any interactions you had.
  3. Read: 5 steps to build a productive and tight knit remote team
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Class 1: First meeting

September 22, 2016

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Welcome to ‘Virtual Environments: Is one life enough?’ and to Second Life for the first class! It has been noticeable in recent years that participants are navigating digital environments with greater ease and as a class you have demonstrated that definitively. Well done.

For those who may be having difficulty logging into SL or finding your way about please talk to your colleagues for advice and help.

After everyone settled down John and Locks Aichi introduced themselves and went through some housekeeping. We all added each other to our ‘friends’ list. This enables you to see when participants login to SL and you can send an instant message (IM) to each other when you are in different locations – very handy if someone gets lost in SL. John also added you to the DIT Module group and asked that you activate that group when joining the class. Think of it as your student card: it will give you access to DIT in SL. John also ensured that he knew everyone’s real identity – an important issue online where avatars and aliases allow us to present anonymously.

John explained that class will be interactive and discursive. Each week we will look at a different topic, introduced by a set text that you are asked to read before the class so as to inform the debate. It is important that everyone participates fully and engages to get full benefit from attending. You will also need to visit SL between class times to complete activities that will be set to encourage exploration. Specific activities will be set for the first few classes to get you started.

You were all asked to create a new blog for the duration of the course. You will be expected to write a weekly post describing your experience of the class and the discussions and activities in which you engage. 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 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.

We discussed what communication platform we should use to support the class. It should be one that most people use already so you are not having to introduce something new. It also means that as you are using it regularly messages about the class are less likely to be missed. Previous groups set up private Facebook groups and used twitter and LinkedIN. Other options include WhatsApp or Tinder. Think about it and we will decide next week.

You will each receive L$300 to allow you experience the economy in SL but, don’t get too excited, it is only equivalent to about US$1. Visit some shops and markets to find out how the economy functions. If you want to earn more, see if you can find a part-time job in SL.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. 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. Email a link to your blog to John.
  2. Write the first post: to your blog about your expectations for this module – what you hope to get out of it, what you think you might contribute, etc. Address the relevance of  module objectives from your perspective, ie, justify why you think they are important to you.
  3. Look at: John O’Connor’s blog and Dreamscape Diary bearing in mind what you learned today compare your own blog writing to this.
  4. Visit the following: Dolce Merda, Brain PickingsIllustration Friday, Chris BroganStyle Pantry Think about how you would identify these blog authors…what impression do you get of the person behind the blog?
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