Posts Tagged ‘virtual worlds’

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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 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 3: Teamwork and collaboration

February 22, 2017
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Open discussion about places students visited in SL since the last class.

Locks Aichi, formerly of the DIT Learning Teaching and Technology Centre and who has been teaching the module since it started, joined the class this week. She will be around to provide support and guidance from now on.

We began class by explaining the thinking behind our SL avatars names. Some people have chosen to model their avies (as they are known in SL) on their RL selves and consequently the name reflects this choice. Others have developed new ‘en ligne’ personalities that may reflect previous engagements or suggest future exploration, with correspondingly thoughtful names. John explained that when he started in SL in 2006 residents had to choose a surname from a existing list, which gave him Tae. Forenames could be freely invented so Accupa was impossible to resist. However, when SL changed its policy to allow any name to be allocated to an avie he reverted to John O’Connor. Maintaining two identities was too time consuming! So, if anyone is unhappy with their initial choice it can be changed but make sure to let everyone know.

The discussion moved onto a report on the locations everyone had been visiting since the last class. You have been very adventurous exploring pubs, museums, shopping malls, clubs and even some venues of dubious repute. Many have tried dancing, with varying degrees of success; chatting with other residents; flying; teleporting; and generally trying to get a feel for the environment. You are noticing the nuances of etiquette in this particular virtual space and, despite the occasional embarrassing moment, settling in very well.

The opportunity to observe your own responses to being in this strange new environment, one where you feel awkward and clumsy as you try to control your avie, and struggle to understand the conventions around acceptable behaviour, are not lost on you – everyone is reflecting on this. But, John reminded the class not to become too caught up in SL as an end in itself – the module merely uses SL to explore online behaviour in its broadest context, particularly for how teamwork and collaboration can be facilitated and supported. Keep that in mind while you inhabit the space.

We had hoped to look at Teamwork and Collaboration in more detail but time ran out. We did, however, present the teams you will break into for the main project, and in which you should continue your online exploration. Get used to working together online.

Group 1: shadidame; freddymcfreddy; ChipVanCorner.
Group 2: AlxMway; Burnsygirl; whatyamacallit.
Group 3: Saoise; jackmittons; amarcordcat.
Group 4: Deeuwan; Fayebubba; Inchydoney.
Group 5: Yashurdoshur; Agendasm; Yogitea.

John also said he would give each avatar L$300 for pocket money – instantly transforming from lecturer to Dad! Don’t get excited and spend it all at in the first shop – you will need some of it to upload images into SL for your project (at a cost of L$10 per image). By the way, your pocket money is the equivalent of about US$1. Your ‘bank balance’ appears in the menu bar at the right hand side.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Meet: at least two residents of SL and try to engage them in conversation.
  2. Write the third post: to your blog describing your encounters.
  3. Read: (if you haven’t done so already) the very short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. Ursula K Le Guin. 1973.
  4. Prepare: one question about the text to propose to the group at the next class.
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