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Virtual Society? Technology, Cyberbole, Reality

To what extent do you think that all five of Woolgar’s themes are relevant to virtual worlds?

The answer is to look both ways and to do so with aplomb.

Read Woolgar’s five themes.

1 The uptake and use of the new technologies depend crucially on local social context Liff et al. (2002) demonstrated the importance of ‘third-place’ settings, separate from both home and work, as influential in engaging a wide range of local people in using the internet: museums, trains or jogging circuits. In all these places technology now enables people to learn using the resources of formal education. The idea of ‘place’ takes on a new form, as the boundaries of a multitude of sites are crossed.
2 The fears and risks, anticipations and enthusiasms associated with new technologies are unevenly socially distributed Woolgar cites research into surveillance equipment in support of this theme. Counter to expectation, for example, surveillance technologies in the workplace were not found to be generally resisted by workers. However, acceptance was undermined by the failures of the technology to meet design specifications. This led to extra work and sometimes the technology had to be scaled back (Mason et al., 2002). There are differences between staff and students in universities, in terms of perception and usage of ICT.
3 Virtual technologies supplement rather than substitute for real activities Electronic communication has multiplied the use of paper in offices, though we can read material online. Learners may feel less need for the printed page. Educators look to substitute electronic supports for expensive and scarce direct tutor contact.
4 The more virtual the more real One unanticipated outcome of teleworking was that travel increased. Electronic communication increased the number of clients contacted and a face-to-face meeting was then required. Computer-mediated communication is being used, partly because it offers benefits for learning and partly because students seem less able to, or to have less time available for, travel to study centres to attend tutorials. It may be, however, that mediated communication using one tool encourages a somewhat different form using other tools. Thus learners may use forums provided by their institution, but also Facebook, Skype and Twitter.
5 The more global the more local ‘The very effort to escape local context, to promote one’s transcendent global (and/or virtual) identity, actually depends on specifically local ways of managing the technology’ (Woolgar, 2002, p.19). In Singapore, for example, the Singapore Institute of Management was the base for provision, and a careful fostering of mutual understandings between the two organisations was developed over at least a decade

Educational provision is typically seen as valid and trusted only if it is located within recognised local institutions and accredited by local awarding bodies – even though the technology enables all aspects of a course to be delivered electronically from the originating institution.

Having just completed the activities about Second Life, to what extent do you think that all five of Woolgar’s themes are relevant to virtual worlds?

1 The uptake and use of the new technologies depend crucially on local social context. Not one bit, in this case any versioning is simply the English language (US).
2 The fears and risks, anticipations and enthusiasms associated with new technologies are unevenly socially distributed. The context will include access to broadband, a computer, time to indulge, family attitudes to gaming, space in the home, time to indulge, other commitments (persona, family, school and/or work).
3 Virtual technologies supplement rather than substitute for real activities. Substitute. It has become too easy to tap into a game that is, like the modem and some computing devices, on through all waking hours and readily accessible. A blended form of activity often occurs with participants playing together online, sometimes coming round to each other’s houses to do so.
4 The more virtual the more real. On the contrary, seeking out the tricks and cheats is very much the culture of gaming. Even if you don’t have wholly real-life attributes ways are found to defy gravity, walk through walls, I’ve even see a sub-culture underneath or behind the game in which you behave/exist play and muck about ‘subway’ like behind the set, as it were.
5 The more global the more local. In the context of business working at the OU Business and Law School I have first hand knowledge of how OU materials are developed for Russian partners (the 1000th MBA student celebrated this week) and are being initiated in Japan while having various other local centres globally. Though NOT in the US or France where local politics have restricted tutoring on the ground.

Select two of the five themes that you feel most strongly reflect the way in which you perceive the effects that technology is making currently in a context known to you.

Reflection Example
4

The more virtual the more real

On the one hand there is a culture of gaming that attracts escapism and engenders a rule-breaking sub-culture of hacking with cheats a supplementary and important quest and reward. On the other webcasting and conferences whilst becoming more real, speaking and seeing each other in real-time, nonetheless afford less than real behaviours. I attended a live-cast 250 miles away and did so in my PJs, not dressed for the office. When interviewed by an organisation in New York I set up an redecorated one corner of a bedroom rather than reveal that I was sitting either at the end of a bed, or at the kitchen table, or in an office the size of a walk-in cupboard and as messy as a shed-used as a dump for unwanted stuff. It is a different reality, sometimes a ‘hyper-real,’ that as we become familiar with its nuances will play to these differing attributes and so become distinct from reality … or of course, enrolled in that universe that we call ‘real’, which of course it is.
5

The more global the more local

Thinking directly of the technology, it strikes me that there is a global language: HTML. Are these codes not universal? Watch the HSBC bank ads and see how we have two distinct types: the importance of local knowledge on the one hand, followed by the current roll-out support for their ‘Key’ which is universal. i.e. there is a duality, that is Janus-like. Aptly Janus is the god of transitions. He is depicted as having two faces on his head facing opposite directions and so look simultaneously into the future and the past, back at the last year and forward to the next. What strikes me about HSBC is that whilst globally owned and operated, it works to meet not impose local cultures; while this new ‘key’ with its diddy 1970s like plastic key-ring calculator code generator and the concept of bolts, locks and vaults, feels highly retro.

REFERENCE

Liff, S., Steward, F. and Watts, P. (2002) ‘New public places for internet access: networks for practice-based learning and social inclusion’ in Woolgar, S. (ed.) Virtual Society? Technology, Cyberbole, Reality, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp.78–98.

Mason, D., Button, G., Lankshear, G. and Coates, S.(2002) ‘Getting real about surveillance and privacy at work’ in Woolgar, S. (ed.) Virtual Society? Technology, Cyberbole, Reality, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp.137–52.

Thorpe, M. and Godwin, S. (2006) ‘Computer-mediated interaction in context’ in Markauskaite, L., Goodyear, P. and Reimann, P. (eds) ‘Who’s Learning? Whose Technology?’, Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, University of Sydney, Australia; also available online at http://routes.open.ac.uk/ ixbin/ hixclient.exe?_IXDB_=routes&_IXSPFX_=g&submit button=summary&%24+with+res_id+is+res20033 (last accessed 10 February 2011).

Thorpe, M. (2008) Effective online interaction: mapping course design to bridge from research to practice, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, vol.24, no.1, pp.57–72. This article provides an in-depth case study of a well-designed sequence of conferencing and online activity and introduces a particular form of concept mapping called ‘compendium’ to demonstrate the design.

Thorpe, M. (2009) ‘Technology-mediated learning contexts’ in Edwards, R., Biesta, G. and Thorpe, M. (eds) Rethinking Contexts for Learning and Teaching: Communities, Activities and Networks, Abingdon, Routledge, pp.119–32.

Woolgar, S. (1999) ‘Analytic scepticism’ in Dutton, W.D. (ed.) Society on the Line: Information Politics in the Digital Age, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Woolgar, S. (ed.) (2002) Virtual Society? Technology, Cyberbole, Reality, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Why you should act it out as a way to learn and do so in a virtual world

We role-play as children to make sense of the world, we take on multiple personas to some degree in real-life as well.. I am particularly taken by the way people with a disability can walk in a virtual world (Peachy) or indeed how any of us can fly and do much more in these environments (die and repeatedly come back to life of course.)


At no cost my dentist, or rather our family dentist, made a set of dentures for me out of dentine that fitted over my teeth. This allowed me to sing. I foolishly sharpened the fangs and promptly punctured my lower lip. I learnt by the way that unless I could have dislocated my jaw biting someone’s neck is impossible. Vampires should bite the wrist or leg, but then all, or at least the obvious sexual innuendos are lost.

REFERENCE

Peachey, A. (2010) ‘Living in immaterial worlds: who are we when we learn and teach in virtual worlds?’ in Sheehy, K., Ferguson, R. and Clough, G. (eds) Virtual Worlds: Controversies at the Frontier of Education (Education in a Competitive and Globalizing World), New York, NY, Nova Science.

Was I living out a fantasy when I played Dracula in my teens? I kept acting into my twenties until I decided that my mental state couldn’t handle the selection process (rejection) and my experience in front of camera and on stage left me bored senseless (I had minor roles).

Do actors, as in role-play, have to overcome or compensate for who they are?

Peachy raises all the points in a common- sense and everyday way. I can imagine or should research where stepping into the role of an avatar has life- saving qualities, for example is not learning to fly a commercial jet-airliner in a simulator not a form of virtual role-play? I believe firemen are trained in virtual set-ups too and believe the nuclear power
industry do so too.

The trouble with doing this in a learning context is the huge development costs. i.e. It has to be better to use a ready made platform. I then ask though, what is wrong with using our imaginations, that improvising and role-play doesn’t require the disguises?

Educational social networking, tinkering and participation – the pedagogy of learning in the 21st century

For a year I have been studying for an MA in Open and Distance Education with the Open University

We are looking at the role participation plays in learning, how this, rather than learning in isolation, is becoming the modus operandi on campus – something that perhaps grew out of social networking and Open Source ‘tinkering.’

John Seely Brown gave a talk at the Open University in October 2007; it is as relevant today as it was 3 1/2 years ago.

How should the degree of and the value of participation differ between the following four types of learning situation: primary, secondary, tertiary and ‘on the job.’

And how does this degree of participation through-out a term, day or even a lesson in relation to the context, the ratio of teachers to pupils, the subject matter, the mix of students, the time of day, period in the week, in the term and so on. And how does such participation rank. Or measure up, in terms of efficacy – the time in which certain learning outcomes need to be met and assessed?

Learning that might be described as mechanical, compared to intellectual, for example, between how to fill a drum with uranium trioxide correctly, reliably and safely compared to learning a language. And even within these examples, how does the person’s preferred learning style come in to play?

Not at all

Participation is being recognised as a shift to make more of something that has always occurred, but is enabled by current technology, so that such participation is as possible at a distance, as it is face-to-face.

The individual reading, reviewing/listening … and watching provides the assets, insights and experiences of others that are required to begin to form an opinion. As Vygotsky (1926) points out, learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum, there are stages, or step changes, related to coming to a more mature response to something. However, Brown suggests during the course of the presentation, that merely attaching oneself to the periphery of group work that interests you, could or will, if you play your role, lead to a kind of reverse centrifugal force during which you will be drawn into, or tumble in amongst, the activity at the centre of the group. The example he used was on contributing to the development of Open Source Software, the outsider attaching at the periphery and through participation, confidence, demonstration of ability, through ‘tinkering’ and engagement, gradually proving themselves worthy of participation in the ‘inner sanctum’ as it were.

If we think of the best way to learn a language as ‘immersive,’ then perhaps there are many more occasions where similarly immersive, participatory learning could have a place and produce, as a result, better ‘results.’ That there is no point in being precious with knowledge, instead of keeping it close, let it go, build reputation, share ideas. How authors or creators/creatives earn a living from the expression of their thoughts is another issue.

Models are changing across the board

This is completely counter to my experience of secondary and tertiary education, indeed, I liken myself to Brown who talks about his writing code that no others could read and being proud of this. We kept everything close to our chests. However, putting on theatre shows and later moving into TV and Film production, I was involved in a highly participatory activity, indeed, coming in as a runner, or production assistant is/was and still is the way to gain experience, learn on the job, prove yourself and through will, willingness and personality, being drawn in or permitted into the ‘inner sanctum’ which you might call the key roles of producer, director or writer (compared to assistants to any of these, or assistants to the assistants).

The experience in person would have been satisfactory. As you listen you may take notes, may refer as appropriate to the slides he uses, as well as watching his facial expressions and body language and listening to the change in timbre, tone and pace of his voice, all adding emphasis, nuance and even colour to what he is saying. As someone from Television, who has covered lectures/talks it disappoints me that little adequate thought has been given to why certain shot sizes work better, the variety of shot sizes, the angle from which it is shot, even the lighting as Brown often steps back into the shadows, let alone when and how to use cut-aways to the slides and to the audience. However, for a change, the sound quality is good – often it is atrocious. If you get bored or distracted count how many bald heads there are, try to see who is taking notes, does someone get up and leave then return.

None of this is pertinent to the piece and should never been in the frame! Indeed, picking up on what he says later I ought to load this into iMovies or FinalCut Pro, frame him, cut in therefore, and source alternative or better slides.

To cut back its length I may cut in audience shots, whether or not they are of people at this presentation so long as they appear to make a match. What Brown himself would applaud and calls ‘tinkering,’ which is perhaps his thesis.

To tinker is good. Participation is effective.

Enrolling people, engaging them, team-work, motivational techniques … all suggests the teacher not as subject matter expert, but as host, guide or coach … so simply the person with first-hand experience. ‘Understanding,’ he says, ‘is socially constructed’.

Online producers are yet to convince me that they have got it right. I doubt there is a single ‘best’ way to cover such talks/lectures … you may want to preserve the veracity of the presentation and therefore cut nothing at all, indeed, professionally for multi-media and for multiple platforms ‘we’ may provide potential editors with shot sizes and cut-aways to allow them to make their own editorial decisions: this would be in keeping with what Brown describes as ‘tinkering’ later on.

Dr Ian Rowland gave a chat, without visual support. Brown gave a talk with visual support that was weak – they didn’t complement what he was saying, they lacked, IMHO, adequate emphasis.

The answer, which those in education, where the budget permits, should do, is for writers to work with visualises, as in advertising copywriters work with art directors, or giving the emphasis to the director, as directors do with another person’s screenplay/script in TV. This isn’t so far-fetched, modern educators can shoot and edit their own video, and as educators surely they ought to be more away of the need and benefits of appealing across the senses. For example, if this presentation were going to 17,000 managers across the Deutsche Bank I might have the budget to employ an illustrator/cartoonist such as Steven Appleby to make more of these supporting images – to make them more memorable and appealing, and in so doing, strengthening the message.

It isn’t paradoxical at all. We live in a mixed and multi-media world. Those recording these events, as here, shouldn’t just be alert to accessibility issues (sight/sound), but to learning choices an audience/readers might like to make on how they engage with the material based on personal choices and circumstances.

Often, despite balking at reading all the time, I would prefer the peer-reviewed, published paper that can be read in a fraction of the time it takes to sit through a ‘talk.’ Already I behave as my 12 year old son does and would have listened to John Seely Brown, while reading the transcript, while (as I did) executing quick Google searches on all manner of things that he mentioned, from ‘what is a ‘bull meeting,’ to the credentials of those he mentioned (what does it say in Linked In) and any related reports John Seely Brown may have penned SINCE this presentation in October 2007.

Virtual worlds cross dressing and role-play

I have an avatar.

In World of Warcraft.

My son took me through the set-up, vital for any software, have an informed and experienced teacher.

I wasn’t allowed to make one quick choice, I had to look at the options. He had views as well as information concerning all the characters. My wife joins in and we plum for a female as the way she poses and sticks out hefty butt when she shuffles about made us laugh. I think I am a night elf. Unable to give her a real name (all taken) I got for Val d’Isere … Which gets transmuted into Valdesire. This is a lady with attitude; I guess I see myself as a Lara Croft type 🙂

Aided by my son he insists we skip the intros.

Intermittently he reaches over and gives me a belt, boots and a sword. And were off. I know I am painfully slow for him but after while I can position myself in front of a hovering, dragon slug thing which seems about as easy to kill as standing on a snail. I gain pouts, collect stuff and go up a few levels.

I assume my son is off to the bathroom when he goes of, actually he has signed on a second computer and with delight says the person I am standing next to, my twin but wearing clothes is him and his (her) name is ‘Notvaldesire’.

‘Let’s have a dual,’ he says and knowing what he is like I get my sword out and put in a strike only to have some god-like voice/ figure berate us.

On returning from the shops I ask if anything had happened as my wife had taken over ‘Our Val.’

We had to sell all you clothes, he said, to buy a spell that didn’t work.’

Having no clothes has me think of the only campus Second Life I’m aware of at Sussex University where I understand that repeated calls go out for everyone in Second Life to take their clothes off 🙁

Thinking about role play as I wondered through Lewes I saw groups of language students in the same blue-tops and football fans gathering before going off to a match.

This is the town where a substantial part of the town dress up for November 5th, indeed I am in Commercial Square and dress up as a Confederate Soldier each year. We joined as newcomers to the town 11 years ago; as a social network it is extraordinarily effective.

 

Role-play and learning in virtual and made-up worlds

We role-play as children to make sense of the world, we take on multiple personas to some degree in real-life as well.

I am particularly taken by the way people with a disability can walk in a virtual world (Peachey 2010) or indeed how any of us can fly and do much more in these environments (die and repeatedly come back to life of course.)

At no cost my dentist, or rather our family dentist, made a set of dentures for me out of dentine that fitted over my teeth. This allowed me to sing. I foolishly sharpened the fangs and promptly punctured my lower lip. I learnt by the way that unless I could have dislocated my jaw biting someone’s neck is impossible. Vampires should bite the wrist or leg, but then all, or at least the obvious sexual innuendos are lost.

Was I living out a fantasy when I played Dracula in my teens?

I kept acting into my twenties until I decided that my mental state couldn’t handle the selection process (rejection) and my experience in front of camera and on stage left me bored senseless (I had minor roles).

Do actors, as in role-play, have to overcome or compensate for who they are?

Peachy raises all the points in a commonsense and everyday way. I can imagine or should research where stepping into the role of an avatar has life-saving qualities, for example is not learning to fly a commercial jet-airliner in a simulator not a form of virtual role-play? I believe firemen are trained in virtual set-ups too and believe the nuclear power industry do so too.

The trouble with doing this in a learning context is the huge development costs. i.e. It has to be better to use a ready made platform. I then ask though, what is wrong with using our imaginations, that improvising and role-play doesn’t require the disguises?

REFERENCE

Peachey, A. (2010) ‘Living in immaterial worlds: who are we when we learn and teach in virtual worlds?’ in Sheehy, K., Ferguson, R. and Clough, G. (eds) Virtual Worlds: Controversies at the Frontier of Education (Education in a Competitive and Globalizing World), New York, NY, Nova Science.

 

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