April 29, 2006
The body culture in Second Life is such that one’s avatar must look *just so*. Making sure your hair is perfectly adjusted to flit and fly and animate in synch with the head movements is a complicated business. I am simply blown away by the technical and scientific discourse in this post at Linden Lifestyles: Hair Editing 101. Those women are goddesses of style and intellect - they deserve honorary doctorates for their contributions to posthumanism!
Colin and I have been having this ongoing conversation about power and literacy with respect to Web 2.0 and new literacies. Colin is busy researching the power bloggers to explore one aspect of new literacies and I’m busy researching “the long tail” to explore another aspect. Colin and Michele’s first two chaters of New Literacies 2.0 are available here, and they deal with the issues of power and literacy by thinking through the varying mindsets and perspectives taken up by different groups and institutions.
Anyway Colin was thinking about our two perspectives when reading my new literacies research chapter (Thomas, A. (in press/2006). Culture, Community and Citizenship in Cyberspace. In: Lankshear, C., Knobel, M., Leu, D. and Cairo, J. (Eds.), The Handbook of New Literacies Research. Erlbaum.) and commented thus (and I quote him here with his permission):
…but what has got me smiling is the way in which we respectively represent the two perspectives you are juxtaposing in your very chapter.
There is you dealing with web 2.0 in the civic sense, bouncing off your sources like McManus and Davis and Kelly. going through wikipedia as a social community. There is me, in the new edition of new lits, bouncing off O’Reilly with the logic of leverage and with the emphasis on how web 2.0 is the greatest thing since sliced bread for incorporating people into a new economy. Ditto with specific examples like wikipedia. What excites me is the nose thumbing at copyright and the way wikis so neatly constitute a self-correcting system — given a bit of sysop oversight. You, by contrast, play the citizenship card.
It’s always been like this with our respective takes on blogging. I gravitate to the power bloggers cos they give me what I am looking for when i browse the small range of blogs i go to. You are right in there researching the long tail of the blog.
It’s a gorgeous wee microcosm of the Susan Herring analysis.
Mind you, i ain’t about to change!! There is a passage — well a few — in the new edition of NewLits where i confront this whole business about power in relation to ‘new’ and established literacies. It seems to me that the people who have mastered the high status conventional literacies are the ones who are triumphing in ‘power’ terms in the new spaces as well. No surprises there. At one point I actually write that I’m not about to give up my investments in those established literacies that have served us so well.
In the end, i guess, i read the whole thing as largely economic — in a broad sense of ‘economic’ that includes attention economics and what jpg would call markets in social goods. the new economy requires an ‘all in’ approach and that is what we have. but the patterns of rewards and satisfactions will be diverse and complex. I won’t live long enough to see how it plays out in terms of ‘hierarchies’ — i.e., whether values will shift so much that ‘participation’ triumphs over ‘power’ as we know it, such that the order of things we have known historically somehow gets inverted.
I’m sceptical. In that sense I guess i still reckon de certeau might stil have plenty to tell us.
And my response was this:
Well, when you consider my exploits on Second Life, its a bit easier to see the two perspectives living enmeshed together. I have just spent some of my research funds buying an oceanfront property in Second Life. I am planning to build an “alternative” type of online learning environment. There will be rock pools for students to float about in as they discuss the finer points of theory. There will be a TV to show my video clips, a radio channel to broadcast podcasts, and a screen to pop up my powerpoint slides. All in the beach cottage somebody else is making for me. The sounds of the ocean waves will blend with the sounds of me talking about new literacies, as we watch the sun setting colouring the sky a deep crimson.
Meanwhile, other people will get the benefit of all my hard work and uploading of knowledge. Second Life will be written about, documented and revered because of people doing just the sort of thing that I am doing. Oh yeah, web 2.0 for sure - all of us thousands of residents building, making, sharing, networking, giving.
And we’re paying a fortune for the privilege!!!!!!! Where else eould you have to pay for the privilege of working *grin*. Big business dollars are being spent every week in Second Life (it averages several million US dollars in turn around per month) because people like me want to create a brave new world.
OK so I get your point about power. But for now I am so much more interested in how and why people want to participate in this. What
hundreds of thousands of people are doing is so much more interesting to me personally than what the few power players are doing. And if those power players manage to get a few hundred dollars of my hard earnt cash in the process, well thats a compromise I have to live with
Laughing…. I am squirming a bit about how I have to engage in the power stuff WHEN I DON’T WANT TO, to do what I want to do!!
Anyway I guess its important to understand all perspectives to truly understand what New Literacies are and could potentially become. I would be fascinated to hear what others think on this.
Yesterday I bought some virtual land! It is an ocean front property. I will be using it to pratice building and learning how to upload streaming video, music, powerpoint slides and so on for teaching in. But my students will be sitting about in rockpools and sunbathing in the open and under the stars, listening to the sounds of the ocean (do you think I overdid how many waves I added in?) as we discuss the finer points of theory and new literacies. I will have a “house” soon, but (as I said to the Teachers College students who dropped in for a visit last night - and lovely to meet them it was indeed!) I am not going to replicate any type of traditional classroom. I am not entirely convinced that the Pro-Dean of Research in my faculty actually understands what I am doing… but he seems happy enough to support it, thank goodness!!! Here are some shots of me, the new land owner, in my ideal dream home setting!! (Meanwhile in my “first life” I rent a shabby basement in the heart of the city).
April 27, 2006
Last night on Second Life I met a real Linden! This is Red, who works at the Linden Labs (developers of the Second Life phenomenon) as a marketing consultant. It was great to talk about my research and she kindly gave me contact details of people to communicate with about it.
And the night before last, I finally caught up with TC Kolache (aka Charles Kinzer) while floating about in the Lost Gardens of Apollo! It was very surreal to be floating about there discussing AERA and Guy and Kevin and other people’s work we admired. He managed to get an entire island for his classes to experiment on (*envy envy*) and so I went for a quick visit to the Teacher’s Centre island to have a peek at what they were doing. I wonder where this building is in the real world?
The experience of talking with a colleague in our avatar forms was a little disconcerting but as always, fascinating for reflection and theorising about
April 26, 2006
I am so excited to be able to follow Chris’s journey from student to beginning teacher on his xanga, and since he was one of my students, I feel proud too! Look at these fabulous lessons he did with his grade 7 class!! Visual literacy, multiliteracies, characterisation, text functions, multimodality, youtube… I will find a way to use this stuff in my lectures with current students and use Chris as a *gasp* model example!!
Just to build anticipation…
The long awaited special edition of the e-Learning journal that I am guest editing is officially in production and almost ready for access. Here’s the link, and here’s a sneak preview:
Guest Editor: ANGELA THOMAS
Angela Thomas. ‘MSN was the Next Big Thing after Beanie Babies’: children’s virtual experiences as an interface to their everyday lives
Sally Humphrey. Getting the Reader on Side: exploring adolescent online political discourse
Barbara J. Guzzetti. Cybergirls: negotiating social identities on cybersites
Rebecca W. Black. Language, culture and identity in online fanfiction
Kevin Leander & Amy Frank. The Aesthetic Production and Distribution of Image/Subjects among Online Youth
Lalitha Vasudevan. Making Known Differently: engaging visual modalities as spaces to author new selves
Julia Davies. Affinities and Beyond! Developing Ways of Seeing in Online Spaces
Guy Merchant. Identity, Social Networks and Online Communication
Jonathon Marshall. Categories, Gender and Online Community
E-Literature for Children, reviewed by Angela Thomas
Lots of fun stuff about identity, discourse, visual literacy, systemics, gender, and online communities. Stay tuned…
April 25, 2006
Today I was treated to a wonderful surprise - I watched an episode of the Three Stooges and some film previews. All in Second Life. This person’s Second Life house (JJason’s next door neighbour) has a giant screen and looping video streaming of an assortment of programs, trailers and movie clips. AMAZING!
Here is a fabulous article in business week about the virtual economies in Second Life. The story is great - and says in much more detail what I’ve mentioned here a couple of times. The busines world is starting to sit up and take serious notice. Having a site where 3D models of real products (such s fashion) can viewed in their full glory from all angles gives a new sort of business presence that is very attrative. Particularly when you consider the real turnover of finance in Second Life: a million US dollars a month!
But if you read the story all the way through, the author also talks about his avatar in much the same way as I did a few posts ago (that creeped a few people out *laugh*) - here is an excerpt:
At first, I wonder why I (or my avatar) has such a visceral reaction to this perceived intrusion. Then a flush of parental pride washes over me: My avatar, which so far has acted much like me, hanging back from crowds and minding his punctuation in text chats, suddenly is taking on a life of his own. Who will my alter ego turn out to be? I don’t know yet. And maybe that’s the best thing about virtual worlds. Unlike in the corporeal world, we can make of our second lives whatever we choose.
See! Its not just me Our Second Life selves are developing personas that are part of a new culture - yes its synthetic and we are doing the constructing of that culture ourselves, but the community and the technology that drives the community mean our habitus is significantly shaped by what the possibilities are. And the possibilities are surprisingly endless. Last night I took time out of serious research mode (OK, I confess, I am having so much fun I take time out a LOT - but where does ethnographic research stop and experiencing the culture begin??) to go dancing:
Notice the “pose balls” in sets of two (one male, one female) - when you click these your avatars join together in a looped animation of various dances, and if you turn the music on, you are actually dancing to gorgeous streaming music. Here I am dancing the “hot salsa” to some very hot Spanish dance music. I found it fascinating to watch my avatar - me? - doing such nimble and sexy dance moves I wrote about this phenomenon in my PhD - how our gaze on the avatar self can be pleasurable. But I was basing that more on what my research subjects were telling me, rather than having fully experienced it myself. Finally I am catching up to where the kids were 5 years ago *laugh*
Anyway back to the big business side of Second Life, I stumbled across this academic article from an ethnographer in Wisconsin (so many good people working over there!) for any of you who might want a more serious study of the phenomenon. It’s all about capital - from economic capital to social capital, and is definitely worth a read:
Thomas Malaby’s: Parlaying Value: Capital in and Beyond Virtual Worlds. Enjoy!
April 24, 2006
Oh! I just received a letter from Open University Press saying that the Portugese translation rights to Children’s Literature and Computer Based Learning has been sold to Artmed Editora. Amazing.
Len and I were invited to respond to a parliamentary enquiry into the effects of television and multimedia on education in Victoria. We are contributing to the “Family and Community Development Committee” response who will be reporting to Parliament in August. The 2000 report is very interesting reading - some of the concerns and criticisms echo the moral panic I’ve seen in other media releases, and some of the “how to effectivly use media in the classroom” points seem pretty archaic 6 years on. Ummm… and if you look at the image used on the enquiry website:
I’m not convinced that feelings about new media have progressed much over these past 6 years. Anyway so far Len and I have been emailing back and forth our joint response and have about a 10 page document outlining the amazing things kids are learning from their online worlds and blended hybrid lives on and off screen. Essentially we’re saying that kids are already learning, they are active consumers and producers of multimodal, interactive, hypertextual texts, and that education is a bit slow in the uptake. You know, the usual stuff. But we’re also pointing out examples of kids and schools who ARE doing fabulous things - particularly in Victoria where so much seems to be happening with media literacy in schools. Every school in Victoria (primary and high school) has the 3D animation software Kahootz, for example, and the stuff we saw last week, as I already mentioned, was so exciting to see.
Its also exciting to feel like I actually have a voice in something significant and potentially high impact in education. This is why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place - to help change the world through education *grin* I was so idealistic as a student, and now I think the idealism has potential to actualise into something real. How surprising!
Oops… perhaps I was too hasty in my critique of that image, because on the terms of reference page I just noticed this wonderful image:
Now we’re talking! :>
April 23, 2006
One of the things I’m really most interested in with Second Life is the potential for roleplaying and storying. Now that I’ve had fun playing with the basics in the world (and spending my hard earned cash on skin, hair and fashion!!) I’ve started exploring the various role-playing sims. Last night I was totally creeped out though when I stumbled across a horror role-playing sim. Loosely based on the computer game, Silent Hill (which is also now a movie), Crimson Falls is a supernatural / horror / violent / psychological drama kind of roleplay.
Pictured here are the crimson falls - the water is crimson allegedly because of the algae but there are some in the narrative that think it is the blood of all the people who were slaughtered at an insane asylum by a crazy doctor. What disturbed me most was the wonderful streaming audio (of jazz and melancholic 50s music), the sound effects of the ocean and birds and living things, not to mention the gorgeously designed textures of buildings and so on - all creating a beautiful context for such horror. So blood spattered floors and bits of human remains were a shock to see… and I had chills seeing it after being lulled into a false sense of security constructed through the beauty of the place.
Anyway stay tuned for more!
April 22, 2006
By daytime, Anya is the image of sophistication, dressed in pearls and a svelte leather trimmed suit.
When nightfall comes, she can be found flitting about in fabulous faerie fantasy role-plays.
But secretly, in the dark of night when nobody is looking, she practices her exotic dancing….
the new Sofia Coppola movie: Marie Antoinette. And just look at these divinely gorgeous posters and stills from the movie - I absolutely adore the cream and pink palette! Its just so frothy and girly and romantic. I absolutely must use them in my visual literacy lectures next semester. Not only will we be able to deconstruct the interpersonal meanings of mood and ambience created through colour, but my powerpoint slides are just going to look simply scrumptious!
and speaking of girly and sweet - when I was in Melbourne over Easter I came across this seat in the city mall:
do you think the designer was a woman?
and speaking of seats…. look at this wonderful chair that I won on eBay!!!!! Yes, I am a winner!!! *chuckle* don’t you love how terms like “winner” suck you right in to a certain mindset of consumerism? But it did only cost me $46.10 and it was listed as “a genuine antique rosewood Queen Anne lounge chair”. And it is pink! *grin*
April 21, 2006
Len and I went to Melbourne to visit with staff at the Australian Children’s Television Foundation to discuss our proposed research project on children’s production of multimodal texts using 3D animation software.
Our discussions went extremely well and we were excited to hear that they are definitely interested in becoming partners with us in the project. So now we’re working on involving another collaborating partner to join us and then we’ll submit the application for grant funding to the Australian Research Council. Len and I have been working on all the preliminary work for the project proposal for months now and we’re both thrilled with the possibilities of it all. We saw some grade 5 children’s animations that totally blew us away - I can’t wait to show my undergrads!! Unfortunately the animated stories and computer games (which can be exported into movie files) that the kids are making are not available for public viewing yet otherwise I’d include them here and totally shock you all at their brilliance. The kids are doing blended animation / real people stories - inserting their own acting into the movie file, and / or their own voiceovers to their animations. I have samples from kids aged 7 to 15 and they are all simply incredible - the hypertextuality and interactivity within their narrative/games astonished me - and I’ve been studying this for years so it takes a lot to astonish me!!
The staff at the ACTF were just lovely and we were given a tour of the offices that I simply had to take photos of, because they were filled with props and sets from their TV productions. In particular, I looooved all the Noah and Saskia sets because as you might know from all my raving about it, I am a total Noah and Saskia fan! So here are some of the images from the offices - what a creative working environment!
I also fell in love with the gorgeous architecture of the buildings outside:
Yesterday I met the loveliest English gentleman:
Yes, I met TT, aka Gareth, aka DrJoolz’s husband! Brian and I met him at the Rocks.
Then we drove around to the Botanic gardens and had lunch at the art gallery (where we poked our heads in to spot the Archibald prize exhibition as well as spotting a number of Sidney Nolan’s works),
followed by a walk through the gardens,
past hundreds of fruit bats,
(somebody else takes much better photos than me:)
and gorgeous flora. We walked along the harbour foreshore across to the opera house
where we had drinks,
then walked back. And…. TT gave me this wonderful present from DrJoolz!!!!!
as well as a fabulous candle in the shape of a cupcake. THANK YOU DRJOOLZ!!! I am so excited and have already started reading this book I’ve been hearing so many lovely things about for the past few months.
I’ve been away in Melbourne doing some research and then some family stuff which I will blog about later. Although I did have a little computer access while I was away, I didn’t have the chance to blog, so there’s lots to catch up on! But I am hoping TT will get bored at his conference in Manley so that I can have a good excuse to go and do more touristy things over the weekend. I love it when people visit because I see places and do things I wouldn’t normally see and do
April 15, 2006
Here’s a quick video of me playing the flute in Second Life. I’m playing one of the pre-uploaded songs, “Summertime”. But I’ve also been transcribing my own flute music slowly into files that can be read and converted into audio. It’s really quite clever. One of my favourite pieces of music to play is Debussy’s “Syrinx” and I am half way through transcribing and rearranging it to suit right now. Getting the changes in tempo and dynamics is tricky but it can be done thanks to the amazing design of the flute by a Second Life resident named Robbie Dingo.
More than any other online community I’ve studied, I’m having the most fun with this one. It has so many more creative and artistic possibilities, and I’m a great fan of animation. But I also loooove my avatar - crazy but true - I think because she has automatic poses and responses not controlled completely by me it feels like she’s a little real doll. The blurring of calling her “me” and “she” is strange too - because she has a life of her own I see her as more seperate from me yet she is more like me than any other avatar I’ve had (not in looks but in some intangible way I can’t quite articulate) - fascinating
Oh do you like the pink hair today? I couldn’t resist buying a set of different shades of my favourite hairstyle. Yes I know - another $5 spent on dressing myself up. I am addicted to shopping. I’ve been trying to think of a way to make money in SL itself to support my fashion addiction. I went to Barbie’s night club and they were hiring “exotic” dancers for $100s of dollars an hour plus any tips from viewers but despite Anya’s secret urge to try pole-dancing in skimpy outfits I decided not to allow it *laugh*. Something a bit more respectable is the song writing competition I am going to enter. The prize is $10,000 (Linden dollars) which equates to about $50 (Australian). If I win that it would keep me in shoes and clothes and hair and jewellery etc… for a while *laugh*. Incredibly, there are a number of Second Life fashion blogs, magazines, and online boutiques which are hilarious fun. Check out these: Linden Lifestyles, Second Life Boutique, and Second Style Fashionista. My absolute favourite designer (who must be at least $10 richer because of my trade) is Nonna Hedges. In fact, you may recognise some of these items of clothing from my previous posts:
Avatars are a bustling economy - big business But don’t you just love the authentic fashion genre in the images and composition of Nonna Hedges’ ads? It’s brilliant and she is genuinely talented!
And speaking of blogs and e-zines related to Second Life, there are thousands of them! I really like the video blog of Dagny Hemingway because she has some great videos of events (for example when Lawrence Lessig visited she filmed the event). Her blog is called The Faux Press in Second Life. There’s moves afoot for an e-zine called “Avatar Magazine” and people are getting paid to write about avatars! I think I should volunteer
April 13, 2006
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I’m heading out of Sydney for a few days - happy Easter to everybody!