Yay!!! Uses of Blogs, which has my chapter on Fictional Blogs in it, is now available!
Links to the table of contents, chapter one, and the contributors can be found here. This is very exciting!
Yay!!! Uses of Blogs, which has my chapter on Fictional Blogs in it, is now available!
Links to the table of contents, chapter one, and the contributors can be found here. This is very exciting!
It’s exciting to see that Lip Flap (the machinima I acted in) has been received so well. Recently it was added to the Second Life site itself as one of the “best made machinimas in Second Life” and now it has received attention from New World Notes here! This is a fabulous list of all the special film techniques Kronos used to achieve certain effects - and even though one comment might mislead people to imagine I was not impressed, trust me, I am incredibly impressed! To me, Kronos wrote a very clever script which was both comical and related to life inside the virtual world. It is the best SL script I have seen - in fact as I commented once before, there seem to be a lack of original scripted narratives being used in favour of experimenting with camera techniques. But Kronos does both - a fun narrative and groundbreaking techniques for machinima makers.
I believe Lip Flap has also been submitted here, so keep an eye out! The youtube version has been viewed over 600 times, which is great. Congratulations to Kronos for pushing machinima to a new level. It is so thrilling to have been a part of it. I have had a few unexpected ims but so far nobody has asked for my autograph *grin*.
I think this video is fast becoming the latest meme to show up everywhere. It’s touching, poignant, and has a beautiful message and yet… is it wrong that I feel somewhat creeped out by it as well?
Thanks to Danielle, I had a fascinating visit to the NMC Campus (NMC: New Media Consortium) last night! I met CDB (whose work I had read about before here) and Larry (who actually reads this blog!!!), and also met up with Corwin who has been talking to me about teaching in SL lately too. We had a great chat about teaching in SL but the most interesting part of the visit was checking out Robbie Dingo’s “Whisper Box” - surround sound musical isntallation that responds to chat. It is so interesting: playful and poetic, another new form of performance conversation that Robbie Dingo calls “a 21st Century Folk Song”. It is truly amazing - check it out at the NMC campus if you’re in Second Life!!
And…. my visit to NMC was called “a nice bonus” here!! How kind *smile* Thanks everybody for making me so welcome!
Credit for these photos goes to CDB
Well, after months of thinking about it, talking about it, and preparing for it…. yesterday I held my first class in SL for the semester. I was very excited and although I had to go into the labs an hour before the class started to install an updated version of SL on every single machine (*groan* and will have to do that next week as well!) the class went very well indeed.
I have some students in the campus computer lab with me, and also have distance mode students (well, only one was with us yesterday) joining us in SL. I had arranged to do a conference call using skype but alas the skype wasn’t working for some reason, so it was just SL and typing.
Not having skype actually worked in our favour I think because it meant I lectured very slowly - talking to the students in the lab, then typing in Second Life. The lab students just watched the action on the large projected screen for the first part and this helped them to see how things worked and how I was communicating with other people in the SL environment. There’s so much to show and explain to people who are totally new to online worlds, and then Second Life has a completely unique set of features which need further explaining. So I talked and typed and talked and typed and responded to questions and made the online distance student do some demonstrations. All my lecture notes were actually inside SL (though i put them on the course blog as well) so I felt that it was a very strange way to lecture - partly outside and yet partly inside SL. The slowness of it meant students could take their time to get their head around what was going on and I think this helped to lessen the degree to which they were overwhelmed.
I was quite happy with the lecture part of the session, and felt quite in control, but then came the whole registration and initiation into Second Life for the lab students. I sent the distance mode student off exploring while concentrating on the lab students. The registration process was OK though again it took longer than expected - thinking of a name to use took some students quite a while, and interpreting the security words took many failed attempts (is it just me or are these really difficult to see!?). Once inside Second Life the introductory tutorials are very good so I just let them work their way through those for a while. Again this took longer than I expected. Interestingly for me, one female student chose to be a male - I can’t wait to read her first assignment (which is a semiotic analysis of the avatar they form and fashion for themselves)! And of all the students, it was a male student who spent the most time working on editing his appearance at this stage.
Once I teleported all the students into the classroom there were some administrative things we had to do: like making “friends” with each other, signing them all up to the class group, and making landmarks. Everything is so strange and new when you first start and it is easy to forget that confusion. Learning how to right click on somebody and select “add friend” from the pie menu to establish a friends list takes a little practice, especially for students who are self-confessed “internet illiterates”. The next item of business was giving them their giftbags - when I told them I had free clothes, a free aeroplane, a free motorbike, and all sorts of other goodies for them, I noticed a visible shift from anxiety to excitement in many faces!!
Next was practising talking to each other through text, and learning where to chat versus where to im. This went really well thanks to the distance mode student who asked lots of questions and kept the conversation rolling while I walked around the lab making sure all of the individuals were doing and feeling OK. Some students relaxed right into it, others took a little longer to find things and work things out.
I think most students were excited and enthused by the end of the session, although I still saw a look of slight terror on one woman’s face and even though I promised her that I would hold her hand and help her each step of the way she did not look entirely convinced.
The biggest lesson for me was that I needed to slow right down and not expect to get into the theory too much at this early stage. It will be a difficult balancing act I feel to keep a high level of theory and scholarship whilst allowing enough time for exploration, learning and play. I think the “play stage” is very important but there’s only so much time in each session. I talked a lot about my philosophy of being an insider, and I can see that most of the students will take up the challenge and immerse themselves into the world to learn about its social and discursive practices. I am not convinced yet that I will be able to convert them all (*grin* do I sound evangelistic?) but I am sure going to try!
The best question of the night? Do I consider Second Life to be ontologically new? FABULOUS QUESTION!!!! The answer: yes and no! I love it that the students are already pushing my thinking and theorising.
Now.. off to make a scavenger hunt for them to do next week….
This one is morbid but that’s what makes it so fascinating!!
Thanks to the wonderful generosity of Angrybeth Shortbread, I now have my own fully functional machinima TV studio for my students to roleplay and film in. The studio came with a camera with 8 preset angles for shooting and toggling between, and the spots marked out for the furniture and screen to be positioned. I added my own furniture and voila…
a spot for the interviewer and guest(s)…
a spot for the camera person and audience (I only have a small class so its a humble little studio audience here)….
and a screen which shows award-winning machinima, of course!
Kronos helped me set up the key lights and side lights (which are invisible) so that everybody’s features will be perfectly defined and softened during filming, and he also made the screen backdrops to help define the space yet give it openness and tie it back to the SL world.
My course deals with all new forms of narrative and storytelling, and I have a fabulous new idea which I am working on …. so stay tuned!
Note: despite my campaigning for a “best machinima actress” award, none was forthcoming!
I wrote this report about the machinima festival for another purpose but thought I would include it here as well, since I am beginning to get a lot of queries about my research into machinima.
This month’s film festival showcased a diverse variety of machinima from Second Life film makers. There were 16 films covering a range of genres: MTV style clips, reporting a la video blogging style clips, video gaming style quest clips, documentary style, and two narratives: one a comedy and one a film noir horror spoof. Some films were fun and loose and experimental, and others were tightly shot and very carefully edited with traditional film techniques. Yet all films revealed one important and significant fact: Second Life is a perfect venue for machinima whether you are a resident with no film making background, or an experienced real life film maker coming into Second Life expressly for that purpose.
The festival commenced with BuhBuhCuh Fairchild announcing that there will be a real life meetup and festival in San Francisco for machinima makers. Coming from Australia I was kind of ambivalent about this but clearly it’s a great opportunity for the people who can attend. The showing then began and for the next hour I was immersed in the wonderful and colourful worlds that I was invited into by each of the filmmakers.
The first film was by P Pierce, and had a fun experimental feel to it and told the story of discovering Second Life from an outsiders perspective – not with words but through images and sound.
The next film was Free Falling by Aces Spade and was a fun MTV style clip set to a Tom Petty song. It was very well edited, and had a lovely interweaving of real life / second life. I laughed out loud at the image of the boyfriend, found myself appreciating the particle effects of the parachute and wondering where I could get one myself, and thoroughly enjoying the artistry of the piece. Very impressive film making techniques.
Next was a very quick film called Home Run Derby, by Digi Vox, showing people playing baseball in Second Life. It was fun and received much applause by the audience. It flashed past so fast I missed getting a snapshot.
The fourth film was by RacerX Gullwing and was a fascinating “Quake” style film – I felt like I was inside a video game as the character played by RacerX raced through mazes in the temple trying to find the “snail dude”. The movement made us feel a little dizzy but I think that was a very clever way to metaphorically convey the sense of confusion when you become lost and are searching for your way. The fast movements made somebody on the audience call out “It’s like Spielberg on a Snail Trail” and I thought that was a fun way to think of it – fast paced action centred around the search for everybody’s favourite character the snail dude. Personally the film was a little long for me and I had to look away because it made me dizzy, but for game players with a stronger stomach I am sure it was perfectly paced.
Next was Moo Money’s report from the Pixels in Pink “Relay for Life” party. Just like a live reporter at an event, Moo exaplained the context of the party and then showed us some of the action and told us about the special moments in the vening, including how much money was raised to support the cancer foundation.
The sixth film was the very funny horror spoof by Angrybeth Shortbread, one of the leading machinima makers in Second Life and the winner of last months “Best Story” award. This film also delivered in a multiplicity of ways: from the very clever story with a great twist at the end, to the use of foley sound effects, and the black and white palette to create the type of shadows and atmosphere reminiscent of 1940s film noir.
The next film was a hilarious but kinda creepy MTV clip which featured a giant spider dancing to the Black Eyed Peas “Mama”. This spider sure shook her boom boom mama (can you tell I am not au fait with this music?) and the audience clapped with pleasure at the end.
The next film was the brief “The Trailer” by Kronos Kirkorian. This was just a fun interlude he captured in between takes of the set to his real machinima, which will be discussed shortly.
“An Avie Scorned” was the next film, another made in the MTV genre, setting Second Life scenes to a song with fast paced clever editing. It featured a very cool car crash, drama, revenge, and pathos. The special feature in this film that caught my eye was the shots of imaginary Second Life news papers with screaming headlines to complement the lyrics of the song, and the very very VERY cool Harry Potter style moving images on the newspaper. I loved this effect, well done!!
Tenth up was a Tao Takashi piece announcing a forthcoming event in Second Life to again support the real life cancer foundation. The tag line was “Make Cancer History” and the film took us through the sims which were supporting the event. I liked the front on view of an Arnie style av pointing a la Uncle Sam saying “We Need You” to help donate money. I like the way people are using old metaphors but reinventing them for new purposes – in this one a call for charity. I also loved the lilting violin music that underscored the announcement – it was a very emotive reminder about the real life effects cancer has on us. As a text of persuasion, this film included multiple semiotic triggers: the music, the direct request to the camera, and the appeal to you to help out. Very cleverly done!
“Living in Game Space” was the 11th film and this was a film made for the introduction to the Open Source podcast which was a fascinating podcast about life and identity in online worlds. The podcast featured one of the leading world experts on virtual identity, Sherry Turkle, and is a must listen to! The clip as a consequence takes us through the many scenes in Second Life which are mentioned in the podcast.
Next was Tumbleweed’s “Happy Birthday” – another MTV style clip shot to the music of Conway Twitty. As I watched this I found the characters to be too dark – I couldn’t make out their facial features. As a machinima actress myself I use an invisible light attached to my torso called a “Key Light” to ensure my face is properly lit. I think that this film maker could have used the lighting to help better, unless the darkness was a desired effect but if it was, I couldn’t quite determine why. Nevertheless the editing was well done and the message conveyed well.
Unlike last month, this month we only had one commercial clip and this was the next film, a demonstration type advertisement by Robbie Dingo featuring his Hyper Flute. I think it was meant to be more of a demonstration rather than a commercial. Either way, I have one of these flutes and adore it!
Film 14 was another MTV style movie again showcasing the clever filming and editing effects of the filmmaker. Set to a Johnny Cash song, the music seemed less important than the techniques, which were clearly visible. If you are a filmmaker wanting to advertise your skills in a more explicit way, this is how to do it! But although I was highly impressed with the editing techniques and composition used, I found my attention was so clearly focused on those that I don’t actually know what the story was from my first viewing.
The 15th film was another film by Tao Takashi, a clip in which he interviewed two actors about their machinima called “When we were robots”. I loved the clever dialogue of the two actors he interviewed, and once again, the issues they explored were all related to virtual identity, post-humanism and the worlds we inhabit in, around and between flesh and software. The funny outtake at the end left me laughing for real as well.
And finally… the last film to be shown was our very own Lip Flap, made by Kronos Kirkorian and starring myself and Dell Wilberg!! I actually felt a little nervous as it started up but was delighted for Kronos that it received great applause and positive comments. Kronos packed so much into the 3 minute film that it probably takes several viewings to see everything – the hallmark of a great film! People laughed throughout, and appreciated the clever “mirror” effects Kronos had created in post-production. Of course, Kronos and I had invited all of our friends over to the festival to see it, so they very kindly applauded loudly for us. The narrative was clever – using various features of Second Life to comic effect. I would love to see more narrative style machinimas being made!
So, that was it, the July festival. It also included a griefer who had to be banned for foul language, a painfully rude and thoughtless person who ranted on and on IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR VIEWING about his Linux issues, and somebody who was building things. Come on people, let’s have some festival etiquette here!
On a lighter note, do you like my Hollywood style Nonna Hedges gown?
All films can be viewed here tomorrow. Congratulations to Buhbuhcuh Fairchild and Moo Money for organising such a fabulous event! And… fingers crossed that Kronos wins an award for Lip Flap!!!!!
Wow… my friend Kelli just sent me this link to a SMH article about protests in a Chinese MMORPG. Here’s a couple of excerpts from the article:
Some ten thousand Chinese protestors staged a demonstration on the weekend after a motif resembling a Hinomaru or “rising sun” Japanese flag was seen on a wall at a government office.
Such large protests last took place in China two years ago when government-sanction anti-Japanese demonstrations broke out around the country after Japan approved school textbooks which glossed over its wartime atrocities.
But this time, there was a difference. The protests were not sanctioned by Chinese authorities and barely a word about the disturbance has been reported in the mainstream press.
That’s because the demonstration took place inside a virtual world and the protestors were not people, but avatars, online representations of human game players.
The offending motif (see picture, above) was first observed last week, around the same time as NetEase administrators suspended a leading player in the Journey West game because he refused to change his avatar’s politically-incorrect name.
The avatar using the name Kill the Little Japs, had reached Level 144, which is just short of the top level of 155, according to the respected Hong Kong-based EastSouthNorthWest blog.
Kill the Little Japs also controlled one of the game’s leading guilds, or player association, a 700-member group called The Alliance to Resist Japan. That too has been dissolved by the game’s administrators.
The errant avatar now sits in what is called the Great Tang Permanent Incarceration Prison and is prevented from participating in the online game in which he says he has invested many hours and over $6500 in real money.
So far in Second Life there have been a few protests that I know about (i.e. about registration issues) and a few law suits (about virtual property) - but nothing of this magnitude. I am really interested in the way that disputes are resolved in world. I know that there are now lawyers who specialise in virtual law practice. Its definitely an area that deserves more attention and research.
Once again, I have found a gorgeous example of valuing a traditional literary experience by reconstructing it into a new form. Here is the wonderful A A Milne story of Winnie the Pooh - in particular, the game of “Pooh Sticks” recreated by Angrybeth Shortbread. If you want to play it yourself, you can go here.
I am really excited to finally be seeing my SL classroom taking shape, ready for my post-grad students who will be starting in less than two weeks time! I tried so many houses and spaces to try and get the right environment - from beach houses, to palaces, to open beach, to rock pools… nothing quite felt right. I wanted to the space to be defined so that my students would experience a certain sense of community, yet I also wanted it to be open and spacious and aesthetically appealing. Finally, my friend Cara (Cara Charming) very generously gave me this gorgeous build she made with all of my favourite colours and textures. Hey, I have 90% females in my class so its ok that it is a bit frothy and feminine *grin*
So I love the Marrakesh style things Cara makes and she styled the classroom on some of her other builds but bigger to suit my need for space and openness. It has one main large open room for the whole class teaching:
In the room I have blended the traditional with the new. My course is on New Literacies, but in the first class we will be talking about how some “new” literacies are really just old literacies reconstituted in new spaces.. and that does not detract from their value, it simply means we retain those literate practices that are historically and culturally significant to us. To this end, I have some of my lectures developed into book formats:
For others (and the students own presentations) I will use this free whiteboard system developed by Angybeth Shortbread (a media genius in Second Life and so generous to the education community!). It is very easy for students to present their own work on this whiteboard and to do it quickly. The book system I am using is great for me (and I can give copies of each lecture in a small book format to the students to keep in their inventories) but not so practical for new students (lets not call them newbies, that term is becoming so derogatory in its use!).
Additionally I have this gorgeous antique desk set with a scroll and ink sitting in one corner, to remind my students of our history with writing - its a nice juxtaposition I think with the new.
And speaking of new, I am streaming in some machinima to my land so that we can watch the SL machinima within SL:
Also, since I will be talking about new forms of narrative and storying, I am going to show them this storytelling teddy bear. it was given to me by Foolish Frost and when you click on it, it delivers a story in the form of notecards.
I have plenty of spaces for small group discussions - some inside spaces and some outside. Here’s a nice space inside in front of the tulips, overlooking the ocean (which now has super new and improved waves from my friend Mathieu Basiat!)
Outside I have a communal photograph board - students will take shots around Second Life and come back here to show and share them:
I will also be talking about performance narratives and music in SL, and have my floating stage outside for students to play around with their own performances (made by my favourite leading man in SL: the one and only Dell Wilberg!). The fireworks are fun and the atmosphere provides context for imaginative play as well.
Finally, back inside the classroom, I have my magic handbag sitting right in the middle of the room! When the students click on this bag, they will be given a whole heap of landmarks, notecards, and free gifts I have for them - I love this handbag, its such a fun way to deliver information
Oh, and don’t you just loooove the little softly lit alcoves Cara made all around the room to showcase my music boxes, art work, and other magical odds and ends?
So…. I am almost ready I think…. I just need to try and find some more freebies for their giftbags… Do you think I also need a manly bag for the males in my class?
Here it is!!! *smiles* My first starring role in a machinima. Enjoy Kronos (the director) is entering it into Alt-Zoom’s Take5 Machinima Festival on July 19th, so please come along and see it!!! We will have an in-world premiere soon too, probably at the AFTRS island. Dell and I have requested a red carpet and to be flown in by helicopter *laugh* I might even find a way to give out autographs!! So fun…
Right now I seem to be involved in ten thousand projects at once, so please excuse the slow movement of the blog.
We finished shooting our machinima over the weekend - here’s Dell (my co-star, the leading man) and I relaxing in between takes in my trailer *laugh* I’ll post up the actual movie when our esteemed director Kronos has finished all the post production work. And… everybody will be invited to the world premiere at the next alt-zoom machinima festival!