December 21, 2006
Last year when I was in Tasmania for the Summer I went trekking through some of the Wilderness areas and took lots of photographs of the gorgeous forests and waterfalls. This was one of them! And I am veeerrrryyyy happy to say that tomorrow I am off again for my annual jaunt to the most beautiful, peaceful place in the world. Not only that, but I will have no Internet access!! So… festive greetings and kind wishes to all - I’ll be back in 3 weeks or so!
December 20, 2006
December 18, 2006
As somebody who has been quite evangelical in my comments about Second Life, it comes as a shock to read around the blogosphere and find that other people are just not that into it. Serious gamer research blogs like Terra Nova seem to be fairly dismissive of it, and serious social software research blogs like Many2Many seem to consider it all either hyped up or a world of horrors (citing the seedy sex scene as offputting). But it seems to me that none of these people “get it”. Because Second Life, despite some of its less savoury aspects, really has the best of both worlds - it is a fantastic gaming platform and it is also a fantastic social software platform.
First of all, Second Life has a rich role-playing scene - OK so not all of the role-playing is G rated, but the role-playing I have seen is wonderful. I am so surprised that the “serious” gamers don’t get into this more, because for anybody researching new narrative forms, Second Life provides the best of what’s new and the users themselves are the ones constructing the contexts, storylines, characters and quests. Now I don’t want to open up the debate about narrative vs ludology by seeming to favour narrative, and perhaps WoW is much stronger in its ludic qualities, but the beauty of Second Life is that the users themselves have developed their own MM (well maybe 40 or 50 isn’t massive but still..) ORPG. I’ve been following some of the posts about WoW from other researchers, and I see that WoW has fairly structured, in-built quests, and a limited array of avatars and characters, particularly with respect to female characters. In Second Life the range of possibilities for characters and avatars is restricted only to the player’s imagination. Some of the role-playing has in built quests and ludic elements like combat, rewards, levels and so on, and so again, each role-playing context is different and has different elements according to what the group of role-players want and develop together. This means that Second Life is a wonderful gaming platform for people who have imagination and who want to co-construct complex and diverse narratives and games with others.
Secondly, I am just outright shocked at the lack of interest from some of the people writing about social software. I have been a resident in Second Life now for over a year, and during this time I have:
- met an incredible group of talented educators, writers, media experts, animation experts, engineers, film makers and artists
- taught my class on New Literacies inside the world, which is being featured on a forthcoming television report in Australia
- spoken at a syposium on the “Impact of Digital Media” in connection with the NMC and the MacArthur foundation
- given a keynote at a Linguistics conference about machinima
- been invited to speak at two conferences in 2007 about digital culture / virtual worlds
- worked in collaboration with a number of educators, artists and digital culture commentator on a magazine about the arts and culture in SL
- included references to Second Life in my forthcoming book about literacies and identities in virtual worlds
- not to mention the new friends I have made who have taught me, inspired me, and helped to further shape my thinking about digital culture
Second Life, for me, *is* the ultimate in social software.
Notwithstanding its less savoury aspects. OK, so let me be balanced about this and point them out:
- the seedy sex scene is very offputing for people involved in education like me. I was very concerned and embarrassed about exposing my students to this, but probably overcompensated by sherparding them all carefully through the orientation stage and out of that horrible welcome area as fast as possible. The welcome area in Second Life is just TERRIBLE - its such a shock for new people to be confronted with, i wish it wasn’t there. Even in the orientation area before arriving at the welcome area I had one student griefed, with somebody pushing them off a mountain and screaming obscenities at them. So I can understand if people get that far and think it won’t be worth it. And in the welcome area, newbies are seen as targets for ridicule, sexual propositions, and more griefing. Even when getting my students over to my little plot of land I was worried about the neighbours, and put up barriers so none of them could wander in. Some of my colleagues are fortunate enough to have their own islands for teaching on, and if I am lucky maybe my faculty will give me funding for an island in the future too, but this last semester I only had a small plot, surrounded by all sorts of weird, wonderful, and not so wonderful neghbours (and more about my teaching semester in SL can be read here).
- there is a lot of hype and parabola about how many users are in SL, the platform is buggy, seeming favouritism towards some groups of people over others, there’s an American-centric attitude that pervades everything which is really irritating (not that I don’t love all my American friends, but really….), there are a lot of women who make me cry with frustration because of how they prostitute themselves for Lindens, and there do seem to be some groups of people who are using SL for what I would consider pathological purposes (and I don’t want to even mention what these are on my blog). Issues of race, gender, and socio-economic status are sadly numerous and negative in nature.
Will Second Life remain my platform of choice? Maybe not, but until something better comes along, I will concentrate on all of the amazing and positive affordances it offers for my teaching, research interests and social networking. I don’t really have the time or energy to focus on the negative aspects - I bypass them so that I can just do my work and socialising as effectively and efficiently as possible.
December 17, 2006
Thanks entirely to the amazing Dell Wilberg, Slatenight hosted a fabulous (!!!) Christmas party in Second Life last night. Dell rented a private Wintery snow covered Christmas themed sim for the party, and we hired the amazing musician Mel Cheeky (who truly does have the voice of an angel) and DJ Cybster Curtis (who mixed a lot of jazz music - Diana Krall, Norah Jones etc… - just for my pleasure! Thanks Cybster!) to entertain us throughout the evening. The party was held on an ice rink but the sim also had cabins, a nativity scene, an ice palace, a giant water slide, snowboarding, sleigh rides and several cosy fires to snuggle around.
Metaverse commentator and provocateur Prokofy (newly renamed Pro-VOKY by Mel Cheeky) Neva not only came along and partied with us but wrote some lovely comments about it on the Second Life Herald, which was a most unexpected pleasure to stumble on this morning as I was doing my daily blog reading.
Many of the Slatenight writers and artists attended (thank you Lythe, Kain, Coelacanth, Zingg, Fiend, Captain, and Tulipe for attending!), and other guests and friends, including NMC’s Larry Pixel who has invited me to speak at the 2007 NMC conference at Indiana University, which I am veeeerrrrrrry excited about. He also told me of some exciting new developments at the NMC which will be announced officially in the new year and which made my jaw drop, literally! (Stay tuned to the NMC Campus Observer for news).
I also managed to catch up with one of my students, Julie, who just finished her Masters degree work with me this year, and is planning on commencing her PhD work in 2007, so we had a quick discussion about the PhD process and supervision and so on whilst dancing away under the snow!
Unfortunately every time I tried taking photos I crashed, but other people managed to take some wonderful shots and we’ll be posting them over at Slatenight next week in our special December pictorial issue.
I haven’t been spending much time in SL lately because I have been madly finishing up a number of writing projects and commitments so it was especially fun to just turn up at a party and play host without having to do any of the organising (did I say thank you already to Dell for organising this?!). Thanks to everybody who made the evening such fun, it was my first Christmas party of the year and really was a most memorable occasion.
December 3, 2006
Apart from this pretty neat jacket featured on textually.org, I haven’t seen many posts about the phenomenon of “wearable teachnology” lately. That is, until I read Chris’s most recent post about how he is preparing for his next marathon run…. it made me laugh for several reasons - 1) his description of it is so funny and 2) because here we are, looking for instances of this “phenomenon” to write about, while right under our noses our friends and kids are doing it already! Here is Chris’s description about his running shoes which I am sure you will enjoy too:
Ok, so I figure some of you are just being polite and saying “Umm, nice shoes Chris”. But these are just no ordinary shoes. They are Nike Air Zoom Moires. Still nothing fancy? Ok, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The left shoe is in fact a secret agent for my iPod. I have covertly implanted a computer chip into the sole of this shoe which wirelessly transmits to a receiver attached to my ipod, and records all the statistics I want from my run: distance, time, pace, even calories burnt. This is also relayed to me at regular intervals throughout my run. So as I pass a kilometre my music dims and a little voice tells me how far I have run so far. It also tells me when I have made it half way, and then starts counting down the kilometres right through to my target distance. Of course, if I want to I can set it based on running for a particular amount of time, and for other conditions too.
Thanks Chris, I really needed that laugh!!! (And best of luck in your runs to come!)
December 2, 2006
In this special edition of “reconstruction” which focuses on blogging practices is the following article which I found especially fascinating:
Design and Play: Weblog Genres of Adolescent Girls in Israel by Carmel L. Vaisman
I like the focus on visual practices of bloggers (though claims that other researchers aren’t examining the visual are not accurate, i.e. Sally Humphrey’s fabulous article here) - but it is nevertheless great to see that multimodal analysis is being discussed widely. Here is the abstract:
Abstract: Unique circumstances existing in the Israeli blogsphere have attracted many adolescent girls. In recent years, a growing number of weblogs belonging to adolescent girls are challenging blogging norms, creating a tension between written narratives and performance narratives that combine design and play practices. Existing weblog research has explored the connections between gender, linguistic features, and genre but has not examined visual blog genres, nor questioned the role of features inherent in weblog software in the formation of gendered blog genres and blogging norms. Based on a work-in-progress of a larger scope, I shall argue that design supportive features distinctive to Israeli weblog software are directly responsible for the emergence of new blog genres and blogging norms, as well as for attracting many adolescent girls to blogging.
Story of my life searching for the right but it keeps avoiding me
sorrow in my soul because it seams that wrong he really loves my company
he’s more than a man and this is more than love th reason that the sky is
blue the clouds are roll’n in because I’m gone again an to him a just can’t be true.
And I know that he knows I’m unfaithful and it kills him inside to know that I am Happy
with some other guy I can see him dying. I don’t wanna do this anymore I don’t wanna
be the reason why and everytime I walk out the door I see him die a little more inside
and I don’t wanna hurt him anymore I don’t wanna take away his life I don’t wanna be a murder.
I feel in the air as I’m doing my hair preparing for another date.A kiss upon my cheek as he relactenly
asked if I’m gonna be out late I say I won’t long just hanging with the girls a lie I didn’t have to tell
because we both know where I’m about to go and we know very well
And I know that he knows I’m unfaithful and it kills him inside to know that I’m happy with some other guy
I can see him dying. I don’t wanna do this anymore I don’t wanna be the reason why and everytime I walk out the
door I see him die a little more inside and I don’t wanna hurt him anymore I don’t wanna take a his life I don’t wanna be a murder.
Our love, his trust, I might as well take a gun and put it to his head get it over with I don’t wanna do this anymore . whoa oh.. anymore
I don’t wanna do this anymore I don’t wanna be the reason why and everytime I walk out the door I see him die a little more inside and I don’t wanna
hurt him anymore I don’t wanna take away his life I don’t wanna be a murder.
A murder …