Metaverses & Scholarly Collaboration

Metaverses & Scholarly Collaboration


Welcome to this discussion about metaverses for teaching, learning and scholarly collaboration. As with our last forum on "Participatory Learning," this discussion will be taking place both "vertically" in a traditional text-based format, and "horizontally" in a vlog format. You can stop the video widget below from playing (and start it again, if you wish), by hovering your mouse over the video window, which will make the clickable controls appear. Note that one of the controls is "reply." If you click on that, and you have an account at (it doesn't take long to register, and accounts are free), then an authentication form will pop up. Enter your Seesmic login info and you can reply to the video with your own video. See the small horizontal strip of thumbnails at the bottom of the video? Hover and click on those to play the replies. The replies are displayed in chronological order, with the earliest videos at your right -- you can scroll through them in either direction, stop and click on any one, and stop it the same way, by hovering over the controls.


The Humanities, the Arts and the Social Sciences have been late players in the exploration and use of grid technologies, though the possibilities in these fields seem to be endless. As opposed to a supercomputer, in the Grid, a "super and virtual computer" is composed of a cluster of networked computers that perform very large tasks in a concerted way. Therefore, Grid technologies are being applied in computationally intensive scientific problems. From my own observation in the workshops in High Performance Computing that I have had the privilege of attending at UCSD, UCI, and UIUC, seamlessly transiting across HPC applications seems to be a cumbersome process when you are also teaching classes and conducting your own research. At this stage, accessing the Grid still involves several challenges imposed by the nature of the technology--from authentication to scalability--which pose obstacles to scholarly collaboration and effective pedagogy.

But perhaps metaverses, with their sense of ?presence? through embodiment, may bring the ?humane? back to scientific collaboration. Although scientific visualization is core to the cyberinfrastructure, it often attains a level of abstraction that hinders rather than encourages those modes of communication most germane to us ? vision, gesture, voice. Could metaverses, by adding embodiment and hence these more natural modes of communication, be the missing link that invites Humanists, social scientists and artists to participate and explore the vast amount of computing resources now available in the Grid?

Principles of scholarly collaboration such as trust, and reciprocity have long been studied in academic scholarship. Participatory media test those principles and emphasize their importance. Could embodied environments that are literally built by their community members not only test but evidence those principles?

There have been few technologies in recent years that have caused such a split in the academic world between advocates and dissidents as metaverses, particularly Second Life. In this short post that I expand on through my vlog, I explore some of the main reasons offered by scholars who criticize the use of SL or other metaverses in Higher Education, as well as the reasons that some have embraced it.

Second Life in Higher Education environments

What the critics say

  • Instability and lack of interoperability with other Internet applications
  • Proprietary technology
    • The uncertain future of user-generated content
  • A parallel economy - of superficial values?
  • An idealized World
  • The resistance of funding agencies
    • The scholarly generational gap in research and teaching in SL
    • The problem of metrics in SL

What the advocates say:

  • Critical mass
    • A stimulus to the development of standards for metaverses
    • Corporate R&D investment
    • Innovation
    • Vast Knowledge Base
  • Interoperability with other Internet applications
  • Innovative End-User License Agreement
  • Non-profits? fundraising
  • Metaverses as a new medium of artistic expression?

Listen to the above vlog to hear more about the different points raised for and against using SL in education - and let us know your thoughts!

I want to thank Dr. Geraldine Heng for two reasons- the opportunity she gave me of being part of this great community, but also for having 'released' me from my duties these past few days - we have an ongoing project - so that I would be able to post this. And many thanks to Erin Gentry Lamb for all the support she gave me and continues to give everyone in this community!


Hi, Ana. Thanks for taking the time to lead this discussion.
You raise a number of important questions about the technical problems and promises of using technologies like Second Life in higher ed.

Your question of embodiment is an important one, especially if we consider questions of empathy: What do current technologies (video games and otherwise) do to our sense of empathy? Something like Second Life can allow students to and researchers to at least approximate the embodied experience of a different identity.
In my rhetoric classes, I often have students role play the authors that we're reading. If we read three essays written by three different authors, I have three students lead a "panel discussion" in which they answer questions in the persona of the authors. One question I might ask is: How is this exercise different from participation in second life? If this exact exercise took place in a virtual space, what would happen? Again, the question of embodiment returns: I can role-play all I want, but I'm still (for the most part) the same body I was before I started role-playing. In second-life, there's a different kind of ventriloquism happening because the avatar does not have to match the human body controlling it.

Still, an exercise like the role-playing one I have used might be a good primer for both students and for those funding projects in Second Life. For students, a role-playing game that takes place F2F gets them thinking about issues of embodiment...those issues could be re-visited if the role-playing game is moved to SL. For those who make funding decisions, a study of F2F role-playing vs. SL role-playing could convince skeptics that something like SL is worth exploring and is more than just a new gadget.

James J. Brown, Jr.

University of Texas-Austin


I'm guessing there are many HASTACers out there who aren't very familiar with Second Life. I'll admit to being one of those. (Which raises the interesting corollary question: If we have heard all the buzz, why haven't we checked it out? For me, it's the same reason I generally avoid video games and have added the "Leechblock" application to my Firefox browser to limit my time on political blogs, Facebook, and other black holes of disappearing productivity - I fear my own propensity to addiction and procrastination. Although I recognize that I address this fear at the expense of many potential lost opportunities.)


In any case, for the uninitiated like myself, I wanted to draw attention to the link embedded directly beneath the Seesmic video in the Sprout widget above. It will take you to YouTube where there are a plethora of videos aimed at introducing you not only to Second Life, but in particular, advocating for what Second Life has to offer for pedagogy. Here's the link again:


I also want to pass on links to a few helpful websites that talk about the possibilities of Second Life for education. (These all fall in the SL Cheerleader camp, and I invite those of you who are cheer-less about SL to provide some alternate resources for our readers to investigate!) - The Second Life in Education Wiki - Second Life Grid, a website from Linden Labs aimed at facilitating education programs in SL - An annotated bibliography of SL educational online resources from Mark Pepper at Purdue


I know there are many more websites/videos/etc. out there that might be helpful to anyone interested in taking part in this conversation. Please feel free to share!
As someone just climbing up on this fence, not sure which side of it I want to stand on (or if I even want to choose a side) I look forward to learning! (And oh I have so much to learn...)


To expand on one of the critical points that Ana raises regarding innovative uses of Second Life, the synthetic world is still, at times, immensely unstable. Last semester, I employed the world in a freshman writing course on "Literary Networks." Quickly, I found that lags and crashes posed challenges to pedagogical applications of the space.


Nevertheless, even in its failures, Second Life proved valuable. After all, networks and innovative technologies rarely work precisely as they "should." New media theorists Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, for instance, argue that networks are far from synonymous with connectivity. In fact, disconnectivity and disruption are just as central to the operation of interconnected structures. Similarly, Paul Virilio understands crashes and accidents (both disasters and diagnostics of the human condition) programmed into all new technologies.


So, for me, the very glitches of the synthetic environment represent an occasion to discuss something that is not merely an irritation-inducing by-product of technology, but essential to its operation. While this is a point about technology, it is also one about pedagogy. Experimenting with non-traditional media has value not merely because it represents a type of unilateral progress (humanities 2.0), but because the inherently volatile process of such experimentation can teach students how, more productively, to fail. To put this point more positively, real insight can come from approaching the methods and media of a classroom in a self-reflexive mode: not merely for teachers but also for students.


I think it's also generative to inquire about the change in public perception regarding Second Life. Even with relatively new technologies and spaces, this type of historical approach helps even a "failed" experiment succeed. For example, when I had my students meet in Second Life, I also assigned essays both from the moment of the world's popularity starting in mid-2005, when articles about it were being published in every popular publication, and from the more recent period of the space's decline. Of course, plenty of users still frequent Second Life, but compared to its population peak, it has, in certain corners, grown into a ghost town. Certainly, the millions of regular visitors and entrepeneurs who once spent long periods inside the place have, in many cases, moved on to other digital spaces. So it is useful, I think, to ask what makes a synthetic world popular and captures our imagination, and what makes that change over time. In other senses as well, to study the history of an online world is a thought-provoking classroom exercise.


Patrick Jagoda (Duke University)


My team and I have been working tirelessly to push for innovation in Second Life (and virtual worlds in general) for four years now.

And after all this time it just pains me to hear this sort of sentiment.
Because the number one force working against us so far is usually the client.

Every time we are approached by an educational (or any) initiative, the same sequence plays out:

Lead: Can I make a classroom, with seats and desks and a blackboard?

WF: Yes, but that is a waste of the medium. Let's talk about how
to use this /new/ medium in /new/ ways for your application.

Lead: Hmm. Ok, I'll get back to you.

This falls on deaf ears, and one or two months later I find they've done just that: Built a replica classroom, complete with back rows for neglected students and every other weakness inherent in the antique "classroom" model. And it does nothing.

And that's fine - but later they lament that the platform itself does nothing.

I'm sorry, but this is a lot like being a radio advertiser around the advent of television - and claiming that TV sucks for radio ads. Why yes - yes it would. Because television is not radio. It is a different medium, with completely new capabilities. To use it effectively, one must get off one's rear and do some actual re-thinking.

I'm really sorry if some of this comes off as harsh. But for years now, myself and a handful of others have been warning that this "replication" model leads nowhere. But new adopters have indulged their own knee-jerk reactions - and been indulged by complacent developers - to the detriment of the technology, themselves and - worst of all - the audience (who are students in this case).

It isn't the usability, or frame rate, or learning curve - motivated users have shown that they are willing to overcome these obstacles in order to use the things they want to. (Have you ever tried to use MySpace? Horrendous.)

Oh and please don't reply saying that users need a "familiar model". That is utter nonsense. They were attracted to the medium for the same reason you first were - it's brand new. They do not need or even want a familiar model - they want something different. Why do you think they came? If you listen to them, you'll hear it from the horse's mouth.

One final word on this: You may as well refer to this as "virtual
worlds", because that's really what you're talking about. The verdicts
derived from these (even ill conceived) early forays will be applied to
*all* platforms. Likewise, the way in which they are being utterly
misused is not specific to any platform. Google Lively, Forterra and
every other platform will seem just as pointless until people are
willing to expend some effort on Actually New Thinking.

I apologize in advance to any one I just ticked off.

Gary Arthur Douglas II

CEO | The Wishfarmers LLC


People. Art. Innovation.


Hi James and all

Allow me to open with your brilliant expression: that SL may be 'a different kind of ventriloquism'... Indeed!

If you have an SL membership you should definitely check out Role Playing Game (RPG) sims such as the Storytelling Guild or the Tombstone RPG (or  the Texas Capitol Building, Antiquity Texas (153, 192, 44) given that you're in Austin like me.:))

I once ended up at 4AM CST at a place in SL (a sim) that looked like a ranch. I saw a kid in sort of cut-offs overalls leaving a cabin and walking towards me. He talked funny (I thought)  - 'Kin aw help yew find your way, Ma'am?' and 'Howdy, 'Ma'am *tips hat* How are you this fine day?'

I replied normally -in contemporary English but the boy kept using the same style of communication until I realized he was expecting me to role play along. I did as best as I could - and he then introduced me to other inhabitants of the same place. Speaking their language (and wearing an attire that one the ladies of the village gave me) really reinforced my feeling of 'being there'.

 Your student playing the 3 writers could completely change (costume, wig, etc) in a matter of seconds. The way he/she would communicate might be exaggerated - in gesture, voice.... I think it's just natural that the more 'filters' to communication you have the more exaggerated you tend to be when communicating. So I am not 100% sure it would be more effective to do it via SL than the way you are- brilliantly - doing in class.

 After reading your post I logged in and went to one my favorite RPGs - Tombstone...

...and asked the village doctor (not sure how frequently you had a woman doctor in those times...) and a cowboy to pose with me. Here is the photo literally taken 5 min ago. This is how many of these RPGs look. Pictures with attires, a list of rules, etc . (I have my back to the photo and am wearing contemporary clothes:)).


Hi Patrick and everyone

I could not agree more. These glitches are inherent to any new technology in which we see value to incorporate in Higher Education. And it will continue to be so. The learning curve is steep though- which has been causing a generational gap between scholars that use SL and that don't (a topic for a different post:))... so my strategy with SL and other technologies with steep learning curves is to separate form and content  - or tool and framework- as much as I can...

For example- when I teach Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro (steep learning curves...) I focus on what is independent from the tool but core to the technology - in this case the concept of timeline and keyframes.

In the case of metaverses I try to focus on what the feeling of presence, of sharing a common space of owning what you create... can bring to the learning/teaching experience.

While many scholars roll their eyes when they hear Second Life :) I actually think we still have a long way to go in understanding what SL can bring to not only Education but Business. As far as the latter, so far, large companies have been using SL mostly to complement (or replace) FTF meetings (and hence airfares, etc...)... However, there must be some deeper changes to Business practices that embodiment and sharing a collective space can bring to the corporate world though... IBM is trying to understand just how deep you can go - by running SL behind their firewalls. IBM residents will be able to seamlessly go from public spaces in SL (where they can find me and you) to IBM private SL spaces . Incredible, right?:)


I want to post more on this subject later today, but I do want to encourage those who have not visited Second Life to take at least a brief journey there, preferably with the guidance of a native.

Just this week Linden Lab added the ability for a newcomer to sign up for Second Life and teleport directly to a particular location (bypassing the sometimes stressful Orientation areas). If you are given a link to use (a SLURL) by a resident, your Home in Second Life will automatically be set to that spot rather than a generic Help Island. You can be "in-world" with a friend to help you in 10 minutes.

I would be happy to give anyone a tour of interesting art, education, science, etc. places. Wash U has a small plot on the Islands of Jokaydia ( There are four contiguous island sims populated with educators from around the world (contrast that with Princeton's twelve sims).

I advise you not to go to Jokaydia without contacting me to meet you (, because you will be given only a few instructions on how to move around. But if you are really adventurous and can't wait, fly on!

This is a SLURL to our Wash U plot on Jokaydia III:

If you use the orange sign-up button in the upper right, you will be prompted to choose a name, an initial avatar, and to download the software. After responding to a confirmatory email, all you do is go back to the SLURL page and click "teleport now" to start up the program. Enter your avatar username and your password, and you will land in the middle of our plot (at the coordinates in the SLURL) and just to the west of the Jokaydia Conference Center! Click on Map at the bottom of the window to see where you are relative to the rest of Jokaydia.

if you watch a few tutorials from Torley Linden ( it won't take long to get the basics down. From that point, as with any powerful environment, how much you learn is up you, depending on time, interest, and goals.
You can read about some of the fantastic builds to visit in the "Not Possible in Real Life" blog at

Many have pointed out that coming to conclusions about SL without personal experience or understanding is like assuming that you can judge the nature and value of any foreign culture as an "outsider" looking in.

Just as with any travel, there are technical difficulties (RL; late and missed connections) and language problems (SL: learning the interface). It takes patience and some tolerance for frustration, but so does learning anything complex.

No one can begin to understand Second Life without getting to know some residents from the many different cultures and with many different goals or reasons for being there.
I highly recommend it.

Liz Dorland
Departments of Biology and Chemistry
Washington University in St. Louis


Thanks Erin. These are great links!

It is hard to think of a topic that is *not* represented in SL so if there are particular interests you have ask away - if I don't know I will research.

Anyone with an interest in metaverses as a medium of artistic expression? Let me know through a post here - do I have things for you!


Hi Liz and all (and no I'm not making a point of replying to every single post but what you all have been writing is just too exciting to pass on:))

Liz, your comment made me think of one anecdote - and I am sure many will follow this week because it is really the best way to talk about SL to those that may not have experienced it.

I was reminded of Alan Craig's comment when we visited the CAVE at NCSA. He said - referring to the Head-Mounted Display he made us wear to explore the space - he said something like this those academics that say embodiment is not essential to VR never tried the CAVE with one of these".

I thought that he was so right. I might have agreed with those academics but only until Alan made us crouch and dodge low ceilings in the CAVE- there were 4 of us experiencing the CAVE and other than Alan:) the other 3 of us had to stop before falling flat on the floor. And that would have been embarrassing as we were just standing in a room ,in a 3 wall cave (not even the most sophisticated type of CAVEs that can fully surround you).

Now... according to Alan, SL is not really immersive as you are still seeing yourself exploring this space, A little higher in the SL learning curve you can change the 3rd person to a 1st person point of view. However I can just hear Alan say - still... that is not immersion... Any thoughts out there on this?...


While I wholeheartedly agree with Gary's critique of Second Life educational applications that fail to adjust to the novel properties of virtual worlds, I also suspect that most contributors to this list don't simply treat synthetic spaces as exact replicas of their face-to-face classrooms. Is that a correct assumption?


Regardless, this post serves as a great challenge for us to think of alternative ways of teaching (in) online worlds. So, do you all have any promising ideas for pedagogical approaches that might be more appropriate to Second Life as a medium? Have any of you worked with students in other Massively Multiplayer Online worlds, such as World of Warcraft? Have any of you collaborated with teachers at other schools or universities, experimenting with cross-institutional online classrooms? If you had the right resources what sort of teaching materials and tools would you want developed? How does the content of what you want to teach relate to the medium of an online world? How does your discipline (we're coming from many different places here) make Second Life an enabling or disenabling environment?


These are just some initial questions. But I think that even those of us who have never used Second Life in the classroom might have ideas. This is, after all, a rare opportunity to experiment with thought and practice. Instead of reproducing already-existing models, this discussion forum is a great place to throw around ideas, however flawed, and perhaps reach some unexpected places together. I'm enjoying the conversation so far and there are some great application ideas (e.g., Jim and Ana's discussion about role-playing). But we're also playing it safe. And if I've learned anything from all that hacker-infested cyberpunk literature and techno-fiction I've read, it's that virtual worlds are about anything but safety. :)


Patrick Jagoda (Duke University)




I'm really interested in your observation that some students became bewildered and confused during a class you taught featuring Second Life. 

Last year, I took a Human Information Interaction class at UNC-Chapel Hill, and many students had a similar experience. I shared the feeling, but was also curious about Second Life. My main hang-up was that being in SL for longer than 10 minutes made me feel motion-sick.

Our course included meeting in-world, and then through our laptops in class, we found everyone's avatars on UNC's SL campus. From there we met in smaller groups of avatars. Class requirements were to do a machinima, or movie of a scene in Second Life, and then build a prim as a final project.
For lack of a better word, there was a mutiny, and the class requirements were altered so that students could entirely opt out of the Second Life experience.

Second Life was so strange for most people, yet we took very little to no time to discuss the strangeness of the experience. We also tried to have discussions about class readings in Second Life, and the chat format was ineffective, given the time it took for people to type, the difficulty in following multi-person conversation threads, and lag time or crashing -- which happened enough to make the experience feel very disorienting and sometimes absurd.

My classmates were mostly information & library science students, who weren't told in advance that this required course was going to feature Second Life prominently, and I agree that buy-in is a major part of having a successful experience.

Overall, I thought it was a fascinating, if not odd class, but I agree with your comment that Second Life is not for everyone, and it doesn't necessarily improve or even replace other class formats.

But I do wonder if there are other models or iterations of virtual worlds that hold more promise. In situations where it might be too dangerous, too expensive, or downright impossible, I think metaverses hold intriguing promise.

HASTAC/MacArthur's Digital Media & Learning winners -, and are all working, in their own ways, to explore the potential of virtual worlds, and each organization seems to be breaking new ground - either by improving on ways to educate with Second Life, or by creating their own metaverses, as VirtualPeace does.



Hi Everybody,

This is a great discussion! Dare I say, as much as I like SL, I think SL will fade out like Pong. I believe that it is a fad that will not take off in most public schools for many reasons. I believe it will take off more in Higher Ed than K-12.

Looking towards the future...


I too am very interested in CAVE Technology. I think it holds so much potential for education especially for children with disabilities. I'm very interested in neurocyberkinetics. I believe in the future the arts, medicine, technology, and education will eclipse. With Moore's Law, I believe that typical schools and institutions will sort of implode, so to speak due to external pressures from technological advances. Hence, the greater need for the Humanities to help understand all of this change.

Also, I wonder sometimes about the singularity as Kurzweil predicts.



High School Teacher and FSU Art Therapy/Art Ed Grad Student





Hyejin Yang

Hi, all~

I am Hyejin. It is the first time to leave some message on the discussion board. Since the topic was quite interesting to attract my interest, I could not help but participating on the discussion. However, I might more focus on using Second Life for language Let me introduce myself briefly. I am a graduate student who studies ?Teaching English as a Second Language? in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Moreover, my academic interests are also Computer assisted language learning (CALL) and Computer mediated Communication CMC).

In fact, in second language learning and teaching, the use of technology gets popular and increased. Besides, I took the CMC course in last semester and I could have chance to use Second Life for language learning and teaching and discuss how to use it for the language classroom. Besides, my colleagues presented ?Second Life? in CALICO conference.

Therefore, here I would like to briefly bring out some points about SL.

Advantages of SL for Language learning and teaching

1] The authentic language 

Learners can be exposed to more authentic vocabulary and expressions by interacting in the target language. I have heard that there are different regions in SL where different languages are used such as English, Spanish, Chinese or Japanese. In fact, if the users want to set up the specific language regions, they could build them up in SL in handy.

2] Easy to access

If learners prefer to learn language in more natural environment, SL could be a good place to acquire language. Once they click on the website, it is quite easy to access to the virtual space.

3] Fun to use and learn language

 Even though ?Educational? purpose is the most significant features, the learners can be more motivated by using fun task in Second Life. The avatars really look like real human beings and even we can choose the specific appearance, styles, etc. Those various characteristics in SL can also be the strengths for language education.

I think Second Life is still new to most people and I also believe it has lots of potentials to be used especially for educational purpose. However, it also has some limitations.

1] Time conflicts

Since Second Life is used all over the world, the users would confront with time conflicts. In other words, if a student in Asia tries to meet English native speakers in SL, s/he would need to access to SL in the late night to meet them because of time conflicts.

2] Unsuitable regions in SL for Educational purpose

This idea was brought up by my colleagues. Some users in SL try to meet others for dating and it turned out to be true. The expressions and words used in SL might not be unsuitable for language learners.

So far, I put some comments about Second Life for language classrooms in brief. I have just written down some points which come up with mind spontaneously in the library before staring my homework. If you do not understand or have some questions, please email me and put some comments as well. I might access to this forum again and revise or add more points later. I will expect how the discussion goes on.

The link below is a funny video clip of addicted SL users. One professor in UIUC showed to the students during the class before.


Hyejin Yang

MATESL in the department of linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Actually, Patrick has reminded me to acknowledge the few out there who have actually "responded to the challenge" as he nicely puts it. And it is certainly a challenge - as it should be.

It's sad I'd fail to do so, because they already have it hard enough.
Because it may take a little more effort to understand, and may not fit into a 6-word headline or 20-second sound bite. And that makes it harder to get funded and, later, to get any coverage.

And lets face it this is where entertainment and education overlap: If it doesn't get enough attention, it's likely to be called a flop - regardless of whether it improves learning or innovates in any way.

We all make a big hoopla about pushing the envelope, but innovation is scary and no one wants to take the risk - not the foundations, bosses, or media. But you can't have your cake and eat it to - every time we dumb it down, we wash away more of those new opportunities Patrick points out. We shouldn't be surprised later when we find it just as uninspiring and ineffective as the antiquated models we've replicated.

As to the hackers and cyber-people: Those books were fiction, but I get the reference - it is true the medium could use more de-mystifying. ;)

Gary Arthur Douglas II

CEO | The Wishfarmers LLC |

People. Art. Innovation.


Ana, Thank you for initiating this.

Global Kids, where I direct the Online Leadership Program (, where, for the past almost three years, we have developed a wide variety of educational initiatives in Second Life. This past February we received one of the grants from HASTAC to produce RezEd,org, the new hub for learning and virtual worlds (just hit 1,000 members last week), which has a wide array of information about virtual worlds for learning but, currently, is primarily made up of Second Life educators.

I thought folks in this discussion would find some of our resources of use;


  • - the Hub for learning and virtual worlds - podcasts, best practices, discussions and more.


  • RezEd's best practice collection:


  • RezEd's podcast collection:

    Global Kids report for MacArthur on:

  • virtual worlds and learning:
  • virtual worlds and non-profits:
    Here is a link to about 80 or so videos on YouTube from our programs in Second Life, ranging from dance parties with Henry Jenkins, social entrepreneurs projects in a teen jail, a summer science program linking teens across the country with paleontologists in the field in Tanzania, and a high school freshman level science class.

    I will see if this system lets me embed a few below:


  • At nearly 10,000 views, teen machinima on child soldiers:
  • I Dig Tanzania:
  • Mark Kingdon, Linden CEO, on education in SL:
  • Henry Jenkins/Harry Potter Fandom Dance Party in Second Life:
  • 170

    I am trying to respond to the video - when it asks for my user name and password I enter it and hit the button but nothing happens. Might it not be Mac friendly?


    This is just a fantastic forum---I'm so glad it is going both for the affordances of Second Life and other virtual worlds AND for the deep structure of pedagogy. I'm not an SL'er . . . .but I've gone through worlds with others who have build avatars and I've been the one who had all the fun (I guess this is why I'm so empathic toward the "lurkers" who read my blogs but don't comment . . . riding along on the avatar someone else has carefully created and then asking all these questions about "can we do this?" and "can we do that?" is a bit like being a professional lurker). In any case, I agree that building a classroom and listening to a lecture in SL seems like, well, building a classroom building in the real world and listening to a lecture. Some times, if you have an absolutely spellbinding lecturer, it's not bad . . . but there are other ways to communicate, other formats to learn with, and other kinds of pedagogy, some of it face-to-face and some of it not. SL can overcome space---that isn't trivial. It can allow one's imagination to expand to different forms of interaction. If Croquet reaches the next stage, it will do this even more vividly and interactively . . . and I hope we aren't all using it for building classrooms. I really like Mechelle's point about disabled kids and the affordances of virtual environments for those who may have physical limitations but boundless imagination. Exciting potential there.
    Anyway, thanks for a great conversation. I really enjoyed this and love the image of television makes crappy radio (although one of my fav bands is TV on the Radio . . . "Wolf Like Me" is the song that gets me revv'd when I need one too and sometimes it is useful, in the history of technology, to think cross-technologies to envision exactly what it is that a new technology does well and then what it does not. Thanks for that.)


    Hi Barry,

    I haven't actually recorded in Seesmic so am not the best person to offer help here (does someone else have tips?), but I would suggest going to Seesmic ( directly to give it a shot.  You can experiment with recording there, and can find the above conversation by searching for user "anaventura."  Whatever you record to the conversation in Seesmic will show up in the widget above, and that may be easier than trying to record directly into the widget (if that is, in fact, what you were trying to do).    Erin


    I recently returned from the second west coast conference on virtual worlds and what was very clear is that there was a dearth of academics, particularly those in the humanities present; and the emphasis on education was minimal. Most of the issues raised by Anaventura were under discussion and all developers and participants in these VW's have similar issues across applications. The lawyers have published numerous tracts on these issues, anthropologists and sociologists have and are currently studying these cultures, not just in Second Life but in the plethora of other VW's that are being used. Interestingly, there is more to virtual life than SL or Croquet (in fact Duke, where the developers of Croquet currently reside, has chosen a different platform for their business school). Interoperability is everyone's concern. The issue of Linden Labs owning SL is an excellent issue of more than a pragmatic nature yet no serious philosopher has addressed this issue (think Plato) but the lawyers have.
    What is clear, though, from the recent Pew study is that these worlds are, in Christensen's metaphor, a disruptive technology, particularly in the education arena given the number of kids, tweens, teens who inhabit these worlds. Education, particularly post secondary education, as Annaventure so clearly points out is a lagging indicator. Gary hit the nail on the head. Education is evaluating VW's against brick space experiences. The entire pro/con argument is basically a critical analysis carried out by mapping bricks into clicks. It assumes that the brick space institutions are the model for education futures and that regardless of the virtual space development, it must be measured against brick space; and that this latter is a stable, time-tested, educational model into the future. What VW's are is the equivalent to a "new world", and it's influence will be felt by extant brick space institutions forcing them to change. Like railroad unions that refused to get rid of the brakeman in the caboose, those that inhabit the current models will be forced to change. We are seeing this happen and VW's are, perhaps, the iceberg that will sink the Titanic, along with factors such as adjuncts, rising costs, course sharing, institutional consolidation and a host of other factors. the fact that Anaventura cites issues with her "teaching a class" points clearly to the need to step outside conventional models when engaging with the VW's
    Seeing VW's as a stand alone problem to be defined outside of the larger context is carrying Enlightenment's false hope in the ability to use reductionist scientific analysis.
    There are many factors facing education in general and post secondary education in particular. VW's are a mirror as well as representing an untapped potential. We just have to stop mapping bricks into clicks in practice as well as in analysis.


    Social networking whether in such dedicated forums as Facebook, in MMORPG's or in the corporate world or whether this is text(synchronous or asynchronous), or multimedia clearly points out that how people gather information to function in a job or social situation is changing. What keeps the sage on the stage, particularly in post secondary education is the fact that the "sage" controls the grades and certificates that eventually provide the degree. Ana and Howard's videos clearly point out this phenomenon. Yet, what individuals are learning from kids, kids/tweens, teens and beyond, particularly in the VW's is what the corporate world has learned regarding this functional relationship. What undergraduate programs have is control through certification. Problem-based learning (Dewey) points out alternative paths and virtual space offers one option in this matrix.
    Howard's remarks are particularly telling in the video. Students and faculty have the same drivers. For academics its collecting publications and for students its credits. As a former academic and current journal editor (and editorial board member), it is increasingly clear that the digital divide is not just between the haves and have nots but rather the familiar concern which has become cliched, digital natives and immigrants- the difference is cultural, as in the difference between borders in Europe or NAFTA countries.


    Sheryl --


    First, when you are talking about motion-sickness, which I believe is fairly rare, you have to consider that Second Life literally is not for everyone -- some people may be allergic to that kind of pseudo-embodiment. However, I think the rest of your description of your experience points out the need to set expectations, to give students previews, to provide multiple avenues of support.

    I made and displayed a couple of short videos for students to prepare them:

    A lot of preparation, in other words.


    Hi everyone,
    I briefly scanned this article (that's a whole other topic!) but thought it was too relevant to ignore.
    On NYTimes:
    Art and Science, Virtual and Real, Under One Big Roof
    When we see this kind of investment, funding and interest in metaverses, I think the pro/con debate will change, particularly in the mainstream and perhaps among educators. Being able to walk through a human body is just too amazing, and it will give people a sense of the direction we can go with this kind of technology. Most people think there is only Second Life, and stay focused on the present platform.
    The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will probably help Second Life in ways we won't fully appreciate until mainstream people start to absorb the possibilities, and experience them personally.
    And despite being motion-sick in Second Life, I am still fascinated and visit regularly, although I have to get up and walk around a bit, which is actually great for all kinds of reasons, not just nausea! In my classroom experience, what was missing was a chance to describe the weirdness of existing virtually. And the buy-in. The other issues seem resolvable, and I agree that we need anthropologists, philosophers and others in the humanities to help us understand our possible and digital selves.
    In my program (School of Information and Library Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill), I see all kinds of research opportunites, including funding, for virtual worlds and games for learning.







    All this said, I hope you understand I did some ?slipping into character? myself in the video.:) I played the love it and hate it roles, but do not identify with either in Real Life.



    Hey Barry

    Great links, thank you!

    On why don't you email me on and I can guide you through - actually Skype might be better.:)


    Thanks for this interesting discussion. Appreciate all the viewpoints on this. I'm also following a discussion about this discussion on the SLED (Second Life Educators) listserv (I've encouraged them to share their thoughts here :) ).

    I'll share a few thoughts of my own. I've been in SL for a little over 2 years now, but only became a truly active participant in SL since the end of 2007 after a couple of "aha" moments. I'm a baby boomer and late career librarian who has been involved in Web 2.0 for a few years now and Web 3D seemed a natural progression. And at first, I must admit, I found SL a bit overwhelming. It didn't help that I knew no one in SL when I first entered and I struggled in the beginning with the technology.

    Eventually I became comfortable in SL. For myself, the more time I spent inworld the more the value of the immersive, interactive environment became clear. VWs are not perfect places. But they are places which many find engaging and compelling. In my opinion the cost of learning and putting up with some of the frustration of this technology is worth the benefits. 

    I now have an office on a skydeck platform above a space my university is leasing from New Media Consortium. Here's a flickr slideshow link of the space I created to help with the information needs of my university community:

    My univ is officially still in the exploration and investigation stage of SL, but we have taught two courses thus far, and are using SL for informal discussions as well. It's still early but so far feedback has been positive. I am currently researching the role of the academic librarian in virtual worlds. This past summer a faculty member asked my assistance with a group of doctoral students (average age about 40) taking their first course in SL (and all brand new to virtual worlds). It was a wonderful learning experience for most. Not problem free, but a positive experience.

    But what is it that makes these worlds so compelling for some? I suspect it may partly have to do with learning styles, maybe even personalities. I know this about me - I'm a kinesthetic learner. And the education I received in the public school system as a child completely failed me. I think this is partly why I can't imagine virtual worlds not being an important part of the future of education. They engage us like nothing else I've ever experienced. They encourage dreaming and creativity...there are few limits. Our world needs more creative thinkers. They are the folks who will solve some of our most difficult global problems.

    The technology will improve. Timing can be tricky for mainstream adoption, but I believe it's going to happen and that it needs to happen.Here is a youtube video I recently watched titled "Schools Killing Creativity" - I believe Ken Robinson is correct.


    My favorite line in the article Sheryl has sent us (link above): ?Education is the killer app,? he said. ?You could have a kindergarten class that walks through a human being.? And Patrick sent me the url for a new TV on the Radio video that fits here too:
    There are many kinds of virtual worlds. People might also want to check out the forum on "Youth and Technology" in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education Review. There's the piece by Siva Vaidhyanathan I mentioned and then one on "Digital and Dumber" (yawn), and then a third by Thomas A Workman "The Real Impact of Virtual Worlds: How Digital Culture Shapes Students' Minds." Workman has five points about "digital norms" that are worth discussing some time and might enrich this really productive and fascinating conversation, too.


    I would agree with Howard that motion sickness is fairly rare in SL. I don't recommend you step into a CAVE then! LOL

    It could also be because accidentally or not, you might have the 1st person point of view 'camera angle' active most of the time. It is not by chance that some filmmakers prefer that camera angle when they want to draw you into the scene... I find SL very cinematic!

    As to the situations you describe- I hear you! I never taught in SL but conducted a collective experience in storytelling and can relate. And of course, I deal with crashes very frequently. I loved reading what you say about the 'mutiny' and how students decided to drop of the SL requirement. That is when the instructor should assess why the disenchantment with the medium that was proposed, accept the decision, find an alternative acceptable to everyone (and in the time you have left), and reflect on what you all learned from the (difficult) experience. It seems to me you did all that!

    I also really enjoyed hearing you say that it was a 'fascinating' experience. It sounds like the problems did not discourage you from trying it once again maybe?... If the group wants it and your topic may benefit from any of SL main affordance - having folks share a social space, embodied, building things together, and able to login from remote locations. If the benefit of having all of this surpasses the logistical nightmares (or at least headaches) that conducting a class in SL may entail - I say go for it! And you sound like you may be willing to give it another try from what I read.:)



    Hi Hyejin!

    That video is so much fun (I?ve sent it to several folks). You had a character too many ? this should work:

    You are absolutely right - there are many national sims represented in SL where folks speak the national language of the country represented. Being Portuguese and from Lisbon I like to hang out in downtown Lisbon in SL.:) The yellow walls and the fitted stone pavement is (almost) enough to make me home sick. (See images:))


    I am curious about your experience Hyejin - my own observation is that by default residents that don't know each other try English first before they switch to Portuguese. If the first name sounds Portuguese they may try Portuguese directly. (for those of you unfamiliar with SL your last name is assigned to you when you register- not much control over nationality there)

    Besides language in national sims I enjoy

    • national architectural traits - the mix between typical traditional architecture and the way that technological constraints and possibilities impact architecture.
    • experiencing the culture (in the social interaction)

    ...As to the other Mediterranean cultures the Portuguese tend to be very 'macho' That really comes across in the national sims, I have to say. Often, filtered communication leads to 'caricaturization' as in the exaggeration of features, stereotypification etc....

    RE: Automatic translators

    To all the interesting possibilities you listed I would add the automatic translators that some roleplaying sims have. Antiquity of Texas has an English/Spanish translator.

    They are very deficient still but for basic introduction ?bueno dias'/ 'bonjour' they do the trick!


    Hi Mechelle and all interested in this topic

    A friend of mine decided to conduct an ethnographic study with SL in a school for children with disabilities. This was 2004! As he was discussing with the teacher how they would evaluate the study, one of the students, a little girl who had taken over his laptop and SL, screamed with a big smile ?Look: I can?t walk but here I can fly!?

    This next video will probably have the same effect on you that hearing that story had on me back in 2004... Click on the image to play from youtube. Polgara Paine (Linda Mandlebaum in real life) told me this video was the reason why she ultimately heads ?Wheelies? today.

    Polgara Paine organizes weekly meetings in the Wheelies HQS in SL, which is a beautiful, and accessible building.

    [Image of a meeting in the Wheelies HQS that I was happy to attend, where Polgara conducted a storytelling session and we passed around a talking stick to have folks tell stories about their grandparents.]

    Though we can fly in SL it never hurts to stress the importance of ?building accessible? also in SL? Most members of Wheelies choose to navigate SL in wheelchairs (please watch video for a great insight of the woman with cerebral palsy on social response in SL and RL to folks in wheelchairs? read transcript here).


    Indeed the difference in cultural. So much so that I had to check what 'sage on the stage' meant. When I saw it ? horror!:) It?s definitely a role I do not identify with. For me the seesmic videos (and similar sites of video sharing) are the exact opposite- anyone can take the floor.

    I said this before here but the thread is now so long (and that is wonderful!) that I feel I need to reiterate it.

    - I have never taught in SL and in fact do not intend to do so anytime soon. Here is why: one of my favorite topics (of work ? research, education -  formal informal - you name it :)) is digital storytelling as a social intervention practice. The low income, the techno-phobic, the elderly (the favorite groups I want to address) are not the demographics of SL. So, it does not make any sense in my case to use SL in those workshops I conduct. Do I think it would be wonderful to use SL with these groups and then invent a way to make those projects sustainable? Sure! Everyone shoudl have access to all types of techology. Am I naïve enough to think that is a possibility of doing it and sustaining it, in times of scarce funding opportunities like today? No.

    The closest I will be doing to ?teaching? in SL will happen in 2 months in Portugal when I facilitate a 2 h workshop on blending real video footage and machinima in SL using chromakeying in both environments. And yes it will be a very oriented workshop ?open this... do that? ? because that its my aim ? to make the 20 participants go through the steps in 120 minutes so they can do it independently when they go home. Most are digital artists btw. Again, for me, it all depends on the question.:)


    Hi Whitney and everyone else interested in the topic!

    There are two projects that I find very illustrative of the possibilities in the field. Let me start with the first one - and will comment on the other one on my next post. I chose these not only  because I love them (!) but also because they are different approaches to metaverses as a medium for artistic expression.

    where game engines are put to 'unexpected uses' (also an example of computer game modification). Conceptually, I will try to bring the author into the conversation (literally I will ask him to chime in !) - but you can read my interpretation here.

    I see Children of Arcadia as blending not only participatory media and the subversive practice of ?game modification? as interweaving mixing arcade games and Baroque aesthetics.

    Mark Skwarek (with programmers Joseph Hocking and Arthur Peters) used a 3D game engine and KAM's CANVAS (Collaborative Advanced Navigation Virtual Art Studio) to build an environment where news feeds - real-time data - of the international stock market impact. The result was ?Children of Arcadia? a mesmerizing project that is in exhibition at the Intermedia gallery of the Krannert Art Museum, UIUC, curated by Damon Baker. The news feeds are compounded and translated into a value that reflects the change ? positive or negative and rate of that change. These numbers feed a 3D game engine and result in the deterioration of the environment - floods, the sky turns dark avatar kneel and weep as they meet? - or its improvement, as positive changes in the stock market make the sun shine, the streams flow orderly and the avatars greet as they meet. 

    The work weds cutting-edge technology with allegorical paintings of the Baroque period such as Laurent de La Hyre's Death of the Children of Bethel (1653). Downtown Manhattan's financial district (New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Hall Memorial building, and the Federal Reserve) is blended with a whimsical space that could be as easily baroque as post-apocalyptic.

    Landscape and inhabitants experiment the ?wrath of the Apocalypse? as the result of the stock market - real-time information - as feed that are gathered from the Internet. The audience may wear special glasses [a Head Mount Display- HMD] and experiment the world as a fully 3-D virtual overlay. This augmented reality component will be running in parallel with a multiuser online participation, where any viewer with a personal computer can collaborate.

    For more info on the work visit the Children of Arcadia site.


    I haven't used SL myself, but I've been following all the comments with great interest!

    Ana, I'd love to take you up on your offer to post more about metaverses being used as a medium for artistic expression. I've noticed quite a few other people on the board have an interest in art, and might also know some interesting work. Are there any pieces you (or anyone!) could share, or links you could post?


    The second work I would like to bring up here if by Paul Sermon, a new media artist based in the UK.

    Most of Sermon's work deals with telepresence and there is a long list of artists that have been working in this area.

    Paul, however, is interested in blending metaverses and real life. Under the suggestive name of 'Liberate your avatar' Paul presented in  2007 at the All Saints Gardens park in Manchester what he labeled an interactive public video art installation.

    This was shown as part of  the Urban Screens Festival, in October 2007.

    I quote from his site (which features other great work mostly dealing with telepresence):
    [Liberate your avatar] will, for the first time, allow ?first life? visitors and ?second life? avatars to coexist and share the same park bench in a live interactive public video installation. Entering into this feedback loop through a portal between these two parallel worlds this event exposes the identity paradox in Second Life."

    Source: Paul Sermon's website

    Lisa Wymore ? UCBerkeley -  Renata Sheppard ? UIUC -  Yacov Sharir- UTAustin, among others).

    Telepresence art questions the impact of remote presence (physical distance) in aesthetics. Check Eduardo Kac?s site for more examples of artwork in this field.


    First, a hearty thanks to Ana for her initial post and thoughtful commentary! The conversation has been really interesting and informative thus far.

    I'll admit my SL experience is limited, and my excitement to jump in and explore the pedagogical possibilities is tempered by my own long history of long hours spent in online RPGs (both fandom-specific, from IRC Buffy RPGs back in the day to contemporary message board-based Harry Potter RPGs, and MMORPGs like World of Warcraft). I don't consider these experiences wasted time, if anything they've enriched my work as an aca-fan, but now that I'm up to my knees in dissertation I?ve cut myself off cold turkey. But now that it seems that the play is work(esque), I may have to give SL another go.

    I?m especially interested in a comparison of the benefits/drawbacks of Jim?s LARPing in-class model, the possibilities SL offers, and Patrick?s inquiry about bringing students into WoW. Though I?ve never put any of these modes of participatory learning into practice, I can easily see how replicating Jim?s model would not only make the material quite literally come alive, but broach questions about identity and performance (questions that obviously apply to spaces like SL as well). Also, I can see how forming a class guild and questing/raiding in WoW would be a tangible experience of RL and online (sub)communities, and a great exercise in cooperation and collaboration. As a fan studies gal, obviously I?d love to have an RP (or cosplay) component to any syllabi I?d construct, and I think it would be a great comparison to actively compare the pleasures and limitations of all three of these ?spaces.?

    Interestingly enough, I've watched a good deal of SL on YouTube, which opens up another line of questions about how we might begin to archive and/or exchange our experiences. While I love hearing about how professors and colleagues have used SL, it would be especially instructive to see those events in action (I?m not just talking about the ?Second Life Teaching and You!? videos, though they?re instructive- seeing how a specific topic was presented and engaged with in SL would just be more informative, in my opinion). Having helped in a bit of the prep for the Henry Jenkins/Global Kids HP Dance Party that Barry mentioned and then watching the event online, I think it would be instructive if any of our scholars planning an event in SL (or another virtual world) could do a bit of an overview of the planning process and archive the results.


    Thanks so much for sharing this site. I've never heard of this project and it truly is amazing. I will continue to follow as it develops. I'm still processing what I saw there, thinking about how it was done and the possibilities of the technology for future projects. 


    Perhaps it is just me, but while I see the problem of a ghost town frequently highlighted.  I don't see it as a problem for users.   Ghost towns are full of artifacts that one can learn about... much like a museum.    In fact, I think 'Ghost town' is probably a misnomer, because what it is really like is 'down town'.  A downtown functions much like SL, for instance right now in blacksburg it is lunchtime so the restaurants are packed, but in around 2 hours they will be empty.  If you go shopping in one of the little boutique stores right now, you will likely see two people in them and that is if you stare in the mirror....  but saturday morning before a football game, that little store will be shoulder to shoulder and might sell out of what you want.   SL is more like a down town... it is irregularly busy according to a learnable schedule.   Sometimes the downtown is empty for weeks on end, because everyone is over playing at the downtown in the other neighborhood, but that's life.  

     That said, I think even the downtown metaphor dies in the face of funding for educational use in SL.  If you aren't doing things to actively use the educational sim and keep it from becoming a ghost town, i think that paying for a sim is a waste of money.  Many programs jumped in to get a sim without realizing that they had to commit people and time too in order to make their sim worthwhile in this sparse economy of attention.  Most programs didn't do that and sims are empty wastes of money, or worse, built wastes of money.  

     As I've said elsewhere in regards to SL education, if you do not  have the community of users already in place, in my opinion, sustained investment is problematic, though grants and research are driven by other issues.   


    I think the point has to be made that not everyone experiences the senses of immersion and 3d the same way or even at all.  Many people have issues with immersive experiences and don't really ever get 'there', but instead are always much less of an embodied feeling.  

    Similarly, it takes some people a good while to feel and sense the cave system.  It is not universal, nor easy for everyone.  

     We have to be careful, i think, with our assumptions when using systems like sl.  We don't all experience the same things, some of our students might be experiencing completely different things on a wide variety of levels and across many spectrums.   It is important to allow for this sort of plurality if at all possible.  For instance, my students when i took them into sl last year reported the emotions of frustration, elation, outsiderness, anxiety, fear, everydayness/normality.   Some said learning the keyboard commands and mouse commands impaired their experience, others said it made it easier.  So I think we need to be careful about what we might frame as good, easy, etc. and the inverse.   


    I think that SL as an arena is in the same space, with a smaller user base, as 'online education' was in 1996-98... The debates about the good and the right are being heavily informed by traditional successes.   Back then, there was a huge debate about brick or click, and more or less people over-invested in click and lots of people lost investments, but some people were more generally progressive and developed on successes they had then and are still reaping the rewards of successful online learning programs.    Believe me, most of those successes that I'm aware of did not come about through active evaluation and analysis, but came about because of passionate professors and competent administrators.   

    I look toward the cyberschool recommendations from '96 :


    some further thoughs at:

    and I think... we have the same problems and issues.    



    Hi Robin

    You'll be happy to hear that I tracked Mark down - all the way to China, where he's showing his work right now. He said would join us here!

    I asked him to talk not only about his work but also the collaboration between him and programmers Joseph Hocking and Arthur Peters (talk of a successful collaboration!)


    There are several aspects of Second Life (and other virtual worlds) as tools for education that bearing deeper exploration and discussion. One that I have not heard articulated yet in this discussion is the strength of Second Life as a media creation space. In this sense, Second Life is part of the larger trend in the web / web2.0 shift from one-to-many, centralized media creation and dissemination to many-to-many, decentralized media creation and dissemination.

    In Second Life, this is expressed in the ability of all residents to create and share various media assets, whether it be 3d sculptures/builds , textures, images, computer code / scripts, text notecards, web pages, audio files, real world video and machinima. These can be re-mixed, collaborative created, and riffed upon endlessly by any user who has the skills and time.

    For education, this provides enormous opportunities for the student to inculcate the ideas and information of the particular curriculum in rich and powerful ways. A team of students who work together to create a machinima demonstrating the UN Millennium Development Goals will have a much deeper engagement with the subject manner than if they were simply reading about the MDGs or listening to a lecture on it.

    It's also a lot of fun. Which my colleague Barry Joseph would argue is a primary affordance of Second Life -- it's a space to play and fun while also absorbing new knowledge.



    Joseph Hocking and I created the Children of Arcadia. 
    The work was my thesis project that RISD?s Grad Digital Media Department. 
    I was responsible for concept and design and contraction of the virtual
    ecosystem. Joe did the code, bringing the ecosystem tolife. Arthur Peters and
    Damon Baker also contributed important work to the project. I have worked with
    a number of different collaborators on the project.  Full credits-


    The union of artist and programmer is essential in creating
    this type of work.  The amount of work it takes to create  real-time
    art is pretty incredible. It requiries teams of people to work together. 
    In the creation process we basically follow a loose video game pipeline. 
    If I had to define our relationship I would not classify Joe  strictly a
    programmer/ he is a talented artist and brings an artistic sensibility to
    everything he does.  The experience of making the piece was a battle of
    attrition.  The creation process has pretty much stretched out over three
    and half years.  During this time we made different versions of the work.
    Each version became unique and a work of art unto itself.  


    I got my undergraduate in painting and have done everything
    from sound installation to working in a foundry and I must say that working
    with real-time 3-D graphics as an art medium is an incredibly complex task.
    Once you introduce code into the artistic process the variables
    /possibilities for error increase dramatically.  There is almost always a
    problem that you have to keep massaging out.  One of the things it makes
    it so time intensive is that there are lots of layers separating the artist
    from a finished product.  I would say the payoff is definitely worth the
    effort.  The potential of real-time 3-D graphics gives the artist
    incredible power, the power to bend space and time and create work that
    transcends our known existence.  It allows for the creation of actual
    embodied experiences as art, I have a new body of work based around this idea
    in the works.


    As you begin to increase the resolution of the users
    experience the process becomes much more complex.  One
    constraint/complexity that came with the augmented reality element of the work
    was that we were constrained to the physical structures of the real
    world.  These structures were the foundation of the Arcadia. The design of
    the environment was meant to have a dynamic weight to it.  As the user
    moves through the space the forms of the environment would shift creating
    tensions. This had to be address both the buildings based in real-world and the
    virtual overlay of Arcadia.  Expanding on this was the real-time element
    of the Apocalypse.  Essentially the piece is broken down into five
    different levels similar to video game levels. building out a level was
    somewhat similar to rebuilding the entire world so it was like building five
    different worlds.  In each of the levels the characters that inhabit the
    virtual ecosystem have the possibility of playing to completely separate sets
    of animations.  One set good and one set evil, each set contains for
    animations.  Having multiple sets allowed for society to be good or evil
    in the face of the Apocalypse.  Society could be corrupt in a utopian
    environment or could be completely innocent. The challenge was to get real-time
    information from the Internet to drive these changes and create rich metaphor.


    right now ? and things are kind of
    tense ?

    We need a HDTV to show up at the gallery very badly in the
    next few hours or we stand a chance of being ejected from the show

    I will post more soon,


    Mark Skwarek




    Amazing. You rock, Ana!


    Hi, Mark, Thanks for this great post. And while you are attuned to HASTAC, can I please ask you to pass around to your Chinese colleagues our HASTAC/MacArthur call for proposals for our Digital Media and Learning Competition? PRC is one of our pilot countries from which we are accepting applications and we'd love to get this call for proposals to anyone for whom this could really be transformative. Thanks for passing it on and good luck with your show. We really appreciate your posting. Best, Cathy (HASTAC's co-founder)



    $2 Million Competition
    Focus: Participatory Learning

    Participatory learning is defined broadly: using new digital media for
    sharing ideas or planning, designing, implementing, or just discussing
    ideas and goals together.

    Application Deadline: October 15, 2008

    Full information at:

    The second HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Competition is
    now open!

    Awards will be made in two categories:

    Innovation in Participatory Learning Awards support large-scale digital
    learning projects

    This year we are piloting international eligibility for our Innovation
    Award and will be accepting submissions from primary applicants in
    Canada, People's Republic of China, India, Japan, Mexico, the
    Netherlands,Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, the United
    Kingdom, and the United States; collaborators can be from anywhere in
    the world.


    Young Innovator Awards are targeted at U.S. applicants aged 18-25 year olds

    (You can find out about last year?s winners at

    Full information at:


    Just a comment to say "Hi Ana!" :-)
    I've already linked the URL's forum in my blog!
    I hope to bring something to the discussion soon. See you! :-)


    Cleo Bekkers

    Dpt of Didactics and Educational Technology

    University of Aveiro



    Hi all! Mark asked me to come contribute my two cents as well.  I do apologize that our comments are a bit haphazard at the moment, because by unfortunate coincidence this happens to be a really busy time for both of us.  I haven't even read the entire thread yet, but I promise to come back to do so!

    Anyway, I guess the main thing I want to talk about right now is how collaboration works.  I mean, I haven't read the thread so I don't know what the overall conversation is about, but it does sound like people are curious about how we managed to forge a successful collaboration.

    The first thing I want to point out is, until I met Mark I was pretty resigned to having to work by myself.  When I first started working with real-time 3D graphics, I was chiefly an animator and knew little about programming.  I was an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon (incidentally, I took Randy Pausch's class Building Virtual Worlds,) so I was surrounded by talented programmers.What I quickly realized however is that raw programming skill has little to nothing to do with how well a collaboration with that person would work out.  Long story short, I tried over and over to recruit programmers to work with to make my ideas happen, and the collaboration fell apart every time.  Hardly surprising; I was after all expecting these people to be super dedicated to my ideas.  Skill is only half the concern when looking for a collaborator.  You also need to find someone as dedicated as you are to the idea, and that's even more difficult than finding someone with the right skills.

    Once I had accepted that, I went and learned to program.  I figured, "well I can't get anyone else to do it for me, so I just have to learn how to do it myself."  I spent a long time practicing, building videogames and such.  Eventually, once I realized the art world was the best fit for my ideas (versus, say, the game industry,) I decided to go to RISD for grad school.  As Mark explained, that was where we met.  Once I figured out that he was that rarest of the rare, someone even more dedicated than I was to the dream of realtime 3D art, well I knew this was a team that would work. Certainly, as obsessed as I am with creating interactive 3D projects, his obsession is what really drove this piece.


    PS: The TV did show up in the nick of time so we'll be in the show opening tomorrow morning (our time; it'll be nighttime there of course.)  woohoo!


    PPS:  Also, I notice that a lot of the people here have avatars in Second Life, and much of the discussion involves SL. I might comment on SL when I come back, as I've been doing work in SL for quite some time.  Look me up, I'm Johan Durant.


    ---Joe Hocking


    Hi Ana,

    Thank you for sharing the link. My apologies for not responding sooner. Yes, Wheelies is great. I also posted a video with Simon here:

    I totally agree that there are many positive aspects of SL for individuals with disabilities. However, regarding the question at hand, "Second Life for Education: fabulous opportunities or over-hyped fabulation?" Unfortunately, I do not believe that it will take off in K-12 formalized education. Hence, I believe SL is over-hyped fabulation mainly hyped up by the neoliberal lucky few who have the resources and many who do not work in public education.

    Sadly, many public special education classrooms do not have computers, much less other resources we need to best serve our students. Many of us special education teachers are handed a script to teach. Furthermore,  many children who are placed in special education do not have a disability, but rather are developmentally delayed due to poverty. Their families collect a disability check when they are placed in special education and many student are aware of this. Then there are parents who pawn their children's disability devices that public schools provide. Therefore, many schools don't want to invest money in technologies even if it is to help a child with a disability to function bettter. I had one parent pawn a child's hearing device system that I let her take home with her. But I digress...

    Often public school teachers have this sense like we are never doing enough. In essence formalized education is institutionalized classism. We need school reform in America, but since it is a Capitalist society, that will probably not happen anytime soon. I've been asking myself who benefits from dysfunctional schools? The students? The The tax payers? The universities? yes, sometimes. The educational consultants...yes! So, what does this say about public education? What does this say about America?

    Sorry to be such a downer, but wanted to address the issue. I often wonder should teachers sweep things under the rug, or should we despite the negative consequences bring things out into the light of day in advocating for change?

    In sum, yes, I believe that SL does have fabulous opportunities for education. However, sadly due to the context of formalized public education in America I believe in most cases it is an over-hyped fabulation.






    Thank you for the wonderful art links!




    This post supports my video post of this evening with a similar title:) - maybe the most recent or close to the most recent one -where I bring up Opensim and Medulla as different approaches to the problem of the current lack of interoperability across metaverses.

    You can find more information about OpenSim here

    OpenSim (or Opensimulator) can be used to create environments 'SL-like' that can run in a standalone mode or connected to 'other OpenSimulator instances through built in grid technology' (quote from the site).

    Check the list of current public grids at

    Medulla is a fascinating concept under development by the FAS (Federation of American Scientists) - that I have mentioned before in this forum in connection to the need felt by agencies such as the Mellon Foundation (that funded FAS in this endeavor) to engage more senior academics in the use of metaverses in the Arts and Humanities research. Today though, my reference to FAS regards Medulla. You can read more on Michelle's post here today or tomorrow (I'm keeping my fingers crossed - I know she is very busy!)... and also on their website at

    There is a great diagram on that site that graphically represents the way Medulla works. Some of the tools that are part of Medulla are (and I am quoting just a few from the website that may be particularly pertinent to this community):

    - uploading, accessing and storing digital materials, behaviors and metadata;
    - enabling collaborative creation, modification and use;
    - peer review;
    - rights management

     All for now! 


    AHHH! Teresa!!!! Não posso... quanto tempo! Que bom ver-te por aqui!

    urreal?. Long time no see! Great 'seeing' you here!

    How nice that you?re bridging to Portugal with your blog.:)


    Hi Lindsey and all,

    As several folks have mentioned, 'teaching' in SL takes many new forms - it is a very elastic /flexible medium. I have not 'taught' (as in formal teaching) in SL myself and not sure I ever will. Right now it does not address the folks I want to reach. And on the other hand, when in SL I prefer to work in more informal settings - sporadic gatherings, workshops:)

    *However* I don't think there is a better expert to talk about what you ask  than Joe Sanchez! I challenged him to give you some hints Lindsay... Stay tuned!


    Hi all,


    As someone who's never used Second Life in a classroom -- either as a student or as a teacher -- I'm curious how you actually go about it.   For anyone who's successfully (or at least interestingly) used the tool in a class, I'm wondering if you could talk about it in a very practical way: What did you do to "prepare"?  Were students expected to familiarize themselves beforehand?  Did you meet during classtime or in a computer lab (i.e. were people in the same actual _and_ virtual space?  What sorts of goals or objectives did you have going in?  Which were met, which were more difficult?  Was there reading that you discussed?  Were certain topics more conducive to the environment than others (i.e. did you need be having a discussion about metaverses or virtual worlds to make it worthwhile to have class in Second Life?  Or could it be just as useful and interesting to go in and talk about Melville?)?  Etc.   


    What I'd really love to hear is just a basic narrative of the way that you ran your class (or your class was run) in Second Life. . . something like the lesson plan of the thing. . . including the external material (if there was any) and some thoughts on how you think it went.

    I'm very curious and would love to try this myself, but don't feel totally confident never having used Second Life in a classroom.



    Thank you so much, Ana, for hosting a spectacular week. Over 1800 people viewed, plus all these comments on the blog and all the posts. This is an incredible resource for anyone thinking about the pros and cons of virtual worlds in research, teaching, and other collaborations.


    Thank you Cathy for your kind words!

    And a huge 'thank you' to Erin Gentry Lamb and Jonathan Tarr for all the support - Jonathan for his behind the scenes work, and Erin for our daily contacts to set this up! (day *and night* contacts - she's a night owl like me:)).


    Ana asked me chime in on this discussion. I'm the curator of the Intermedia Gallery at the Krannert Art Museum UIUC where Ana got a peek at Children of Arcadia on the CANVAS as it was undergoing an upgrade to it's new form (It is much prettier now and will continue getting prettier, so she will have to come back to see it. You're all invited as well) I'll say a few general things about my involvement with the project, speculate a bit about the impact of virtual worlds in general and do my best to answer any questions that I can.


    I've known Mark and Joe's work since they were at RISD and I was at Brown so when I got an opportunity to bring their work to KAM I pounced on it. Most of my involvement was in the process of moving the piece from being a single screen desktop experience to something that would work in an immersive virtual environment (with Joe doing most of the hard work) as well as general advice about which software library to look into using to do some particular thing and generally helping to bounce around ideas. Most of this was done via frantic messages to each other in gmail's IM window and via email while getting the piece up and running here as well as sending code back and forth.  Mark/Joe/Etc were in various parts of Chicago and NYC while I was the only one on the ground here in Champaign. This situation is pretty common for artists working with virutal worlds, a team is pretty much manadatory  given the wide range of skillsets involved (3d modelling, programming, sound, projection design, franticaly hauling HDTV's across beijing, etc ) and that team is often dispersed widely, yet working intensely, often only getting to come together after all the work is done for openings and such. 


    With projects like this my role as a curator has to expand to being a  collaborator with the artists and the gallery has to expand to become a lab and a studio as well. Some of this is just a function of relatively immature tools/technologies or specialized display systems like the CANVAS but I see it more as a general trend in the art world where the gallery turns into the last stage  of an artist's studio practice instead of just a show room.Even when the artistic product isn't digital, our ability to email high resolution snapshots of the gallery around the world to collaborators to ask "are you sure you wanted it to look like that"  has shaped the sorts of things artists do.  I can only assume that as virtual worlds continue to develop and expand that they will influence the working methods of artists of all sorts as well.