Archive for September, 2007

Published by Joe Sanchez on 27 Sep 2007

IBM Protest in Second Life

I woke up at 3:30am and I couldn’t go back to sleep so i decided to log in to SL to see if i could visit with some of my international friends. I saw a large gathering at CommonWealth island so i headed over to see what was going on. This is what I saw
ibm.protest_001
I teleported right into the middle of the staging ground for the IBM virtual strike.
IBM workers are organizing the first virtual strike in history. It is taking place on several of IBM’s islands in Second Life.

Based on the info available at the staging ground, the strike centers around a labor dispute in Italy where workers asked for a 40 euro’ raise during their contract negotiations. IBM refused and in turn cut their employees “productive results benefit”, a 1000 euro loss. Since IBM is often cited as a company with a Second Life presence, the striking employees thought it would be a good idea to leverage the press attention IBM receives and turn it towards their cause. I took a snapshot of the Protest information card, click on the image for a full size view.

ibm.protest_002

Of course, my main interest in the virtual strike is in the approach the people use to collaborate through the virtual world environment. This virtual event is very well organized. A staging area is used on CommonWealth island where instructions are given to each avatar along with a protest kit that includes a t-shirt, several signs with slogans, giant floating fish that an avatar can attach to themselves, and a notecard with instructions and details about the protest. The protest packages are in several different languages. Strike leaders are positioned at the staging ground directing the strikers to a particular IBM island. Once there, avatars simply stand or walk around the island holding their signs. Below is a snapshot from the IBM Business Center at 4:17 am Central time.
IBM Protest

In the picture you can see the protest t-shirts, signs, and a giant protest fish in the back ground. An interesting side note, during the setup period for the protest, the administrators of CommonWealth island “locked down” the island anticipating that anti-protester “griefers” would cause problems so they disallowed scripts on their land. Unfortunately, the strikers planned on using a teleport script from the staging area to the IBM islands. Since the use of scripts was turned off, strikers had a difficult time getting to the virtual strike. Keep in mind, the strikers are mostly Italian and the leaders seem to be English speakers (at least while I was around), which caused a lot of confusion. But, what happens when virtual world groups run into communication problems? That’s right, Web 2.0 technologies get introduced to save the day, in this case, a blog

The blog was used as an alternative means to provide teleporting coordinates to each striker. SLURLs were posted for each protest location along with instructions in English and Italian. The strikers are well behaved, they stay out of the way of any work going on at IBM islands and they are simply wearing low prim protest signs. At one point an anti-protester griefer did release a particle weapon but it was mostly harmless and the Mario images gave us all something to talk about : )

IBM strike

Published by Joe Sanchez on 24 Sep 2007

Hooray! Google enters the Virtual world

After months of speculation and reading between the lines from virtual world researchers, Google may have entered the virtual world market. We all saw it coming when Google developed or purchased the following tools Google Earth (possible platform), Gmail (user accounts), Orkut (social network), Sketchup (3d drawing tool), and Adscape (game advertising company). Google already has millions of users based on their gmail accounts and a decent platform in Google Earth, not positive they will choose to use it thoigh. Google also has Orkut, which will be a nice tie-in with a virtual world ala Keneva and Red Light District. I’m very excited both professionally and personally. Google has a great record so far in creating free, usable, and scaleable software for people.

This is big news; many communities within Second Life already use google groups for communication and organization of their communities. It will be interesting to see how or if Google is able to incorporate these features into its Virtual World Platform. Be sure about one thing, Google’s Virtual World will be searchable. This may be the beginning of the end of Second Life’s dominance in the Virtual World Education market.

This information about Google is reported at Virtual Words News. Here is a screenshot from a survey presented to students at ASU-Tempe asking them to participate in a study for “new product that will be publicly launched this year”.

Published by Joe Sanchez on 21 Sep 2007

Breaking the Second Life Learning Curve

Much has been said though little published about the high learning curve in Second Life. In a research study I wrote last year, Second Life an Interactive Qualitative Analysis, students reported a very high learning curve in SL. In fact, the IQA systems map of the affinities reported Anger as a primary outcome of the student Second Life experience. Along with Anger, interface difficulties and technical difficulties were secondary drivers within the system.
Second Life an Interactive Qualitative Analysis

The student experience in this particular case was heavily influenced by the instructional design of the course, the lack of Second Life experience by the instructor, and the terribly erratic Second Life crashes and downloads from the Fall of 2006. The students in this undergraduate English course were indeed angry about their experiences in SL. Many did not see the connection between Second Life and their curriculum and when students would ask for help, their instructor and IT support staff did not have the expertise to assist them. Students were also asked to build objects way beyond their capabilities thus leading to the belief that Second life has a “high learning curve”.

I receive frequent email inquiries about Second Life an Interactive Qualitative Analysis, most being about the high learning curve in Second Life. Seems like this paper has become one of the sources of the Second Life high learning curve literature. Yes, students reported a high learning in their Second Life user experience. The data from this class is a snapshot of the student experience in Second Life during the Fall of 2006. It isn’t a definitive statement about every Second Life student experience in SL, though many valuable lessons can be learned from this particular Second Life implementation. In fact, many of the lessons learned from the year long study can be found in a Sociotechnical Analysis of Second Life, a paper focusing on the administrative side of supporting a Second Life implementation at a university. Which brings me to my point, Breaking the Second Life Learning Curve.

INF 315e Second Life classroom

This semester I’m teaching a course called Working in Virtual Worlds. I have twenty undergrads and we meet Tuesday and Thursdays from 11-12:15. Tuesdays we meet face-to-face and Thursdays we meet in Second Life. I’m using ¼ sim as my classroom, I feel that is the minimum size needed for a course if you expect your students to build and host events. So what does my classroom look like? My classroom for the first part of the class has a large beach, five condo buildings, a movie theater, giant tennis balls, and skeet shooting. Students in my course have to choose a condo to live in, this is their space. To choose a condo, students were required to put their name on it. I didn’t give the students instructions on how to do this, they were challenged to figure it our for themselves. In this exercise, students learned how to import images, how to work with textures, how to build signs, to rotate objects, and how to control the XYZ axis for positioning, and how to purchase Linden dollars. To reiterate, they learned this without any directions from me…. My next post I’ll share the many ways they accomplished this and their second assignment, which was to tell their life story in Second Life. In the first week of the semester, I got students to break the myth of the “high learning curve” of Second Life. Below is a picture of the Second Week of class, students giving tours of thier first build.

INF 315e life stories in SL

Published by Joe Sanchez on 18 Sep 2007

Red Light Center surpassing Second Life?

Red Light Center (RLC), a virtual world focusing on adult entertianment may now be one of the most popular Virtual Worlds according to Alexa. RLC is the virtual component of Utherverse, a Social Networking site geared towards adult content. Basically, a Myspace for adults. RLC hovers at 555,000 registered users and is in the process of releasing a second public beta.

Daily Traffic Rank Virtual Worlds

Legend: Blue = Secondlife.com;
Red = RedLightCenter.com;
Yellow = There.com;
Green = Habbohotel.com;
Black = Activeworlds.com.
(Three month Daily Reach chart provided by Alexa on 9/17/07)

What I like about RLC or rather lessons to be learned from their design… RLC incorporates Web 2.0 technologies with their virtual world, like combining MySpace with Second Life. The advantage is that you can participate in the community without being logged into the 3-d world. RLC has active forums on the website and a way to search and read user profiles from the web. Users can comment to each other, post and share pictures, and integrate music and video into their profiles. I feel this provides a sense of being involved in the community without having to be “in-world”.

Red Light Center Profiles

After creating a profile, similar to Myspace, a user receives a welcome message from a mentor, a first friend. The Friend has a complete profile you can view which models how the designers expect you to use their tool. The profile includes; comments, Real life and virtual pictures, comments from friends, pictures of friends, and links to websites and video. Your first friend, “Texxy” for me, offers to show you around the Red Light Center when you first log in.

In a way, the Web 2.0 component allows a user to be orientated to the virtual world even before they log in. Before entering the world, you have a friend, you’ve seen pictures, and you have an idea of what to expect. Another neat feature, while the software is downloading for the first time, RLC plays a welcome video for you explaining how different accounts work, how to chat and IM with people, where to go for fun, and how to use their interface.

RLC is all about connecting people for virtual and possible RL sex. The interface includes a “Get Naked” button, and an orgy club is mentioned in the welcome video. I don’t see this being a virtual world for education but there are lessons to be learned from their orientation presentation and integration of Web2.0 and 3D technologies.

Red Light Center Avatar
This is a basic Avatar in RLC, notice the attempt to make the body “real” vs the cartoon like SL default bodies.

Red Light Center Adult Movie House

An Adult Movie house in RLC, Real life videos are streamed into RLC

Published by Leslie Jarmon on 05 Sep 2007

Embodied Sensory Experiences: Reflexive Architecture

Earlier this month, Keystroke Bouchard had an opening at the library gallery on Info Island of part of his larger exhibit called Reflexive Architecture. See Gallery of Reflexive Architecture: by Keystone Bouchard, Landmark –> x, Architecture (193, 111, 601). It’s an incredibly creative and immersive experience, and I recommend that you go take a stroll through it.  Keystone says he started using SL as a real life architect, then transitioned into purely virtual mode. He told us, “I’m especially interested in reflexivity in virtual architecture – such that it can actually respond to avatar presence and movement.”  We started talking about what it’s like to be walking around back in RL after spending time in SL architectural spaces, and Keystone commented that, “Yes, in a sense, it creates a kind of empathy in my mind – I feel sorry for buildings that can’t move =).”

Now that was a first for me to hear:  empathy for buildings that don’t move.  This kind of unexpected insight keeps me coming back, being amazed all over again…:-)

We went to his larger exhibit and Keystone described various features to us (and although you are reading about it here, please GO SEE the actual exhibit because it is nothing like the stale and static words I’m using in this blog).  In one piece, the floor tiles, the glass, and the columns are reflexive.  In another piece that looks like a giant piano keyboard stretched across the floor and up on the wall, Keystone observed avatar movement and behavior on a site for several days, and then he wrote a piano score based loosely on those observations.  He recorded his RL piano playing that score and then imported it into SL such that when you move across the floor, your avatar is playing the score!  In addition, “by including the keys that change size, color and play a chord, the avatars who stroll through the piece are no longer passive observers but instead are an active and dynamic part of the architectural and the musical composition.”

Finally, there was The Cocoon.  This piece worked in a similar way as his musical spheres piece that changed tones as you approached or moved away.  In The Cocoon, one person entered a section of thread-like bands, encircling you.  The other avatars stayed about 5 meters away, then swarmed around us until we left the space…And, amazingly, the more people who approached it, the larger The Cocoon grows!

I quipped to Keystone: “Gives new meaning to the expression ‘Give me some space…!'”

So that’s a verbal glimpse of Keystone Bouchard’s Reflexive Architecture.  He has generously open-sourced the code for almost all of these so anyone can explore uses for them.  You can get almost all of the scripts used to build the reflexive architecture pieces at:

http://archsl.wordpress.com/2007/08/30/open-source-scripts-reflexive-virtual-architecture/

Keystone asks that if you use them, please do let him know how they work out for you.  He is very excited to see how the community uses these to advance the idea of reactivity in architecture!

BTW, when asked how he financed the exhibit and his work, he told us that he won the island in an architecture competition with the piano installation!  He calls it Architectural Jazz!  So, the island was financed and the rest is just his own time, his hobby.

I mentioned that it would be awesome to have a dance performance move through his reflexive architecture.

He agreed, and suggested it would be cool to choreograph a dance that moves through the space, triggering tones that make up an actual song as they move around triggering keys — like an avatar music box!  And it struck me that here is an opportunity for more embodied exploration of the affordances of SL using bodies and senses and freedom!  I can imagine a score…or patterns within a score…being stimulated by movement through the architecture.  We have some amazing dance groups and music groups (including AOM, the one I’m a member of, the avatar orchestra metaverse)!

So, it was a very impressive evening!  Another embodied researcher, Magellan Egoyan, is also doing (a better) write-up of our visit for the Virtual Artist Alliance (virtualartistsalliance.blogspot.com).  So you might want to check that out soon. 🙂

Leslie Jarmon / Bluewave Ogee