Archive for the ‘MUVEs’ Category

Virtual Vanity, Sex, Shopping & Reputation in Second Life

November 8th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

A great presentation by Steven Warburton. Steven will be taking part in a panel session, along with Graham Attwell, Helen Keegen, David White, Steve Wheeler and Dai Griffith at On-Line Educa Berlin at the end of the month.

plugin by rob

IBM Second Life protest successful

November 5th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

IbmThis is a pretty remarkable story and shows the potential of Multi User virtual Environments for doing some good! I was there! Sadly I can’t find the snapshots. But here is a (rather small) picture of my avatar, Graham Lightfoot, proudly wearing the trade union t-shirt.

From a press release from the IBM Italy trade untion: “One month after a virtual protest staged in Second Life with almost 2’000 avatars demonstrating on IBM islands, a new contract with IBM Italy has been signed.

The new agreement, which still needs to be approved by the IBM Italy workforce, reinstates the performance bonus that was cut unilaterally by IBM Italy management.

The agreement signed by IBM Italy and the trade union Rappresentanze Sindacali Unitarie (R.S.U.) not only includes the performance bonuses from 2007 up until 2010 but also payments by IBM into a national health insurance fund and also states that negotiations will continue with respect to IBM industrial and business strategies in Italy and the improvement of internal communication policies.

The situation abruptly improved and negotiation resumed after the former country manager left IBM in the mid of October, who had signed responsible for the pay cuts in the first place. His departure cleared the air and facilitated constructive negotiations between social partners as this could be expected from a professional management of a high-tech company.

The virtual demonstration organized on 27 September for a whole day has certainly had an impact on the positive development. Almost 2000 virtual protesters from 30 countries populating IBM premises in Second Life solicited an unprecedented media echo from all over the world, including TV and radio stations, daily news papers, computer and business magazines. The virtual protest had been supported by global unions such as the International and European Metalworkers Federations (IMF and EMF) and UNI Global Union.”

Podcasting in Second Life

September 12th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Jukebox 001

I’m not short our ideas for blog posts at the moment. But I am short of time. And blogging takes time. But hopefully in the next few days I will have some opportunities to get some of these ideas off my chest. And I’ve still got notes form last weeks Alt C conference which I promised to write up.

For now you will have to content yourself with this picture from the Emerge island ins Second Life. the jukebox connects to the different podcasts I have been making as part of the Emerge project. (If you do visit the island the jukebox has now been moved to an exhibition centre in the star floating over the island(.

I love it. maybe it is flattery. But i am beginning to see the real potential of Multi User virtual environments such as Second Life, not for replicating classrooms on line, but for infomal discourse and learning.

More on this soon – I’m working on some ideas.

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Second Life goes Open Source

January 8th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Before Christmas I wrote a couple of posts which were raising doubts about the use of Second Life in education.

Git lots of comments – mainly adverse. I thought this was a bit unfair because the reason I had written the posts was just because I do find the SL environment interesting and think it may have great potential in the future. (Tomorrow I will write another article on why the development of games and immersive environments in education is so slow).

However, getting back to the point, one of those replying to my original mail claimed that Linden Labs was planning to make the SL software available as Open source. I was sceptical but it is true. The client end software is now available under the GPL license.

Its an interesting move. The client is not the easiest interface to use and there can be little doubt Linden will benefit greatly from having OS programmers work on the software.

But it also opens up some intriguing alternatives with even Linden talking of parallel virtual worlds. According to a CNN story, IBM Vice President for Technical Strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a close student of Second Life, heard about the impending move toward open source from a Linden employee.

“They have the right thought,” he says, “which is that open source things work with the marketplace. But this is a field in its infancy that will be very competitive. Linden Lab might end up with a huge leadership position in a certain class of tools for virtual worlds, but those might not be the right tools for, let’s say, a surgeon learning a new procedure in an immersive online environment. Second Life can be wildly successful, but so can others.”

The point here is that although Linden Labs are providing access to a test server grid, they are not Open Sourcing the server end. But then again in may be possible to develop alternative server end applications fro sat a surgeon learning a new procedure using the OS SL client software.

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More on Second Life – Convince Me

December 20th, 2006 by Graham Attwell

Dear oh dear – my post yesterday on Second Life seems to have created a bit of a stir. Here’s a typical reply from Sean Fitzgerald entitled Graham Attwell Needs to Take a Closer Look at Second Life.

Now lets just clarify a couple of things. I most certainly was not complaining about the compelling nature of Second Life. Just the reverse – that is what impressed me so much. And that is why I think there is a big future in such immersive environments. Would I rather go to a university run Blackboard site or to Second Life. No competition.

I have two big reservations about SL. The first is the limitations on creativity. Sean reckons there is loots of room for creativity – even on a free account. I can’t get it – and neither did my students last week.

Secondly I remain unhappy about turning over big chunks of our learning infrastructure to Private companies – look what happened to Blackboard. Companies are there to make money. We are in big danger of education becoming just another commodity to be bought and sold and I think education is more important than that.

Anyway – just for the record – here is my students first impressions of Second Life after about three hours….

General first impressions

  • I was fascinated by creating my own charater – you can have your own life on the internet – you can get lost in it fast

    You forget you are in the internet – you take it for real – no one knows I am a girl when they see my charater in this game

    My computer was very slow – lot of fun – takes some time to learn how to move the figure

    I dont understand what it means for art – I am sitting here speaking with myself

    I know already role playing games off line and this is not so different – but with this one you can chat

    Control of the avatar is difficult to discover – it took quite a while to find people to talk to


  • I know many graphic programmes – it is not enough to just create some clothes – this is not enough for art (is this a problem that you have to pay for more functionality?). Can you integrate file formats from other programmes?

    You need to be able to design off line.

    The potential is to make experinces without real consequences. Can test and try things out – no physical laws – and destroy things without consequences in reality.

    Time changes – real time much faster


  • Communication is not very intelligent ….. the shyness of your real character is transferred to virtual space and applies there as well.

    Is this true (referring to previous point) – because it is not the real world people are more likely to talk. You can leave if you are not intersted in what people say – you just fly away. You dont have to give a good impession of yourself in a virtual world…

    Why am I there – I want more than just talking for the sake of it.

    You can just talk trivia but you can also talk more in depth.

The attractions

  • You can try to be someone you are not…….you can always create someone new.

    If I create my own virtual world in a closed community leaning takes place but not in this case where anyone can take part – triviality of chats show is like this this.

    Immersive environments will be an additional place to learn. In the future there will be a virtual achool where I can go – I can stay at home – but do we want people to stay at home and not have social contact (face to face). It doent replace real life.

    Do we want to mirror our models into virtual reality or do we want something different?

    This is a community of users but not a community of communicators – but there may be interesting closed communities within Second Life.

    It is better to deal with issues as a real person – easy to do in SL but it is not a real challenge

I should add that at the end of the workshop we did a quick scenario game called ‘Headlines of the Future’. And they all saw SL or an SL type environments as having a big future to play in teaching and learning in the future.

I am still open to convincing. My SL moniker is Graham Lightfoot. If anyone wants to meet me in SL and try to convince me I am happy to come and fly with you. I’m off line until Sunday but just send me an invite for after then. Hey, Christmas in SL must be less commercialised than in Pontypridd.

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Creativity costs money in Second Life

December 19th, 2006 by Graham Attwell

This is a long overdue post on Second life. Honest – I was there before all the hype. And ten days ago I ran a workshop as a semester course for art education students at the University of Flensburg on using games and immersive environments in education. As part of that workshop we asked all participants to establish an account in second Life and developed a number of exercises and activities for them. The main aim was for them to evaluate the potentials and drawbacks of Second Life and immersive environments for art education.

I will write another report on the planning and processes of the workshop itself. In this post I will provide my own thoughts on Second Life – although my ideas are very much based on the feedback, exercise and comments of the students.

Firstly Second Life is compelling. The major problem was getting the students to stop ‘playing’ in order to have some feedback and discussion. However I am not so sure that is not just due to novelty value – it may well be less compelling after ten or twenty hours.

Second Life and other such environments raise interesting questions about identity. It may be because they are art students, but all the participants on the Flensburg course spent a long, long time designing their avatars – getting their hair right, doing their makeup and worrying about thir clothes. And  I think having an avatar and being able to change its appearance does help in developing and projecting an on-line identity and presence that is often lacking in text based on-line communication. Having said that I worry about the idea of a second identity. I think we should be encouraging learners to see their on line identity as part of themselves – not something separated. I said this at the plenary session on informal learning at Educa On-line and was criticised by some of the games people who pointed to the importance of play in learning. I take their point, but am still unconvinced by the subtext in SL which is that you can be someone completely different than yourself (despite being in a world which attempts whenever it can to copy western capitalism as a model).

SL – like other such environments – raises interesting question about gender. The students in my workshop were all female (interesting in itself that only female students signed up for the course). One chose a male identity in SL and was interested in the different ways ion which others reacted to her.

We were using 2 year old IBM Thinkpads for the workshop and had considerable hustle getting round the university firewall. SL was slow on the Thinkpads though notably faster on my Dual Core MacBook. Furthermore the search engine was broken all of the Friday and in general the performance of SL leaves something to be desired. Rendering can be very slow when going to new locations and text is often difficult to read.

Although in theory you can meet interesting people and talk to them the reality is that communication is as perfunctory as on some of the better populated bulletin boards. The main topic of conversation is sex and most comments are fairly crass. I guess for any real communication you need to meet your own friends. SL dies of course provide many social areas – bars and clubs but after the first five minutes novelty of watching our character dancing in a sleazy bar and having a few drinks it soon gets pretty boring.

So – education. Well the main education areas are pretty peaceful – no-one but me ever appears to be there. And pretty dull – a few notices and advertising for on-line courses -what is innovative in that. OK – I see some of the universities are developing on-line classrooms. But why? There is no more interest in having my icon sit down to an on-line lecture than there is in sitting down to a lecture myself. And considerably less contextual interest. Why oh why do we keep trying to copy traditional pedagogies in different on-line environments.

But my major reservation is the limitations on creativity. the students in the workshop are used to creating and wanted to create their own ‘exhibits’ in SL. Now you can make some squares and triangles and other basis shapes and can give them some texture. But its not much and not enough. Of course I suspect you can do much more if you pay but there is the rub.

The whole model of SL is a capitalist model and doing anything costs. This is not a tool for free public education. I am also amused to see the developing national identities and especially in the appearance of German BierKellers and German flags all over the place.

Having said that I do see a future for such immersive environments. But such places need to be outside the control of the Linden Corporation and need to be designed to allow real creativity for learners. In Europe there is particular interest in ‘virtual exchanges’ between learners in different countries and I think such an environments could be brilliant for this. But the learners must be able not just to select form a selection on Linden sanctioned appearances and names but to really shape and develop their own environment and to collaborate in the development of its social norms and social environments. OK – it might end up like SL – dominated by sex clubs,  and strictly based on wealth. But I am still optimistic that there is an alternative.

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