Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The cost of a campus in Second Life

This article from the Campus Technology describes Ohio Universities campus.
"Ohio University is the first university in Ohio and one of just a few universities in the United States, including Harvard and Princeton, who have launched functioning campuses in Second Life."
If you are investigating education in Second Life, you can make this part of your tour, as it is open to visitors.

The complete article is here:Ohio University Opens Virtual Doors

Megan Conklin's 101 Uses for Second Life in the College Classroom

Megan Conklin is one of the original evangelists for using Second Life as an education tool. She has just published an updated version of her paper "101 Uses for Second Life in the College Classroom". Megan works at Elon University in the department of computing sciences, and blogs regularly at her megan@elon blog about technology and education.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Teen Second Life at Risk

Deleting Online Predators Act reappears for 2007
Jacqui Cheng

Last year, we reported on the progression of the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) of 2006—a bill that would restrict the use of social networking sites and chat rooms from being used in schools in libraries. That bill ultimately got passed by the US House of Representatives in July with flying colors, but ended up stagnating in the Senate until the session ended and the Democrats took over, much to the relief of many critics. Unfortunately, that wasn't the last we were to hear of of DOPA. A new bill, ambiguously named S.49 for the time being, was introduced to the Senate by Senator Ted "Internet Tubes" Stevens (R-AK) this January that smells strangely of DOPA. In fact, Title II of the newly-proposed bill is not-so-ambiguously titled "Deleting Online Predators Act of 2007."(the rest)

The article from the website ars technica warns that the overly broad definition could block schools and libraries from not just My Space, but Wikipedia, or any website with a forum.
The definition?
(i) is offered by a commercial entity;
(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
(v) enables communication among users.

This would certainly include the Second Life Teen grid, and would threaten the many wonderful programs that have been created there, such as the Global Kids Digital Media Initiative, and the Topeka Shawnee's Oz Island for teens which I have featured in posts here.

Now would be a very good time for librarians who believe in the value of social software to inform themselves and speak up for their programs.

I thank Facebook friends Nancy Picchi and Bill Drew for the alert and the links in this posting.

You can find out about the bill House of Representatives Bill H.R. 1120 by searching Search by Bill Number: HR 1120 or by Sponsor - Kirk, Mark Steven (R-IL-10) The Senate version is S 49.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Second Life Library - Mystery discussion series

The Mystery Manor on Info Island is hosting a new book discussion series:
Waiting for the other gumshoe to drop
The discussions will take place on the last Wednesday of every month at 6 PM PST at Mystery Manor . Ross Macdonald's "The Far Side of the Dollar" will be the discussion subject on Wed. Feb. 28. (

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sunday walks in Second Life

Sunday was a fine day for a walk in SL. Both New Media Consortium (NMC) and the Second Life Library revealed new islands that expand their complexes; Imagination Island, built by members of the SL library, and several new islands in the NMC complex. The NMConnect event mentioned in earlier posts is the first time these islands have been made public.

If you are looking for a beautiful, tranquil and imaginative place, visit Rachelville on Imagination Island.
"Rachelville developed originally in the mind of a seven year old girl, Rachel, who was undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. Stuck in a hospital room with only her parents as playmates she began to think out a place where the stuffed animals around her came to life and acted out daily stories within their own “virtual” world which she named Rachelville."(Welcome to Rachelville)
At the center of the island is the Secret Garden, built by Julia Hathor and inspired by the book of the same name. Besides the lovely garden there is the Dragon's Maze, built by Brian Corleone, and the Kitty Magic tree house by Alizarin Mondrian. Scattered throughout the island are children's book displays. This is a both a lovely tribute to Rachel and a loving gift to SL.

My adventures at the NMConnect were very different. I wandered over to the area dedicated to the theme of Love and Chaos looking for a concert. Instead I wandered into a Second Front event that featured competitive ushering. Both love and chaos did eventually result as my avatar was (temporarily) reassembled and offered hugs. We finished with a spontaneous parade to spread the love and chaos, and did even eventually end up at the concert I went looking for.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Information Today - Librarians on Second Life

Feb 2007.Vol. 24, Iss. 2
Focus on Publishing
Librarians on Second Life
Robin Peek delves into the virtual worlds that test the limits of online gaming.

This is yet another half-baked article on Second Life. Ms. Peek states that "very few are coming; it is similar to a library ghost town". The truth is, that the library islands have over 4000 visitors a day, and over 300 volunteers. It looks like she spent a few hours touring the island and drew her conclusions without actually interviewing a librarian there, attending an event, joining a group, or learning how to view the traffic.

Too bad.

I can't provide a link to the article, it is available through ProQuest

Saturday, February 10, 2007

NMConnect Media Arts Symposium Schedule

The NMConnect Wiki has the schedule of events which start tomorrow (Sun. 2/11) at 10 AM PST (1 PM EST) and include discussions, live music and an improvisational build.

Friday, February 9, 2007

NMC Campus Observer - Visual Arts Symposium , Digital Story Telling

The most recent postings in the NMC Campus Observer cover two events, one past, and one future. I have made regular visits to the NMC Campus since my arrival in SL but never found anything going on. It looks like another large and lovingly rendered build not being put to use. The quiet is deceptive.

The upcoming Visual Arts Symposium, NMCConnect, will feature "artists, educators, designers and researchers in a visual symposium for Second Life: NMCConnect. Structures of artistic expression in every medium will be linked and combined to tell new stories on how we bond within our shared new worlds." It will take place on NMC's four new islands, and will include interactive installations, live performances, and forums for discussion. This looks like it will be a spectacular event, I will certainly be there as much as I can. They have not yet published exact location and agenda. I will post details here once they are available.

The past event was an NMC Teachers Buzz Session with Gudand Hao from the Center for Digital Storytelling. The discussion on digital storytelling was attended by 65 participants.
"I think in second life you could have media exchanges, as in sharing already created stories or you could have folks collaborate to create and perform stories here. My main interest is could you hold story circles here. Could you get people to reflect on a considered narrative and find a way to get intimate about the story? The issue for those folks who have taken our workshops is that we are trying to peel back layers of meaning and that I have believed requires reading body language as much as words and expressions. Can you do that in the virtual environment?" ~ Gudand Hao
On reading the review and transcript I am kicking myself for not being there, but there are ample links to transcripts, photos, an audio interview of Gudand, and other resources. The group meets every other Monday, with times alternating between 6 PM and 9 AM PST. The next meeting is Digital Storytelling Part Deux - Mon Feb 19, 6.00 PM PST.

Second Life Librarian Lori Bell at MLC Conference 2/15/07

Michigan Library Consortium will hold the third session of its series The Library Rebooted; RUA nOOB? Bridging the Gap Between Boomers and Gamers
Lori Bell will speak about Second Life. She is Director of Innovation at the Alliance Library System started the Second Life Library, which has grown from a rented space in April 2006, to 8 islands now, with 4000 visitors a day, and 300 volunteers.
The event will be held at Lansing Community Colleges West Campus. The program is "on the use of social networking software and gaming in libraries". The speakers and their topics are:

Lori Bell, Alliance Library System - Second Life
Angela Semifero, Marshall District Library - MySpace
Eli Neiburger, Ann Arbor District Library - Gaming
Edward Vielmetti, School of Information, University of Michigan - Everything Else
Monica Harris - Panel Discussion on Facebook

Thursday, February 8, 2007

CNET News - Universities see Second Life as a solution to classroom crowding

This article seems particularly relevant in light of an email exchange on Wayne's LISPINF in the last 24 hours. A student asks "Is Library Admin ever offered as a web centric or all online class? Or are there plans for this class to be offered in this format in the future?"

Dr. Mika who teaches the course and is the head of our program replies that it will not, because interaction is an important part of the course. Second Life is already being used to offer interactive distance learning. There are 70 universities with a presence in SL and companies like Sun Microsystems are helping to improve the technology to do this.
Universities register for virtual future
Students may soon meet with professors once a week and then use simulations, virtual worlds and downloads to complete coursework.
Stefanie Olsen
Staff Writer, CNET
February 7, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO--If you want to know what higher education will look like in a few years, you might ask Charles Reed, chancellor of the largest four-year university system in the United States.

As head of the California State University system--with 23 campuses, 46,000 employees and more than 400,000 students--Reed says he's worried about classroom space in the future because of, among other reasons, expanding enrollment.

Consequently, Reed said he envisions students becoming more like telecommuters. They might meet with faculty and peers one day a week on campus, and then use simulations, virtual worlds and downloaded information the rest of the week to complete coursework. (the rest)

Lecture in SL by Dr. Gary Marchionini Feb. 16, 2007

On Friday, February 16 at 9 PM PST Dr. Gary Marchionini (aka Gary Octagon) will present the lecture "Toward Multimedia Surrogation" at the Amphiteater at Talis Cybrary City (Cybrary City (128, 131, 26)
Wayne State readers, his PhD is from Wayne.

School Library Journal on Teen Second Life

Meet the New You
By Kelly Czarnecki and Matt Gullett -- 1/1/2007

In Teen Second Life, librarians can leap tall buildings in a single bound and save kids from boring assignments—all before lunch.

Accidental Learning at Global Kids Island

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports the Global Kids Digital Media Youth Initiative, "a series of interrelated programs designed to support teenagers to think critically about the role of digital media in their lives and document their experiences in various media". A major piece of this initiative is Global Kids Island. Their programs are designed to promote awareness of global issues, and to create some accidental learning along the way. The website includes a blog, an area for teen postings, and a library of all of the files that have been posted to the website. If you are looking for ideas, illustrations, or examples of how educators and students are using SL, look here. Be sure to view some of the videos, particularly the video of Camp Global Kids 2006 program, made by kids who participated.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

MIT Technology Review: Second Life, Darwin and God

Second Life, Darwin and God
Is this new virtual world a product of creationism or evolution?
Thursday, February 01, 2007

While this article speculates about the "virtual evolution" of SL, there are residents who have made evolution models in SL. The island of Svarga is an entire ecosystem. Surina Skallagcrimson modeled Darwinian evolution with her virtual fish. And "In the Terminus area of Second Life, a team of coders are attempting to reproduce the beginnings of life. "

Qualities of Online Environments

Sarah Robbins is a rhetoric and composition PhD candidate at Ball State University. Her interests and research are on using online tools for teaching. Her blog Second Life Education Research, where she is known as Intellagirl is both thoughtful and based on real experience and research. In this posting she shares ideas from a book chapter she is writing, "CVE, MUVE, MMOE, MMORPG…What’s the difference?’: Virtual Environments as Compositional Models".

"In the chapter I attempt to delineate between different types of digital environments in which communication/composition can happen. In effect, what I’m doing is laying out the qualities that an instructor may be looking for in an online environment for a specific educational goal. Because the audience is largely readers who have never explored such environments, I’m hoping to lay out the most important differences to help light the way to informed pedagogical decisions."
It does a very good job of doing this, and includes a table that makes it even clearer. The post is here.

The World of Virtual Politics - Nancy Pelosi Wants a Second Life Too!

When I try to explain Second Life to those who haven't experienced it, reactions include interest, incredulity, concern and maybe even a bit of ridicule. But that is nothing compared to what Rep. George Miller must have experienced when Nancy Pelosi asked him to explain it to the Democratic house leadership! Evidently she is enthusiastic enough to have an account, but hasn't tried it yet. Today's Mercury News' (San Jose, CA) article on Rep. George Miller's describes his SL evangalism in the Capital and how Pelosi and Miller envision using SL.
`This is about leaping over the Beltway mentality,'' Miller said. ``Nancy doesn't want our discussions with the public controlled by a bunch of pundits who live their whole lives in Washington. In Second Life, we can have global town hall meetings.''

Lawmaker takes next leap: the virtual world of politics

The article is here (free registration required)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Second Life in a Crystal Ball

MIT Media lab uses a crystal ball not only as a metaphor but as a medium to explore Second Life at their SIGGRAPH Gallery. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to find the video.
Artist's statement

“Sousreality” is a pair of connected spaces linked through the metaphor of a crystal ball. In the SIGGRAPH gallery is a crystal ball that peers into Second Life, and in Second Life there is a crystal sphere containing a real-time inside-out vision of the gallery. The images of the spaces align visually and are also connected by audio. (the rest).

Monday, February 5, 2007

Voicing Concerns in Second Life

When you want to talk to another avatar in SL, you are probably going to do it either through chat, or instant messaging. If you choose chat, any avatar within range will see it, and can respond. If you choose IM, you can pick any avatar and send a message directly to them, whether they are standing next to you, or in a different area. If they are not online the message will be stored and forwarded to their email.

Before my entrance into SL, I almost never used either one of these real-time tools. Although I picked it up quickly, it seemed very flat and I wished I could just talk to people. I envisioned trying to conduct a classroom through the medium of chat, and could think of lots of drawbacks, with few advantages. There are ways of using voice in SL, but not built into the SL client, and not particularly easy to set up. I investigated, and quickly decided that between the trouble and the expense, I was not going to be trying this soon.

But then at the last Library Grads in SL group meeting, Uskala Hidayat offered to demonstrate the voice streaming he has set up. He spoke and played his bamboo flute to demonstrate it. The sound quality was good. The basic components of his system were a high quality microphone, free soft-ware (Win-amp), and use of a relay server which is not free (about $20.00 a month). His institution (UNC) is covering the cost of this so that professors can use it to give presentations in SL. He commented that they would have many fewer professors willing to do this if they had to do it through chat. The sound quality was great, but it is a one-way communication. We used chat to respond to Uskala, but our inability to talk back left us feeling hampered and muted.

Just a few days later, I had a chance to use a different tool that does create two-way conversations; Second Talk. This is a free virtual headset that lets up to ten avatars talk to each other through the VOIP program Skype. I was able to sign up for a free Skype account, and get a free headset in SL. I buddied up with friend Aleister Kronos to try it out. The steps are few and they are simple. Unfortunately they didn't work. But talk we did, through Skype, bypassing the headsets. In retrospect, I think the site we choose to try this in may have blocked the scripts of our headsets (script blocking is a security measure). We will try again with more people, and eventually get it to work. But we may not need Skype to do it, as Linden Lab has recently announced they are working on this. Once it becomes part of the SL client we can hope technical difficulties will melt (hah!).

Why wasn't this built in from the start? Sound devours bandwidth. One-way voice streaming is not as hungry, but VOIP gobbles it up.

Meanwhile over the months I have become used to chat and IM. And strangely once I had the potential to talk directly to avatars in SL, I found I was not completely sure I wanted to. Typed messaging has several advantages and special qualities.

Chat advantages

  • You don't have to worry if the other person has problems, technical or otherwise, with hearing you.
  • Chat has a distancing effect that makes it feel safer to approach and talk to strange avatars.
  • Chat is stored in history and logs. You can review the last several exchanges on your screen, as well has view it in your external chat log later. This is great for meeting transcripts, finding that name or website someone gave you, or just to review the conversation.
  • All members of the conversation are identified by name.
  • There are many tricks you can use, such as emoticons or animations to add shading and emotion to what you say.
  • You can write text in advance, and then cut and paste text into chat windows. There are even presenter tools to help you do this.
  • The conversation is paced by typing. You have time to consider before you type.
  • People who don't speak English well don't have to cope with pronunciation, yours or theirs.
  • Helpful visual cues help you know when an avatar is typing a response to you.
Chat disadvantages
  • You have to type everything you say.
  • Anyone within range can "hear" you, and you can hear them. Only distance lends privacy to conversations.
  • If many avatars are chatting at once, messages scroll by very quickly. If a person does not know about the chat history window, they will lose the conversation thread.
  • Chat without use of emoticons or other conventions can be misinterpreted.
  • Without any kind of etiquette to signal who should talk when conversations can become chaotic and unsynchronized.
The disadvantages related to privacy can be solved by using IM instead of chat. If you want to speak to someone without being overheard, you can IM them. If you wanted to conduct a private class or meeting, you can add everyone to a group, and IM the group. All group members can hear and respond. IM's are logged.

Streaming Voice Advantages
  • Sound can be heard by anyone in the area, as long as they have enabled media streaming, and have their speakers turned on.
  • It does not soak up too much band width.
  • It frees the speaker from typing. They can just talk or play.
  • It offers a high degree of control. The professor can talk without being interrupted.
Streaming Voice Disadvantages
  • It requires technical skill, and money to set up.
  • It is not logged automatically, so unless you have a scribe or a recorder, you will not have a transcript.
  • It is one way.
  • It is ephemeral.
  • The avatar just stands there. Unless other animation is used, it tends to disconnect you from the sense you are interacting with each other.
VOIP Advantages (Second Talk)
  • It frees you from typing.
  • Assuming they have Skype accounts and headsets, up to 10 avatars can converse.
  • It is free (beyond purchasing a headset for use on your computer).
  • You can hear each other's voices.
  • You can control who is included, and therefor who can hear the conversation.
VOIP Disadvantages
  • The technology does not appear to work consistently yet.
  • There are no identifiers other then the sound of the voice. If more then two people are talking it could be difficult to identify who is talking.
  • There is no logging, it is ephemeral.
  • It soaks up band-width. It could really degrade the rest of the experience.
  • It may be a more inhibiting medium. People may hesitate to voice things they would type. (This could be a plus or a minus).
What this all means to me, is that what we use will depend on the situation and people involved. Speech in groups, public places and sociable situations are likely to be dominated by chat. To talk privately to a person or group up close or at a distance, or to leave a message for someone who is not online, we'll use IM. Streaming audio will work in performances or presentations where sound is important, and the interaction is mostly one-way. And two-way sound will be best when talking to friends in settings with a limited number of people involved. I expect to use all three.

Information Week - Second Life Lessons: Cisco, IBM Pace Corporate Push into Virtual Worlds

Companies as varied as Toyota, Dell, Sears, and Adidas have all established bulkheads in the 3-D virtual world called "Second Life." Is this influx of brands an exciting precursor of how we'll be conducting business very soon, or the ultimate exercise in corporate flat-footedness?

By Alice LaPlante
Feb 3, 2007 12:01 AM
The rest of the article here.

Second Life Library this week (2/5 - 2/11/2007)

Sci Fi and Fantasy Gallery - activities for the month of February focused around the Talis Science Fiction portal on InfoIsland, include planning meetings, discussions and displays.
Genealogy Research Center - African American Genealogical Research Exhibit - the Genealogy Library this month features an exhibit on resources for the genealogist.
Book Signing at Open Air Auditorium - Author Al Perrin will do a short presentation on his new book "The Sloop John B" where he will bring his characters to life by wearing their avatars, followed bybook signing on 2/10.

Architecture in Second Life

Since one of the major activities in SL is building, it is no surprise that architects would find uses for a tool that lets them build 3D models of their ideas and projects. An architect can model the terrain, build the building, and furnish it. Once built an avatar can freely enter, explore and view the building outside or in. What a great way to show a proposal to a professor, customer or community!
The Arch is a blog "exploring the convergence of the metaverse with the real life practice of architecture". Not only are there architecture firms using SL, there is a Society for Virtual Architecture, and an Architecture Island. And of course architecture programs are exploring the uses of SL for their students. One library director I have talked with is pursuing the purchase of an entire island primarily for their architecture students. There are several videos here that show building in process or click directly on the links;

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Information Island Archipelago Keeps Growing announces the addition of three new islands; Cybrary City 2, Arts Island, and Imagination Island. The islands will open when construction is done.

New Islands

Friday, February 2, 2007

Article by Second Life Librarians in January issue of Computers in Libraries

Although Second Life has been receiving lots of attention in the popular press, and although there seem to be an endless supply of blogs, podcasts and other web-based articles about SL in libraries and education, until recently there has been almost nothing about Second Life in library publications. So the article "Get a (Second) Life! Prospecting for Gold in a 3-D World" in the January 2007 issue of Computers in Libraries may give authors Lori Bell, Tom Peters, and Kitty Pope the distinction of being first to publish. This is a distinction they have certainly earned. Their combined efforts planted the first Second Life Library.
I can't provide an external link to this article, but it is available through the Wilson Web database.

Second Life Continues to Draw Educators

The following article is from a publication called eSchool News online. It's a good overview of what's happening with education in SL.
Second Life' develops education following
Virtual world being used by some educators and youth groups for teaching, socialization
By Justin Appel, Assistant Editor

January 1, 2007—An online virtual world that has become one of the web's most popular activities is also becoming an increasingly popular venue for teaching and socialization among educators and youth organizations. (The rest here, free registration required to read past the first page)

Other good related articles at eSchool News online:

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Language School to Open in SL
by Zarachnia Wilder

A new venue for learning languages online is settling into Second Life., currently operating 12 private sims, is testing the system in beta. The firm plans to offer students audiovisual components and direct interaction with teachers and other students in social environments such as restaurants, museums and a bus depot. (the rest here)