Friday, May 18, 2007

hillbilly in cyberspace?

Pappy's 'camp' on UR Island -

One of the most interesting characters i've run into in SL seems to have set up his hillbilly camp on UR island. Pappy Enoch is a tall, mean-looking, pot-bellied guy with shaggy black hair and beard in "seasoned" overalls. Though he looks mean, he's actually quite friendly and seems to have accidentally collected some fans.
If you have a Second Life avatar, you can visit Pappy's camp.

What makes Pappy unique in SL is that he is an "imperfect" character, one that includes many traits that we "wise moderns" have rejected as inferior or incorrect. For example, Pappy speaks in a kind of dialect, he seems to invent it rather than mimic an currently used dialect - not 'correct' but nevertheless communicative and engaging for others.

Pappy has a junk-strewn, overgrown area on UR Island where he has an old dog named Dixie Moonshine and he's a friendly guy in spite of his menacing, paunchy exterior (and that smell).
Recently Pappy had a contest to name the dog, and quite a few folks submitted ideas - in hillbilly!

It may be that Pappy's popularity is an indication of homogenization in SL and our human thirst for diversity and "imperfection". Or it cold be that Pappy represents an older set of values more focused on self-reliance, basic hospitality & civility and celebration of life.
(hence the moonshine still)

Or perhaps people are just having fun catching on to Pappy's playful hillbillisms...and PLAY is the key here. Pappy was clearly created for playful purposes and this seems to be a big part of his appeal. In fancypants academic terms this is the realm of the "ludic" from latin 'ludere' or to play - spontaneous, joyful creativity.
NOT purposeless, NOT a waste of time, but a key ingredient to intellectual growth and learning - not to mention pleasure!

Another interesting side to Pappy is his echoes of the Foxfire books that captured the fading 'low-tech' ways of mountain people in Georgia. These books contain techniques for self-reliance and independence that most of us have already lost, but which are likely to be damn handy in the future.

You didn't think the supply of electricity was going to be endless did you? That's what we hope, but it's not very likely. Between unchecked Enronian corruption to the serious changes in the weather that we're experiencing, it seems a bit naive for us to assume an uninterrupted, affordable flow.

Pappy and folks like him (those few left) will do just fine with their hillbilly ways, but what about the most techno-laden of us?
As was demonstrated recently in a 'blackberry blackout' many of us are quite vulnerable and useless without our techno-toys.

Doesn't sound like evolution to me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

connection in SL

Though i've been a clear fan of biological embodiment, i have to admit that the two avatars i interviewed in Second Life remain on my mind - primarily because i've been too busy to get back in touch even though both Tonny & Faith tried.

So, this entry is about my awakening to the strength of a digitally made connection of friendship and a public apology to my two friends Tonny & Faith whom i've snubbed so rudely - i'm sorry. Thanks for taking the time to help me.

This is a whole new world that, without replacing the richness of our biological matrix, can be a new space where humans get along in new ways, perhaps evolving someday into a whole new form of social organization that augments rather than replaces embodied, face-to-face interaction.

boomerang book

If you've read these few posts, you'll know that their scarcity is due partly to my disinterest in digital life, but in a fascinating technological irony, the 500-year old technology of the BOOK boomeranged me right back into SL with renewed enthusiasm. (so is that book a traitor to its specific medium?) The book that betrayed the others is second life: the official guide.

Yesterday i, uh, my creator...
(Beeble speaking here of his biological maker, one of many (i's) eyes)
or should i say I? - Beeble has tried to distinguish himself with the lower-case first-person. This identity stuff is endless...of course playing with identity didn't start in Second Life, nor
with the book, but waaay back in shamanic history, identity shift was/is a regular practice.

So, nothing shamanic or anything, but i will be Beeble, and I will be his creator.
(and perhaps this "I' should be expressed in bold italics, for emphatic embodiment - 'emphatic' deriving from 'to show' or 'to appear')

got that?

(yesterday, I attended a UR Learning 2007 teaching & technology conference, and my colleague, known as Ignatius Onomatopoeia in SL, was showing his hilarious but informative video of his SL explorations so far. I'll try to get a link to it. It's worth seeing just for the scenes of him dancing in a gorilla suit!

And so the question arises, arose during the demonstration, what's the academic value? How do we apply this in the classroom? indeed! I'm sure the same questions were asked of the BOOK once too!

The keynote speaker for the mini-conference was Dr. Phil Long of MIT's Office of Educational Innovation and Technology - I like the order of those words because it places the priority on education, not technology and it leads with educators. In his talk, he inadvertently affirmed educational and design principles that were articulated by transcendentalists like Emerson and Peabody and utopians like Fourier and in more modern novels like Gilman's Herland, Skinner's Walden Two, Callenbach's Ecotopia or Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time.

Modern studies are confirming what our elders knew: learning behaviors, patterns and spaces should have some freedom to form their natural shape based on student interest and engagement. Learning should involve the body and real-world experiments. Learning should be diverse in content and approach, and face-to-face human interaction is an essential part of the process of learning.

The specific educational/intellecutal value of SL is primarily its invitation to creativity and "world building" as Iggy puts it. One thing many teachers have noticed of students is the waning of creative thinking and SL has many tools to spark this. Beyond that however is the intellectual value of critical discussion of this world as it evolves, as we are changed by it as we create it. Old forms of social interaction are morphing, mutating into something doubt both good and bad.

SL can facilitate inter-cultural exchange as can be experienced with Iggy's new hillbilly friend "Pappy Enoch" known for his famous cry: Wee Doggies!
OR it can be a bit more sober like the Student Symposium work on display at the UR Tower.

Using SL in class, Teachers would be free to create any kind of classroom, demonstration, image, multimedia exhibit, tour, interactive space...whatever they wanted and could afford, but it can be used for free.

The Basic membership is free and you can play for years if you're not digitally materialistic (oxymoronic?) but with a Premium membership, for only a few dollars you can have access to tremendously powerful digital creation tools. And if your school won't support your work by buying real estate or building an island, you can always meet at public spaces with your students or tour the vastness of Second Life - more than likely there will be a group, exhibit or place that matches with your particular discipline. )

so, to boomerang full circle, beware the book!
(it ain't going anywhere, but there's no tellin' where one'll point you)