Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beeble's NEW LOOK: "Beeble Earth"

To continue the emphasis on Nature and embodiment, Beeble has a new look called "Beeble Earth" - a mix of topsoil and hanging moss. Beeble Raccoon is still with us, but taking a much needed vacation: he's exhausted from all the teasing he got for being a furry!

I plan to continue my interviews and hope my new look won't be as much of a distraction as a six-foot raccoon. I suppose I could choose a more "normal" look, but why do that when it's so easy to make up something new and change it from time to time?

One of the SL residents Beeble Raccoon interviewed is Kyo Runo, an 18 year old woman from the UK who changed her avatar image constantly as I struggled to keep up with her. Her inventory of looks and skill at change-on-the-fly changes was amazing to watch - not to mention embarrassing for an avatar who still has trouble moving digitally!

Beeble may never become so adept, but it looks like there will be new looks to come!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Second Life for teaching?

I continue to explore the pedagogical possibilities of SL, and though I've just begun, I have found several interesting and useful sites. I'll give a brief overview in this entry and return to focus in greater detail on specific sites in following entries.

My colleague Ignatius Onomatopoea has been exploring SL educational possibilities as well, from movie making to SL libraries specifically designed for teachers, and he discusses some of this in his Ric
hmond Times Dispatch blog "In a Strange Land." Educators interested in how these technologies can be used would do well to keep up with Iggy's blog. The wide variety of the postings on Iggy's blog also demonstrate possible uses for teaching, from interviews to character design & development to learning how to script objects.

I've accompanied Iggy on interviews of SL educators like Milosun Czervik, a professor at Virginia Tech University who raised money in Second Life for the victims of their recent shooting. Czervik has also generously populated the ICT Library in Second Life with lots of free materials for teachers who want to use SL for teaching.

One of my first interviews was with Tonny Halderman, an SL designer who also teaches at 'The Business Centre - Horsens Business School'
in Denmark. One of his islands "Danish Visions" includes a windfarm and what he calls a "learning object" meant to help train those who assemble the precision-made Nissen gearbox cooling mechanisms for wind turbines in real life.

On his other island "Media Learning" as he discussed creating appropriate "learning spaces" for specific needs, he took me to a promontory overlooking an ocean complete with relaxing rhythmic waves whose calming litany was woven with the sounds of birds and breeze.

Of course, olfactory cues are absent, but even if the Linden's found a way to digitally duplicate scent, would it be the same as a smell naturally emitted from a biological object?
(yesterday on the James River, I noticed the slightly sweet smell of the rocks I had noticed in the mountains)

Even so, though only two senses were engaged, the sense of relaxation was surprising.

Tonny noted that this particular spot might be an effective space to balance high-intensity discussions or as inspiration for more meditative and reflective work.

Who knows? Maybe SL has the potential to become a new space for the mediation of conflict without the enhanced emotion that accompanies the experience of your opponent's embodied presence.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Brave New Worldz

Huxley would have been fascinated by Second Life, but I'm not sure whether he spend much time there - or maybe he would, but this time he would 'write' Brave New World with SL avatars! I suppose that would have to be a collaborative project, one of the many new possibilities in this realm: the participatory novel with people from all over the world creating avatars for Bernard & Lenina, the Savage and Mustapha Mond.

I've been working on a hypertext of Brave New World, and now I can display its homepage in SL and visitors can link to it and browse - an exciting pedagogical application of this new frontier.

Huxley's novel is now more relevant than ever with advances in genetic engineering, psychiatric drugs and the naturalization of constant consumer conditioning - though his world did not sit under the threat of nuclear war.

Though the phrase "brave new world" was not originally meant as an automatically positive statement, the word 'brave' at the time Shakespeare used it in "The Tempest" meant not only courage, but also showy and both seem to apply to Second Life - and this world is just beginning to unfold....