Monday, 10 November 2008

Mini Conference Second Life Interview

Lets be honest here I am still literally bumping into walls or facing the wrong direction in “Second Life” but hey not only has it been a challenge for my mind but it has been a technical challenge as well (cause like your average male my brain is not hardwired for multitasking (i.e. using the keyboard, mouse, headset and the various menu popups or drop downs on the SL GUI all synchronously!).

Just for your FYI the interview guest (avatar: Hat Carter & myself (avatar: Clinty Inglewood) where there at roughly the correct time with script prepared (took a while for us to “find each other” and meeting place. But much to our dismay only one other avatar pitched up – not to worry the interview fell away as we all decided to make the best of the situation and we went discovering. I was shown how to wear a “flight feather” and off we went to visit the platform suspended in the sky above Explorer Island NASA JPL (800 meters up). On the platform is a translucent 3d crater cone into which you can walk your avatar and have a 360 degree view of real photographs of the crater on Mars visited recently by the Mars explorer vehicle – it was awesome! A very interesting sim site – thanx to Hat Carter!

For those still wanting to hear about SL from seasoned user Harold Atkinson I will do a voice recorded interview and make it accessible via a link on the wiki hopefully. I have noted a few of the practical difficulties I experienced in trying to set up the SL event in my previous post – this was a valuable experience which I could not have learnt from a textbook. Thanks to Leigh Blackall for introducing SL to me on this FOC course – pity you did not make it Leigh – but all is not lost as it turned into a useful SDL (self directed learning session) discovery session instead – so no need to be “totally gutted”.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Newbie Philosophical Rambling on Second Life

The quest for a place of Paradise is a strong theme running through the history of human existence from the biblical Garden of Eden to the various paradise places in the plays of Shakespeare (e.g. The Tempest) to Milton’s famous book “Paradise Lost” and contemporary films such as “The Island”. Through the centuries humans have both physically and psychologically searched for Utopia. It would appear now that we can build our respective paradises in the 3d virtual world of Second Life” (SL). Program code today is allowing us to transport our minds into these “artificial cyber worlds”. Is SL the embryo of some sort of future “Matrix”. Having just rewatched two videos on the film “The Matrix” and “Matrix Revisited” (must see the third video!) which to me is like boosting SL a step further I had the constantly nagging thought the are we not already there – albeit in a more primitive sense as we have yet to literally “plug in” our brains via a chip – biological interface – which is technology speaking perhaps not so far away? This “Brave New World” raises so many mind boggling thoughts around the ethics, morals and legalities of behaviour in these virtual worlds which are no longer “terra firma”. Naturally for those of us with a older World View, this is initially like a walk on the wild side (i.e. “Star Trek “type stuff (yes I am a dinosaur!). In any parallel world like SL with human being humans, there is “the good, the bad & the ugly” which naturally evolve whether we are on Earth, in Second Life or perhaps soon on Mars! Despite all this I am becoming addicted to SL!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Second Life is not yet just “Plug & Play!” Message 2

Second Email
Hi Leigh - Nov 3, 2008 at 2:23 PM

Was up half of last night with a different pc with more grunt trying to get SL to run smoothly - still sorting out some minor tech issues as every time I swapped computer something else would not work - got a colleague working on the headphone/microphone glitch - yes it is now working & so it goes on - wow - what a learning curve! Have advertised the SL Interview on the Wiki (hope is Okay) and inserted a SLurl to the Nasa JPL area. Have questions prepared and colleague (Harold) is jumping in to SL from his side of Auckland (friends place) 2morrow morning for 10.00 am (Auckland time) meeting - we can only but try!

Even tried to get access for SL into our pc labs but SL will not run on these machines as our teaching pc specs are not good enough. Good news is that our org is getting new pcs next year - does not help now though.
- What have I learnt so far
- You need good specs to run SL smoothly (especially Memory/graphics card)
- The broadband connection of your pc is also important otherwise it slows or can crash (freeze)
- I have a whole new perspective on these technical issues - SL is not just "Plug & Play'
Cheers for now.

All that Last minute running around meeting each other swapping computers or visiting Internet Cafes to test out whether SL could be run (my café had security settings blocking the download of the SL client set up program) however Harold has found an Internet café where can get into SL okay for a few dollars – cool!!

Bottom line is many technical hurdles to overcome. One of the main problems is that if your computer does not have the correct specs (or better) it is “potluck” whether SL is going to run okay for you – typical problems include slowing of you computer as the cache fills and you run out of uncommitted RAM – my pc ground a halt on 39 processes and 100% Memory usage quite quickly resulting in a “hung screen” or simple crashes Why because I only had minimum specs necessary to run SL. Answer – go find another pc with more “grunt” - this time I got into SL okay but had difficulties going to the Sim wanted – which was Explorer Island – Nasa Jpl site (where all the space stuff is). It kept sending me elsewhere and then disconnected me from SL. I spent many hours going into & out of SL trying to get my spot – and when I got their my sound hardware was not working – tales of woe my friends – when you do finally hook into SL & all the technology is working (i.e. “winds are blowing in your favor”) - you are either mentally exhausted or emotionally over the moon and want to throw an SL party! – but what a learning/patience curve!

These ramblings are not to put any newbie “Lifers” off but just a reality check that it does not always go as planned – i.e. SL is not just “Plug & Play” – but it may be a lot more smoother as it developments & improves down the line.

See you in Second Life – hopefully!
Thanx from Grant (aka Avatar: Clinty Inglewood)

Second Life is not yet just “Plug & Play!” - Message 1

I would like to share the behind the scenes running around whilst trying to set our mini conference event - About Second Life Interview – which seem straight forward to me when I put my hand up to do it. I was “blown away” when Leigh first took me into Second Life and Leigh made it look & feel so easy – kind of passing the buck here! But anyway here is a chronicle of technical woes covering the last few prevent days in the form of email postings between myself Grant, my guest (Harold) and Leigh as follows:

First email: Hi Leigh - Monday, 3 November 2008 9:13 p.m.

Thanx for last chat. Just to let u know I am working on doing your interview idea in Second Life. Have embroiled by Colleague Harold Atkinson (Computer tutor) who has done quite a bit of stuff in Second Life (i.e. he is not a newbie). Last night he was at my place & we were trying to get to a Sim that he likes (but we had tech gremlins not enough pc grunt, freezing & crashing etc) as a venue. We are still sorting out how we can make it happen - problem is we cannot do it from our organizations computers on quick notice - whole approval process, form filling etc - too slow for now). By the way being from South Africa I had not heard of UTC time - so I had to get my head around that too for planning purposes – thanks to Leigh for his words of wisdom on Time issues:

“Hi Grant! This is great news.

NZ is +13 hours on UTC.. so if your event was for 9am NZ time, that would be 8pm the day before at UTC. Here's a world clock and meeting planner.”

Luckily we have found a common free time (in our RL schedules) when he can hook on from his locality (his neighbors pc which has enough grunt) and I can also hook on (my lack of grunt should be sorted today - borrowing my sons pc to hook up tonight - which has good graphics card etc). I did pop in at an nearby Internet cafe today & went into second life but their security does not allow download of second life program (bummer!). I will be meeting Harold again today to firm up when the event can happen - looking at this Thursday at 9.30 or 10.00 am (morning) Auckland time - in meantime I will prep questions etc. I hope to be able to create a Slurl (coordinates) later tonight after my eve class at home. Lots of behind the scenes running about at moment- learning curve! " The show must go on" as they say.

Help please:
Hope you okay with this overall?
How do I work out local Auckland time into UCT time to advertise event?
Hopefully later tonight I can put up a working title & notice advertising this event & post a Slurl link onto the wiki?
Any advice appreciated ASAP - much nervous energy at moment

Monday, 27 October 2008

Reminder needed: Online Facilitators Role?

  1. Extracts from online Article: Facilitating and Hosting a Virtual Community
    Nancy WhiteLast edited 4/03/04

    1. “The core of facilitation and hosting is to serve the group and assist it in reaching its goals or purpose
    2. "Communities are organic in nature and site owners can't make them successful or force them to grow. As site owner can only provide the fertile ground on which a community may grow, and then provide some gentle guidance to help the group thrive. Much of the challenge in fostering an online community is social, rather than technical."
    3. “Facilitators foster member interaction, provide stimulating material for conversations, keep the space cleaned up and help hold the members accountable to the stated community guidelines, rules or norms. They pass on community history and rituals”
    4. “Facilitators use their group facilitation skills to enable the group to meet it's goals. This involves a group of processes which include:
    - Entry and engagement processes which help members become active participants
    - Supporting sociability, relationship and trust building
    - Constructing, adapting and modeling norms, agreements and accountability
    - Support discussion and dialog (foster communication)
    - Support divergent, convergent and task-oriented group processes (help get work done)
    -Anticipate and work with conflict and abrasion to both allow emergence of new ideas and protect people from harassment
    -Work with full understanding of diversity in learning style, culture and personal styles
    - Understand and make visible group participation cycles and "rituals" in the online environment.
    - Summarize, harvest, weave and support appropriate content and connections “
    5. “The social host helps create an environment where the members feel comfortable to participate. Part conversationalist, part counselor, part role model and sometimes even part bouncer. They are also usually part of the conversation.
    Applications include:
    - social, conversational communities
    - helping entrants feel "at home" and acclimated in work groups and communities of practice
    - customer service
    Key skills include:
    - greeter
    - social skills
    - conversation stimulator (content, style, process)
    - sometimes utilizes a persona or a "character."
    - conflict resolution (particularly in open, public online communities)”
    6. “Facilitators are the most emulated members of a group -- no matter if they are modeling positive or negative behaviors. They are often the first members to be challenged. Integrity, patience, a good sense of humor and a love of other people will be valued in any host. And as virtual communitarian Howard Rheingold so aptly wrote, "One point of heart is worth ten points of intellect."

Monday, 13 October 2008

Wikis as Epistemological Realities

- Noun [U] SPECIALIZED- the part of philosophy that is about the study of how we know things (from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

Wikis are popular, as shown by the rapid growth of Wikipedia, but as Cummings (2007) points out to us they are changing the fundamental underpinnings of our knowledge about knowledge per se as follows:

Wikipedia has fundamentally and finally altered epistemology itself – our commonly held ideas about knowledge.”

What does this mean? Through the use of wikis we have shifted away from the past process of where a few credentialed experts had the means and know how to publish works of knowledege for the masses to a process whereby many non-credentialed people now have the means to contribute and builld a collection of common knowledgefor the masses. Cummings (2007) refers to this phenomenon as “global transition to networked epistemology”. Also Cummings (2007) reminds us that wikis as “epistemological realities” are less about reference sources of academic rigour but more about “shared truths”. In this context it is interesting to note that the Maori learners whom I teach also have a collective cultural view of a kete (basket) of knowledge which is shared (accessed) by all. The modern day wiki is an electronic version not dissimiliar to the traditional Maori “kete mātauranga “(basket of knowledge).

Thomas J Nelson in Cumming’s (2007) article makes the point that wikis are powerful examples of the social construction of knowledge through writing. Wikis are “by the people for the people” in that there is no single authority responsible for that knowledge (as in books authored by experts). Where traditonal encylopedias have been a closed shop authored by specific experts wikis are “open source” and “open ended” works in progress.. As suggested by the image above wikis (like the printing press of old) have swung open the door on sharing knowledge allowing the many, and not just the few, to participate in the collective compilation of knowledge.

Certainly wikis are a quantum epistemological leap from the traditonal knowledge acqusition to a new collective order but “are we going to throw the baby out with the bath water” as there are still some niggingly old fashioned concerns to be addressed for me such as standards, scoping, authenticity, academic rigour, and information versus misinformation . Will this new wave of democratic knowledge building create its own internal system of checks and balances (as any natural system on earth has) or are we all going to be surfing a tsunammi of information overload from millions of publishers? Again it is with some comfort that in a recent article about Wikipedia and epistemology Don Fallis (2008) points out that a number of empirical studies have revealed that Wikipedia has good epistemic consequences. How so we ask? Apparently the reliability of Wikipedia compares favorably with the reliability of traditional encyclopedias and the epistemic advantages of Wikipedia are its speed, power and fecundity – okay I admit I had to look up the meaning of the latter which is – fruitful or capable of abundant production!