In 2007-2009, I was conducting research and giving presentations on community building and community management on the Isle of Wyrms. I recently combined that work with some of my research on avatar agency and autonomy for a chapter in a book on avatar identity that just came out.
My chapter is “Liminal Phases of Avatar Identity Formation in Virtual World Communities”
in Reinventing Ourselves: Contemporary Concepts of Identity in Virtual Worlds,
edited by Anna Peachey and Mark Childs: http://www.springerlink.com/content/r579q311805q356r/,
also available via Google Books:http://bit.ly/pj9bo2.
From the abstract: This chapter examines the early phases of entrance into virtual worlds as a “newbie” avatar within the framework of van Gennep and Turner’s liminal phases of neophyte initiation rituals. This analysis of the avatar in liminal states examines how, even in seemingly anarchistic virtual worlds such as Second Life™, social norms and sanctions emerge to influence avatar identity formation and persistence. Observations on avatar identity development in liminal phases are drawn from the author’s research studies of avatars becoming initiated into dragonhood conducted on the Isle of Wyrms in Second Life™ from 2007 to 2009. Theoretical underpinnings of the chapter are illustrated using case studies highlighting key liminal phases of avatar development.
Stay tuned for news on other forthcoming publications, as well as tidbits on my new OS virtual worlds project.
The Future of Being Human is a State University of New York Empire State College interdisciplinary science course funded by the Charitable Leadership Foundation. The course is offered through the Science, Math and Technology program at the Center for Distance Learning. The Second Life Activity is an immersive, interactive discovery experiment, in which students enter the transformation station, transform shapes, and are both transported to different worlds and guided through a range of activities using a HUD [heads up display].
SL Project Concept and Design: Ragitake Takakura and Talarus Luan
SL Project Team: Ragitake Takakura, Merapi Praga, Talarus Luan with assistance from Skylarian Isachenko (Marion Skywalker in RL) and Claire Blue (Claire Ouderkirk Miller in RL)
Course Author, Sciences: Merapi Praga (Audeliz Matias in Real Life)
Course Author, Philosophy of Science, Media & Technology: Ragitake Takakura (Nicola Allain in RL)
Course Author, Mathematics: Enda Indigo (Betty Lawrence in RL)
Course Author, Genetics: Veronika Mimulus (Mary Mawn in RL)
*RL = “Real Life”
Course Goals and Objectives:
- Discuss what it is to be a human being in the 21st century.
- Apply the scientific method and to develop your own experiment.
- Explain exponential growth and how it differs from linear growth.
- Experience how your mirror neuron system responds to observed movement.
- Describe different types of artificial life research studies.
- Critically examine the linkage between medical breakthroughs and society.
- List available life-extending facilities in your community.
- Discuss projected biological enhancements and computer capabilities.
- Develop an awareness of federally funded projects and legislation as it relates to genetics, such as the Human Genome Project.
- Discuss opposing viewpoints on genetic pre-selection.
- Assess implications of science and technology policy related to technological advances.
- Describe how experiencing virtual reality, such as through virtual worlds, is changing human beings.
Critically examine scientific information as presented by the media.
- Design a scientific research project, including the development of a scientific hypothesis, annotated bibliography, a research proposal, and a final paper.
A Victorian Setting Leading into the Future
The Future of Being Human Second Life Simulation was inspired by the premise of the novel Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy. Written in the Victorian era, the novel’s protagonist slept in a basement from 1887 to the year 2000, and wrote a comparison of his existing present to an imagined future.
SUNY Empire State College is located in Saratoga Springs, New York, which is a historical Victorian city. One of the college’s primary buildings is a beautifully restored Victorian mansion. We connected the Second Life simulation to real life Saratoga Springs by creating a replica of the historical 28 Union Alumni House on the Empire State College island (sim) in Second Life. Students begin the simulation by entering a Victorian chamber inspired by Bellamy’s work.
Drawing from studies in neuroscience and effective practices in immersive education, the Second Life Future of Being Human simulation provides students with the opportunity to explore emergent scientific ideas in futuristic settings that support the primary themes of the course.
The Future of Being Human Transformation Station is the gateway to discovery learning, in which students visit environments such as Genome Island, which provides them with an immersive 3D opportunity to actively study the genome and DNA, and do virtual genetic experiments.
For more about Genome Island, see the Educause Review article: http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume43/GenomeIsland/163176.
Future Genesis is the Second Life avatar name of the machine driven cyborg designed to serve as a station tour guide in a futuristic transformation station that provide students with a unique experience in changing avatar identity prior to sending them on a journey of scientific discovery through Second Life worlds.
To learn more about Future Genesis, the transformation station guide, and see a short videoclip of the cyborg in action, see my post on the Center for Distance Learning Innovations in Online Learning Blog at http://commons.esc.edu/cdl-course-highlights/2010/02/25/future-genesis-the-transformation-station-tour-guide/.
The Future of Being Human Project is open to the public. You may visit the project in Second Life by using the following slurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Empire%20State%20College/139/91/22
My first educational build in Second Life, “Ancient Tahitian House”, is based on the illustration “ A View near Ohamaneno Harbour in Ulitea [Ra’aiatea]”, which is an unsigned pencil drawing attributed to Captain James Cook, who made three highly documented voyages to the South Pacific in the early contact period. Tahiti and her islands were officially “discovered” by Europeans circa 1767.
I decided to go with two content areas I know quite well: ancient Tahitian culture and postmodern media theory/philosophy with a Continental European philosophical grounding. I am from Tahiti and my academic content focus (and master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation) have been on Ancient Tahitian cultural traditions and socio-religious concepts. In addition, I have taken a doctoral level course with Jean Baudrillard himself on thinking the virtual and the real.
I was assisted by my colleague Katherine Watson, who created the scripted stool and headrest in the Tahitian house (fare) based on an illustration I gave her.
They really add to the richness of the house and I had neither the time nor the skill to create those so quickly and perfectly. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Katherine for graciously sharing of her time and expertise. Katherine and I are colleagues at Empire State College of the State University of New York. Our registration at the conference was funded by the college under the auspices of a Charitable Leadership foundation grant to develop high interactive, adult centered online courses in math and science. They include a visualization component, and we have been exploring immersive learning design under this project. See the following website for more information on the preliminary work under this grant: http://www4.esc.edu/smart/.
I’d also like to thank Desideria Stockon and Eloise Pasteur for providing us with this wonderful opportunity to create, discuss, learn and reflect with a focus on designing immersive learning environments. This has been one of the most fabulous studio sessions I have taken (and I have done many) in both RL and SL. Brava, Desi and Eloise.
Due to time constraints, I simply tried to communicate as accurately as possible the gist of the buildings and space and a couple of artifacts. As you can see from the illustration, it is a passable rendering. However, some points to consider:
I didn’t have time to research building materials and methods, and either find or create accurate textures. There is extensive documentation, as well as archaeological findings, on early Tahitian material culture. If I were to do this right (which I hope to do in the near future), I would carefully re-construct the home as accurately as possible based on the writings and findings and use a number of other illustrations to guide me.
I also didn’t have time to research textural details, such as: is this the right matting style? How do I create the fringe? Where can I find something that resembles the appropriate materials? Is there anywhere in SL with some Tahitian style Tapa (bark cloth) or would I have to create it? How were these elements really placed in the home?
I did the best I could to quickly find a stone texture that looked somewhat like the stone used in photographs representing Tahitian builds. There are many of those available. If I were doing this “right”, I would also consider: what types of stones were native to Tahiti at the time, and what stonemasonry methods were used? How might I replicate that?
On using a flat drawing to create a 3D build: It’s difficult to ascertain scale and size from the illustration, as well is what is to the side and behind the building. I can’t see into the building, so the interior display is based on written accounts.
I relied heavily on Douglas Oliver’s Chapter 7 on “Buildings” from his trilogy on Ancient Tahitian Society, which is a phenomenal resource based on all primary and secondary sources on early Tahitian and surrounding Polynesian cultures. Due to time constraints, I did not apply the number of the written commentaries on building materials, methods and interior décor, relying solely on the illustration and a few key points.
Oliver, Douglas L. Ancient Tahitian Society. Three Vols. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.
August 17, 2007
The Ancient Tahitian House is open to the public at the following slurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Empire%20State%20College/40/33/22
Ragitake Takakura’s Blog on virtual worlds research and philosophy, learning design, teaching and learning in Second Life and other virtual worlds, along with comments on participation in virtual worlds communities. I have also provided highlights on the Future of Being Human project in Second Life.