Thursday, January 31, 2008


At the advice of my group, I went ahead and checked out the CSINY island in SL. It was actually a really interesting experience. I would recommend going to one of the orientation islands and checking it out. The island shows you how to collect evidence and attempt to solve crimes. I haven't ventured on to the other islands, but im pretty excited to get some more exploring done. Hopefully I will have an opportunity to investigate before the next class so that I can share some of my experiences.

My group and I will be setting up our own CSI crime scenes for our project so I am sure we will be using some of the ideas from CSINY to help on some issues, atleast I know I will be. I am also hoping that we might be able to get some type of "collection toolbar" like they have on CSINY, however, I don't know too much about programming, but I am hoping to find out more while in this class.

Congress gets Second Life stage

Real 2nd life

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Group 1 Changes

After some group discussion we have decided to alter our plans in group 1 to better meet the needs and interests of our group members.

Instead of performing an observational study on task preferences, we have decided to develop a survey that will cover that topic as well as others that are of interest to each of us. We will each develop some questions that are of interest to us and combine them into a survey. We will post the survey questions on here for comments and feedback once we compile them.

To administer the survey we are still figuring out all the options available, but for now we are planning on developing kiosks and placing them in high traffic public areas that allow you to build for 24 hours. We also intend on finding and purchasing a small piece of property on public land so that users may come to that location to fill out the survey if they prefer. That way we may get casual traffic in public places with the 24 hour kiosks AND we can have a permanent polling place so that we can personally recruit participants as well. We intend on paying a premium in L$ in order to attract participants. We are currently researching what that amount should be.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wii + Second Life = New Training Simulator

Team 3 project

Sorry to my teammates for the late email. Team 3's project idea is to create a amphitheater for lectures, tutoring and student films. Our main goal of research is going to be on how we can promote the amphitheater for those events.

At the last meeting, we all can upon the idea that we should first create a rough draft on what the building should look like, to which we will present to each other our ideas come Tuesday (aka tomorrow). We also discussed on whether or not we would create an alternative way for information to be spread between teammates (such as team 5's idea of using a wiki).

Monday, January 28, 2008

The future from the past

I promise to post sooner next time. This is a great blog I found a couple of months ago. I check it out every once in awhile just to see what else they have turned up.


I often wonder how our current thoughts on the future will be looked at. Will we look at our current video games the way we now look at Atari games? It's interesting to note how many ideas from this site actually did work out but only in different forms than was initially considered. I also wish there were more movies on the future that took an optimistic view, they all seem so dark. I like to think we will work out our problems in time, and am saddened when I realize much of the world envisions a terrible future for humanity. Anyways, just some loose thoughts from looking at this site again. Check it out when you have a chance.


Charities and Web 2.0/3.0

I came across this article on MSNBC today:

"Charity makes waves with Web word of mouth"

It discusses the use by charities of social networking venues and virtual worlds to reach, connent with, and keep donors.

A learning curve is mentioned for any technology tool classified by the the author as Web 2.0, and she says some groups have not figured the system out yet. We are also seeing this with major businesses.


Group Project idea....

Our group (Amy, Tawyna, Dave, David, Josh) has been tossing around some ideas and what we finally settled on was to examine the psychology of the Avatar. We want to look at Avatars from the standpoint of masking soieties in whih masks are used to conceal "true" identity, as well as transform into another being, diety, or concept. The idea with masking is that the person who is masked become the persona of the mask, but not completely as in "possession," We want to know if the Avatar has become the modern mask. Will the Avatar's personality differ considerably from that of the creator? We intend to do this through a series of personality tests. The first will be administered to the individual, prior to Avatar creation. We then want to have them create thier Avatar, spend some time in world, and have thier Avatar arrive on Gator Nation Island to take a personality test for itself. We'll then compare the tests and determine similarities and differences. We also hope to breifly examine the appearences, at least we've considered it, but have realized our research interest is not so much the way the Avatar looks, but more if the persona is different from it's creator. We also have theorized that the transformation will be more complete with more time spent in world.

Though this is obviously a very minor account of our plans, it should give you the basic gist of what we intend to do. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Group 2's project ideas

To define our project, we asked ourselves how we would use SL in education and what needed to be added to the interface or experience to make it more suitable for learning activities. We discussed several ideas and broke them down to three final possibilities.

In developing our first idea, we talked about the tasks of course management (especially using WebCT and the like) and what good course management would look like in a virtual world environment. After doing some exploring we found Sloodle, which integrates the Moodle course management package with Second Life. Our project would work in two phases: a first part in which we add something to the experience of course management (working with Sloodle) and the second phase would be to research attitudes of students about Second Life course experiences vs. existing methods like WebCT.

Our second idea came from discussions about how one learns about others through their avatars, and about the "profile" option included for each avatar. We discussed current social networks and what people get from them. Could any of the things people like about social networks be incorporated into Second Life? Our idea was to explore if the idea of "status" found in many social networks could be incorporated in Second Life, along with a related view of all the status notes from all the people you have accepted as a friend. It is already possible to set avatar status as "busy" or "away" - we wonder how that could be expanded, and then how that might be used in the virtual classroom.

Our last idea came from a discussion about news sources, magazines and similar materials in SL - in particular how poor the reading experience is for notecards and other SL reading materials. In creating notes, the writer has no control over fonts, color, or even simple design. We wondered what a good reading experience for news or periodicals in SL would be like - perhaps a better HUD of some kind? Or, is it just more efficient to send the viewer out to a blog or designed material out on the Web? Perhaps some combination of the two? We're still fleshing out the details of this last idea.

We think the first idea holds the most promise as a research project, but the other two are interesting alternatives.

Business Problems in SL

Amid the banking problems currently occurring in second life, businesses are making decisions to exit the virtual world. The banking issues are being related to the current sub-prime crisis (on a much smaller scale, of course). Because businesses are having trouble turning their lindens into real money, real businesses are finding it difficult staying in second life.

Companies such as Starwood hotels, AOL, and Wells Fargo have been leaving their digital outposts in recent months. They are doing this because what they thought to be a good market to penetrate for growth is turning out to be nothing but a disfunctional world for the purposes of business. My feeling is that if the large, recognizable companies leave and do not continue to operate in second life, who do entrepreneurs and small business owners look to for guidance.

If something is not done to fix the current banking problems, there will not be enough credibility in the system to encourage business operations in second life. Linden labs must find a solution to this problem before they lose a huge amount of potential users for good.

For your pleasure and enlightment

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some SL Alternatives

I spent Thursday and Friday in Orlando at FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference). I attended a talk from some people at Appalachian State who are using Active Worlds ( to facilitate some aspects of their courses (as a side note, my team my have lost to Ap State this year, but at least we didn’t lose to a team who lost to Ap State). They are using it for online office hours, library services, with a live librarian, and to facilitate assignments, in some ways much like an LMS.

The thing that I liked about Active Worlds, as opposed to Second Life, is that when you buy a space it’s just your space, there’s not this whole expansive network around it. The reason I like that is because while I think it would be cool to get some space in teen second life, doing so means our students could get into our space there, but they could also go into wherever they wanted to in teen second life. Not that I care if they do that in their free time, but I could easily see parents upset that students were exposed to things in teen second life because they created accounts original intended for school use. In Active Worlds, you just buy some land and pay for whatever number of users you want on that land. Now, I am curious about how the building compares to the building in Second Life. I asked, but these people had very little experience in SL so they couldn’t make a comparison.

Another option they showed was Croquet ( which is open source virtual world software. One advantage of this program is the ability to create 3D objects in other programs (like sketchup) and import them into the world. Qwaq ( is a program that is based on Croquet and was specifically developed for virtual meeting spaces and online collaboration.

Now, I don’t claim to be an expert and the pros and cons of all of this as compared to Second Life, but what I saw, from a Secondary School standpoint seems to be a better option for me although I will need to do much more research to be sure.


Questions to ponder about the articles

Consider the following from Yee’s, “The Psychology of MMORPG’s”:

“Ultimately, each user decides which form of advancement they will pursue, and the richness and complexity of the environment eliminates the need for super-ordinate goals or storylines. Every user is motivated by a different combination of the possible rewards. The result is that adventures, stories, and most importantly, meaningful interactions and relationships between users emerge. Functional constructs within the environment facilitate these social networks – combat groups (temporary collaboration between a few users), guilds (persistent user-created membership organizations), and ideological alliances (agreements between guilds or “racial” groups).”

Also remember that different users have different personalities (risk-taking propensities, assertiveness, and so on) and different stakes at this point of their adventure, and differ in their loyalty to the group and each other. In the span of 5 to 10 seconds, the risk-analysis, opinions and decisions of the group communicated over typed chat, or the solitary actions of a particular user, will determine the life or death of all members of the group. This particular type of crisis is also embedded into the larger context of existing tensions such as emergent leadership, group polarization, and personality differences.

The environment has mechanisms allowing users to survey for resources, harvest those resources, research schematics for assembling resources into sub-components, construct factories to mass-produce finished goods, and market those goods to the public. The process is so complex, time consuming, and distributed over several skill sets that users typically specialize as resource brokers, manufacturers, or retailers, and typically form quasi-business entities with other users to facilitate that process. These entities have to communicate effectively, develop a coherent product strategy, assess market competition, and ensure the production chain is running smoothly. Many users comment that being part of such entities feels like having a second job.

Yee’s analysis produced five factors.

The “Relationship” factor measures the desire of users to interact with other users, and their willingness to form meaningful relationships that are supportive in nature, and which include a certain degree of disclosure of real-life problems and issues.

The “Manipulation” factor measures how inclined a user is to objectify other users and manipulate them for his personal gains and satisfaction.

Users who score high on the “Manipulation” factor enjoy deceiving, scamming, taunting and dominating other users.

Users who score high on the “Immersion” factor enjoy being in a fantasy world as well as being “someone else”. They enjoy the story-telling aspect of these worlds and enjoy creating avatars with histories that extend and tie in with the stories and lore of the world.

The “Escapism” factor measures how much a user is using the virtual world to temporarily avoid, forget about and escape from real-life stress and problems.

And finally, the “Achievement” factor measures the desire to become powerful in the context of the virtual environment through the achievement of goals and accumulation of items that confer power.















Younger Male

Older Male

Younger Female

Older Female










Other survey data also show that the majority of users indicate that the way they behave and interact with others in these environments is very close to how they behave and interact with others in the material world [31]. In other words, most users are simply being themselves rather than experimenting with new identities or personalities.

It has also been suggested that there are factors unique to MMORPGs that facilitate relationship formation [35]. The kind of high-stress crisis scenario outlined earlier in the chapter occur with great frequency in these environments under different guises. When paired with the degree of emotional investment users place in these environments, many relationships are in fact triggered by these trustbuilding scenarios, analogous to boot camps and fraternity initiations in the material world.

Are these features also in MUVE’s? In what way?

What did you think of the discussion about the effects of MMORPG’s on romantic partner relationships and parent-child relationships?

“Leaders deal with both administrative as well as higher-level strategy issues, most of which arise and have to be dealt with spontaneously.

Administrative tasks include:

role assignment

task delegation

crisis management

logistical planning

how rewards are to be shared among group members

Higher-level strategy tasks include:

motivating group members

dealing with negative attitudes

dealing with group conflicts

encouraging group loyalty and cohesion”

What do you think of this? Are people really learning leadership skills in these environments?

Remember that this is only a measurement of what users felt they learned, not what they actually learned.

Addiction results: On 5-point Likert scales

15% of respondents (n = 3989) agreed or strongly agreed that they become angry and irritable if they are unable to participate.

30% agreed or strongly agreed that they continue to participate in the environment even when they are frustrated with it or not enjoying the experience.

18% of users agreed or strongly agreed that their usage patterns had caused them academic, health, financial or relationship problems.

50% of respondents (n = 3166) considered themselves addicted to an MMORPG in a direct “yes”/”no” question.

Do you see the use of operant conditioning to develop sophisticated reward cycles as a legitimate business decision? Or should it be compared to the use of nicotine in cigarettes?

“These environments are seductive for some users because it empowers them in ways specific to their anxieties.”

Isn’t this a good thing, though? Kind of like virtual therapy?

MMOG’s as Social science research platforms

The arguments that Blascovich et al. [39] make for the use of immersive virtual reality technology as a methodological tool for social psychology can also be applied to MMORPG environments. The movements, interactions and preferences of large numbers of users can all be tracked unobtrusively and recorded.

The MMORPG environment allows us to answer social psychology questions on a social level rather than an individual level. How does non-zero-sum gaze or other transformed social interactions reshape social networks, alter the flow of information, or affect trust in a social organization? As social organizations proliferate in MMORPG environments, research in transformed social interactions becomes even more important as it will inform us of how designers could engineer these environments to encourage the formation of strong and trusting social networks.

Might certain worldviews be cultivated by heavy exposure to online environments? For example, users are given a high degree of control and agency in MMORPGs, and all events are based on underlying numeric variables. So it might make sense to ask whether heavy users have a stronger internal locus of control, or apply a more closed-system perspective on thinking about events in the material world.

“As these environments become more sophisticated, we can imagine them transforming into predominantly sites of economic activity under the guise of interactive entertainment.”

Do you agree? Why or why not? Would you say that “griefers” against this kind of economic exploitation? Are you?


Blascovich, J., (2002). Immersive virtual environment technology as a methodological tool for social psychology. Psychological Inquiry, 13(2), 103-124.

Yee, N., The Daedalus Project. 2004. Available at

Yee, N., Inside Out. 2003. Available at

Read the following excerpts from “The Role of Flow Experience in Cyber-Game Addiction” and consider the questions.

Previous studies into addiction have shed light on our understanding of habit-formation in three

ways. First, the amount of current consumption of certain goods is a function of past consumption. This

suggests that addiction could be developed through a repetition of certain events or behaviors. Second,

addictive behavior is rational, which means that people develop habits on purpose. Third, the purpose

of addiction is to maximize utility, and utility is a function of preference. Therefore, addiction can be

evoked intentionally through a continuous repetition of certain activities that conform to one’s preference.

Csikszentmihalyi17 sees flow as a “shift into a common mode of experience” when people “become absorbed in their activity.” Therefore, flow experience is more an emotional state during the process of a particular activity than a coping strategy for the post-activity sensitization.

To supplement Csikszentmihalyi’s concept17 of flow experience, Ghani and Deshpande18 suggest

two attributes as the principal components of optimal flow: concentration and enjoyment.

Holbrook uses “play value” to describe a sense of fun. He highlights three qualities especially associated

with play value: self-initiated experience, active value, and intrinsic value. As a self-initiated experience, play advances an individual’s value through maximizing his or her very private utility.’

Hoffman and Novak21 provide a model to illustrate the antecedent and subsequent variables associated

with flow experience. They highlight five episodes as the immediate consequences of flow state: consumer learning, perceived behavioral control (or confidence), exploratory behavior, positive subjective

experiences (e.g., happiness), and distortion in time perception.

In sum, evidence from flow studies has shown that playfulness is of key value to generate optimal flow. Though the state of flow is temporal and highly subjective, it is suspected that people who enjoy

flow experience during an activity may develop a tendency to repeat the activity. Additionally, with

insight from rational addiction theory, repetition of a particular activity may eventually develop into a

tendency toward addiction. Hence, flow experiences may play a key role in activating addiction through

repetition of certain favorite activities.

Based on the findings of latent variable path analysis, repetition alone may not be a sufficient condition

of addiction, as suggested by rational addiction advocates. The effect of repetition upon addiction

is largely diminished when introducing flow variables as moderators to their causal relationship.

Additionally, our evidence suggests that addictive behaviors are formed when behavioral repetition

triggers a flow state. That is, the repetitive behaviors as observed by the economists may be the precursor or earlier version of flow. The flow experience, as we have witnessed in the models, might play a key role in the mentality evolution that bridges the gap between preference-based rational repetition

and quasi-lunatic addiction.

Individuals with too much behavioral repetition in their favorite activity can trigger flow experiences. Ultimately, these individuals will be dominated by flow experiences and bogged down in the addiction swamp.

This article is not primarily about multi-user virtual environments (MUVE’s), yet it applies to our discussion on addiction from Yee. What are your initial comments?

If repetition is not a factor in MUVE’s, yet flow is, what ramifications are there for educators, parents, policy makers, etc.?

Oscar Wilde said, “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” Is there a way to take advantage of the positive aspects of flow without falling prey to the pitfalls of addiction?

Rosedale on SL Business

I ran across this and thought he had a couple of interesting points that tie into the last couple of class discussions.  It's a short clip of the interview, but he talks about business strategies for people coming into SL.  Like with most things, it seems like it's really going to depend the mindset of the people bringing their businesses into SL as to whether they are going to be successful or not.  But, he thinks people aren't going to be able to just pull their online marketing strategies into SL and expect them to work.  It opens up an interesting question of whether people will respond to shopping in world the same way as they seem to with web 1.0.  Will people be turned off as easily to a shop in SL as they tend to be with a website that doesn't come up as fast as they would like or something that isn't as user friendly as they think it should be?

Games Without Goals: The Endless Forest

In the Gainesville Sun insert section, Scene, an article in the January 24, 2008 edition by Laurie Taylor describes a new MMPOG, The Endless Forest. According to her description, players take on the avatar of a deer and set off “frolicking in a magical wonderland.” Taylor also states that the game “has no rules and no required goals”. This may be in part due to being a social screensaver application. There are also cultural institutions like art museums supporting the project.

Still, I’m left wondering, do games need to have goals to be successful? I realize the term successful is rather subjective, but for argument sake, let’s discuss in terms of longevity in the gaming world. I am making the assumption that a direct correlation exists between longevity and the number of subscribers. Currently, there are just over 23,000 named deer in The Endless Forest according the games website,

The skeptic in me wonders why bother with the game if I’m not working towards an end? My involvement in MMPOG is limited to say the least but I’ve enjoyed console based games where you did have clear objectives if you wanted to win or be successful. Are there other games without goals and do players enjoy them enough to have longevity?

I also wonder how The Endless Forest will evolve if there are no rules. Will players eventually create both rules and goals even if they are not explicitly set at the outset of the game? How long will it be before someone arrives in the “harmonious” VE set in “magical landscapes” with a hunting rifle and takes down some of deer? The Tale of Tales FAQ suggests that in the future, the game will add more content that is “simply pretty or poetic”.

The game appears insistent on all avatars being gender neutral and experience the world as just deer. Not a male deer. Not a female deer. There is an explanation in the FAQ, but of course, all of the gender-free deer have antlers that are typical of a stag.

On another note, the article also mentions the Independent Games Festival coming up in San Francisco. Check it out at

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sneak preview of Group 3 project

Like other groups, our plans are obviously in the very early stages. Our plan is to create an amphitheater for Gator Nation as a platform for numerous multi-media events. We envision a place to host lectures, classes, launch premiers of UF's documentary films, and numerous other events. We are beginning preliminary design concepts and researching other academic, cultural and research venues in SL to identify other organizations with whom we may collaborate or compete.

Our objectives include designing and building an attractive and avatar-friendly environment that will represent a UF landmark, such as the bandshell or the Reitz amphitheater. We also hope to plan a live event at the site and test avatar response for quality of experience. More details on who we will target, how we will invite them to participate, and exactly what we will measure will be forthcoming. Group 5's wiki idea is great! I think we'll be implementing the same planning tool for our group.

Team 3 members, please feel free to chime in!

Quick Question for Mac Users

Hey everyone

So I have some GREAT news, and some horrible news.

GREAT news: My mac came in today!!
Horrible news: I installed Second Life on it, and every time I log on, my whole computer freezes.

Seeing as how my Mac is extremely new and has OSX Leopard and pretty much all the memory on the planet, I just wanted to know if anyone else is having or has had this problem.

I talked to one of the people in my group about it, and he says he has Leopard and SL runs just fine on it, so it can't be that SL is Leopard's archnemesis.

Any tips/pointers??

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Group 5's Project

We've created a wiki to document our progress on the project.

Group 1 Project Info

The exact details of our project are still in progress but here is where we are for now:

We are going to investigate user task preferences for earning L$ in Second Life. What we are thinking of is building a structure that contains from 3-5 task choices. We have not decided on what tasks yet (suggestions are welcome) but for now we are thinking about camping, filling out a survey, building a simple object (think sweatshop!), and whatever else seems feasible. We will go out and recruit participants. Participants will be teleported to the structure. After reading a consent form (gotta love IRB) users will then select a task. Each task will be balanced for how much time they take to complete (e.g., all the tasks will take 15 minutes). Upon completion of the task they will receive L$ and be teleported out of the building.

We have not set a price yet but we want to make it significant enough to attract participants.

Participants can only choose one task and they can only participate once. We think this will inform two questions:
1) What common tasks do people prefer to perform for L$
2)Whatever questions we ask on the survey task! (probably questions like where do they spent time and money in SL, how long they have been a resident, do they own a business in SL? in RL? demographic data, etc...)

We would then report frequency and descriptive statistics for task preference and report the results of whatever we decide to ask on the survey task.

One other thing we would like to do is have small forced choice mini-survey at the beginning or end of each task (no matter what task they choose) so that we can further subdivide task preference based on user characteristics.

This is the idea. We have no idea how we are going to make any of it happen but thats where group 1 is as of last night.

Unusual Virtual Business

I'm almost hesitant to confront the subject, but I think it could lead somewhere. Exploring SL yesterday, I stumbled upon what I can only describe as a virtual whore house. Around this area were items ranging from animated dildo machines to beds with interactive blue and pink dots that when clicked on, put your avatar in whichever gender role is characterized by the color (blue for male, pink for female). In addition, there were "sex swings" and "good looking" avatars walking around soliciting virtual sex. (they also had a sex shop selling "toys") The avatar that approached me wanted 10 lindens for the experience. This struck me as unusual, that someone would pay an avatar to simply click on a dot and do no work beyond that. This also forced me to pose the question, can SL be used as a sexual outlet for curious husbands...wives...etc. Can virtual simulation of sex suffice in situations in which a marriage is being threatened by the curiosity or dissatisfaction itself? What if SL could keep your partner complacent and prevent adultery? I'm curious to see what you all think

-Ryan Weiss "Dustin Siddeley"

Builder's room up

I created a gridded builders room in the northwest corner of The Swamp. Feel free to use it, particularly the "Res prim tool" I purchased. It precomputes 75+ various primitives and lets you spawn them easily using a nice interface. This of course is an alternative to starting off with a cube or a cylinder every time.

Please keep it tidy and let me (Oshi Leakey) know if you have any problems.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Emory anyone?

Just a reminder, the Virtual Worlds and New Realities in Commerce, Politics, and Society forum at Emory University in Atlanta is scheduled Monday, February 11, 2008 from 8:30-4:00.

The program is:
A public forum to discuss both research and long-term implications of virtual and real-world interactions with regard to commerce, politics, and society. The four panels to be held are:
1. Evolution of Virtual Worlds
2. Emerging Virtual Institutions both in Business and Politics
3. Mirrored Influence of Virtual and Real-World Elements
4. Possible Futures of Virtual Worlds and Society
For an invitation to this event, contact The Halle Institute.

I've volunteered to try to coordinate any travel for those of you who may want to go. Atlanta is about 5 hours north, so we're probably looking at a Sunday departure, one night there, and return after the forum concludes at 4:00. Anyone interested in attending? Anyone interested in driving? Any recommendations on accommodations? I'm planning on going/driving (can accommodate 4 passengers). Just let me know if you have an interest.

WSJ article and reaction

On the Wall Street Journals website this morning I found an article that might interest people regarding the shut down of SL banks and its regulation isssues. This link is:

I found this article quite interesting, especially considering that the likes of the WSJ is posting about SL on its website. The WSJ is generally geared to audience that I would imagine isn't too entrenched in the SL world, free marketing for SL?

We spoke last class about the very issue of regulation and keeping avatars responsible for there actions. I never thought about the fact that people might have real money in these banks and not be able to withdraw it in the near future if they never re-open. I do believe however that the some of the people who started banks had the right idea, all a bank does is borrow at low rates from depositors to invest in higher return projects. Alot of the banks in SL were doing just that, however many of the projects they undertook went bust. It might be in lew of Linden Labs to create some sort of FDIC insure plan for the chartered banks so that SLers aren't afraid to deposit money into the new banks. It would be very difficult to develop a true economy without a banking system in SL. Who knows, maybe one day we will see the virtual banks giving out loans to avatars to buy property and automobiles???

More and more I realize that the opportunities for SL are truly endless. In my mind this world is still remarkably underdeveloped...what everyone recognizes as an "economy" in SL is really nothing more than a trading system of goods and money. In time I can't imagine the effect of a truly developed economy with banks and lending systems in the SL world. The question I ponder is how much Linden Labs will push the development of the economy through regulation, or just leave it up to survival of the fittest and free market competition to determine its future???

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Photography Tutorial

You can access a tutorial on photography in SL here.

Please remember to take a picture of your group in SL and email it to me along with a description of what you talked about in your in world meeting.


Rules of Machinima?

From the beginning of journeys into SL I have been interested in Machinima, but I have judged it in comparison to film conventions. I'm beginning to wonder if this is the best way to go about it. I suppose that new technologies are usually discussed in terms of previous technologies in an attempt to make discussion easier by utilizing existing vocabulary. Machinima is a new form, however, and different from film in so many ways. Has it started to develop its own conventions and rules of operating? Is this coming soon? Is it unfair to judge it against an art form that has been developing over 100 years? Will this comparison only prove to make machinima stronger by incorporating conventions that are tried and true? This is all on my mind this week and I will continue to blog as I come up with stronger opinions on these topics.

Adventures and misadventures in SL

I'm not sure which is more interesting, the assigned reading or reading the blog. There are so many directions to take and questions to ask. I have to agree with some of those who've expressed their frustrations with the work required to achieve much in SL (I have little patience for or interest in building things given how precious time is to me in the RW), BUT, that's why we're an interdisciplinary class -- I hope. I'm counting on team members who love to build! I'm trying to keep the perspective of potential. Take for example the following Powerpoint presentation (I hope the link opens for you)! I haven't checked its stats for accuracy, but the point is made...

Along the same lines, there's a wonderful book out there by Henry Jenkins from Compartive Media Studies at MIT called Convergence Culture. (I know a few of you have had this as assigned reading for an MMC class) I most highly recommend it! It will make you think about how all the current traditional media are beginning to incorporate new media in their distribution mix in order to be competitive (think CSI/New York in SL). Also, given the current writer's strike in Hollywood and the debates surrounding their future, especially given the options now available online for entertainment, I don't think we can ignore the impact of VW technologies on our future, for information, entertainment and commerce. Just look at what the internet and blogs have done to the news industry!

As for the question of addiction, it's HUGE and a study all its own. I can't help but think that video game/MMOG addiction is no different than any other addiction. It's always about escape, and as long as people feel they must escape their reality (even if for a brief amount of time), they will find a way, whether through drugs, alcohol, television, exercise, food, sex... well, you get the picture... I'll go back to what we discussed last week. There's GOT to be balance!

Then, finally, perhaps many of you saw the post in the Slrl Digest listserv regarding the conference at Emory. Any interest in a possible roadtrip? Pre-registration is required... and there's no cost for registration. The link to the event is:

Man saves life in real world after playing Army video games

There was an article that appeared sometime last week and a young man saves some accident victims by using the knowledge he gained by playing some video games designed by the army. That is good news, on reading the article more closely it appeared that what he did was something very practical that I would have done when I was a 10-15 year old kid (Especially an accident prone kid wherein I had made it to the ER with a broken head to the ER in several occasions by myself) Not to speak highly of myself but what I am wondering now is what is it that people in the real world would like to learn from the virtual worlds. And who are these people, what character traits do they display or should display to be able to be successfully learn in virtual worlds. There was a recent article that says that the Google generation learners learn better in interactive environments than static environments however, this will mean that text has to be compromised. Can we go to such extremes...
More thoughts along these lines will follow.

What is Yoda thinking?

Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers

HBO buys machinima film created in Second Life

Cell phones and virtual worlds morphing shopper ways

Interview: Samsung Building Consumer Electronics for Virtual Worlds

Intelligent Avatar Researcher wanted

Real Law in the Virtual World

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ender's Game?

As I was reading through Anda’s Game, it struck me that had this been written even just 10 years ago, it would’ve been classified as much more science fiction rather than plain old regular fiction. One of the only areas that we've come close to reaching the high arching predictions of such sci-fi is personal entertainment, especially with computers. We don't have holodecks or Matrix plugs yet, but I'd say we've come a pretty far way in a short span of time.

This led me to wondering if "Anda's Game" is something of a play on "Ender's Game", a sci-fi book I'm sure many of those in our class have read. I don't want to turn this into some sort of a literature review, but I thought it would be cool to point out some similarities. Both stories had children being put into mock war environments which had far greater consequences than they realized. In Ender's game, there also was a weird sort of learning game that Ender would play. It wasn't interactive with other people, but the purpose of the game was not specified and he could basically roam around and do whatever he wanted, maybe something like an offline second life. Also, both authors seem to like going into great detail about the accents and vernacular of the characters, which I thought was neat!

Another thing I was wondering is what was the time frame of Anda's Game, possibly a few years in the future? In real life there are still no games that are quite as immersive as Anda’s Game describes, at least in my personal experience. I've never really been able to get that much involved with massively multiplayer online games because there's always been a certain disconnect with the gameplay. I suppose it would require universally higher bandwidth to have that kind of intense action, because RPG style play which is usually necessary in the massively online world is not enough to immerse me. I wouldn't say that I am a hardcore gamer, but I think I would probably at least be classified as one of the "gamers" that Brandon was talking about. I need to have some sort of objective and competition to enjoy a game, so Second Life really seems like just another form of work to me at this point. Hopefully over the course of this class I will be able to learn more about it and gain some new appreciation for the MMO style games.

Gamer vs. Non-Gamer

After reading Anda's Game and having a few discussions with friends who are gamers, a separation has become much more defined than I had previously been aware of.  I had always clumped online users into two general categories of the gamers and non-gamers.  

Gamers are the obvious group.  They are usually into both online and offline games and are all about pwning noobs.  I'm a fairly competitive person, so I understand the pwnage ideal and desire.  I could, at least, identify with Anda simply killing the noobs because of the sheer idea that they are pathetic.  For the gamers I know, their online persona becomes a part of their offline world.  For some, it's even become a sort of addiction that they simply cope with.  Their fingers will practice killer key combinations while they're talking to you and there isn't a game in sight.  This group is the more high-end and demanding group.  They are the next step to the MTV generation who want instant gratification and demand that instant gratification from whatever hardware and internet connection they happen to be on.  Their WOW timings must be perfect in order for them to be having a good day because ultimate carnage is just a must have.  These are also the people who have repeatedly told me that most of the VWs such as SL are boring because they are too clumsy and slow.  Plus, you can't lay waste to people with such cool toys as BFGs.

The other group is the rest of us who are not plugged into carnage glorification and just have fun playing with our "slow" community.  Most of the people I know who are in Second Life or some other VW are not at all interested into gaming and were not previously spending any time online except to chat with a few distant friends.  It's an incredibly varied group of people and the numbers are growing at a decent rate.

The question in the end is will the numbers of people from the non-gamer community who are joining the VWs sustain it's self, or will the attrition give a boom-bust scenario?  Will all of these people who are joining the VWs now continue to use the community as an outlet?  How will the VWs keep their attention?  The gaming community has no problem keeping the attention of the gamers because they are always coming out with more games.  How will the VW keep the attention of the people who are currently being experimental and trying it out?

Something cool


Yesterday I went to Little Mos Eisley, part of the star wars conglomerate that has taken Second Life by storm, or so it seemed. Seems like second life has virtually every major planet/city in the star wars universe, complete with roleplaying games and such. So, I started chatting with one of the land owners on Mos Eisley, he was so happy that I put the observer tag on during their role playing game to distinguish myself as an out of character participant that he gave me $50 linden. Which is like... $.20 or something if you do the conversion. But anyway, it was really nice of him... So I put the money and my artistic talents to good use and spend all of monday figuring out how the sculpted primitive system works. It turns out that it is a multi step pain in the ass. But I guess its ok. I gave the man $20 and in return I got to wear I helmet that took me 6 hours to make. Now I have two questions.... How do I get someone to buy this thing, and are there any artists out there who think they can help create fancy content with me?

that is all

How do you behave in second life?

In our group in class last week we touched briefly on some ideas about how people behave in second life in comparison to real life. Two questions come to mind. (1) Does your avatar look like you, or like someone completely different than you? (2) Do you socialize the same way in SL as in real life? e.g. if you are introverted in real life, are you introverted in SL, or do you behave differently?

For myself, I have an avatar that looks as much like me as I could make it. Well, as much like me as I could make it in the 15 minutes I spent on it, spending more time than that is not worth it to me. And I behave much the same. I am pretty introverted in real life and I find myself walking around groups of people to intentionally avoid contact in SL the same way I would in real life. While I could look completely different and be outgoing, I have no desire to do this. I wonder if certain groups of people tend to be more like their real life personalities than others? For example, are introverts more likely to be like their real selves?

Anyone else?

Anda's Game

Here's a few quotes to reflect on as you prepare for tomorrow's readings' discussion:

>Do you know who these people are that you're killing?

She didn't answer, but she had an idea. She killed four more and shook out her wrists.

> They're working for less than a dollar a day. The shirts they make are traded for gold and the gold is sold on eBay. Once their avatars have leveled up, they too are sold off on eBay. They're mostly young girls supporting their families. They're the lucky ones: the unlucky ones work as prostitutes.

> The bosses used to use bots, but the game has countermeasures against them. Hiring children to click the mouse is cheaper than hiring programmers to circumvent the rules. I've been trying to unionize them because they've got a very high rate of injury. They have to play for 18-hour shifts with only one short toilet break. Some of them can't hold it in and they soil themselves where they sit.

> look
she typed, exasperated.
> it's none of my lookout, is it. the world's like that. lots of people with no money. im just a kid, theres nothing i can do about it.

> When you kill them, they don't get paid.
no porfa necesito mi plata

> When you kill them, they lose their day's wages. Do you know who is paying you to do these killings?

they're wrecking the game economy and they're providing a gold-for-cash supply that lets rich noobies buy their way in. They don't care about the game and neither do you

The kids in the sweatshops were being exploited by grownups. It was why their situation was so impossible: the adults who were supposed to be taking care of them were exploiting them.

What do you think about virtual sweatshops? Is there any (no pun intended) silver lining, or social benefit that can come out of them?

Is it wrong to "wreck the game economy", or is that just entrepreneurship?

Does SL have virtual sweatshops? Where?

Questions about the Castronova Article

Here's some questions to begin thinking about the Castronova article before class tomorrow. Please consider these as you read, or reread the article:

Castranova, E. (2001) Virtual worlds: A first-hand account of market and society on the Cyberian frontier. CESifo Working Paper No. 618. (39 pages)

Do you agree that virtual worlds are the “future of e-commerce?” Why?

“In Yee's study, many people used the term 'addiction' to describe their own behavior, perceiving their time in the VW as a source of serious conflict with various Earth activities and relationships. If we take the economist's view, however, and see their behavior as rational choice, we must conclude that VWs offer something that is perhaps a bit more than a mere entertainment to which the players have become addicted. Rather, they offer an alternative reality, a different country in which one can live most of one's life if one so chooses.”

What do VW’s offer that RW does not? How is that more attractive than RW?

Any inequality in the VW can only be due to one of two things: a) a person's choices when creating the avatar, or b) their subsequent actions in the VW.

Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Avatars come to view themselves as specialized agents, much as workers in a developed economy do. The avatar's skills will determine whether the avatar will be a demander or supplier of various goods and services in the VW. Each avatar develops a social role.

Agree or disagree? Why?

Developing the avatar's skills takes time; monsters must be killed, axes must be forged, quests must be completed. The result of all this effort, which can take hundreds of hours, is "avatar capital": an enhancement of the avatar's capabilities through training. In most VWs, capital is given by a number called the "level," so that an avatar at level 6 who kills 100 kobolds is given an increase to level 7. With that increase comes an enhancement of the avatar's abilities, which then makes the avatar a more attractive social contact. The avatar faces the same sort of social reward systems as are found in earth society.

What social reward systems do you find in SL? Are they similar or dissimilar to RL? How?

Do you agree that scarcity is what makes VW’s compelling? Why or why not?

“It is important to stress that the external market for Norrathian goods is underground. Sony has stated that Norrathian items are its intellectual property (Sandoval, 2001). Trading these items for US currency is considered theft.”

What do you think of this policy? Is it better to give intellectual property to users? Why or why not?

What is the effect of inflation/deflation in VW’s on RW economies?

How can VW’s induce widespread changes in the organization of earth society?

Avenues for expansion

Second Life, to me, is a great way for people to learn, socially interact, and even conduct a little bit of business online. After discussing in class what it would take to bring SL to the next level and continue rapid expansion, I have thought about it a little bit. Great ideas from everyone, by the way.

I think that it will take a great deal of demonstration on the many benefits of SL to start. Possibly the most important factor in the expansion of SL will be perception. Even amidst the development of basically everything in going online, there is still a negative connotation associated with online worlds and/or gaming. Growing up, parents were always telling me and my friends to "go outside and stop playing video games." I thank them for that, because I think it has helped me develop into a better, more social person. Gamers and people who spend a tremendous amount of time online are often perceived as extremely introverted people, and sometimes it is even assumed that they cannot interact in a real-life environment.

What I am saying is that for SL to expand (especially to a younger audience), parents will need to be "won over." The best way to do this is to promote SL as a "healthy" online experience. If academic advances or other features that will appeal to parents are not made and marketed well, many children will not be given the option to use second life at all, much less on a regular basis...

Open Source Development Models for SL

While a lot of the open source key companies and organizations exist in SL such as Ubuntu, Red Hat, Oracle, Free Software Foundation, FLOSS, OSI.. etc there presence is merely an advertising, educational and informative one. The opportunity SL presents to software developers for collaborative and distributed open source software production is yet unexplored. The reason I choose to stress on OS companies is for their experience in decentralized software development. I was looking for some statistics regarding software developent in SL and I came across the following from the oreilly open source conference. 25% of time spent in SL is spent creating objects and scripts. With a 140,000 hours hours per day , and an average real life software developer hours of 2000 hours/year you get 17.5 user-years/day. That is the equivalent of a team of approximately 6500 content developers. which would cost US$650 million/year!
Much of the open source development model (See The cathedral and the Bazaar) can be readily moved to SL and VW. However I am very surprised at the lack of development tools and collaborative systems written for second life. The great number of developers available in SL can be directed into a mainstream SL or real life project if the tools are provided.