Memes


18
Aug 11

4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community – videolectures.net

4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Communityauthor:Michael S. Bernstein, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT published: Aug. 18, 2011,   recorded: July 2011,   views: 132

via 4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community – videolectures.net.


3
Jun 10

Web 3.0 Semantic Web (video)

Web 3.0 from Kate Ray on Vimeo.

Thanks to Hey Jude: Learning in an Online World for the tip.


11
Mar 10

When Game Devs Engineer the Real World – You Brushed Your Teeth, +5 points!

The concept of “Life as a Game” is certainly not a new one, when I was a kid, the game of Life was my favorite board game of all time.  I still remember the thrill of filling up my little car with boy and girl babies I imagined I’d have  at some point in the far off future, or the crushing defeat of bankruptcy, a term I didn’t really understand, but in that context basically meant “Game Over.”  Spin the dial – what does the game of Life bring you next?

And it’s not as if I’m not a big fan of video and online games – I cut my teeth on the Atari 2600/5200, hand drew maps in colored pencil to find Princess Zelda, played Ultima on a Commodore 64, still have an account on the Medievia MUD that goes back to 1994, have an 80 level holy spec priest on WoW (they nerfed holy spec, don’t get me started), and most recently celebrated the completion of my horse stable on Farmville.

I grew up on games – the first generation to grow up playing video games – I was a “Girl Gamer” back when we were a pretty rare breed and I’m still playing now that “gaming” in its various forms is so common that the Pew Research Center reports that, “Game playing is ubiquitous among Americans teenagers. Fully 99% of boys and 94% of girls report playing video games.” They also report, “More than half – 53% – of all American adults play video games of some kind.”

We are increasingly (already?) a nation of gamers.

And yet, despite the fact that virtually all young people game, and over half the adults in the US game, there still appears to be a very finite line between “gaming” and .. everything else.  We still delineate “real life” (RL) as separate from game spaces – even when the space isn’t actually a game space, as in Second Life.  The skepticism and often openly hostile reaction of scorn/pity that Second Life residents get from non-SL peeps is almost remarkable considering that the very people delivering that heaping dish of disdain turn right around and log in to WoW or EVE or Farmville.

Just yesterday, in a debate about a topic wholly unrelated to gaming, someone I was arguing with bolstered his point with the concluding line:

“I think of you as less of a person for using Second Life, and for no other reason.”

Now, to be fair, we were engaged in a sort of theatrical debate where the low blow is not only acceptable but expected, and it was all said in good fun and humor, but.. like with many kinds of humor, it was funny because it had the faint ring of truth.  Many people actually DO think less of me as a person for using Second Life, just as a decade ago they thought less of me as a person for playing EverQuest, just as a decade before that they thought I was not only insane but maybe dangerously insane for talking to strangers on the internet through those weird BBSs and MUDs full of D&D playing soon-to-be-axe-murderers.

Ahhhh how times have changed.  The internet, she vindicated me. And ahhh how times of changed, now half the adults in the US play WoW or some other game and it’s not so crazy anymore.   Alas, I’m still waiting for virtual worlds to vindicate me, but having gone through this combo-pity-scorn routine a few times, I’m not shaken by the current state of attitudes about virtual worlds, augmented reality (why would you want to look at DATA on top of the REAL WORLD on your PHONE, what’s wrong with you?!), or most of the other technologies I use that cause people to look at me askance and with wary eyes. (Twitter????  Whaaa???)

What DOES cause me great concern, however, is that these Ludic Luddites have no clue about what’s coming.

Barry Joseph delivers the SLEDcc 2008 keynote address.

I have to give all due props to colleague Barry Joseph (SL: GlobalKids Bixby) from Global Kids, an organization that does great work with youth in New York City, for introducing me to the concept of a “ludic life” at his keynote address at SLEDcc 2008.

His keynote talk, Living La Vida Ludic: Why Second Life Can’t Tip, is worth watching, and it’s one of those talks that sticks in your mind like a burr, at the time it didn’t quite penetrate (I was one of the conference organizers, so my brain was on 50,000 other things) but it stuck with me, and in the years since, the message he delivered only resonates more strongly with time.

Loosely translated, it’s about living a playful life.  It’s about combining the adventurousness, fun, openness, exploration, and all of the other joyful aspects of our game play into our “real life”.   The central thesis of his keynote was that virtual worlds and other platforms like Second Life can’t and won’t tip, until the broader culture of “living la vida ludic” tips.  One must come before the other, and back in 2008, he made it clear that the title of his talk could be taken in two ways – first, that virtual worlds like Second Life would NEVER tip – or that something was holding Second Life back from tipping into the mainstream.  He left the question about which interpretation was right for the audience to decide, but I thought then as I do now that the answer was the latter.  There are forces at work holding back virtual worlds, Second Life, AND the ability for us to live a ludic life as openly and as joyously as we wish we could.

Those who don’t understand not only feel scorn and pity, they feel fear.

Yes Virginia, NASA scientists say  the earthquake in Chile may actually have knocked the earth's axis.   It's not just your perception, the world has actually shifted.

Yes Virginia, NASA scientists say the earthquake in Chile may actually have knocked the earth's axis. It's not just your perception, the world has actually shifted.

As I said to a good friend of mine the other day, I’m struggling with this.. feeling I have, that all of the meta-narrative that stood at the very foundation of my understanding of the world – how the world works, where it’s going, where I fit into it, what I’m supposed to be doing – the meta-narrative from my childhood seems to not make much sense anymore.

The world seems off kilter.  It’s changing so quickly, I don’t know anyone who feels like they can keep up with the pace of change.  And so many major systems that underpin our society and culture appear to be, frankly, broken.  On the rocks.  Our government. Our banking and finance system. Our ecosystems.  Our healthcare system.  Our system of education.  None of these systems and institutions appear to be meeting the needs of our society as we experience it TODAY.  They all seem to be failing us.

Why?  It’s a no brainer, of course, and not an original thought at all.  It’s simple – the systems and institutions built to address the needs of a pre-digital-society don’t work to address the needs of a society that can get, transmit, and transform information as quickly as we can today.

And boy is that causing a lot of fear.

I feel it, don’t you?

Fortunately, the nation’s best teachers have some advice

(well, mostly the nation’s best male teachers, but that topic is for another post)

Chris Lehman at TEDxNYED explaining that changing education necessarily means changing the world. Photo credit WayneKLin.

The rousing chorus of last week’s TEDxNYED conference, where superstar educators from K-12 and higher ed like Larry Lessig, Henry Jenkins, George Siemens, Mike Wesch, Amy Bruckman, Dan Meyers, and others converged, is that the education system is not only broken – it’s getting worse. They blasted out  conversation starters about why and how and what needs to change in the US (educational system).

Perhaps most importantly, the subtext of the conference was that the issues teachers and educators are facing aren’t just confined to the “educational system” – as if it’s some discrete thing disconnected from the society and culture at large – and indeed, as George Siemens said, considering that society dumps every ill and issue at the doorstep of education to solve, it’s amazing the system functions as well as it does.  But take out the word “education” from these TEDxNYED Talks, and they are talking about what society at large needs to do to adapt to our changing circumstances.  (The videos aren’t up yet, but they’ll be available on YouTube soon.)

At least for the purposes of this post, I think the first important piece of advice came from Michael Wesch.  Which is simply this:

When a game changing technology enters a society or culture, you don’t have the option to opt-out.  It changes everything.

All those Ludic Luddites, who fear the technology, avoid the technology, feel that the current systems of getting things done would work just fine if only they could better regulate, standardize, and enforce them, are just plain wrong.  The world has shifted and there’s no turning back now.

What does this have to do with gaming?

Slide from Dan Meyers' talk at TEDxNYED - quests anyone? Photo credit kjarrett.

Well, I’m getting round to that.

As I watched these presentations and suggestions from teachers about ways to improve (society) education, I couldn’t help but see game elements – and the ludic life – infused throughout their talks.

When Dan Meyer talked about changing math curriculum to stop asking kids to give the answers, but instead help them figure out what the important questions are, it looked like creating good game quests to me.

When Lessig and Jenkins talked about mashup culture and how destructive it is to limit the creativity unleashed when you put tools in the hands of individuals, it reminded me an awful lot of how content gets created in virtual worlds like Second Life and OpenSim.

Or what about this quote from George Siemens’ presentation:

George Siemens at TEDxNYED. Image credit WayneKLin.

The solutions we need to address societies biggest problems – (global) warming, population growth, poverty – will be found through serendipity, through chaotic connections, through unexpected connections. Complex networks with mesh-like cross-disciplinary interactions provide the needed cognitive capacity to address these problems.

Sounds like the serendipitous, chaotic, and unexpected connections you form in WoW, or EVE, or any other game world, and “mesh-like cross-disciplinary interactions” is just fancy talk for good class balance.  Can’t have too many tanks and not enough healers or the whole thing comes crashing down.

Ok.  And one more, also from George:

The big battles of history around democracy, individual rights, fairness, and equality are now being fought in the digital world. Technology is philosophy. Technology is ideology. The choices programmers make in software, or legislators make in copyright, give boundaries to permissible connection.

This is, of course, the perennial battle between the game players and the game gods. Except wait, what?  The whole story of the birth of the US is all about us being our own game gods.  Hm.

In any case, the point here is, I think the Ludic Life is starting to tip.

We haven’t hit it just quite yet, but the elements of game play that Barry talked about in 2008 are starting to show up in the oddest of places.  The World Bank is funding an Alternative/Augmented Reality Game called EVOKE that has thousands of people, from school kids to adults, and from all over the world, playing a “game” that promises to teach us how to address major global issues and respond to global crisis.  Oh, and you might win scholarships, grants, or seed funding from the World Bank if you have a good idea.  Put that on your resume!

While Facebook and other social networks like Twitter have been the talk of the town, a recent NPR story cited research showing that more people play Farmville than use Twitter.  And it isn’t your kid playing, it’s your mom.  The average Farmville player is a 43 year old woman, and there are 80 million people playing.  80 MILLION.

Smartphone apps like Foursquare and GoWalla are turning our real lives into games, too.   I’m now the proud “Mayor” of Queen Mary’s Family Restaurant, where my mom and I go have breakfast on Sunday mornings.  I had to edge out some other fella who got there before me.

So, what’s bad about that?  Isn’t this a GOOD thing?

Well, yes and no.

Many thanks to my good friend and neighbor in Chilbo, Roland Legrand (SL: Olando7 Decosta), for the post on his Mixed Realities blog that brought the video below to my attention.   Check this out:


What happens when game devs (working for corporations?) become our primary social engineers instead of the nominally elected politicians?

Naturally,  I’m interested in the ways that game mechanics, game culture, game concepts, and game design filter out and influence RL.  And though I work in higher education, my undergrad degree is in Political Science and my not-so-secret passion is sort of the nexus where the emerging metaverse and game culture is changing “real life” society and culture, which of course includes education but goes beyond edu, too.

I know I’m not the first guild master to think that herding this bunch of cats is way more complicated than many RL jobs, or to realize the skills I learned adventuring with my guildies often had applicability to real life situations. I’d like to think I learned something about teamwork, diplomacy, compromise, and all sorts of organizational, strategic, tactical, and political skills through my journeys in worlds that only exist in bits and bytes.

Generally speaking, my career, my work, this blog, everything I’ve been doing for the last 10 years is about bringing this technology to people who don’t have it/know about it/use it yet.

But watching that video gives me the willies.

First, because I don’t think it is as far off in time as some think it might be.  Second, because I don’t think it’s that far fetched in terms of what could actually come to pass.  And third, because I’ve been a lowly peon player in the game god universes/metaverses for a really really long time.  On an old BBS I’m still using, I’m one of the “moderators”.  And you know what we say?  This ain’t a democracy.  Don’t like our rules, don’t play.

Furthermore, my post the other day about Stickybits demonstrates just how quickly the barriers to privacy are falling.  I posted that barcode just to figure out how the service worked, and before I knew it, I was collecting the home addresses of my blog readers without even realizing what I’d done.

Want me to know your home address?  Go ahead, download the app to your smartphone and scan that barcode.  I’ll get an email within a minute or so letting me know you scanned it, and where you were on the planet when you did, right down to the address and a lovely Google Map pinpointing your exact geo-location.

And I guess I should award you 5 points if you scan it.  Redeemable for..  I don’t know what yet.  An hour long private tour of Second Life, I guess.

And now I’ve broken the #1 rule of the 140 character metaverse, which is to make a really really long post and get to the end and not have any answers.

I don’t know exactly what train we’re on here, but the train seems to be moving ever faster and faster.  And I worry more and more about who’s driving the train, and I have a sort of sick feeling that about half of the passengers have no clue that they are even on THIS train – I think they think they’re on a different train entirely, and that they’re driving it.  But they aren’t.

I dunno.

As much as I love gaming, and I do love it, I’m not so sure I want Crest giving me points for brushing my teeth.  I think I’ll have to come back to this.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far, and if you have any thoughts, I’m all ears.


1
Nov 09

Twitter Lists, Google Wave, & Verizon’s Droid Phone

Twitter Lists

Twitter recently added the ability to categorize the people you follow into “Lists”, with quick links on your right sidebar to the status updates of all the people in that category.  Your lists can be public or private, with private lists only visible to you, and other people can follow your lists en masse or see the individual people you’ve added.

You can check out my Twitter lists to see if any of them interest you (though I’m not done adding people yet!).

TheNextWeb has a “how-to” guide if you’re not sure how Twitter Lists work, and so far it seems like it’s working out pretty well for me, despite the fact I’ve only got some small percentage of the people I follow categorized. Wow, talk about tedious work to add people!  New twitter users won’t have this problem since they can add folks to lists as they go along, but for those of us who have been around a while, this is a major chore.  I’m trying to do a few more each time I sit down at the PC, but it’s kind of slow going.

Still, the functionality seems worth the effort, since this gives you an easy way to “check in” with different categories or communities of people you follow, much like we’ve been able to do with 3rd party apps like Groups on TweetDeck.  As I posted to Twitter, I’m creating lists based on what’s most useful for _me_, not with the intention of creating a great list for someone else to follow, though if someone else finds a list of mine useful, more power to them.

Besides the obvious, I see a few other good or interesting uses for Twitter Lists:

  • Vanity list checking: It may be completely vain on my part, but I’m finding it interesting to see how people categorize my tweets and what tags they use to describe me when they put me on a list.  Many of them are obvious like “secondlife” or “education” but some of them have been surprising.  It’s also another example of how YOU are not always in control of your “brand” or your identity on the web.  What if someone put me on a list called “totaljerks” or something?
  • Making lists for your followers, instead of for yourself. I’ve seen some folks making lists called “recommended” or “moversandshakers” where it seems like people are aggregating lists less for their own consumption and more to help their followers find OTHERS to follow.  If that makes sense.  I definitely would be more judicious in my choices if I made a “recommended tweeters” list than I have been with the lists I’ve created so far, so perhaps curating a good list will become a useful Twitter skill.  I think I might try that once I get through the first phase of adding folks to lists.
  • Lists as another metric of quality. I don’t think this is very useful yet, as most established twitterers are probably, like me, still in the process of getting all their followers categorized.  But once lists are being used ubiquitously (and I think they will be), this feature adds a new metric to judge the quality of a tweeter before you add them.  Now, in addition to their profile and number of people they follow/follow them, you can also see how many people took the time to add them to a list, and what kinds of tags they use to describe them.   Hopefully this will be a less game-able metric than sheer numbers of followers, but I guess we’ll see.
  • Lists will be great for newbie Twitterers. I hope lists will help people new to Twitter get engaged with communities of interest more quickly than before.  If I introduce someone to Twitter and I know they also dig Second Life, I can point to that list as a great starting point.   They can either follow the whole list, or sort through it to pick and choose individual people to follow.
  • As a corollary, raiding your friends’ lists for new people to follow just got a whole lot easier since you can follow people only from the communities you’re most interested in.

My biggest complaint, other than not having an easy way to add multiple people to a list quickly, is that Twitter perversely orders your lists in the REVERSE order you created them, so my most frequently used lists are at the bottom rather than the top.  I hope they fix that little issue quickly.

Also, has anyone come across any iPod/iPhone apps that include list functionality yet?  It looks like Tweetie2, my favorite Twitter app, doesn’t do that yet.

Other than those complaints, I’d say Twitter Lists is two thumbs up.  Yay for tools that help break big info streams down into more manageable chunks!

Google Wave

Wish I could offer the same enthusiasm about Google Wave, touted as an alternative to email, but I must say my initial experience is “less than impressed”.  (And no, I don’t have any invites to give yet, I’ll let you know as soon as I do!)

I know this is still a beta service (what google service isn’t in perpetual beta?) but I guess I expected something more.. intuitive? easy? fast? useful?    At least on my machine, Google Wave is very slow to load everything – contact lists, inbox, and especially the content of the wave.   I even get such terrible typing lag when I try to make a reply that it sometimes takes 3 or 4 seconds for what I’ve typed to show up on the screen.  Reminds me of the 1200 baud modem days, waiting for things to appear.

Other sundry complaints:   Navigating through a wave is kind of tedious, I can’t tell what I’ve already seen and what’s new.  The scroll bar dealie on the right confuses me, the arrows at the top and bottom don’t actually jump you to the top or bottom of the wave.  Playback on a big wave either doesn’t work at all or goes very slowly and I can’t figure out how to speed it up (plus it seems to crash FF from time to time).  In general, I just can’t figure out why I would use this instead of email..?

I’ll give it some time and keep playing.   As I said, I know it’s early days for Wave, so perhaps I’ll see more utility when it’s more useable from a lag/organization standpoint.  But first impressions can be tough to shake and my first impression of Wave is it’s doing the opposite of Twitter Lists, instead of making big info streams more manageable, it seems to turn manageable email chunks into one big info stream.  Not a fan yet.

Verizon’s Droid Phone

Ok, I lied, I haven’t actually gotten my hands on one yet, even though @tom_streeter had one in the office last week, I was too darned busy at work to pester him about it.

For those of us who are on Verizon’s network, and thus unable to get an iPhone (insert major annoyance here), we’ve been waiting and waiting for a smartphone alternative to the iPhone and the web chatter says the Motorola Droid is Verizon’s first possible competitor.    CNet has the best review I’ve seen so far, and several Cincinnati area tweeters were given a first look through a Verizon promotion #droiddoescincy so you can see some real people reviews.

Me, I’m definitely keep an eye on it, but I don’t want “the next best thing” to an iPhone.  I want something equal to or better than an iPhone, otherwise, I think I’ve got most bases covered between my current phone and the iPod Touch I recently picked up.

So, uh, Tom, if you still have it next week, can I take a peek?  🙂


7
Jul 09

Reconnecting with Connectivism (CCK09)

Sign Up for Connectivism & Connective Knowledge 2009!

Faithful readers may remember a series of posts last year about a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) I took called Connectivism & Connective Knowledge, taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes through the University of Manitoba’s Extended Education program.

George and Stephen are offering the course again this year, and just like last year, it is completely free and open access to any and all who want to participate.   Here’s a brief course description blurb:

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is a twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future.  The course will begin on September 14, 2009.

I highly recommend the experience to anyone involved in education in any capacity.   George and Stephen utilize the web, RSS, blogs, wikis, podcasts, tagging, and crowd sourced teaching and learning in a way I’ve never experienced in any other course I’ve ever taken, and the experience last year had a tremendous impact on my understanding of what a “course” is, is not, and what it CAN be in the future.  Sign up here to receive course information in preparation for this year’s course!

Connectivism Cohort in Second Life

Last year I facilitated the Connectivism Cohort in Second Life, an experience that also taught me quite a lot about using virtual worlds as a site for meeting, discussing, sharing, and building in the context of a MOOC like Connectivism & Connective Knowledge.  You can read more about my conclusions and experience as a facilitator (in addition to some stats about participation) in this post from last year CCK08 – Off the Wagon, But Not Off My Mind.

While I won’t have the time to be a main facilitator for a Second Life Cohort of the class this year, if someone is interested in taking this on, the Chilbo Community in Second Life can host the cohort’s meetings and work in the re-purposed Education Village.   The Connectivism Reading Room is still available for holding discussions, and the sandbox and houses/offices can be used again this year for anyone who wants to participate.

Interested in facilitating or using Second Life as part of the CCK09 class?  Let me know at fleep.tuque@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to help!


10
Sep 08

CCK08/CCK08SL – Pre-Week 1

(This post is about the Massively Multiuser Online Course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes from September to December 2008. Over 1900 participants have signed up, and I am facilitating the Second Life cohort for the course. Over the following months, I will be posting about the experience, home work assignments, and other materials related to our activities.)

Catching Up!

Because I was so busy with SLEDcc 2008 and SLCC 2008, I have already gotten behind in the Connectivism course! I’m trying to play catch up now, and so far I’ve done some Connecting but not much Learning.

1. The Second Life Cohort of the Connectivism course held their first meeting yesterday, where I discovered I’m not the only one who is feeling behind and a bit overwhelmed and confused. Transcript here.

2. I added myself to the Googlemap for the course.. wow, people from all over the world! Sadly absent is much participation in Africa, I find that depressing.


View Larger Map

3. I added myself to the TwitterPacks wiki for the Connectivism Cohort.

4. I registered and added my profile to the CCK08 Moodle site, and scanned some of the introductory posts. I don’t feel like adding to the din in there though, I think I’ll just stick to my blog for now unless there’s a compelling reason or requirement to participate in the Moodle? (I’ve become anti-course-management-system these days.)

Pre-Week 1 Homework: Introduction

I’m currently located in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I work at the University of Cincinnati in the UCit Instructional & Research Computing department, focusing on teaching and learning about emerging technologies, social networks, and virtual worlds (particularly Second Life). I’m interested in the Connectivism course for several reasons – I want to see a MMOC in action, learn where a mass participation learning experience works and where it fails, and because I am intrigued by the concept of knowledge existing in external networks. I don’t feel I have a very good grounding in many of the other learning theories that came before, and I don’t know where the boundaries of Connectivism exist, but I want to know more.

The course will be a success for me if I a) connect on a deeper level with the members of the Second Life cohort of the course, b) gain a better understanding of the connectivist theory of learning and understand clearly how it is different than behavioralist/constructivist theories, and c) learn to navigate the complex network of websites, blogs, discussions, videos, and other web and virtual world artifacts I see forming in this course without feeling lost or overwhelmed. I hope by the end that I adjust without feeling left behind.

Random information about me: I logged onto my first online social network in 1994 fresh out of high school, and though I quickly moved from ISCABBS to many different BBS systems, I’ve been participating in and moderating online communities for all of my adult life. I believe the online communities, forums, and social networks I have participated in has made up the bulk of my “real” education – my university experience, even in the best of classes, simply doesn’t compare with all of the learning, sharing, and knowledge acquisition that happened for me on the net. It has been a transformative experience, one I want to share and extend to others.

In other words, I’m curious to see if I may be part of the first generation who could be learning in a connectivist way. It certainly seems – at first blush – to resonate with my experience more than other learning theories have. I guess we’ll see!

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3
Aug 08

Repost: Future of the Net & Anthropology of YouTube

If you haven’t yet seen these videos or haven’t made the time, do it.

Kevin Kelly: Predicting the next 5,000 days of the web

Another excellent TED Talk, I continue to be a huge fan.

An anthropological introduction to YouTube

From Mike Wesch, author of another internet-famous video, The Machine is Us/ing Us. I mentioned this presentation a month or so ago and the video was finally posted last week. It was presented to the Library of Congress back at the end of June.

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9
Jul 08

Google’s “Lively” Virtual Chatroom

Yesterday Google released a 3D virtual chatroom application called Lively that can be embedded into a webpage. A bunch of folks from the Second Life community headed over to the Linden Lab chatroom to check it out and I grabbed about a minute of machinima to give a sense of the visuals.

At the moment it isn’t Mac compatible and I couldn’t get it to work in my Firefox 3 browser at all. On IE7, it said “Joining…” for about 5 minutes before my avatar appeared, but eventually I was able to see and communicate with the others in the room.

My first impression is that this is very similar to IMVU, it’s a 3D chatroom with some options to “decorate” the space, but doesn’t appear to support any user generated content or even import Sketch-Up objects, which is surprising since that’s a Google product. The range of avatar choices is very limited and I didn’t see options for user customization there, either, though I assume that will change since all the research points to avatar customization as a key to engagement, immersion, and “stickiness” for virtual worlds.

On the plus side, these lightweight web-based applications only highlight the growth of 3D spaces online and it’s a nice transition point for people to get their feet wet with virtual spaces without having to download, install, and run something as resource intensive as Second Life. It was also easy to embed a YouTube video on a player in the room for a shared media experience, and decorating the space with the given inventory seemed fairly simple.

I can’t see any 3D virtual space impacting education if there aren’t options for instructors and students to create their own content, but I’d guess that will be an upcoming feature when they tie Lively to the Sketch Up object repository.

Certainly an interesting development, and I’m surprised Google was able to keep this under wraps so tightly! The rumor mills were going back in September of last year, but otherwise not a hint until it was released – impressive!

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27
Jun 08

FIC 2.5

Please note: This post will likely be of interest only to those involved in Second Life, and even then a subset of that group, only those involved in the “society” of Second Life that includes the blogosphere community and the various daily rags that chronicle the activities in this world. The rest of you will think this is all very ridiculous. 🙂

Prokofy Neva and the FIC 2.5

I don’t know when the name “Prokofy Neva” entered into my consciousness. Like Aimee Weber and Anshe Chung and some other famous Second Life residents, the name seemed to be peppered throughout lots of the unofficial documentation and websites and help pages about SL on the web. I’d glanced at the Second Life forums once or twice, but they looked to be full of the ridiculous drivel on every game message board everywhere (ever read the WoW forums?), so other than posting once or twice for help (I think), I didn’t participate. Somehow I escaped Prokofy’s notice until.. not sure, 2006 maybe? He first accused me of being a noob and what did I know, and I had to prove that I wasn’t the noob he took me for just because we hadn’t crossed paths before. Since then, I’d say we have a fine relationship, even if it gets heated from time to time.

For those of you who don’t know “Prok”, as he is affectionately known, he is the Second Life resident that everyone loves to hate. Banned from more forums, meetings, groups, and discussions than probably/possibly anyone else, Prokofy is one of those “squeaky wheels” who Never. Shuts. Up. in a debate, writing exhaustively looooong diatribes, appearing on webpage comments to post a criticism before the ink is even dry, using profanity, sarcasm, and your every weakness to score points. When Prokofy gets you in his sights.. look out. Because, as much as folks want to dismiss Prok as a nutjob, there’s this annoying little niggling detail that just can’t be ignored – usually, there’s valid, real criticism buried in all those words, and he has been reporting on the activities of Linden Lab and the residents of Second Life for so long, that he can dig up examples and history that really is instructive. Darn, you hate it when the blowhards have a point, don’t you?

Now, that paragraph is a caricature, I don’t actually view Prok that way myself, but that’s the “persona” of Prok cultivated out on the intarnets. Just google Prokofy Neva if you want to know more and judge for yourself.

One of the things that Prokofy has contributed to Second Life culture is the term “FIC” which is pronounced like “bike” not like “bic” – and it means Feted Inner Core. The FIC are the cool kids, the popular ones, the movers and shakers, the suck-ups to Linden Lab, the ones who get special breaks because they’re famous or friends with someone who runs the world. Prok has long railed against the unfairness of special deals the FIC had/has with Linden Lab and even the broader SL society, and he actually publishes the names of the people he thinks are receiving this undeserved and special treatment on a semi-annual basis.

Now the vast majority of Second Life residents don’t read blogs and don’t know who Prokofy Neva is and if they see the term “FIC” in someone’s title they have no idea what it means, but those who have been around a while use the term almost endogenously now, “Oh they’re FIC,” someone will say at some Linden’s office hours. And when Prok updates the list, I always find it funny that those who end up on it go to great lengths to post all over the internet about how much the FIC list DOESN’T matter or mean anything and who cares what Prok thinks anyway.

This year, I was quite surprised to see that I am on the list. My first reaction was shock and a sort of dismay, I’ve always thought of the FIC as folks who actually really DO have some ties to the Lindens and who probably DO get some special treatment. I don’t believe everything Prok writes uncritically, but he’s been uncomfortably close to the mark lots and lots of times, so I put some weight to it. But I don’t have any special access to the Lindens to be sure, I think Claudia and Pathfinder know my name, but that’s about it. I have to go through the same processes as everyone else when I need help or have a problem. And unlike previous FIC folks, I don’t run a successful money making enterprise in Second Life, in fact in recent months my tier bill has seemed awfully hard to bear as gas prices and everything prices continues to rise.

So what the heck, I’m thinking! I’m one of the good guys! Et tu, Prok?!

Having slept on it over night, (I started getting messages from friends/acquaintances within a few minutes of it being posted, which tells me that it isn’t completely meaningless or people wouldn’t feel compelled to talk about it), I think I’ll choose to see this as a kind of recognition that I’ve had some positive impact on the crazy world of Second Life, that I’ve been somewhat successful in highlighting the really hard work that educators are doing – NOT JUST IN WORLD – but in their schools and colleges and institutions, trying to change a culture that says that virtual worlds are just games and technology is just gadgets and who needs all these newfangled things anyway.

Further, I recognize many of the names on the 2.5 list as colleagues and people I admire, people who I believe are working damned hard to make Second Life a better place, and to use its technology to make the real world a better place, too. I believe many of those folks are wonderful, creative people, who impress the hell out of me with what they manage to accomplish, and frankly, I don’t feel like I really deserve to be named in their company.

So maybe I never really understood what the term “FIC” meant or maybe the 2.5 list is different than the previous ones, but either way, it feels like SOME kind of an accomplishment. I’m not sure if it means I’m a good guy or a bad guy in Prok’s eyes, but any list that puts me in the company of people I really respect seems like a good thing.

So thanks, Prok, even if it’s a mixed blessing. =)

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25
Jun 08

Personal Economics of Social Media

The Viral Professional Development that injenuity has been writing about and the EduPunk flare-up (EDUCATION IS SERIOUS BUSINESS YOU CAN’T PUT PUNK IN THERE!) got me thinking about social media both in the context of a learning tool, but also in the context of a business tool.

We all love free stuff, and I think my “viral professional network” includes some of the most creative, collaborative, and giving colleagues I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, but at the end of the day we all have to make a living, and in these economic times, I want to know if living the networked professional life actually yields a better paycheck.

I’m already convinced that it leads to a much, much more fulfilling career, but as I start to feel the real pinch of all these increased prices, I also find myself forced to think in practical economic terms. I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but happiness doesn’t buy kitty food, either. 🙂

Social media, for me, is time intensive. Blogging, browsing, trying things out, keeping in touch with the network and trying to figure out how to do that when the network grows bigger than I’ve ever experienced before.. As I said on twitter the other day, some days it feels like the social media manages ME instead of the other way around.

And that time comes at a cost.

Formal Learning vs Informal Learning

While I was musing about this, I ran across Intellagirl’s recent slideshow about the differences between formal education in an institution and informal learning through social media. Check this out:

Her analysis really jives with my personal, lived experience of both completing a degree and being very active in social media in the last couple years. I got my degree after 7 years and finally had that stamp of approval, but at the same time, the work I’ve done in my online communities of interest has in many ways been far more important to my personal learning than my formal education experience.

I do feel a greater sense of accomplishment for my online work than for any of the tests or exams I took and scored well on, and through my online experiences I’ve become part of a wider professional community that seems far more relevant to me than, say, other UC alumni.

Social Contract with Social Media?

But then Intellagirl goes on to talk about the sort of social contract we make (Promise, Tools, Bargain) and that’s where I got hung up, because the bargain we make with formal education isn’t just credentials/reputation, it’s also dollar signs in a directly transferable sense. Get the right degree from the right institution and you’ll make more money, guaranteed. Get a degree from any institution and you’ll have a better shot at making more money than you’d make otherwise. That’s also implied in the social contract, leading to the stories I mentioned last week about so many completely un- or under- prepared students entering college.

So, I guess my question is, how does the informal learning through social media translate to better economic conditions, particularly when so many are working in companies or institutions that are completely ignorant of the social web phenomena? It isn’t as if you’re going to get higher marks on your evaluation because you twitter (though if you’re doing it right, you WILL do better at your job because of twitter). That is to say, the time spent on social media, for most people, is personal time, and even though it also benefits the workplace, or the institution, that benefit is not accounted for or rewarded explicitly, and often is actively blocked or sanctioned on work time.

Given this, and even though social media promises all sorts of wonderful learning opportunities, how can we ask our students, or our faculty, (or even ourselves) to keep up the time intensive pace of it all when they’re busy trying to raise a family or work a job that doesn’t have them at a computer all day? It seems that even though the formal educational model is rigid and top down and appears to be counter to what I’d consider a very valid and important form of learning, it’s the mode that pays the bills, and as long as that’s the case, that’s what people will do because they have to.

I don’t know. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to so closely align my personal passions with my professional career, including social media, but when I’m up there in front of a room full of people who do not work at a computer all day, I want to make a compelling argument that convinces them to try it when they get home. It’s not just the educational or personal impact I’m wondering about, but also the economic impact of social media, and how that plays into the “education crisis” analysis.

If anyone has any thoughts, I’m all ears.

Speaking of Economics.. Metanomics!

Last bit, I’m delighted to say that I’ll be working with the folks at Metanomics as the Education Correspondent for the new season. Hosted by Cornell Prof. Robert Bloomfield, Metanomics is a weekly webTV program focusing on economics and policy in the “metaverse” of online worlds. I’ve been a fan since I caught some of their first episodes last season, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to cover education in virtual worlds and Second Life for the show. I’ve never been a webTV journalist before, so I expect to be learning some new technical skills in that arena (all from my social network!), and brainstorming about some good angles to cover.

If you want to have a look at my debut, see me make a classic newbie mistake by WRITING the script instead of TALKING the script. 🙂

Ah well, live and learn!

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