A couple of people have asked to see the presentations from this week’s seminar on Evocative Knowledge Objects and The War Between Theory and Practice, so here are links via Vuvox and Slideshare:
Vuvox: Evocative Knowledge Objects
Slideshare: The War Between Theory and Practice
A feature story on the development of Second Life spaces in support of SCA classes (including CTIN 482: Designing Online Multiplayer Game Environments) and programs (including the IML’s Honors in Multimedia Scholarship) just went live on the Cinematic Arts website.
This Wordle image is a visualization of the initial discussions in CTIN 482 about the design of a virtual campus for the School of Cinematic Arts. Wordle is a free online tool for computationally visualizing the frequency with which certain words appear within a block of text. This image was generated from the contents of the course wiki, which includes student reflections, the course syllabus and our initial design challenge. It will be interesting to see how this visualization transforms over the course of our design process. In my ongoing attempt to figure out the right mechanism(s) for documenting our design process in the class, this Vuvox document brings together a combination of images, inspirations and reflections by students on the initial design stages. Currently in beta, Vuvox functions on the principle of “cloud” computing, offering a free online tool for designing presentations and/or web-based documents. Although still slightly buggy (particularly text functions and embedded video playback), its simple authoring mode and gestural interface is a welcome relief from the page-based metaphor of Powerpoint.
The ‘sandbox’ phase is continuing for CTIN 482 on IML2. In last night’s class, we broke up into three design and development teams to begin concrete planning of projects to populate the SCA virtual campus. To begin establishing group dynamics and workflow, each group was tasked with completing a simple lab exercise: create a simple learning object that makes use of all the basic affordances of objects in Second Life (sound and animation scripts, particle effects, textures; notecard, landmark and URL attachments, etc.).
Bjorn created sample cubes to demonstrate these basic functions and deliver the exercise parameters. Part of the exercise also involved simultaneous group construction, with multiple avatars performing modifications on the same object as a way to ingrain principles of collective authoring and to begin figuring out possible distributions of labor within the groups.
The three projects that the class decided to undertake represent a range of the kinds of learning environments and objects that we have discussed in lecture and in readings. One group will focus on designing a toolkit for teaching various principles of film production using embedded video and the interactive delivery platform of Second Life.
Another group is focusing on sound design and the potentials of designing a creative space for dynamically generating combinations of sound and visuals. Although this project veers the farthest away from the “virtual campus” mandate, the full potentials of sound in Second Life are rarely exploited and this project offers an opportunity to experiment with combinations of environmental effects, music, and event sounds embedded in a responsive environment.
The last group will research the subject of media censorship and design an analytical space for performing transmedial comparisons. The space will be architected to support media analysis based on different critical lenses, with the potential to substitute various media sets and modes of criticism.
The long-awaited Pew report on teen gaming has just been released. Claiming to be the first national survey of its kind (in scope, depth and representative sampling), this MacArthur-funded report concludes that “teens’ gaming experiences are diverse and include significant social interaction and civic engagement.” Running nearly fifty pages in length, the document defies easy summarization, and indeed members of this community should consider digesting it in its entirety rather than relying on synopses and decontextualized excerpts.
The report is easy to read, with useful sub-headings, tables and summaries of each section, offering authoritative interventions in numerous contemporary debates about teen gaming including gender, violence, race, learning, and social and political engagement. Many of the findings are not exactly surprising – both boys and girls play games, but boys play longer, etc. – but the report offers well-documented challenges to the most common focal points for moral panic around youth and games and a wealth of statistics about who is playing which games and why.
In addition to the report, with its careful accounting of research methodology (regression analysis anyone?), the Pew researchers released a white paper titled “The Civic Potential of Video Games” (which actually came out a week before the final report), advocating a progressive vision of gaming’s potential to promote social and political engagement and addressing the specific kinds of gameplay that correlate with different kinds of actions in the social world.
Students in CTIN 482 have begun experimenting with building in Second Life on IML2 the Virtual Campus for the School of Cinematic Arts. In the background, we see IML1, the virtual home of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy. Bjorn created a smoked glass effect on the east wall so that visitors to IML1 could watch construction on the new parcel. For the initial stages of development, terraforming and building privileges are limited to students enrolled in the 482 class. Soon we will be breaking the class into design and production teams to strategize the overall concept for the island as an innovative learning space.
Students immediately began experimenting with altering the terrain of the island, creating huge pillars of granite, precipitous mountains and deep chasms.
During this free-form building session, the only rule was that all objects created should be collectively owned, with full privileges to edit, modify, delete or transform each other’s experiments. In essence, the island is currently functioning as a 3D wiki space. Unlike the class wiki, however, which has thus far functioned as a polite space for individual reflections on course readings and discussions, the SL wiki seemed to invite students to radically transform each other’s work. “How’d you do that?” became a key to sharing newly acquired skills.
Although some students had prior experience with 3D modeling in different platforms, everyone in the class is new to Second Life. This class session resulted in an incredibly steep learning curve as students began making unexpected discoveries and sharing strategies for building that ranged from creating and texturing basic shapes (prims) to exploring more advanced visual effects like glowing surfaces and simple animations.
This initial period of experimentation served to ramp up excitement about the possibilities of Second Life as a design space. The advantage of SL over other MMOG environments for conceptualizing and creating a physical environment, literally from the ground (or pixel) up, were made immediately apparent. And while educational spaces continue to proliferate in Second Life, the opportunity provided to this class of designing and building and entire land parcel as a learning environment remains unprecedented.