Project Updates Sept, Oct, and Nov. ’07

This evening we met with Marion Walton who is based in the Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town, to talk about her work (and play) with fan cultures and Role-Playing Games. In this screenshot, Marion, on the left, is describing a scenerio played out by her guild in World of Warcraft (see the slide she is standing in front of) while she is dressed for a vampire RPG in Second Life. One of Marion’s WoW guildmates, T, contributed as a guest speaker. The students were asking great questions…about roles in games, as distinct from Role Playing, for instance. Another student was considering the parallels between the depth of his 3 year old son’s imaginative play, and the RPGs under discussion (as a forum for collaborative, deeply engrossing adult play).

class photo

Tonight we held our first taught session in Second Life. We had a presentation about ‘Machinima in SL’ from Pigment Pye, with Q and A about techniques, and about Pigment’s work teaching animation and machinima on the teen grid. There’s an interview with Pigment (aka Britta) on this blog if you’d like further information about her work with OU’s Schome Park Media Centre (see the ‘Teaching Machinima’ page).
We started at the Alt-Zoom Theatre – and here’s a picture of us listening to Pigment’s presentation – and then we went over to Silver and Goldie’s Studio Shores, where Goldie was kind enough to show us around and answer questions.

Class in SL

We gave a seminar at OU last week (as part of a seminar series for the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology’s Computers and Learning Research Group).

I started with a short overview of the project, then we spoke about 3 bits of ongoing research. Martin talked about ‘communities of practice’ and hostility in SL, I came back on and spoke about ethics and methodology (and hostility, again) and Andrew wrapped up by speaking about drama, performance and education in relation to our first outings in SL with students.

We’ve had 2 informal sessions with our students in SL, and our taught sessions have now been set for the first week of December.

Martin has written up his recent work on SL forums, community and hostility. To read it, go to ‘Exclusion and Community in Second Life’ (listed as a page, in the menu to your right).

Last week on Wedneday the 7th of November we had a trial session with our students in Second Life. Our aim was just to all log in and find each other. We started with a visit to the Social Simulation Research Lab on Hyperborea ( before moving on to what we thought was a photography exhibition (it wasn’t!). A highlight for me was the part where we were chatting while standing in a canal and listening to Juniper play his accordian. Then we visited a sandbox area at Education UK Island. This was a test outing, a preparation for the guest lecturer/taught sessions in SL planned for later this month.

SL trip

SL screenshot, playing the accordian.

An edited version of the slides from our 20 minute presentation, ‘Learning from Online Worlds, Teaching in Second Life’ from the Joint Eduserv CETIS meeting on Education and Second Life (20/9/2007 at the London Knowledge Lab) is online here.

Here’s our abstract:

Learning in Second Life: convention, contexts and methods: In this presentation, the project team will adopt a work-in-progress stance, to report on our research into learning in Second Life and World of Warcraft. We will describe our experiences in each of these social, virtual worlds, and discuss how these experiences are shaping our research. We will indicate particular methodological issues arising from our work within social worlds. We will report on a number of specific themes that are emerging, including issues pertaining to drama and self-representation, the notion of implicit and explicit contextual constructions of expertise, and questions of user motivation, pleasure and the Second Life ‘learning curve’.

We met and talked about last week’s CETIS/Eduserv meeting, about the two first sessions to be taught in Second Life, and about the first quarterly report which is due. So…I’ll finish this on the report.


We discussed the impending Eduserv meeting, and what each of us could contribute to the presentation. One slight issue is that the work on couples in Warcraft – which is almost complete, in terms of data collection – isn’t directly relevant to the 2nd Life theme of the day. We’ll think more about this when planning out the presentation.

In the meeting, though, we focused on our plans for teaching. Andrew discussed some of the practical problems of making the environment available to students, and we both agreed that scheduling synchronous sessions would be difficult (raising some equity issues for any students in a different time zone, for example). However, for the Games module, there would be both data collection and probably some discussion within the environment; for the CMC module, the data collection fieldwork would take place in 2nd life, but the discussion would be held in the normal VLE for the module. We revisited the “theory tables” idea, which does now seem much more a module-level than a project-level outcome for the work. (The project-level outcome might be the ‘idea’ of the table as a tool for organising data for discussion, with specific tables as examples.) We also discussed ongoing experiences in 2nd life; Andrew in particular had some interesting stories to tell about playing music through the environment, and will document this (or perhaps create a short video) in advance of the Eduserv meeting.


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