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VWBPE conference, day 2

It’s the second day of the 2015 Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference! One thing that I can’t help noticing: my Kay avatar has existed in Second Life for five years, which is essentially “middle aged” for this world. At VWBPE sessions, it’s not unusual for more than half of the avatars to be older than her. The amount of combined in-world experience during some discussions is awfully impressive.

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Starting the day with a cappuccino near the main auditorium.

I’m still seeing anxiety around a couple of items from Ebbe’s keynote during many Q&A sessions and side conversations. Poor fellow; he can’t sneeze without us analyzing it to death and wondering what it will mean for meeeeeee (I do it too!). People are concerned about his explanation that the first build tool for the Next Generation Platform (NGP) will be Autodesk’s Maya, which is very expensive and quite difficult to use. Though he did quickly say that support will be provided for other tools, including the shareware products many of us use, I can understand why it bothered a lot of people. We want to be involved in the NGP from the beginning and that high barrier of entry has diminished the potential alpha pool to a tiny privileged and knowledgeable puddle.

The other concern I’ve heard expressed numerous times is the move from Linden Scripting Language (LSL) to C# as the coding language for NGP. Honestly, I think this is a terrific move and my software engineer husband nearly burst into spontaneous applause. C# is much more robust and learning it is a portable skill. If you learned LSL, I suspect you’ll be brilliant at C#. There are a variety of free resources to learn C# online, from this Coursera class in Beginning Game Programming with C# (started 2/23), to a Microsoft Virtual Academy Programming in C# Jump Start self-paced video course (to be retired at the end of April, so hurry!), to the full set of notes and slides from Jon Jagger’s 5-day C# programming course, and many more.

On a positive note, I’m seeing a lot of excitement around Ebbe’s mention of lowering land costs: decreasing “property taxes” and increasing “sales taxes”.  Yes please.

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The first session I attended today was “Reconstructing and Navigating the Crossroads of Community” by this morning’s featured speaker, Pamela Broviak. She talked about community creation through history, based on the human drive to fulfill the levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. She considered communities from prehistory to Egypt, the Iroquois Confederacy, and early land distribution methods in the United States (emphasizing the importance of land ownership and how the US method diverged from the European). From there, she explored Second Life history and the differences made by zoning over time.

Pam explained that as an engineer, she is usually occupied with the lower levels of the pyramid, but her time in Second Life has made her more aware of incorporating the higher levels into her work. In fact, she no longer sees the list of needs as a hierarchy, but as a circle where lessons and experiences flow.

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The second session I was able to attend was “Gaming and Machinima at the Crossroads of Gender and Culture”. This topic was less controversial among an audience of education-related people in SL than it would be, say, on a gaming subreddit. Jakob got back from his second chemotherapy session in the middle of this session, so my attention was split for a while, but afterward I filled in what I missed by reading the notes that Sonicity kindly provided along with all of her slides.

While touching on some recent controversies around women in gaming, Sonicity talked about the violent and sexual content in popular games and what research has shown about the difference between the play styles of boys and girls. She also mentioned how “authentic storytelling” can be a game-changer (literally) and that women and girls have agency: they are a huge factor in the gaming market and can use that power. The discussion that followed was mostly about the gaming experience for younger children.

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Next, I visited the panel discussion “Quill & Quarrel: REAL Theater in a VIRTUAL World”. Over the years I’ve seen live productions in Second Life by a couple of groups, the Avatar Repertory Theater and Basilique Performing Arts Company, but I haven’t attended a performance from the Quill & Quarrel Theater.  I stayed for a while. It was a bit like a Comic-Con panel for a show I didn’t know, where the performers reminisced among themselves about past seasons I hadn’t seen. I’d really like to see something by Q&Q someday; it looks like they have A Midsummer Night’s Dream coming this spring. The panel was not as informative or useful as I had hoped, however, so I took my dog for a walk during the second half.

Then it was time for a shift as a greeter, welcoming visitors to the VWBPE Exhibition area.  I chose a quieter area; I want to help, but I am not social. Still, I had a couple of nice little conversations during my shift. The Exhibition area is certainly worth a visit. The displays are far more interesting than your usual conference booths, as you can see from the photos below:

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I have one more hour as a greeter this evening, but otherwise I’ll be offline. Tomorrow is my busy day, with six sessions I want to attend and one more greeter shift. Can’t wait!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2015 in Gaming, Learning, Research

 

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“Shakespeare By Request Auction” to benefit live theater group in Second Life

The Avatar Repertory Theater has a unique auction going on in Second Life and they were kind to send me a press release. This blog is intentionally not devoted to SL news, but I am always happy to share information about things that I plan to attend/visit or would if I could. In the case of the ART, it was their performance of Alice in WonderSLand back in 2010 that first opened my eyes to the possibilities of immersive virtual world productions. I still have my souvenirs from the show! Their note is posted in full below, as the details of the Shakespeare By Request Auction are a bit complex.

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Company Puts Actors up for Auction to Keep Theater Live in (c)Second Life

Since its founding in 2008, Avatar Repertory Theater has presented live theater productions and presentations featuring live voice acting in (c) Second Life.  As they move into their seventh year on the grid, bids are open on their first ever Shakespeare By Request Auction.  From now until November 7th, visitors to the Company’s theater on Cookie can place bids on different members of the acting company for the chance to choose a command performance by that performer from the works of William Shakespeare. These performances will be presented at the Company’s popular “Plays Around” scheduled for Friday, November 21st at 5:00 pm slt.  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Cookie/198/205/21

Panels adorn the patio outside the Avatar Repertory Theater, with the image of each actor or actress whose performance skills are up for bid.  Once the auction closes, the winning bidders will have less than a week to choose their selection from the Shakespearean theatrical canon for that specific player to present.  Winners can be as specific or general as they wish in their request:

  • Simply indicating the play they want, and let the actor find something from it.
  • Choosing a specific scene from a specific play
  • Requesting a favorite monologue that they’ve always wanted to hear this actor perform.

The setting will be simple, featuring Avatar Repertory Theater’s Shakespearean style performance space, which is often obscured by a variety of sets and settings for their biweekly ART Plays Around performances.

Bidding is open to all Second Life Residents.  Those who are less familiar with the company’s players can sample the company’s work at Plays Around performances scheduled for Friday, October 21st and November 7th, also at 5:00 pm slt.

Among the oldest artistic organizations of their kind, Avatar Repertory Theater’s mission is to bring diverse, live theater to a widening range of people through virtual performances, and to expand and challenge their own talents in the craft of acting using this unique media.  This has brought life to everything from first-time realizations of works by living playwrights, to major immersive productions such as their own adaptations of the classic Greek Drama Oedipus Rex (“Oedipus”) and the works of Lewis Carroll in “Alice in WonderSLand” and “Through the Looking Glass.”

Proceeds from the Auction will help Avatar Repertory Theater continue to keep theater, performed live and in voice, a vital virtual presence.

Avatar Repertory Theater is a program of New Media Arts, Inc which has recently released its first Go Fund Me Video in support of their mission to develop graphical, theatrical, literary, educational, library and other fine and practical arts on the internet, in 3D graphical user interfaces, multimedia, new generation computing devices, and other electronic and digital communication media.

New Media Arts, Inc is a registered 501 (c) (3) tax exempt nonprofit organization in the United States, which can be reached at info@newmediaarts.org

Learn more about Avatar Repertory Theater at avatarrepertorytheater.org and follow them on Facebook and Google+.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Art in SL

 

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