15. March 2007 · Comments Off on Learning to fly · Categories: Issues, Research, Technologies, Web sites

Second LifeThis has been quite a week.  I’ve created a new wardrobe for myself, completely changed my hair and body, fell in the ocean fully clothed, walked through rock and scored a free house that I had to get rid of because I got trapped in it due to building it up against a cliff and blocking the door.  Oh, and I’ve been learning to fly.  That’s just in my Second Life.

Second Life, for those of you who don’t know, is sort of a first person Sims game played by millions of people.  It also generates millions of dollars as people buy anything from shoes and skin to islands and houses and has hosted events from rock concerts to seminars.  It’s a pretty chunky online game – you download some components to your computer and then it runs without a browser.

I’d had a brief peep into it a while ago, but decided to plunge in when a colleague mentioned she was going to take part in an experiment being conducted by a PhD student as to whether or not Second Life holds any value as an educational tool.

I must admit that my first few times in were spent in learning the basics – how to walk, how to fly, how to hula, where to find free stuff and how to change the appearance of my avatar to look — like me.  Yes, oddly enough — this is my SECOND Life and I want my avatar to be a bit on the chubby side, wtih my silly nose, squar-ish jaw and shortish legs.  However I did give her long hair.

I’m not alone — Mike Seyfang told me a friend of his who is in a wheelchair in real life also requested one in Second Life.  I think there’s a whole body of work in looking at why people who could be anything and anyone in SL would choose to be as much like themselves as possible.

Of course, I’ve also run into large rabbits, women and men with wings and tails, rainbow coloured people and a blobby thing that I’m really not sure was intentional.  That’s a whole other study.

For now, my colleagues and I will be exploring and recording our experiences to inform the study.  So far, I’m finding it frustrating that I can’t get close enough to see people’s faces and, even when I can, those faces only have an expression for a few seconds. For me, that’s what would add the final element of interaction that online conferencing software can’t provide.  That and some sort of VOIP that would allow actual conversation. 

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