Category Archives: education

Metanomics: Learn how your avatar participates in a virtual world culture

Metanomics presentation screen
Metanomics presentation screen

Metanomics, a group that gathers in Second Life with a good “2D” Web showing as well, had a discussion March 2 on avatar culture.

The session preview stated that Anthropologists Tom Boellstorff and Celia Pearce are developing new methods and theories about human relationships in virtual worlds and would be discussing how traditional ethnography is being adapted to the study of online immersive environments and how virtual worlds shape identities, economies, communities and societies.

One of Metanomics’ many strengths is its ability to have a regular Web component at the same time that in-world meetings are held.

If you have a signon with Metanomics, you can participate in the chat even if you are not in-world, using ChatBridge.

The Metanomics group makes full use of its Web and its SL presences by delivering rich information in a variety of formats.

The first guest was Robin Gomboy of ReactionGrid, an alternative to Second Life which appeals more to some businesses and educational groups because it doesn’t have an in-world economy (although residents can buy and sell using shopping carts like people do on the “2D” Web) and the rules dictate PG content only.  A single sim costs a “hosting fee” of only $25 a month, and a 6-sim private grid is only $75 a month. You can host your own server as well. In the near future they will be adding hypergridding to it (allows avatars to move between privately owned areas without getting a new signon, avatar, etc.).

For immersive education, Gomboy noted that the prerequisite seemed to be that there is not an in-world economy already in place. Educators typically don’t want an in-world economy.

Metanomics’ Beyers Sellers said he didn’t tend to agree but then he comes from a college economics environment and that may be coloring his perception.

Metanomics host Beyers Sellers asks questions of his guests during a discussion on virtual world cultures.
Metanomics host Beyers Sellers asks questions of his guests during a discussion on virtual world cultures.

ReactionGrid’s terms of service stipulate that residents have PG-rated content only. There are some software tools which are being built just for ReactionGrid. Experience and leadership are playing an important role to help shape the culture and create trust among the other members, she added.

Advice for “Gridizens”? Remember how hard it was for you to learn the basics of getting around – help others out with teaching the technology, respect others’ meeting spaces, and respect others’ privacy.

ThinkBalm innovation community is a ReactionGrid participant. They decided to ask members to use their real names to increase the trust factor. Instead of using virtual chair and a copy of RL lecture setups, they experiment with 3D best practices in online learning.

First major cross-grid event last weekend. She is the speaker for the TechNet group in SL and in ReactionGrid. She was using HippoViewer and in both worlds at once. She used LiveMeeting to help in her presentations.

Next interview:

Tom Bellstorff, a professor of anthropology at the University of California Irvine, has done research on sexuality, globalization, etc., and cybersociality.

The session presentation screen shared these links:

CDS : Metanomics Messenger: Tom Boellstorff:
http://www.anthro.uci.edu/faculty_bios/boellstorff/boellstorff.php

Celia Pearce (Artemesia Sandgrain in SL) –

American Anthropologist
http://www.aaanet.org/publications/ameranthro.cfm

CDS : Metanomics Messenger: Celia Pearce’s Web sites:
Georgia Tech: http://www.gatech.edu/

Experimental Game Lab: http://egl.lcc.gatech.edu

Emergent Game Group: http://egg.lcc.gatech.edu

Mermaids Project: http://www.mermaidsgame.net

Ludica: http:www.ludica.org.uk

Virtual Cultures: http://virtualcultures.typepad.com

IndieCade: www.IndieCade.com

Celia Pearce & Friends (Design & Consulting): www.cpandfriends.com

Metanomics Messenger: A Ludicrous Discipline? from: Ethnography and Game Studies
http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~douglast/620/tom.pdf

This work defines and discusses three phrases:

game cultures

the cultures of gaming

the gaming of cultures

Metanomics Messenger: The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia (
http://www.amazon.com/Gay-Archipelago-Sexuality-Nation-Indonesia/dp/0691123349/
), winner of the 2005 Ruth Benedict Award from the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists
http://www.uvm.edu/~dlrh/solga/

Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human
http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Age-Second-Life-Anthropologist/dp/0691135282/

Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in SL) – what would have to change in virtual worlds and what doesn’t have to change?

Boellstorff has been doing this research for a little over 5 years. He deliberately set it up to fail by using the classic methods he used in Indonesia and applying it to SL without consideration for the differences between the environments. Surprisingly he didn’t have to change a lot.

Would he use alts or not? He decided not to.

Questions about money and anonymity – have parallels in the real world.

He likes to refer to the non-cyber world as the physical world rather than as the Real World or RL, because he maintains that what you do in SL has real consequences and is real to its participants; just differently so.

IRB – institutional review board. When a researcher does research with people, they have to get approval from this board because you are working with human subjects. It’s about protecting people’s privacy and confidentiality.

He used a research design that was entirely inside of Second Life and didn’t try to get physical world information about the people. He only asked about the person’s SL life and used their SL names.

Pearce said in her research she kept encountering people who were in some way disabled and was surprised by the commonness of that scenario.

Demographics of Baby Boomer Computer Gamers – Players of the game Uru, which was closed in 2004. The majority of these players were baby boomers, she found.

Forums just for baby boomers – like Game Boomers. There is a myth that baby boomers want to play only casual games, but that turned out not to be true. Many of them were replacing their TV watching time with their gaming. They liked adventure games but don’t like to hang around with certain types of groups associated with online games. They want to play with people their own age for a more refined method of relating.

They all were really active in communities. Fav activity – exploring. 2nd fav – helping others learn the ropes.

Baby boomers with young people at home tended not to play with their kids. Most of the players used a PC rather than a console, which they tended to think were for the kids.

The Wii came out about the time her study was finishing up and they actually targeted the baby boomer generation.

Let’s talk about Uru – based on the game Myst – if anyone has a version of the Scarab of Ra on the PC, let him know (Beyers Sellers) because he misses it!

Crap Mariner noted that there was a hack of Myst called Pyst, in which you could see the ecological effects of 10 million users walking through the Myst landscapes. He called it crude, deranged and brilliant, which made everyone laugh.

Those who played in Uru became “Uru refugees” or “diaspora” when Uru shut down. They tried to recreate some of their favorite elements from the world later, which she calls a trans-culturization process.

Like refugees in the physical world, the Uru refugees were kind of moved around and given a hard time for the lag they caused everywhere they went.

Fleep Tuque said: “I’ve written about the total fail of trying to move the BBS community to here, I think you lose a lot when you try to switch platforms if new platforms don’t facilitate the kinds of ineraction that the community formed around in the first place.”

“We aren’t spending enough time in the question space. Sometimes it’s the question that matters more than the answers. There’s often a real interest in design or implementation research but we need to also stay in the question space so that we come up with some good questions to ask before we rush to those solutions.”

Tom Boellstorff

His book – “Coming of Age in Second Life” – he tries to write for multiple audiences, some of which know a lot more than others about the basics of virtual worlds/online games.

This wonderful new mode of interaction has its problems but shouldn’t be dismissed outright. In The Matrix, the virtual world is used to enslave the humans, so there is a fear factor here towards virtual worlds.

For Pearce as a game designer, when you design games you are also designing cultures, and you may not know what kind of culture will emerge with your game.

AbaBrukh Aabye
AbaBrukh Aabye

I asked one participant, whose background is in anthropology, to tell me what he got out of the discussions:

AbaBrukh Aabye: well, the concept of culture in virtual worlds has interested me since I first was an early beta tester on what became AOL

AbaBrukh Aabye: and it’s clearly becoming a larger part of human culture in general

AbaBrukh Aabye: I discovered SL from a feature on NPR

AbaBrukh Aabye: but when I’ve talked about it to some of my RL friends, they just laugh

The way people think about virtual worlds is varied depending upon their experience and what they want out of life. Having a little imagination is helpful for enjoying the concept of spending time in a virtual world. The fact that real life (RL) is called the physical life by one of the speakers is very telling: real things are said here in Second Life and in other virtual worlds, real relationships are forged (my own present relationship included), and real struggles are fought. Anytime you have a mix of people interacting, that is real.

But it will be some time before a significant part of the Internet-visiting population will feel that way, too.

Aerial view of a Metanomics sound stage
Aerial view of a Metanomics sound stage

Try out an SL ride

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nostrum Forder gave me a simboard lesson this weekend so I wouldn’t look like a complete idiot while playing with my new toy.

Sylectra Darwin: help me understand how to change the design.
Sylectra Darwin: It’s asking for a texture but when I opened the Paw Prints design there was only a script in there and no texture.
Nostrum Forder: What version of the simboard do you have?
Sylectra Darwin: 4.3
Nostrum Forder: OK
Sylectra Darwin: Just updated it
Nostrum Forder: Rez the board [pull the object from inventory onto the ground]

The simboard talks on the main chat channel to give extra hints and information.

FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: -Click board for Menu-
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: Startup Tip: Hold C and any movement key to roll & tilt if you fall over.
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: Stand Position Adjusted.
Nostrum Forder: Do you have the design?
Sylectra Darwin: I do, it’s a folder called Simboard Paint Job: Paw Print
Nostrum Forder: Are there instructions in it.
Sylectra Darwin: And it has a script in it called Simboard Paint Job: PawPrint
Sylectra Darwin: No.
Nostrum Forder: You put that script into the simboard.
Nostrum Forder: Edit your board.
Sylectra Darwin: And when I open the script it says I don’t have permission to see it.
Nostrum Forder: Drag the script from inventory into the contents tab.
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: If this script is in your simboard, Touch the board to activate retexture process. (Ignore the boards menu for this process)
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: Setting Texture.. Please wait..
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: No image found. Make sure you have a full perm texture in the boards inventory.
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: Make sure the image shows in the boards inventory before clicking ‘Set Design’
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: Paw Print design is now set.
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: Texture script is now removing itself to minimize lag.
Nostrum Forder: there you go.
Sylectra Darwin: I dragged the script into the content folder
Sylectra Darwin: hey!
Sylectra Darwin: that worked!
Sylectra Darwin: Glad not EVERYTHING is hard.
Sylectra Darwin: OK, I am ready for my lesson, Nossie.
Nostrum Forder: before you get on.
Nostrum Forder: click on it and open the menu
Nostrum Forder: and click “engine”
Sylectra Darwin: ok
FS4.3 SIMBOARD: Vetox Mono: -Directly click engine panel to select options-
Sylectra Darwin: ok
Nostrum Forder: this part is a little tricky.
Nostrum Forder: You want to get the settings down to where you can control it.
Sylectra Darwin: I see the warning about taking a copy
Sylectra Darwin: OK
Sylectra Darwin: so less power, right?
Sylectra Darwin: lol
Nostrum Forder: You have to cam to where you can see it [alt-click on the engine panel to orient the point of focus and then zoom in].
Sylectra Darwin: OK, I see F_Gain 10.00
Sylectra Darwin: There are up and down arrows on the board
Sylectra Darwin: Plus and minus buttons too
Nostrum Forder: Press the up arrow until you see “Speed”
Sylectra Darwin: rez…rez [all the controls were shown with textures, which take a long time to load in Second Life]
Nostrum Forder: and then press minus until you have it set to 5.
Nostrum Forder: It’s a pain.
Sylectra Darwin: I hate texture-dependent interfaces.
Nostrum Forder: textures are a huge problem in SL.
Sylectra Darwin: yes.
Sylectra Darwin: what’s the default setting for speed?
Nostrum Forder: all of this should be addressable by commands
Sylectra Darwin: I am still waiting for the words to rez
Nostrum Forder: I dunno. Mine was 7.
Sylectra Darwin: Maybe they are through the HUD [a user interface with menus visible to the person but not anyone else]?
Nostrum Forder: that’s it
Sylectra Darwin: okay, found it
Nostrum Forder: Make it 5
Sylectra Darwin: ok, got it
Sylectra Darwin: what next, my guru?
Nostrum Forder: Click, get the menu, and press engine to close.
Sylectra Darwin: We’re just adjusting speed?
Nostrum Forder: Right
Nostrum Forder: now we ride

Sylectra Darwin: I’m looking for my copy I just made
Nostrum Forder: Just ride this one.
Sylectra Darwin: ok
Nostrum Forder: Use the arrow keys to control speed and turn
Nostrum Forder: OK
Nostrum Forder: Here’s a tip
Sylectra Darwin: it’s a little disconcerting
Nostrum Forder: View menu
Sylectra Darwin: no brakes
Nostrum Forder: Back arrow slows you
Sylectra Darwin: view menu?
Nostrum Forder: down arrow
Nostrum Forder: View menu – Show Property lines [on the View menu of the Second Life program, there is a check box item to show or hide property lines]
Nostrum Forder: Stay in the blue boundaries.
Nostrum Forder: 🙂
Sylectra Darwin: what happens when you cross?
Nostrum Forder: Nothing usually
Nostrum Forder: but if there’s a ban line
Nostrum Forder: it sucks
Sylectra Darwin: then all hell breaks loose?
Nostrum Forder: left-up

Nostrum Forder: Now for the more interesting ones
Nostrum Forder: hold “page up” and press left or right arrow
Nostrum Forder: this causes you to spin
Nostrum Forder: which also kills your forward velocity.
Sylectra Darwin: that’s actually a good thing if I go out of control
Nostrum Forder: also try the combinations of arrow keys
Nostrum Forder: left-down
Nostrum Forder: press left and right puts you into a “crouch”
Nostrum Forder: Press left, right, and up and you’ll go Real Fast. Be careful with it.
Nostrum Forder: press up and down together, you’ll do a “layout” on the board.
Nostrum Forder: the page-down button controls rolling
Nostrum Forder: Try page-down and left together
Nostrum Forder: You need some forward momentum

I went upside down. So sorry, I didn’t get a pic of that for you to enjoy. The film didn’t turn out. 😉

Sylectra Darwin: holy crap!
Nostrum Forder: You can also forward-roll or backward-roll with page-down and up or down
Sylectra Darwin: um…
Nostrum Forder: nice face plant
Nostrum Forder: If worse comes to worse, edit yourself back. [right-click on the simboard and select Edit, then choose the Rotation radio button and drag the directional markers until the simboard is right-side up again]
Sylectra Darwin: thanks
Sylectra Darwin: haha
Sylectra Darwin: thanks for the lesson!

I think I did pretty good. Only one completely stupid moment.