December 2, 2009, 4:07 pm
How much physical space do you need to study virtual worlds?
The University of California at Irvine has started construction on a 4,000-square foot, 20-room “Cyber-Interaction Observatory,” the Los Angeles Times reports. The building, which is designed to support faculty research into games and virtual worlds, will include floor-to-ceiling projection screens, 3-D stereoscopic displays, and “gesture-based interfaces,” the newspaper reports.
The building is part of a plan to expand the study of gaming at Irvine. The university established the Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds this fall, and next fall it plans to start offering a four-year undergraduate degree in game science. The undergraduate program will start with between 50 to 100 students.
November 9, 2009, 10:00 am
Denver — Plenty of colleges have a presence in Second Life. Pennsylvania State University is taking that a step further. Academic advisers at the university’s online campus are now required to be available for meetings with students in the virtual world every week, a Penn State official said during last week’s Educause conference here.
Students on the real campus get to chat with their advisers face to face. Now online students who never set foot there can do the “exact same thing,” says Shannon Ritter, social-networks adviser for the Penn State World Campus.
Almost the same thing, anyway. Second Life requires users to choose avatars, or graphical representations of themselves. So students who want to meet with Rachel Zimmerman will find themselves chatting with a character called RachelM Snoodle. Looking for Karen Lesch? The adviser goes by KarenM Magic. All advisers are required to…
September 15, 2009, 2:00 pm
The University of Texas system has purchased land in the online world Second Life, betting the investment will improve teaching and research at all of its institutions.
The university system, made up of nine universities and six health centers, doesn’t have concrete plans for how each school will use Second Life. It hopes that administrators, faculty members, researchers, and students will take advantage of the virtual real estate over the academic year.
In Second Life, people create avatars that interact with one another. The avatars, which look like three-dimensional figures, can make friends, pursue hobbies, conduct business, and even practice religion.
The university and Linden Lab, which operates Second Life, say that the University of Texas is the first statewide educational system to make a concerted leap into the virtual world. Hundreds of universities use Second Life to some…
June 10, 2009, 2:00 am
An arbitrator says Lakehead University, in Ontario, had the right to switch its campus e-mail service to a free program offered by Google and did not violate the collective agreement with the Lakehead University Faculty Association.
The union objected to the switch because it feared that e-mail messages could be opened by the FBI or CIA under the USA Patriot Act since Google is an American company, subject to that law. The arbitrator acknowledged in his ruling that “the likelihood of such incursions by U.S. authority into a private e-mail system (Lakehead’s own former system) was marginal compared to what might occur in the presence of the Google system.” However, he ruled in favor of the university because the wording of the collective agreement was not specific enough to ensure e-mail communication met the concerns of “absolute privacy to faculty members.”
The Canadian Association of…
April 24, 2009, 2:25 pm
To Willeke Wenderish, an associate professor of Egyptian archaeology at the University of California at Los Angeles, exploring the ruins of an ancient temple within an air-conditioned computer classroom can be even more useful than visiting the site in person.
Ms. Wenderish recently co-produced a virtual-reality project called “Digital Karnak,” which allows students (and visitors to the project’s Web site) to learn how the Egyptian religious center has evolved over two millennia. Milling about the ruins or studying a two-dimensional map of the Karnak site can be disorienting, she said. Virtual modeling, on the other hand, allows scholars to observe what in the structure changed and when—using a more sophisticated tool than the mind’s eye.
“It helps them think through all the things that you wouldn’t have thought through if you were looking at a map,” she said—“which areas were…
April 13, 2009, 9:08 am
Those who attended the Virtual Journalism Conference at Washington State University this week may have glimpsed the future of global journalism in a brief documentary about an avatar-to-avatar news conference. The news conference, which took place in February in the virtual platform Second Life, gave eight Egyptian political bloggers a chance to directly question James K. Glassman, the public-diplomacy czar under form President George W. Bush.
“This is the ultimate situation of breaking down barriers of time and space,” said Lawrence Pintak, director of the Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research at the American University in Cairo—or, rather, his slightly-less-gray-haired avatar said that in the documentary. “We’re putting together people who are on opposite sides of the world for a real-time conversation.”
The Second-Life news conference was the final stage of a…
March 17, 2009, 4:24 pm
Watch out, Second Life.
The University of California at San Diego announced today the creation of a new research center aimed at creating the “next generation” of virtual worlds, which designers hope will be more visually rich and have more features than Second Life and other popular online environments.
The center will use a new hybrid-computing platform developed by IBM. Sheldon Brown, a professor of visual arts at the university who is also the director of the new center, said artists working with simulations have been limited by the computing technologies available. The new IBM platform, Mr. Brown said, offers an increased level of flexibility and power that will give artists more freedom.
Among the center’s first projects will be the development of a virtual world based on Scalable City, a museum installation created by Mr. Brown. The center will also work on digital cinema…
January 23, 2009, 3:44 pm
College debate matches can be physically intense — with participants rattling off arguments at top speed and gesturing dramatically. So it will be interesting to see if a debate contest can work in Second Life, the virtual world.
This week Stephen Llano, the director of debate at St. John’s University, in New York, announced what is billed as the first tournament debate held in Second Life. It will take place on February 4 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time in the university’s virtual campus (shown below). A two-person team from St. Johns will go head-to-head with two students from the University of Vermont. The topic will be whether or not colleges should limit tenure for professors.
The event will not be an official competition, but if it goes well, it could lead to virtual matches in the future that would count toward tournament scoring, said Mr. Llano.
He said the technology could be…
December 4, 2008, 3:30 pm
Richard L. Gilbert, a psychology professor at Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles, is about to begin a series of surveys of participants in Second Life, the virtual world where people interact as cartoonlike characters in a 3-D animated landscape. Usually the researcher would pay test subjects a small fee for their time, but for this study he’ll be paying participants in Linden dollars, the virtual currency used in Second Life.
He had no idea what the appropriate amount would be, so Mr. Gilbert walked around popular areas of Second Life asking strangers how much he would have to pay them to sit down for an hour and take a survey. “The average of all the responses that I got was $1,000,” he says. That’s 1,000 Linden dollars, worth about $4 in actual U.S. currency. “It’s much cheaper” than what he would have paid subjects in a traditional experiment, he says.
Mr. Gilbert says …
July 9, 2008, 11:32 am
Rumors that Google was working on a new virtual world have turned out to be true. The company unveiled this week its three-dimensional make-believe community called Lively, promoted in the video below.
Virtual-world scholars seem unimpressed by the project. The Terra Nova blog has assembled their comments. Aaron Delwiche, an assistant professor of communications at Trinity University, is disappointed that Lively does not allow people to create their own content, a feature of the virtual world Second Life. “Google has given us an impoverished space in which content can only be developed in-house or by ‘trusted developers,’” he writes.
Vili Lehdonvirta, a researcher at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, says this about Mr. Delwiche’s observation. “I don’t think it’s true that Second Life style dedicated tools for creating complex 3D content are a prerequisite for…