Showing posts with label vritual worlds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vritual worlds. Show all posts

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Second Life Hunts

There are a lot of fun Second Life hunts going on right now that provide the participant with the opportunity to get to know Second Life and get some fabulous merchandise for free.  Rumor is that as of September 1st there were over 100 hunts going on ..why so many?  Well this popular activity is one way of marketing your store and a way for Second Life residents to get free merchandise from their favorite merchants and  get acquainted with new ones.
It’s also a way to meet up with new friends and get reacquainted with with old ones.  Because most hunts are themed this is a good way to connect with others who have similar interests.  So how do you get started on the hunt? Well one way is to find a blog, website or information on the Second Life website to get started.
One of the most popular hunts right now is the Steam Hunt which bills itself as: STEAM:  Steampunk Travelers' Event, Adventure & Megahunt.   This is the third time for this popular hunt which takes place September 1-30th, 2010.  The trick is with this hunt as with any is to find all 135 of the Steampunk-themed gifts which are hidden in the participating vendors parcel or store.   The participants generally start the hunt at one point receiving the landmark for the next site when they find the prize.  Steam the Hunt maintains a blog with updates and hunt information to keep the participant informed and updated.  Steampunk Adventures store is participating in the STEAM hunt as well as the Mushroom hunt. Since starting in this hunt we have seen our traffic increase 3 to 4 times as many visitors prior to the hunts.   We hope that hunters are taking this opportunity to landmark our store for a return visit as well as making a note of our participating vendors in order to visit them.
Here are some pictures of me at the launch point in Mieville for the STEAM hunt.
Me with another hunter at the launch site for the Steam hunt
The hunt board at the second site for the Steam hunt:

Information on hunts and other events at  Avatar Bizarre a stop on the STEAM hunt:

The MadPea Mushroom Hunt started September 1st and bills itself as: 100 locations, 100 mushrooms, 100 prizes and 100L$ for everyone to complete the hunt - starting on September 1st at the MadPea Circus.  There is a website for the MadPea Mushroom Hunt with information on participants, prices, locations and other information.
The MadPea Mushroom Hunt provides much more than just a simple hunt according to the website participants can:
- Write an original story about your adventures as a mushroom hunter. English only, please.
Your style can be anything you wish. Let your mind go wild and your imagination bloom.
There is NO limitation on the length of your piece.
- Create a short story with the aid of photos.
Use the images to tell us your favourite/most horrible encounters during your hunt.
Maximum of 20 image per one comic.
- Create a video about the best parts of your hunt. Show locations. Show people.
Show us the emotions and the feeling of being a mushroom hunter.
Make it fun, make it crazy, challenge your imagination.
NO limitation on the length of the piece.
I have participated in a few hunts.  I have visited at least 15 stores on the current Steam Hunt, completed The Thrifty Gother hunt, Pot of Gold Hunt, and last spring’s Steam Hunt.  On a regular hunt though the question may be asked regarding what you expect to get as prizes.l.this could be anything from furniture, clothing, airships, buildings, to shoes.  Here are some examples of things I have gotten:
Fashions from LnL Design in last spring’s Steam Hunt:

A beautiful Victorian gown from Papillon:

A hot tub in the Pot of Gold Hunt:

Another example of the gifts I received on the hunts I have been on.  A biplane from the Shiny Shop! and another outfit from The Traveler:

Another fashion shot:

I have received a lot of great things so far on this fall’s STEAM Hunt, photos below:
Tophat: Destiny Designs:
Steampunk Wings from Avatar Bizarre:

Fabulous Steampunk Skybox from Gianfor Peaks (interior):

Exterior of the Steampunk Skybox from Gianfor Peaks:

A fabulous fashion selection from Steam Bound:
Is your interest piqued?  Are hunts worthwhile? Well I think so!  As I mentioned previously there are over 100 hunts going on right now in Second Life. What are these hunts and what are the themes?
The Back to School Hunt:  Which started September 1st-30th.  The theme of this hunt is , students , anything and everything about going back to school.  There are only 30 stores participating in this hunt.
The Birthday Blitz Hunt, no real theme noted runs from September 1-30th and is sponsored by Sour Pickles Group.  
Hunt for (role players)  RP! Runs from September 1-30th, information can be found on the Hunt for RP blog.   The theme or intent of the hunt is as follows:  With the growing number of RP's on Second Life, we have attempted to combine RP needs, shopping, and advertisement into one package.
The details of the  Zombie Raid Hunt are noted on a blog.  This hunt started August 20th and lasts to October 1st.   
Websites with information on Second Life hunts:
The most popular via google search SLHUNTS
‘Second Life 24H
From the events listings at the Second Life Website I found the following:
Twisted Hunt:  The Twisted Hunt returns with new prizes and new challenges. The theme for this round is "spooky," so you'll seek and find dark, creepy and scary items across Second Life. Event held through Sept. 30.  
For fun, fabulous prizes, and if you are new to Second Life hunts provide the participant with an opportunity to get high quality merchandise, fashion, and to make connections with others.  Take advantage of all of these hunts today!  (Now that I am done with this article guess what I am going to do!!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Second LIfe "Mash - Up" of research and observations

The following is a synthesis of observations of three resources on virtual worlds, specifically Second Life, and how this medium can be applied to education, training, and learning. This is my initial presentation using these resources, it is a "mash-up" if you will, to determine if these is a common theme or thread that can be identified and defined as a best practice(s) in using Second Life for education. The three sources I have identified for this initial paper are: Commentary: Virtual Planning and the Online Studio by Justan B. Hollander, David Thomas from the Journal of Planning Education and Research 2009, Avatars, People and Virtual Worlds, Foundations for Research in the Metaverse, Alanah Davis, John Murphy, Dawn Owens, Depepak Khazanchi and Ilze Zigurs, in the February 2009 Journal of Virtual Worlds Research and finally Thomas Malaby's book Making Virtual Worlds: Linden Lab and Second Life.

A review of the Malaby's book is helpful. Malaby does a fine job of exposing the inner workings of Linden Labs, the history and the culture of the business. It is in this context the mission, the vision and the overall philosophy of Linden Labs that one can begin to design a strategy for applying the use of Second Life as a learning environment. In determining the appropriate use of Linden Labs in education presenting the mission of Second Life/Linden Labs seems key: "It is our mission to connect us all to an online world that advance the human condition." Another, what I term "philosophical statement' identified by Malaby is "The eye observes the world, the hand shapes it. For this reason many cultures embrace the eye-in-hand as a symbol of creation that springs from knowledge as do we. Take it as your invitation to create a Second Life that inspires ever more wonder, ever more imagination." In the context of two statements it is little wonder that Second Life is finding itself as the virtual world of choice for educators. After all what is the purpose of education but to inspire wonder and create motivation for individuals to seek more knowledge and create more knowledge?

Holland and Thomas sought to pursue answers to the following concerns:

"For planning educators, do these new 3-D environments offer a chance to dramatically improve the curriculum or simply sit as one more technological distraction to the important work of training planners?" In order to address the researchers looked deeper asking,(1) How does physical planning pedagogy benefit from using a tool such as Second Life? or What are the benefits of using a tool such as Second Life for physical planning pedagogy? and (2) What are some of the implications of moving education off the drafting table and pin-up wall and into an active, simulated computer–based world?"

Furthermore the question may be asked in this context: Can learning be designed in virtual worlds to provide a sense of engagement and presence that maybe lacking in a "traditional learning management system?"

The methodology of this research required that students keep journals, observations, end of semester course evaluations, with both closed and open ended questions. The students were also asked to wrote a final essay evaluating their learning experiences using Second Life. Finally the 71 students involved in the program were required to address a last essay question detailing their experiences in Second Life. The findings of this research were based upon the following:

(1) integration of skills and knowledge in a field example, (2) development of teamwork skills, (3) improvement of problem-finding and problem-solving skills, and (4) exposure to a professional social experience (Hollander and Thomas 2009, Greene 1988; Dutton 1987; Schon 1984; Heumann and Wetmore 1984).

This study sought to address the benefits of using Second Life in these specific areas:

Field experience, teamwork skills, problem-finding and problem-solving skills and professional socializing experience. Benefits were found in the areas of field experience and teamwork skills, with little or no benefit noted in the areas of problem finding and problem solving skills and professional socializing experiences. The authors noted that students spent a great deal of time together to work on projects but chose to not activate social networking tools and that "...students were able to successfully improve their problem-finding and problem-solving skills, but only marginally better than in a traditional studio." It seems that on these two points there is a parallel result between the application of virtual worlds and traditional learning environments, the use of Second Life did not prove to motivate or enhance either points. However it is not noted how the teams were established either in traditional working environment or what sort of problem solving projects the students were given and how the parallel each other in scope.

Ultimately the researchers noted that the "biggest strength of Second Life is also its biggest weakness," this being the unstructured environment this world provides. This lack of structure which may prove to be a barrier to some also proves to provide an environment that facilitates invention and creativity. In providing a 3D environment for learning what sort of advantages does Second Life offer beyond programs such as Sketchup and AutoCad? The authors noted that .."Such programs pale in that regard in comparison with what Second Life offers: it creates a forum for exploring planning and design as social interactions and processes, rather than as simply knowledge and technique. Second Life goes beyond
visualization to a unique quality: virtualization, introducing the user to a real-time virtual 3-D environment that can be a powerful learning tool."

In the Davis, et. al., article the researchers sought to identify the following:

"The potential for contribution to knowledge lies in several areas. First, the study of virtual teams in a metaverse environment can contribute to a deeper understanding of virtual collaboration and teamwork in traditional contexts. Second, a theoretically-defined set of technology capabilities can show how metaverses are different from other kinds of environments and how their uniqueness might enhance the functioning of virtual teams. Third, a clear insight into metaverse capabilities and use can lead to recommendations for the continuing design of advanced technologies for virtual team collaboration. Our overall goal is to enhance research and practice for virtual teams working in a metaverse environment. We present a conceptual model for understanding metaverses and develop a set of recommendations for research in this new area. Our proposed model is different from earlier models of group support and collaboration technologies because it accounts for the unique technology capabilities of and behaviors in metaverse environments. Organizations and academic institutions that are exploring the use of metaverses can benefit by seeing how team interaction might be enhanced. Virtual team managers can benefit by being aware of the basic characteristics of this new environment and how its technological capabilities have potential to provide a richer form of interaction for virtual teams. Researchers can benefit from the foundation for future research in terms of constructs, propositions, and research challenges."

This article meshes well with the Holland and Thomas article because to seeks to identify strategies that facilitate team collaboration and work in the metaverse, furthermore their research seeks to identify those technical challenges that may impede the progress in these areas. The researchers identified several dimensions which are critical to facilitating teamwork in the virtual environment these are: presence, communication, technology, rendering, interaction, and team process. Each of these are defined as:

The term “presence” is related to a wide field of research. Lombard and Ditton identified six different explications of presence that have been used in the literature: presence as • social richness, the extent to which the medium is perceived as sociable, warm, sensitive, or personal when it is used to interact with other people; • realism, the extent to which a medium can seem perceptual and/or socially realistic; • transportation , the sensations of “you are there,” “it is here,” and/or “we are together”; • immersion, the extent to which the senses are engaged by the mediated environment; • social actor within medium, the extent to which the user responds socially to a representation of a person through a medium; and • medium as social actor, the extent to which the medium itself is perceived as a social actor (e.g., treating computers as social entities2
(retrieved from, 10/09/09)

Communication: having the tools to effectively collaborate and communicate in and out of Second Life is critical. Second Life has group features which allow for group text chat and voice chat as well as voice and text chat in "local" venues and one on one private voice/text chat.

Technology: The researchers also addressed the issue of technology. Technology does impact the ability of teams to form and work together. While a platform may have excellent technology on the sending end of things it is only as good as the technology on the user end. Because of this one must the technology of Second Life and other virtual worlds too sophisticated, does it impede the use of virtual worlds in learning, can it be ubiquitous?

Rendering: Rendering is defined as the ability to create life like images on the screen and it is supported by the capabilities of personalization of an avatar appearance; they can also have a personal focus through direct contact with other avatars. One may find communication, immersion and presence enhanced by the ability to demonstrate non verbal speaking animations in world.

Interaction: While this is noted by the researchers I believe it relates back to communication and is the underlying theme of team processes.

Team Processes: The researchers note that effective tools and strategies are not completely in place to facilitate collaboration in virtual worlds.

In review it is evident that it was not the mission of Linden Labs/Second Life to provide the design or game design to users to address and solve problems. Instead Linden Labs provides the means to allow user to be creative in designing their own space, groups, communicating, and games. The user has to stratgize how to implement these. It goes without saying that in achieving this aim users are challenged, the platform is sometimes not malleable in meeting these demands, however there is evidence of success. Recognition goes to those users who are savvy enough to use the tools available to them to be creative, to be innovative and develop a learning environment that meets the needs of their students. In reflection I now recognize that Second Life will not give you a "cookie cutter" approach to addressing the needs for presence, communication, technology, how to develop teams and team processes..but will provide you with the tools and the expectation that you, as user, will design those aspects to best meet your needs.