Friday, May 9, 2014

Virtual Regulations

If I had been asked how serious of an issue virtual regulations were I would have said that most of our existing laws could probably adequately deal with any legal issues that would arise. I would have been wrong. After reading User-Generated Content and Virtual Worlds by Greg Lastowka I can comprehend now the vast array of unique difficulties presented by user generated content. It seems to me now that we need more user/producer protections to protect content. This is particularly true as virtual content has now begun to generate real vale and that in turn has very real life effects. In the case mentioned by Lastowka, Bragg vs. Linden Labs it seems that neither side was entirely correct. Mr. Bragg had certainly violated the terms of service by essentially hacking the server and gaining unfair access to virtual land at the expense of both Linden Labs and other users who were not able to have that access. Linden Labs however provides a unique service and with regard to subscribing members, is making a profit off of the users. Their contract is designed to their extreme advantage and users have no option but to accept the terms of service or go elsewhere. The issue here is that there are not many other products out there that offer the type of user freedom that linden labs offers. The terms of service leave no room for negotiation. It would be completely impractical to negotiate terms of service with each individual member, but there must be a way to make terms of service more fair to both parties and protect both companies and consumers as they navigate the legalities of virtual content.

IOLE Class Has Come to an End

So this is the last day of the spring semester at Akron University which means that my IOLE class on Second Life has come to an end. We gave our final presentations last Thursday May 1st. Thanks to everyone who attended. I thought the final presentations went really well, each group had a really different take on the question of what defines reality. I was very happy with the build Sam did for our group. It looked fantastic. Things got a little confusing at the end when we were trying to pull it all together and all posting to Face Book on different threads, but it all worked out in the end and at least we had a back up plan. So all in all it was a really nice presentation. I wish that we had been allowed a little more time for each group to present. The groups were large and I think we all had the idea that we were each supposed to present a portion of our groups work. At the end John mentioned that he would have liked to see us be more creative and step out of the box more. I wish that had been more clear in the beginning because after I understood better what he was looking for I had a ton of ideas. There is so much you can do in SL that goes beyond just a traditional presentation, but that was the format of most of the class so I guess I just thought that was the expectation. We were somewhat limited as far as time goes so maybe a more traditional presentation was most practical anyway, but if I took the class again I would probably try to experiment more.

In out last class meeting we discussed ways to improve the class going forward. I agree with the idea that the class should really be two sessions a week with essentially a lab component to focus on the practical aspects of using second life. I think that bringing in more speakers would be a great idea and going on site visits as a group would help to build a sense of community within the group. Additionally, it would have been nice if there had a more equal number of Akron and DIT students in the class. Hopefully that is something that will happen in the future. I am going to try to keep up a presence in SL. Its a fun and enjoyable experience and I hope that continuing to interact with groups on there will help me make connections with individuals that I can learn from. It was a very good class and I would definitely encourage others to take it in the future.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Are Hashtags useful? and if so How? and to Whom? These are the questions asked in the article
Are Hashtags Actually a Useful Social Media Engagement Tool?
The writer, Keenen suggests that they are not and his argument is solid. They may direct traffic and generate interest around a campaign but they also are our of the original creators control once they are posted and begin to circulate. They also don't serve much function except to take up space. So why do we use them? Well, I would say that it doesn't matter why; We just do. They have become part of the pop culture of the Internet, a cool way to introduce a topic and share it and now it has become part of our experience of the Internet and the way we communicate. Once something has become a part of our shared cultural experience it is difficult to remove it, it becomes associated with other elements of our daily experience and developes the quality of a ritual. Thats what I think hashtags are to us now, a part of the ritual of online communication.

Response to the Article: Technology's impact on Disaster Relief

After reading the Article Technology's Impact on Disaster Relief, ( ,  it is easy to see the many ways that technology and in particular social media can help with communication in disaster relief efforts. From interactive maps that show flood areas to sites like that allow people to communicate during a disaster there are many new ways to use these technological advances to assist people in the wake of a disaster.  The article does not address however, the potential negative impacts that increased reliance on these tools could have. Not everyone, has access to these options, the elderly and those living in poverty are two groups in particular that may have limited experience with or access to new internet based tools and are also some of the groups most vulnerable in a disaster. By relying too heavily on new technology do we risk missing, ignoring or replacing other avenues of communication to help underserved populations during a disaster? By focusing only on the pros do we miss the limitations of these methods of communication?

Monday, April 28, 2014

IOLE Group Work

So far so good on our final project. I feel very lucky to be in a group that seems to have it so together. I hope that I don't just have a false sense of security, but I think its safe to say my group will be well prepared for our presentation. Communicating on FB has really helped us to keep up on the project even while juggling multiple schedules not to mention time zones. two weeks ago we met up in SL to discuss the format of our presentation and agreed that we would like to have more of a participatory audience experience than a standard pp presentation. Last week everyone had their slides in for review and they all look great! Now we just need to put it all together and invite people to come. That is what I will be working on over the next couple of days. I am looking at the best ways to generate interest in our presentations on SL. I can't wait to see what the other groups have come up with and how they will approach the topic.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

SL Project and Communication

My IOLE  group has been connecting outside of class now for a few weeks and we have been making good use of Facebook to communicate ideas. We are also using SL but not as much. It is difficult to find times when we are all available to meet given our busy school/work schedules. Facebook has been a useful and practical way to keep each other updated on progress and ideas. We have set up a FB group for our project where we are able to leave messages, plan for meet ups and bring everyone up to speed when meeting up isn't possible. As we all already had Facebook accounts and were familiar with the platform, it made for easy communication without the need to learn a new program.
2. SL location Review

During my time getting acquainted with Second Life, I  have visited a variety of different places. I would like to address here, three very different locations and my thoughts on how they compare and how they fit in to the wider world of Second Life.

One place that I found remarkable for its accuracy is Venezia City
Here is a photo I took in RL Venice
I recently visited Venice in RL and I stood in this very same spot on the Rialto Bridge looking over the Grand Canal. The view in this SL created Venice is very much the same. The narrow streets ending canals and the souvenir and clothing shops that line the streets are just as I remember them. What is noticeably lacking  are the tourists taking "selfies" every few feet. When I stood on this bridge in RL I was surrounded by people jostling to get a better view. This is an experience I have frequently had in SL, in which I visit a "recommended" place and find it virtually deserted no matter what time of day or night I choose to log in. It is somewhat disconcerting to see a place one has been and has experienced in  RL and then see that same place in SL, looking very much as it does in reality, but almost as if all of the humans have been removed. The sensation for me at least is one of discomfort, that makes me contemplate the ephemeral nature of human life in comparison to the things we make and leave behind us. Embedded in this thought process is the question of the permanence of virtual worlds, will this Venice out last the real life version?
                                                                          This is my own "selfie" in SL Venezia

Moving on...
Another location I  visited in SL is 2014 Easter Town
This is an example of an entirely fictional place that takes elements of the Easter holiday and Louis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland to create an entirely unique and fantastic environment. This particular space was designed for the Easter Holiday for 2014. The name implies that this is one of a number of virtual spaces that exist for a particular time or event. The purpose and ascetic of this space is in direct contrast to "Venezia City".  Interestingly this location had several other SL citizens visiting while I was there and seemed to be generating some interest. 

The last place I would like to address has elements of both of the above locations, but also has some aspects that make it really very unique. Creative Fantasy at Shadow Brook is a beautifully designed fantasy space. It has natural outdoor settings, quaint cottages, walled gardens with unicorns and other fantasy creatures. Where Venizia City is a realistic representation of a RL place, this is a believable fantasy. It is believable in the sense that it is carefully rendered and includes natural settings that could exist in some form in RL, but that would never actually be seen together in such a pristine state. It is much like the 17th century Dutch floral paintings, in which carefully rendered flowers are portrayed in a vase arrangement that looks believable but would in fact have been impossible due to their different growing seasons. It is an idealized version of the most beautiful aspects of the natural world. The times I have visited this location, I have been the only one present in the area. The solitude adds to the ethereal sense created by the design, although it is likely that it was the intention of its creator that many people would visit. 

These three very different locations showcase a small number of the possible types of SL experiences one can have. While these places really don't address the social aspects of SL that many users are after, They appealed to me for their ascetic and experiential aspects.