Category Archives: Communication

Where next for virtual worlds?

On Monday I had the pleasure of presenting at the Eduserv ‘where next for virtual worlds’ workshop. Being asked to talk about the future gave me a nice opportunity to widely name-check a whole bunch of stuff and try and imagine how it might all tie into virtual worlds and learning environments a few years down the line. Since then it’s been full on marking and grading, just enough time to post this…

All of the presentations from the day are online at the Eduserv website. Most of these are in the form of embedded SlideShare presentations – though there is also a (slightly noisy) video of Ralph Schroeder’s presentation there. Hopefully other videos will follow. A wee note tho – if you are looking at John Kirriemuir’s presentation or my own, you’ll find a lot of extra supporting text and notes is only visible when viewing via the SlideShare website itself.

This is a bit of a problem with SlideShare embeds – it isn’t at all obvious when there is a lot of hidden extra content that you can only get via the SlideShare site itself.

(It also took me three attempts to get my slides to load up correctly without blank slides. And I’m not too sure why…)

As to the talks themselves… I enjoyed Ralph’s presentation – some good examples of the differences between high-end video conferencing, immersive virtual reality and virtual worlds and their strengths and weaknesses. His argument that there are two end states got a bit of a picking over on twitter afterwards.

Over on her blog, JISC’s Heather Williamson provides a summary of the day.

This Blog is now a Newspaper

Printcasting is a really innovative idea from the family owned The Bakersfield Californian newspaper – allow people to add their own feeds, then combine those with other (local or global) feeds to create unique and individual local newsletters and papers. deals with the formatting and advertisement placement – and individual publishers and content providers (anyone who submits their feed to for reuse) get the majority of the advertising revenues. The newsletters can be read online, while print editions can also be produced. As more people submit their feeds there will hopefully be more and more worthwhile content to publish alongside your own.

I couldn’t dig out all the information on the web-site at first but Dan Pacheco, the founder, explained a little more about how Printcasting works, and some of the issues around what happens if you decide to remove your feed (I had to ask, remembering all the furore in the past about Facebook’s data retention policies). Dan explained:

If you register a feed and give others rights to use your content on Printcasting, your articles may appear in other peoples’ Printcasts.  If you later delete that feed, articles that appeared in other peoples’ publications will not be pulled (that would be incredibly disruptive), but the feed will no longer appear in the directory and publishers will not be able to select the feed and use articles from it after that point.

Which seems fair enough.

I don’t doubt that Printcasting will take off as a useful way to quickly and rapidly turn a blog into a newsletter – the extent to which advertisers will support this remains to be seen (though individual publishers can try and raise their own advertising, and Printcasting have made it a very simple matter for anyone to submit adverts to a publication). And while the whole point of Printcasting is to automate the newsletter publication, it seems to lack the ability to mix up and manually edit your publication – adding a few extra images for example. It is still in Beta (this is web 2.0 after all!), and new features are sure to be added – I hope editing will be one.

Meantime, if you want to download an electronic copy of the first print edition (!!!) of the LearningGames blog, you can find it here: LearningGames Printcast

Are social networks harmful?

Are social networking sites harmful? I wouldn’t have thought so particularly, but this is the topic of the week it seems. Dr Aric Sigman has written a paper in The Biologist (membership of the Institute of Biology to even see the contents list, let alone abstract, so no link) saying that “websites such as Facebook set out to enrich social lives, but end up keeping people apart.” – as reported by the BBC, here.

“In less than two decades, the number of people saying there is no-one with whom they discuss important matters nearly tripled.”

Dr Sigman says he is “worried about where this is all leading”.

He added: “It’s not that I’m old fashioned in terms of new technology, but the purpose of any new technology should be to provide a tool that enhances our lives.”

And earlier in the month there was a debate in the UK House of Lords (part of our convoluted system of national government – think US Congress without elections and less power…) on social networking. This was reported on the Grauniad’s web site today, here.

In this latter article, I note the degree of similarity between some of Lady Greenfield’s comments on the changes to childrens’ minds brought about by digital technologies – and the changes in childrens’ minds described by e.g. Marc Prensky. Very different interpretation of whether these changes are good or not, however. Personally, I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle… TANSTAAFL. I’ll close with a quote from the Grauniad report,but note that the complete text of the debate is available online for any insomniacs out there – occaisional remarks in the debate show that some of the Lords are not completely out of touch with technology. (Baroness Sharp: “Lastly, children must be empowered to manage risk. As in the off-line world, one cannot eliminate risk completely; therefore one must build up resilience in children and educate them about the risks and how to minimise them.”).

Back to Lady Greenfield and the Grauniad:

She also warned against “a much more marked preference for the here-and-now, where the immediacy of an experience trumps any regard for the consequences. After all, whenever you play a computer game, you can always just play it again; everything you do is reversible. The emphasis is on the thrill of the moment, the buzz of rescuing the princess in the game. No care is given for the princess herself, for the content or for any long-term significance, because there is none. This type of activity, a disregard for consequence, can be compared with the thrill of compulsive gambling or compulsive eating.

“The sheer compulsion of reliable and almost immediate reward is being linked to similar chemical systems in the brain that may also play a part in drug addiction. So we should not underestimate the ‘pleasure’ of interacting with a screen when we puzzle over why it seems so appealing to young people.”


Roo Reynolds @ ReLIVE08

I spent most of the two days carrying around a Flip video camera, but was too busy or distracted to use it. Come the banquet, I was foiled by the rather loud band. In the end, I found myself waiting for a taxi at the conference hotel at the very end with Roo Reynolds – Portfolio Executive for Social Media at BBC Vision. So I took the opportunity to ask Roo about where he sees virtual worlds fitting in with his Social Media portfolio:

You can see Roo’s thoughts on ReLIVE, and links to his keynote presentation, here.

EDIT: Sorry about the noise in the background, I was going to provide a transcript eventually… but Roo beat me to it. See comments!

Bad people are not allowed to read this

Are you a bad person? Well, then you are not allowed to read the following.

There, now that the bad people have gone, I can continue… Andy Phippen and colleagues at Plymouth have been studying eSafety, and have noted that children continue to use social networking sites with little regard or awareness of guidelines or apparent common sense.

The opening of this post is inspired directly by a quote they found on a teen’s social networking profile.

First an important message: please no pervs, murderurs, rapists, racists and just plain wierdos off limits,no comments no lukin on my profile.fullstop….f off!

As a protection mechanism, perhaps a touch less effective than taking care over privacy settings and careful selection of what information to post.

Virtual Communities and eDemocracy – Call for Papers

The following strand at the 3rd International Conference on e-Democracy (Next Generation Society: Technological and Legal Issues), taking place 23 – 25 September 2009, Athens, Greece might be of interest to some readers of this blog:

Virtual Communities

Continue reading

Children on Virtual Worlds – an EU review

ENISA “Children on Virtual Worlds”

“The EU Agency ENISA, the European Network and Information Security Network Agency, launches a report on virtual worlds with 25 safety tips for parents on how to make their children behave safely in online virtual worlds.”

Some commensense guidelines and rules for parents to help support their children play safely and happily in online virtual worlds. Overall a positive review that doesn’t seek to demonise virtual worlds. Instead it argues that:

Parents should be educated, empowered and engaged to ensure truly positive and valuable experiences for their children, while reinforcing safety online habits in these three-dimensional environments.

Collaborative building in Second Life

Nick Yee and colleagues at PARC have been looking at collaborative building in Second Life. Collaborative work in virtual reality environments has been studied over the past decades, so there is a lot of work to compare against.

The final sentence summarises things nicely:

Rather than tweak the environment to force real-world styles of collaboration, more might be gained by improving aspects of collaboration that users find troublesome, such as the permission system which currently prevents objects which have been made by different individuals from being linked together.

Information Literacy events in Second Life

From the JISC virtual worlds list… news on an interesting series of free talks in Second Life – including some more directly related to this blog than others (e.g. childrens’ use of Club Penguin). See below for details. There are so many great – and free – talks that happen in Second Life, wish I managed to make it to more of them!

There is a full programme of events planned on the Second Life (SL, the virtual world) island Infolit iSchool this autumn, with sessions led by librarians from the US and UK, and an Education professor.

The autumn series starts Thursday 2nd October, 8am SL time (which is 4pm UK time) “Building information literacy” part one.

Continue reading is an online database of videos of lectures from academic conferences worldwide. There is a very heavy bias towards computer science (1351 lectures) and – even more specifically – machine learning (625 lectures on this alone, over 1/3 of the total number of lectures). Only four presentations in the education category!

One of these is the Sugata Mitra lecture, below, hosted on GoogleVideo. Despite the failings, the site is a very useful resource – more so for some topics than others.