Wednesday, 4 January 2012


The Virtual Environments module is now completed, ending with the culmination of the team project on the 21st of December where we performed the play at the Dublin amphitheater.

The success of the project as a team was not great. The main criticisms were that it was too short, we had not rehearsed enough and that it seemed like there wasn't enough communication in the lead up to the performance. I think that a team project, particularly one done through the internet, is never going to be a fair reflection of each of our contributions to the project.Through the internet, things get lost in translation, people can be left out of certain parts (I know that I missed out on a few important parts of the project because I didn't receive messages from the group on Facebook) and people are more likely to forget about meetings or anything else that's scheduled when it's on the internet. But, for people that were practically strangers three months ago and were doing everything through the internet, a medium where so much can go wrong, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We didn't live up to the potential, but at the end of the day, we did enjoy ourselves and didn't take it as seriously as some of our critics!

With that said, most of the group, if not all, believed that their individual contributions were good enough. Everyone who made an effort to be involved had their own roles and, to the best of my knowledge, did what they were supposed to do. With my event management background, I did my best to advertise the show in various ways, including through Facebook and on various Second Life fan forums, as shown in my previous blog entry. I may not have been very successful in gathering a crowd, but I made an effort.

In my individual efforts, I also showed my understanding of various social networks online. I showed an understanding of how to advertise an event online, using means like Facebook and the forums. Since we are being graded on proof of our understanding of these social networks, their use and their potential, I'm hoping that I have done enough to succeed.

My overall impression on the module is quite positive. The idea of the module itself is exciting and unique and is an idea that should be implemented by other learning institutes in the future because the idea behind it is the future. When we live so many aspects of our life through the internet, why not educate through the internet? Our tutors were also very helpful, always replying to messages promptly and willing to lend a hand with our blog or assignments.

This has been an interesting and unforgettable experience for me from beginning to end and I'm hoping that the idea of virtual learning will be explored and expanded upon more in the future.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Team Project Part 2

In preparation for the online play that is part of our team project for Virtual Environments, I have been advertising the show on various websites. I posted notices about the play on various forums that relate to Second Life (such as SL Universe) as well as a few Second Life community pages on Facebook.

Hopefully this will generate some interest for the play and will help pull in a larger audience! I will try to find more Second Life websites or forums to see if I can help generate some late interest!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Team Project

During the Virtual Environments module so far, we have just been working individually on our blogs. But another part of the module is a team project that we all have to contribute to. This year, the project is to have a virtual play, which will take place in the recreated Dublin amphitheatre in Second Life. This is intended to show how those of us in the class can work together as a team but also deal with our individual responsibilities for the good of the project.

For the project, several tasks are needed to be done. Firstly, a play, story or narrative needs to be decided upon as well as everyone’s role for the project. With the venue already decided, sound streaming has to be ready for the play as those who are cast in the play will be speaking their parts. We also need to generate some interest using various social media, whether it’s through telling people on Second Life or using less direct ways, such as Facebook or Twitter. Our goal is to make sure there is an audience for the play. The play will be judged by three people: Acuppa Tae, Elfay Pinkdot and Sitearm Madonna.

As for my role in the play, I don’t want it to be an acting part. I am the only person in the class who is doing the Creative and Cultural Industries course. I have been studying subjects such as public relations skills, marketing, event management and media audiences. I’m hoping to use all my knowledge of these subjects to try and advertise the show to try and generate some kind of interest. I plan to talk to various groups who are interested in drama and the arts in Second Life as they are most likely to be interested in this project and the play. Due to the fact that the class aren’t a theatre production group and will be virtually (excuse the pun) unknown, it could be difficult to persuade people, but that’s part of the challenge.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Regulation in Online Communities

The ‘information superhighway’ has arguably become the most revolutionary technology, connecting billions of people all around the world. It is clear that computer networks allow people to create a range of new social spaces in which to meet and interact with one another (Kollock and Smith, 1999). Instead of people talking to machines, computer networks are being used to connect people to other people (Wellman et al., 1996 cited in Kollock and Smith, 1999).  E-mails, social networking, programmes like Skype; anyone who regularly goes online will more often than not communicate with someone online during their online sessions.
But with technology that allows instant connection to anywhere in the world anonymously, there are obvious issues. The idea of identity becomes very blurred in an online environment, as Kollock and Smith (1999) explain:

‘Online interaction strips away many of the cues and signs that are part of face-to-face interaction’

Users can hide their age, gender, race or class when communicating online, which can lead to deception. In “Reading race online: discovering racial identity in Usenet discussions”, Byron Burkhalter says that online interaction changes the dynamics of racial identity, and not always for the better. With anonymity online, there is no fear of repercussions or consequences. Does this mean online communities must be governed closely or are online communities simply the easiest way to express opinion, as politically incorrect as they may be?
In Communities in Cyberspace, Elizabeth Reid writes of Roseanne Stone’s research into the governance of the CommuniTree bulletin board:

(It) was intended to be a forum for intellectual and spiritual discussion among adults. It was an environment where censorship was censured and each user’s privacy was both respected and guaranteed by the system’s administrators. The community is fostered collapsed under the onslaught of messages, often obscene, posted by the first generation of adolescent school children with personal computers and modems. (1991)

These online communities have often been described as freeing users from social constraints.  Although they usually disagree on the effects of decreased social inhibition, some researchers of human behaviour have noted that users tend to behave more freely and spontaneously than they would in face-to-face encounters (Reid, 1999). While it can (and should) be a good thing, it also leads users to feel free to express anger and hatred at other people who could be strangers. (Kiesler et al., 1984 cited in Reid, 1999). For example, flaming is an online phenomenon where users use uninhibited expression of “remarks containing swearing, insults, name calling and hostile comments” (Ibid). 

With the possibility of these problems occurring in an online community, it does seem essential for some kind of regulations to be put in place for the sake of everyone involved. Jenny Preece describes possible ways to prevent a breakdown of social etiquette in online environment:

Two well-known approaches that specifically address etiquette solutions are setting rules (often called Netiquette) and moderating discussions (2004).

But she goes on to say that these can be somewhat ineffective and needs to be improved upon:

The way forward is to develop processes that bring together the best human-oriented approaches with good technical support... Processes that encourage communities to develop self-governing etiquette standards are promising. In addition to preventing obvious breaches of etiquette, processes are needed for dealing with subtle etiquette problems such as clever pranks designed to incite reactions and inadvertent impoliteness due to cultural misunderstandings. A deeper knowledge of semiotics is needed to build these kinds of applications.

As Peerce states, with the continuing growth of the online community, etiquette in these communities isn’t just wanted, but it is necessary for all those involved.


Preece, J., (2004) Etiquette Online: From Nice to Necessary. Communications of the ACM, vol. 47, no. 4.

Smith, M., and Kollock, P., Reid, E., (1999) Communities in Cyerspace. London: Routledge.

Wellman, B., Salaff, J., Dimitrova, D., Garton, L., Guila, M., and Haythornthwaite, C., (1996). Computer Networks as Social Networks, Annual Review of Sociology 22: 211-38

Stone, A. R., (1991) Will the Real Body Please Stand Up? Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures, Cyperspace: First Steps, (ed) Benedikt, M. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Opinions on the theories of Prosumer and Produser by Dr. Axel Bruns

The idea of a 'Prosumer' is the theory that, with Web 2.0 technologies that encourage people to create, share and communicate in one way or another, those of us who use the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogging websites etc. are a comination of producer and consumer.

The internet is such an open platform. There are no real rules when it comes to producing and recent websites and technologies have given everyone the opportunity to voice their opinions or express whatever creativity, artistic or otherwise, is bubbling within.

Perhaps due to lack of information or details regarding these theories, I find myself with not a lot to say about them. But they do make sense and it's obvious to see how the idea of the Produser is practically omnipresent in Twitter, blogs and so on. It is an evolution in creative producing, distribution and consuming that could only happen on the internet and should be embraced as the future.

Yet there is one thought at the back of my mind saying if we are both the producers and the consumers, is all this content not going in a very big circle? With the anonymity of internet, it surely becomes harder to prove that you created or wrote the piece that has circulated once it comes back to you. With the pseudonyms, nicknames and aliases and such, does it become harder and harder to keep track of who is producing what? After all, my real name isn't on this blog...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Part 3: The People

The next task for the class was to go out into the virtual world and get to know the inhabitants. We had to find people we could relate to through their interests or the activities they enjoyed doing within the Second Life world. This wasn't going to be difficult. With millions of people and every real life activity given a virtual counterpart within Second Life, all you had to do was decide which of your interests you wanted to discuss with those around you, then let the search bar do the rest of the work.

The first person I wanted to talk to was the man who I had found playing a 'live' gig in Fibber McGee's the week previously, Al Hoffman.  He was playing another set in a different venue this week, which I found out about from his news letter that I had signed up for. He actually remembered me from the gig he played in Fibber's the previous week. After his set, I had a chat with him over a 'pint' to learn more about what he does in Second Life.

In person, he has an expensive microphone and sound system set up for his computer. Using a drum and bass machine program on his computer, he plays guitar and occasionally sings into his microphone to make his music. Avatars watch his avatar plays the music on the venue's virtual stays while he, in real life, plays away in front of his computer.

I found this interesting, but I wasn't sure what else to think about it. In real life, he's a struggling musician who lives from one show to the next. But in Second Life, he's a star with thousands of fans. He plays in some of the biggest virtual venues in the virtual world. But he doesn't ever let his virtual and real life cross over. He would never use his online notoriety to try sell albums in real life. Yet he still puts hundreds of his own euro into a very sophisticated microphone and sound system.

But as a struggling musician, part of me can relate to him as I always wanted to try and make a career out of music. But how do you prioritize with your real life career and the fame you've wanted all your life in online form?

When looking at the menu in things to do, the games caught my eye. I teleported myself to a place called 'Siden City', which was some kind of Fantasy/Horror role-playing area. You chose the scenario, get a book of the rules and then it just... Evolves from there. I just sat in on one role-playing session to get a feel for what happened in this area and it was pretty remarkable. This was role-playing in Second Life. Role-playing within role-playing. It was like Inception.

But with the initial confusion anyone would feel from discovering this for the first time, I then got into it myself, even embraced it to an extent. In games like Mass Effect, Heavy Rain and any open-ended choice-based games, you are role-playing because you become the character and vice versa in the journey. As a big fan of those types of games, it didn't take me very long to figure out how it worked. You and your group (with the help of your chosen scenario and the Second Life setting) make the story but you also react to it and you just keep going until the events work themselves into some kind of conclusion.

After the role-playing session, I talked to one of the regular role-players by the name of Kimberly. She explained that if you tried to play these kinds of games in real life, it would be difficult to find anyone to play along. To find anyone who is into role-playing Dungeons and Dragons type stuff just doesn't happen in California, where she lives, because everyone spends all their time outside. Sport, beaches, shopping and such are what people where she's from do with their lives. But on Second Life, she can come to Siden and do some role-playing whenever she wants. She too is a hardcore gamer like myself and, after recommendations from some of her virtual friends, gave the role-playing a try and was instantly drawn into it.

The best thing I have learned from my week of making new friends is that no matter who you are, what you like or how obscure your hobbies are, you'll find someone you can relate to on Second Life. It is always possible to find someone who you can be friends with.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Part 2: Exploration

We have been asked to review five places from the Second Life world. To say it was difficult to pick which five places to visit would be an understatement. When you've got literally a whole world at your fingertips, allowing you to teleport to anywhere in that world with just a click, how do you decide where to go? For me, the decisions were based partly on chance, partly on convenience and partly on recommendations, but each location gave me a unique insight into the workings of this virtual world. So here goes.

1) Fibber McGees, Dublin, Ireland.

Yes, this is down the road from DIT. It's the most obvious and easy choice for somewhere to go because you can check it out before or after class. As lazy as choosing to review this place perhaps was, it still showed me some incredible things about Second Life. It based on the pub of the same name located in Dublin City Centre.

On Wednesday the 19th, after some difficulties getting into class, I decide to wander around for a while and I stumbled upon this place. It caught my eye because there were quite a few people there. I didn't know if people congregated in groups in the virtual pub often in Second Life or if there was something actually happening. So I walked inside and found someone on the pub's stage, playing some great blues music. I stayed to listen for a while and within a minute, I'd been greeted and welcomed and given an offer to dance with the group by the various people in there. With looking at Second Life as a community made up of community, this was interesting to see.

The people were instantly outgoing and chatty towards this absolute stranger who had wandered into their bar. It caught me off guard, you wonder how many of these people would make friends with you so quickly if you walked into whatever bar they were hanging out in in real life. I guess that is part of the beauty of Second Life. A virtual identity means no inhibitions, no reluctance and no cliques. Everyone is friends with everyone as soon as they talk to each other.

2) Trinity College Dublin

Perhaps an obvious choice, but still one I definitely wanted to check out. One of the most iconic sights in Dublin City recreated as polygons. For a semi-nerd such as myself, this was an opportunity I wanted to take.

When I teleported to Trinity, the first thing I noticed hit my like a ton of brick: there was literally no one else there. This really surprised me considering the supposed population density in Second Life. But once I got over the initial surprise, I was able to admire this stunningly accurate virtual representation of Trinity. From the archway at the entrance to the courtyard and surrounding buildings, it amazed me. I've seen games where places have been recreated to an extent. Racing games, historical games, even GTA to an extent. But this was my virtual character standing in the virtual version of a place I had been in real life. Perhaps that's not a big deal to any experienced user of Second Life, but to me, it was pretty crazy.

3) Freebie Island.

Yes, another obvious one. But this was the first shopping area I visited and this was something that had fascinated me. Areas like these were where people used their virtual characters to reflect what they wanted to be in real life. Perhaps that's a cynical, but that's how I saw it. It was just choosing nice clothes. You could do things to your hair that wouldn't be possible in the real world. Carry weapons. Alter any part of your body that you wanted. Let your counterpart be the you that was hiding below the surface.

But with so many choices in Freebie Island alone, how on earth do people decide what they want to look like? Between every appearance option in Second Life, there must be millions of combinations to try out. So when do you know that whatever you've chosen is what you really want to look like?

Although, maybe that's just my problem. I've never been great at making choices!

4) OZLAND Visiting Artist Exhibit

This was a place that had been recommended to me by someone in Fibbers. It was (as the name implies) an art exhibition where they have a different artist displaying their work every month. There are also musical performances and gatherings held frequently.

This place I thought was very cool as it shows people don't have to get into an art exhibition in the real world to display your work. There are many places in Second Life that will gladly let you show off your creative works. People can even buy and sell pieces. It gives much more freedom to artists than the real world. There's far less restrictions when it comes to schedules, locations and legal issues when you want to display your art. For all we know, this could be the future platform of art: online. It's already happened with music and gaming.

5) New Tokyo.

Because why the heck not?

I've always wanted to visit Japan. It's a place that just seems to exude energy and excitement. And let's be honest, I'm probably not going to be able to visit Japan for a few years yet, so why not do the next best thing and go to virtual Tokyo?

In my opinion, this is one of the best thing Second Life does for people. You can visit these places you've always wanted to visit but have never had the chance. I think that's a good enough reason for most people to have a Second Life account. If you're stuck inside on a cold wet day, why not go to California for a while?

Going wherever you want is something that never really enters your mind when you first sign up to Second Life. But when the reality of the amount of freedom you truly have inside this world hits you, it's something you grow a little bit addicted to.