Monday, 2 July 2007

Exploiting the social - Secondfest and education

One of the reasons I attended Secondfest this weekend was to see if it told us anything about using SL in education.

Let's ignore the scalability thing for a moment. We know that SL doesn't work well for big events (i.e. for large numbers of avatars)... but we also know that this will change over time. In a sense, SL hints at what might be possible, but we are waiting for the technology to catch up before we can properly realise it.

So, what else...

Well, a couple of thoughts have struck me since attending... firstly, there's the art reflecting life issue. Tents looked like tents, stages looked like stages, mud looked like mud... it was very nicely done, but there's no reason why it had to look like that other than because it makes people feel comfortable in their new environment. We see the same happening as people build educational spaces in SL. (Hey, I do it myself - my virtual wellies look, as near as I can make 'em, like RL wellies).

Secondly, ignoring the technical issues, the streaming of live bands (I dunno if they were actually live of course) felt somewhat flat. A RL gig is interactive, in the sense that the band engages with the audience in some way - this didn't happen (for me) at Secondfest. Somehow, some level of engagement needs to be achieved for this kind of environment to work well. The set needs to be modified in some way based on feedback from the audience. Exactly the same is true when a RL educational talk (a lecture or presentation) is streamed in-world - there needs to be some engagement mechanism between audience and presenter for it to really work well.

A couple of times I heard attendees say things like, "Why are we doing this in SL... it has no advantages over X technology?". Exactly the same questions get asked in educational events. At the symposium follow-up meeting someone asked a question along the lines of "who is simply looking at the chat log, and if so, why are we bothering to chat in SL?". The answer, it seems to me, is hard to spell out - but there is a reason why SL works better than plain chat. For me at least.

Finally, Secondfest didn't really exploit the social aspects of the online environment - there wasn't much that Secondfest did that couldn't have been done at a RL festival. Imagine for a moment what a LastFM tent would be like at a virtual festival, somehow (I don't quite know how) exploiting the collective tastes of those inside the tent. Imagine a DJ who had immediate access to information about the likes of the audience (I mean, apart from the kind of "This is shite" comment in the chat log!)? I don't quite know how this would work - but I think that there are interesting possibilities in this area.

I suspect that the same is true of education. To work well, education in SL has to exploit the social networking aspects of our online environment - probably using tools both in-world and out-world.

5 comments:

Paul said...

Andy (Art) I dropped into secondfest and just as quickly dropped out somewhat underwhelmed by the dodgy (technical) groove armada set I was lestening to. I would be very interersted in your theoretical thoughts regarding LAMS and MUVE I'm just reflecting on the challenges myself.

Keep up the posts Andy.

Peter Miller said...

Not sure I entirely agree. Firstly, some correspondence between RL and SL helps orientation. Secondly, naturally you watch the chat during a group meeting but the experience ain't the same as pure chat (for me anyway; maybe we need a controlled expt). Thirdly, I thought the combination of lighting, music, lag (!) and the "crowd" made SecondFest for me (shock horror, the DJ was pretty much secondary). I missed the "live "bands/PSB/video so can't comment there. Mind you, I wouldn't want to do it every week at my age...

Harrie said...

In relation to the music at Secondfest, I am not sure i entirely agree either...

It seems to me from reading this blog that the author nor the other comment posters made it as far as Chill Island where the SL acts were performing. The acts that do interact with the crowd as they know that is what helps create the feeling of audience interaction (they read the chat and react/respond etc.) One SL act have a penguin on stage with them, and even that 'talks' to the audience saying hello/goodbye to everyone and passing some comment everytime someone touches it! That is why Chill Island was packed to capacity all weekend.

Those that expected that level of interaction from the RL acts just in SL for their one set were setting themselves up for disappointment, virtual crowd interaction is never going to be the same as in RL. Also as most of the RL acts had especially recorded their sets for Secondfest that was kind of a dead give away that they were not performing live, unlike those over at the chill island stage.

Personally, i very much enjoyed Secondfest, but more because i knew what to expect and wasnt disappointed when PSB werent playing live etc.

Unlike peter there above me, well i wouldn't mind doing it every week SL or RL :)

Peter Miller said...

If you wanted to see me on Chill Island, you had to look up ...

Art Fossett said...

harrie,
thanks for the comments.

You are absolutely right, I didn't make it to Chill Island - or rather, I did, but only once right at the beginning of the weekend - so I didn't experience it properly.

Just to clarify... I too enjoyed Secondfest. I think (hope) that was clear from my first posting. Any implied criticism was only intended to be constructive.