Friday, 3 August 2007

The nonesense of SL?

I don't strongly disagree with anything Scott Wilson says about the relative value of properly understanding the social Web vs. Second Life but I'm not totally sure I see it as an either/or situation, which is what seems to be implied by phrases such as:
a serious understanding of social software, feeds, and learning 2.0 technology is harder to achieve than grokking SL, but I think its important to do this before looking into SL
Don't we need to investigate and understand both in parallel? My personal take on it is that our understanding of what, for want of a better term, I'll call Web 2.0 social tools is aided by, rather than hindered by, an understanding of SL.


Peter Miller said...

Art, I agree with you that the twin approaches are non-exclusive and, indeed, can beneficially be used in tandem. What I disagree with very strongly (and I've emailed Scott on this as well as blogging on the topic) is a significant opinion-former drawing conclusions, however tentative, based on an article about failed business strategies whose analysis is questioned by knowledgeable SL commentators. Meanwhile, the JISC, CETIS and, for that matter, ALT are virtually absent from SL in either a support or leadership role. Hmmm.

Peter Miller said...

I should add that I'm normally a great fan of Scott's blog and have a tremendous respect for his knowledge and insight. Not this time though.

Scott said...

Peter, I was just about to edit my post to link to the response on your blog, when my server fell over. Oh well.

I've been playing around in SL from quite early on, and have been paying a lot of attention to it (fairly quietly). I do this with a lot of emerging technology. I tend to apply the same approach to evaluating a technology - I use a combination of (1) technical, (2) education systems dynamics, (3) political and economic factors. I don't rely on this sort of article in Wired (I read lots of reports by engineers, typically), its just that in this case the reporter has articulated better than I can a few things which have been bugging me about SL activity, particularly public-funded projects.

Yes we do need people experimenting in new technologies, but when it comes to larger-scale funded work we want useful, well-informed experiments. Playing around individually is fine. I've done some of that myself in SL.

So why are CETIS not leading or supporting SL? Well, remember that SL is a product by one company. We don't support or lead on using BB either. However, Web 2.0 is a distributed approach supported by a range of standards, where we can offer something useful.

Now, there have been very serious discussions as to whether we need to offer specific facilitation of metaverses in general (not just SL), and whether there are any interventions we can make in opening up metaverse platforms. However we have to make a good business case for it as resources are limited. If you think there is something we should be doing, pop along to our strategy conference in November and put it forward. Or just blog it and email the URL to myself and I'll make sure our team know about it.

Peter Miller said...

Excellent, Scott. My faith in you is somewhat restored. Glad to hear that it isn't just SL that has technical issues too. ;-)

Your point about proprietary systems is well taken. However, I note that both Moodle and Bb are using SL as a test-bed and, given the level of public investment, I would say that SL is acquiring the status of a de facto standard, albeit not in quite the way you would define it. On that basis we can use SL to identify generic best practices that might subsequently be ported to other VWs, as well as highlighting the limitations of SL itself. Clearly this area is, as ever, a moving target but you cannot stand back indefinitely. John Kirriemuir is doing a useful job in terms of analysis of activity though I would wish that he had a broader remit to cover international as well as UK developments.

I'd really like to see your analysis under the three headings sometime. I wonder if there are other headings appropriate to SL though? I think the JISC could justify some activity there simply on the basis of its support for social networking (ditto Facebook, I guess) which is Web 2.0-ish.

Finally, the use of avatars obscures the fact that many of the luminaries of SL are, in fact, UK-based. While the trans-national dimension of SL is one of its delights, we also need to foster a culture of innovation and creativity in the UK. I am concerned that these talented people should not be discouraged by an analysis that ignored the episodic, event-driven nature of SL (and, typically, education as well).

Peter Miller said...

Strategy conference: when, where and how much?

Scott said...

Peter: November, Aston, Free.

(I've put your name on the list - its an invite conf)

Peter Miller said...

Thanks, Scott. It'll depend a lot on teaching commitments but I'm keen to continue this discussion in some fashion.

Nick Noakes said...

scott comments "... when it comes to larger-scale funded work we want useful, well-informed experiments."

Certainly agree but I guess applying that to Second Life depends a little on how transferable the people submitting the funding proposal believe the outcomes are likely to be and how strongly they can make that case.

I commit time to Second Life right now because a) I do believe these will become part of our educational mix and b) I feel I am learning / abstracting what some of the affordances and challenges are in terms of teaching and learning. Although, I still feel very much the novice with it all and really wish there was funding here in Hong Kong for something this.

Peter Miller said...

Worth mentioning that Coke has now disclaimed some of the conclusions of the Wired article based on their activities in SL.