Saturday, 14 June 2008

Playing with OpenSim

I'm on the advisory group for the JISC Open Habitat project which is doing interesting things with groups of art & design and philosophy students in Second Life. We met up briefly the other day and, amongst other things, discussed the experimentation they have been doing with OpenSim.

In short, they've been using a dedicated instance of OpenSim as a 'safe' place to introduce a group of art & design students to the basic concepts of virtual worlds like Second Life - 'safe' in the sense of it being a sandbox area, with no-one else around.

Having got students familiar with the basic concepts - moving, flying, chat, simple building, etc. - they then gave them a paper exercise to help them choose their SL avatar name. The exercise involved thinking about the choice of second names available from LL, choosing one, finding out where it came from, then prefixing it with a first name of their own choosing.

The idea, I think, is that this added investment into the choice of name encourages the students to identify more closely with their avatar.

Only at that point did they let students anywhere near the real Second Life registration pages and orientation experience.

As far as I could tell this process seems to have worked quite well - at least for that group of art & design students. Of course, it is likely that art & design students are not typical of students more generally.

Inspired by the work of the project, I thought I'd have a quick play with OpenSim on my home PC. It's very easy to get up and running and works with the standard Second Life client (with a few run-time arguments). Here's a picture of a "ruthed" Art Fossett on my very own sim.

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