Wednesday, 21 December 2011

my contribution to the second life production

unfortunatley I missed the class where we came with the idea as to what we should do for the group project preformance, which I regret in the extreme as I was not a part of the descion process, which I will explain in greater detail later in this blog.

so basically I was informed via Efa and Mike that we would doing a play based on a poem that Mike had wrote. This didn't sound like too bad an idea at the time to mean and I felt I didn't really have a leg to stand on disagreeing with this descion seeeing as the rest of the group had agreed to do it. So I asked Mike what would be required of me for the play. He informed me that there were three main roles and that they were all casted and that I would function with the rest of the group as an extra.

Mike and Efa then went on to record the audio, which they said they would stream into second life for the play as they were informed by the second life dj elfay that this would be a better idea than doing a live preformance. So I did ask again what exactly would be required of me an extra for the preformance but I didnt really get any anwsers. This was frustrating, anyone I was talking to who was an extra seemed to have pretty much the same knowlege of what to do as i did, little to none apart the face we were supposed to dance.

So the audio was recorded and it was time for the show, I invited my online friend Trill Zapaterto to watch, to be totally honest I dont know what would have happened if efa had of got the audio working. Thankfully in some ways it didnt work and we got an extension. Efa I know from classs manages a job with college with crazy hours and she explained that she would be able to manage the audio for the rescheudled date.

so i volunrterred to do it i posted a few times on the facebook page about rehearsals and downloaded winamp and shoutcast in order to peopl able to stream the audio onto sl, i got alot of help from dublin creator hamrambler who was easy to work with and ask questions, i also got help from howya and sandra testing out the audio in the ampitheatre

Monday, 19 December 2011

the importance of rules in online communities

Since I've started in this module the importance of rules and etiquette in online communities has become aparant even in my own limited experience. This history of online etiquette seems to be around since the very birth of the chatroom, with people being booted off a server for writing all caps, (shouting). As would be the case in second life if the owner of whosever land didnt take kindly to shouting they could exit you from their property. While theese things may be more manners, their importance lies in the fact that due to the nature of the internet, rules and etiquette being followed make sure that whatever online experience your trying to enjoy, that it doesn't turn out to be a total mess.

Particularly in the case of second life, which since it is a fictional, virtual world it requires its users to use its capabilities " properly". Take for instance my experience with Trill Zapatero of the four bridges project. Trill told me that the group was facing problems, since the group was open to anyone, due it's humanitarian nature, anyone could create a build of any size in the site. This resulted in some people taking total advantage and creating very large builds that cause lagging within the four bridges complex. So really, the heads of the project have a catch 22 between having a free and open medium for anyone to enjoy, that was bveing slowly hampered by people abusing that system, so the free and open medium would be lost if the bridges project started excluding people creating large builds or being more selective about who is allowed to be a member of the project.

So that would be where the importance of etiquette comes in because there is no offical rule, where rules come in are in places like wikipedia. Wikipedia awhile ago got rid of the trivia section at the end of it's articles through some descion that they weren't appropriate for an encyclopedia, so that became a rule. This rule was followed and it is extremely difficult to see any article on wikipedia that hasn't been " cleaned up" by this rule. So the importance of this rule was protect the "integrity" of the online encyclopedia, so it didn't become just like any of the other million online enclyopedias out there. If there were no rules, wikipedia is just the knid of website that could degenerate into total mess.

A good example of how not to enforce any rules and completely ruin your website would be the formally popular social networking website bebo. Looking back on bebo it's hard to imagine a website where the same things could of been possible that went on there, anybody no matter who they were could comment on anything anyone else had on their page regardless of friendship status, bebo had multiple sex groups and groups where members could advertise their msn adresses and there was no limit to the amount of friends someone could have. All theese things are much better controled on facebook and twitter, which seem to have the poetential to be around alot longer than bebo as long as one doesn't over take the other. So bascially rules ensure that online communties do not become a total messes.

my reaction to Axel Burn's lecture

Mr. Burns seems to very adamant that it is not accurate enough to use the word "prosumer" to describe the hordes of people online nowadays that both contribute and use content on websites such as wikipedia and envoirments such as second life, and to be totally honest I must agree with this view. The fact is that a " prosumer" as you would have it is simply to broad a term and also more importantly we are all deffinatley not prosumers. To take wikipedia for example, the online content there relies entirely on user submissions, but there are high ranking contributors who create thousands, possibly millions of articles (through editing and flagging). Theese are the people who keep websites and online communties running, there is no such thing as of yet of a true uptopian website where are content is user created in a form of free media by all users. It is not neccessary to contribute to either wikipedia or second life in order to use or enjoy their content and diehards of internet are still keeping the ship of wikipedia above water really. I found it very interesting that Burns was talking about a total rethinking of the tradditional chain of commerce manufactorer-distributor-consumer this is the chain of commands that we are told from the time we are children, but increasingly the lines are becoming more and more blurred. I think that overall it's premature to say that we are living in the age of the prosumer, it's certainly good theory on the way things are heading since the global downturn but theese blurred lines I think will hurt the distrubutor more than anyone in future. We can already see rise of cheap alternatives to tradditional distrubitors such as supermarkets in the food sector such as lidl, aldi and tesco as opposed to superquinn, dunnes and marks and spencer. The very same companies that once apoun a time caused the part downfall of the local shop as the main means of distribution for the local community. So my main thought really is that the distributor will either have to change drastically or die in the near future. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

making connections in second life

For this weeks blog I was asked to go out in second life and make contact with two diffferent people in an area of interest to me. I decided that this area would be the arts. I searched the second life home page to find out what sort of events, meeting places and destinations were available to best meet people as I was sick of going to places in second life and there being no one there. On the homepage I first found the alemzi gallery, this was on the top of the list of places under the heading of art so it was the newest, I was disapointed by this location, not because the art was poor, alot of it I was impressed by aswell as the overall design of the gallery but there was absoloutley no one there. I returned to the homepage and search for somewhere with a bit more promise.

This is when I came across the Zinn centre, the Zinn centre was a lot more impressive looking than the alemzi and at first there was no one around or so it seemed. I decided to take a chance and mail one of the creators of one of the "builds" as they are called in SL. Trill Zapatero, Trill replied to me almost insatntly when I told her I was an art student and I wanted to learn more about the Zinn centre. She told me she could meet me at the Zinn in 45 minutes so I decided to kill the time by looking around the Zinn. This is when I took advanttage the people tab and looked for nearby people. there seemed to be a pocket of people gathered at the southern part of the island that the Zinn was on so I teleported myself there. This was a part of the centre called " the speakeasy" a poetry and music club for avatars. There was a stage  where you could go up and recite poetry and litrature. after waiting around here I seen that Trill had arrived.

I have to take this oppurtunity to thank Trill for her paietence with me and my unrelaible internet connection, my browser logged me out of second life twice but she still stuck around until I got it together. I started of by asking Trill about the Zinn centre in general. The zinn centre is a part of the four bridges project, the four bridges project was set up by Millay Freschi with Trill Zapatero, both are graduates of the university of Maine. With Trill studying print and painting. The other important person involved with the project is David Wiley who is the online co-ordinator for the organisation Veterans for peace. Activism and art are the outlets of expression for the Zinn. Anyone can join the four bridges project, which i was told was becoming an issue regarding people make exceptionally large "builds" in the centre which causes lagging which could be stopped if there were better criteria for membership but this would sacrifice the four bridges project's free and open medium ( and free and open nature) so its a catch 22.

so it was after some discussion that Trill took me out to see some art seeing as that was more of my interest more so than activism. First Trill brought me to the online gallery of the unviersity of Arizona,which had an amazing anuimation of a painting that opens up and turns into a gateway into the rest of the exhibit. Next Trill brought me to a very impressive build that was her own work called the grail quest. The grail quest is a quite a large build that the viewer must journey through and interact with in order to experience the piece. The grail quest starts out in a cave where there is a mirror and when you touch it your avatar can look at itself, next you journey to a large grail shaped pillar that supports the rest of the parts of the peice.

Zapatero comobines a number of very interesting influences that combine together suprisingly well such as street art, medival art and tarot card art. The search for grail is not literal and this piece is not based on any kind of roleplaying fantasy game, the piece is about the pursuit of false grails such as money, and the hazards of such pursuits such as war and greed. each part of the piece has a floating tarot card to signify what part of the quest the viewer is travelling through. There are numerous interactive builds that are a part of the piece such as a " game of the wealthy" and objects that when touched say quotes from people such as Willam Shakespehere. The quest also brings the viewer through different stages such as death and judgement. Once one travels through death and judgement they reach the centre of the pillar which contains the garden. The garden is full of books that have animations of words and numbers flying out of them this represents knowlege being the only true path to the grail. In the garden there is a well, when the viewer steps into the well they fall down into a path made of stepping stones in the vast surroundings of the universe, its a very impressive part of the piece, at the end of the path there is a door that leads into a room that is completely white with a grail in the centre of the floor when your avatar touches the grail it reveals that the grail is filled with water which shows your avatars reflection so the piece comes full circle from the beginning. The message being that the only true grail is the search with for inner hapiness through knowlege of the world and oneself. Interestingly my avatar was missing it's head at the time so mabye i got a mixed message when looking at my reflection in the grail, which was mixed up even more seeing as Zapatero was standing behind me at such an angle that her head appeared to be on my body whcih raises alot more interesting questions :) .

Trill was a joy to work with and had amazing paietence for me getting myself stuck in bushes and "spazing out" she also offered to show me alot more art on second life and to help me to get in touch with more artists on SL i would consider her to be a very valuable connection on SL due to her willingness to teach those of us who are new to the experience.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Destination reviews

These are my reviews of five different locations in second life, going around and exploring second life with others and on my own was great way to really get to know the environment  and to further formulate my opinions on second life in general.


So working in chronological order, the first place I will review is Dublin, Dublin was the first place I ever went in second life, I was not officially a member of the class at this time I merely decided to check it out because I was being told about it by a friend of mine Sandra who was in class.  My first impressions of second life were ones of amusement, I decided to make my avatar a dog, rather than make an avatar that resembled myself because I was sceptical of the online world and I wanted it to be clear to any strangers that I met online that I wasn’t taking myself too seriously . My Impressions of Dublin were positive to begin with, I recall seeing the virtual Brown Thomas on the virtual Grafton street, with its red brick tiles and the black pillars at the end of it just like the real Grafton street. I appreciated this attention to detail. I recall walking into buildings like coffee shops and bars and noting that everything had a an author, so everything was designed by users of second life which is quite cool in  my opinion. What I didn’t like as much was the annoying streamed music that was constantly played through my computer while navigating around Dublin, I took way too long for me to learn how to turn this off, this is definitely most annoying thing for me in second life.

     So after a while of roaming around on my own I communicated to Sandra over facebook to somehow get me in touch with her in second life, from the tutorial “level” that everybody has to do when they create a new second life profile I knew that I could get around by either walking, flying or teleporting. So Sandra informed me that the class was nearly over but that Acuppatae was looking for more people so she posted a link that was her current address within second life to facebook chat. For whatever reason this link did not work, so I looked at the address she gave me and seen that it was in Dublin 3 so I simply typed Dublin 3 into the address bar and teleported to there. Now, unfortunately I found that I was under water! I was under Dublin and roamed around trying to get back to the surface for a good 15 minutes, which seeing as second life doesn’t have the world’s best navigation tools was very agitating.

Eventually I gave up and just teleported the starting location in Dublin and flew around until seen the blarney stone pub where I found Sandra, the class had by this time ended but we had fun messing around in virtual Dublin, I my experience with Dublin and second life in general there has been no comparison between the enjoyment I get out it when I’m online with friends I know in real life and when I’m talking to virtual randomers online. Dublin I found was a good place to do this. I also managed to make a virtual faux pas in the Blarney stone, this was my first experience on second life and as I mentioned earlier in my blog I was weary of strange people online to say the least, so when I was asked by a (supposedly, you never know) female avatar “ do want a bone?” I replied “ not right now…” and walked off I then saw that so and so had just thrown me a treat which they then took back when they seen my comment I quickly left the pub.

So Dublin overall I found a fun place to be when with friends, part of the appeal of this is because there’s not really anyone there, so you and your friends have the place to yourself basically. When I have been on my own there I found that I can go for ages with out evening seeing another avatar, I kind of get the impression that Dublin in second life is a bit of virtual ghost town, like it used to be a lot busier then it is currently? This works in mostly in Dublin’s favour for me, a bit more randomness and life would be welcome although. My next location however has the exact opposite problem


I attended my first official class as a member the following week, which I enjoyed and I knew just over half the class in real life aswell. So naturally when our lecturer tae suggested that we go off and explore the different locations of second life after class we minced around Dublin for a while (me and Sandra even seen a jellyfish) before venturing further afield to the virtual London town. I went to London with Chris (puffydragon) and Sandra. London much like Dublin had an impressive attention to detail but in total contrast to Dublin there was hundreds of avatars there. After a bit of wandering around me and Chris settled in these giant doughnuts in picadilly square we sat and attempted to chat to randomers to get to know second life better. This however was not a very fruitful process because of the sheer amount of people there it was almost impossible to hold a conversation with anyone apart from Chris who I already knew anyway. There were a few scattered pieces of conversation between myself and others but nothing of note. So overall I found that the virtual London was not my scene.

New York

The next place that I went was New York, I travelled here on my own. New York was actually the most visually stunning place I had been so far compared to Dublin and London. It had the cool yellow taxi’s and even had an animation of newspapers blowing in the wind in the middle of the street. It had open car showrooms with amazing looking animations of souped up cars. New york also had a memorial to the victims of 9/11, curiously the memorial had rules to follow the main two being “ no weapons and keep your clothes on.” I was not aware that either of these things were possible in second life before seeing this sign, maybe its something that I will explore later.

New york however despite it’s design was actually my least favourite out of the three I had been so far because there was actually absolutely no one there. It was annoying the amount of people in London but it was fair enough compared to the ghost town that New York was.

New berlin

I visited new berlin and mainly hung around the ghq which was a hotspot for newcomers to second life, most of the people there were speaking german but there was also a fair few English speakers I seen two goth avatars hugging and dancing with each other which kinda creeped me out considering those two people could be anyone, ANYONE. This place was much like London only a lot less visually stunning. It was bland and boring and worse for holding conversations. Was not a fan of this place.

Triumph Island

The last place I visited for this review was Triumph Island, the only on Triumph Island is a club called “ crimson cabaret “ this seemed to be a twilight themed club that was under construction, like most places I’ve been in second life there was no one there and there was even less to do in this place. The only thing I actually like about Triumph was that there was this little train that drove around the island of it’s own free will that looked like a packet of refresher mints. I didn’t dig the whole vampire theme of the club and the gaudy interior. If you’re a fan of vampires and twilight and the like maybe this place would be interesting when it’s finished but I just found that it wasn’t for me.

So overall I found that Dublin was probably the place that I liked the most on second life. That’s not to say that I’m in love with it and that I would hang out there outside of class time or class assignments but I found it the most balanced place. As in there was people there but not too many and there wasn’t any overall weird theme that I was aware of.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

discusson on branding

In class we discussed the issue of branding, in particular in relation to the online world. There are brands availble in second life of course, just like in the real world since everything on second life is user created and usually tagged by who did it. So part of this is about recognition but it's also about building a brand, displaying skill and possibly gathering clout within the online community. So in other words it's Exactly like the real world.

So what are the benefits of building a brand? On a business level, in my opinion the most important benefactor of having a brand is gathering consumer loyalty. When you get a name for yourself, projecting qaulity and relaiblitiy onto that name is of unlimited importance, and it has many different levels, think of Nike, Addidas and Puma they may not be the classiest brands, but there is a big difference between wearing a tracksuit with their logo sticthed onto it and wearing one without. So even at the level of leisure wear these names reassure qaulity and a certain style to their wearers. The names Versace, Calvin Klein and Dolce and Gabbana provide the same function just on a different level of percived qaulity to their wearers. They trust the brand, everyone knows what it is and what it represents so this in turn causes consumer loyalty.

In class we also discussed the idea of the " prosumer " a term coined recently to decribe, well, everyone I guess since the global downturn. We can no longer just consume and survive we must produce and consume in eqaul measure in order to move forward. The money people would have dropped on clothes, jewellery, handbags and acessories just a few years ago now seems childish, ignorant and wasteful, while at the time it was viewed as possibly eccentric and amusing. The world has changed, even in the music industry the idea of flashing about and flaunting your wealth has been petering out more and more for mainstream artists so they can build a more accessable, realistic brand for themselves to appeal to the masses that consume their music. So in favour of a more stripped back approach, nowadays people seem valuecentric rather than qaulitycentric.

After studying Richard Gillis' article on personal branding for the irish times I have to a few of my own personal opioinons on the subject, firstly I agree one hundred percent that people control the content that is represented about them on social networking websites such as facebook and twitter. Linking people to certain videos from your page, using certain language in status updates or tweets, untagging yourself from certain pictures that you dont feel represent your " cool" image. All classic symptoms of controling your own personal brand but my second point is how new is that really?

People have been controlling their own personal brands for years, in the clothes they wear, the way they talk, the people they can be seen with, the clothes they don't wear, the way they don't talk, the people they can't be seen with. The online world just seems to be another arena for this sort of behaviour and on some level we all do it but will I admit that this sort of behavoir is amplified by the internet in the cases of the individuals who strenuosly control their image (we all know at least one).

So personal branding in my opinion is really just as annoying and shallow as it's always been, it's just easier to recognise and "unfollow" thanks to the internet.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

preconceptions and first impressions of second life

Hello again, I think that now would be a good time to tell you about my preconceptions and first impressions of using second life. I've been aware of second life for some years now but never had the desire to use it for myself of even to check it out. Before using it I was only aware vaguely of what exactly it was through what I had heard from other people here and there and from references from various TV shows in online content.

I was also aware of second life, (as most people are with regards to online environments that they have never experienced or know little about) through shocking stories of abusing the format, such stories of men posing as women online, sexual predators luring their victims through second life, people creating expansion files so their avatars can have sexual relations and the case of a woman who sued a man for using his avatar for raping her avatar.(1)

This seems to be the case with most online communities that we hear the negative things about them rather than the positive and these stories did help shape my preconceptions of second life before entering into it but although I knew of these things I didn't go in completely disgusted or dead set against SL I did keep an open mind.

My first impressions of second life were ones of amusement, when I had initially heard of the virtual environments module it struck me as being something that just wasn't for me but from hearing from my friends who were in the class it started to sound more and more appealing and I decided to try it out if for anything else just to have a laugh with my friends. In keeping with this idea I decided not to make my avatar resemble myself or make it a human being at all for that matter my avatar was and still is a dog. I think this helped me to feel relaxed and enjoy the experience and put to bed any reservations I had about being on SL since my avatar was a dog it kind of showed in some way that I wasn't using SL to forge a " second life" for myself. 

My first impressions of the environment there on were quite positive I went to Dublin and noticed the streaming music and also the near total lack of other avatars other then myself. I will admit that I am impressed by the fact that everything in SL is designed by members and some of the attention to detail is amazing. Dublin in a way struck me as a bit of a ghost town perhaps, possibly there used to be a lot more "life" there than there is now considering the amount of content there compared to the amount of avatars.  So when I did meet up with friends in second life I found the experience very enjoyable and amusing, I did do some traveling on my own to other destinations such as London but found strangers a lot harder to gauge and the sheer amount of avatars out there made it very difficult to hold down a conversation which was not enjoyable.

so to conclude I found the design and idea of SL very impressive and very enjoyable when amongst friends whom I knew from the real world but then again what place isn't enjoyable when you bring enough of your friends...... I think that I want to experience more of what second life has to offer on my own so I can formulate a proper opinion on it.

:) Keith