A big thanks to Feldpsar Epstein for attending the real-world AVWW event last weekend. What follows are some of the highlights from her perspective. We’d also love to hear your thoughts.
The Australian Virtual Worlds Workshop, Friday 28 November and Saturday 29 November 2008, held at Swinburne University, Hawthorn Campus, was a bit of a mixed bag. I present here some of my favourite take-away notions.
Presence in Virtual Worlds
The presence afforded by virtual worlds of many flavours can put conference and class participants on a more equal footing, where each individual has access to the event in the same way, i.e. through a common virtual world. Unlike video or phone events, where some people are present physically, and others are present through a technological medium, virtual worlds create a more compelling atmosphere, since each person has an equal presence.
Investing in understanding
It makes sense for educational institutions to make use of contractors and ‘experts’, especially where that knowledge or those skills are lacking amongst the faculty. However, it’s important also that the faculty invest some time and effort into expanding their own knowledge to the point that they understand what they are asking the contractors to do. There is little point in asking for the impossible and then feeling disappointed or cheated when it cannot be done.
Students are not just consumers of education
Students at all levels need to have input into their own education. It is important that students collaborate with and mentor not just each other, but also the faculty. This kind of education goes on in the real world all the time; failure to support it in virtual environments represents diminished opportunity for students.
VastPark – vast possibilities, simplicity in action
Vast Park is a virtual worlds platform being developed in Australia. The standards are open (as in Open Source), as is the code, to a large extent, except for pieces such as the renderer; these closed-source pieces have been introduced to cut down on the amount of work needed to be put into technologies that already exist and need not be duplicated. The Immersive Media Markup Language (IMML) was conceived with this notion in mind – “A deaf person must be able to communicate with a blind person.” This means, in essence, that rich, complex environments can be described simply, and that there is a vast range of accessibility options available.
“VastPark” is the name of the technology behind the virtual worlds that other people will create.
Hedonic Consumption Behaviours
Hedonic behaviours account for approximately 51% of intentions to use virtual worlds, making enjoyment the most significant predictor of usage.