Is Linden Lab up to the job of keeping younger teens safe in Second Life?

In some ways the decisions surrounding Linden Lab’s closure of Teen Second Life, and the plans for its teen users represent an almost perfect microcosm of Linden Lab process.

There’s the decision to close Teen Second Life, apparently made without consulting with … well, anybody at all. As a part of this, older teens (16-17 years old) will be migrated to the adult grid along with their elders, but under some restrictions that remain a secret at present, despite now being just a few weeks away.

There’s the much better decision to allow younger teens (13-15) to be allowed a form of restricted access to Second Life, in order for a number of worthy education, community and support programmes to continue. A decision which appears to have been grudgingly granted at the behest of programme providers, and which doubtless would have surfaced originally, if they had only been consulted.

Now it remains to be seen if Linden Lab can carry this off. A mix of teens and adults in Second Life can be a potentially volatile mix from a public-relations and media perspective. Reducing the risk of potential scandal will require the utmost care and attention-to-detail from Linden Lab as they prepare to migrate users.

Fortunately, most of the code required for younger teen users appears to already be a part of the grid systems, and has been mostly successful at keeping Teen Second Life and Second Life largely isolated from each-other so far. There’s certainly some expressing doubts that Linden Lab will be able to competently meet the challenge, as many feel that those levels of care and quality-assurance exceed the organisation’s capabilities.

The plan with younger teens is to restrict them to the estates of a sponsoring organisation or programme. Each of the younger 13-15yo teens will be signed on with a particular group, and allowed no access beyond that group. Adult members of the organisation will keep estate-controls tight, allowing only approved and authorised adults access. Additionally, younger teen accounts would not have access to the new Second Life marketplace on the Web.

Now, that’s good, but clearly it isn’t enough. Teens in Teen Second Life have thus far had much greater protections than this, being protected from messaging by adult accounts who weren’t currently logged into the teen estate (a very limited privilege), and unable to be sent content by adult accounts from outside of the teen estate.

Under the new system, adult accounts in the sponsoring group would clearly be able to bring content into the sponsoring estate from the broader grid of Second Life, or (while in the estate) give content to or instant-message a younger-teen account in their sponsored group. These are fine. What about instant-messages or inventory transfers from adult accounts outside of the sponsored estate, however?

If those were to be permitted, any teen could be sent prurient account or sexually harassed by any adult or prankster with a throwaway account who wished to do so. That’s a media scandal in the making right there, and there’s certainly a minority of people in the world who would choose just such tactics to cause one.

As I said, of course, the code exists now to prevent this inappropriate crossing of estate boundaries with respect to contact with younger-teens, if it is appropriately planned, carefully adapted and diligently tested, and if Linden Lab has even thought to do so.

The question is, is Linden Lab up to the job of keeping younger teens safe in Second Life?

Update (Lowell): On top of the Teen grid decision, Linden Lab have now announced a cessation of discounted pricing for educators purchasing full regions on the main grid. It’s hard to see a result other than less nuanced education projects as pricing forces them to Homestead and Open Space regions. More on this later.

Body image study: last chance for participation

Back in January we promoted a study being undertaken by Doctorate student Jon-Paul Cacioli on body image in virtual worlds (the study participants need to be aged 18 or over and be male). Click here for the survey link

The response over recent months has been good be Jon-Paul needs a few more people to take part in the survey:

We have introduced an amazon gift voucher of $100 which will be randomly drawn from all participants who entered after data analysis is complete. If individuals have already entered prior to the prize they can email me at and I will add them to the draw.

Thanks for your help

So why not jump in and assist in developing the body of knowledge in an area we all know fairly well – the results could be interesting to say the least.

An endless map

It’s safe to say that one of the most discussed areas of virtual environments is the link between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’. Like any philosophical debate, there’s a minefield of perspectives, preconceptions, research and outright conflict. So to attempt an objective discussion on ‘mapping’ the parallels between the two spheres is quite an undertaking, and that’s what Dmitri Williams has done.

I’ve spent the past six weeks digesting Williams’ lengthy piece titled The mapping principle, and a research framework for virtual worlds. Attempting to summarise the whole is nearly pointless and I’d strongly recommend taking the time to read the whole paper, as it addresses some key issues that are far from resolved.

What’s particularly appealing to me with the paper is its direct dissection of some of the hyperbole around the validity of mapping the real to the virtual, and the commitment to a research framework that may help drive some higher quality research into the future. The framework amongst other things recognises a key issue in virtual worlds research – comparing like with like:

Therefore a strong assumption of this framework is that we cannot automatically treat virtual worlds as equivalent to one another. The reasons for this lie in the concepts of code and social architecture… behavior in virtual spaces is governed by software as much as by laws, markets or social norms. In real space we take it for granted that we can walk but not fly, or talk with people who are in hearing distance. These abilities and limitations are not safe to assume in virtual spaces where the affordances and limitations of human actions and interactions are whatever the code says they are. Indeed, they may all be flipped. Code may also control who can interact with whom, when and how.

To the seasoned virtual worlds observer this may seem self-evident, but the development of well thought out research frameworks assists those for whom virtual environments are a subject for investigation and more specifically those who have no significant experience with virtual worlds but recognise their value for expanding knowledge. As Williams says: “the field of virtual worlds research is poised to take off”, and work like this is going to help ensure the momentum has some sort of guidance system.

It’s also worth spending some time sifting through the comments on the paper’s blog post on Terra Nova, as there’s some significant commentary and debate on the paper and related issues.

Over to you: if you’re interested in virtual worlds research, do you see the fleshing out of the mapping concept a worthwhile pursuit?

Educators and Second Life: local research

Between August 2009 and February this year, Holmesglen’s Kenneth Rankin (SL: Ken001 Silverfall) undertook some research in Second Life as part of his Master of Education studies at the University of Southern Queensland.

It’s a fascinating snapshot on the state of play in regards to educators and Second Life, and includes some substantive recommendations for the future that may generate some debate. More on that later, but first the data:

Research context

After reading some of the results, I took the opportunity of contacting Kenneth, to ask him for some background and clarification of specific results:

TMJ: When was the research undertaken, with whom was it conducted, what was the sample size and the overarching research methodology?


· Data was collected during Nov 2009 via a web based questionnaire on SurveyMonkey.
· 79 persons responded, but 14 did not fully complete the survey. Analysis was conducted on data collected from 65 persons.
· The survey was undertaken only by educators who had at least one avatar in Second Life.
· Background: The technology adoption cycle, described by Rogers, shows the adoption of technology in various phases of adopters. First are the Innovators, then the Early Adopters, the Early Majority, the Late majority and finally the Laggards. Most technologies will enter mainstream use only if they can cross ‘the chasm’ between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority. Second life has been predicted to remain in the Early Adopters phase until 2013 when it is expected transition into the Early Majority phase.
· The main question to be answered by this research was “what can be learned from the experiences of the Second Life Early Adopters to facilitate the move into the Early Majority phase?”
· The topic was: “The collection and analysis of avatar experiences in order to provide conduct and appearance guidelines for educators adopting Second Life”.
· The research was a cross-sectional, qualitative, non-experimental design. The survey consisted of 29 questions with a mix of open and closed questions.

TMJ: Were there any results that surprised you?


· 38% of educators have no real-world code of conduct.
· 74% of educators have no real-world appearance code.
· The main reason to lose the ‘newbie’ look was originally thought to be as a deterrent to ‘griefers’. It was found that people lose the ‘newbie’ look in order to increase credibility and to display experience.
· Female avatars appear to be the target of more griefing incidents than males and are specifically targeted for sexual griefing. 17 males reported 6 non-sexual incidents and zero sexual incidents (35%), while 48 females reported 23 non-sexual incidents and 9 sexual incidents (66%). This was a surprise in an environment that was expected to be female friendly and gender neutral.

The full results

· The respondents were 74% female, average age just over 47, mainly from Nth America (54%) then Asia/Pacific (31%) and Europe (15%)
· Highly experienced group with more than half having over 3 years of Second life experience.
70% of educators use multiple avatars (accounts).

Recommendation: Educators should aim to have a single purpose for each of their avatars. The most common singularity of purpose is to provide for a private avatar and a professional avatar.

62% of employers provide a real-world code of conduct (CoC)  for employees

23% of employers have extended their RW CoC into SL

6% of employers have an SL CoC

43% of employees believe that a CoC is required in SL and 43% believe that it is not required.

26% of employers provide a real-world appearance code for employees

6% of employers have extended that RW AC into SL

5% of employers have an SL AC

8% of employees believe that an SL AC is required and 89% believe that it is not required.

Recommendation: The Early Majority will look for greater structure and guidance in SL than that required by the Early Adopters. A CoC and an AC should be considered as facilitation factors to assist more educators to adopt SL.

Recommendation: Educators should not be dissuaded from the adoption of alternative forms and appearances for their avatar. Appearance, however, does need to be appropriate for the educational context, especially when representing an organisation.

Recommendation: Each avatar should have in their inventory, a collection of appearances or outfits that are appropriate to their range of educational contexts and functions.

89% of respondents chose human form in Second Life

6% represent themselves in the opposite gender.

44% have some form of name relationship with their avatar

79% have some form of appearance relationship with their avatar

Recommendation: Care should be exercised when selecting the name of the avatar at the account creation stage, as this is one of the few aspects of the avatar that cannot be changed later

66% of avatars have lost the newbie look within 1 month.

The main reason to lose the newbie look is to increase credibility and to display experience.

12% of avatar profiles provide enough information to identify the RW person

40% of avatar profiles provide enough information to identify the RW place of work

53% of avatar profiles provide enough information to identify the person’s RW position or role

Recommendation: Educators should exercise discretion with the information provided through the avatar’s profile. This information should be checked against the purpose of the avatar, the code of conduct and the privacy guidelines of the employer.

Of the critical incidents reported, 58% were of a positive nature and 38% were of a negative nature.

Recommendation: Educators need to be made aware of the ‘big 6’ SL community standards, the range of positive and negative incidents that can occur in SL and how to manage these incidents. Educators also need to be aware that griefing of a sexual nature does exist and appears to be specifically targeted at female avatars.


This research provides a great deal of insight into the educator demographic in Second Life. A lot of the results aren’t surprising, but as a whole they do provide some fascinating launch points for further discussion. So over to you: whether you’re an educator or not, what stands out for you in the results? Do you agree or disagree with the recommendations put forward?

A big thanks for Lindy McKeown for the heads-up.

Education and Second Life: the fear factor

The prolific machinima man, Draxtor Depres, has produced a concise but effective piece on education in Second Life.

Educators familiar with virtual environments will perhaps find this a useful advocacy tool when trying to get a point across in a short timeframe. Those totally new to the area may find it straightforward enough to be interested in finding out more.

It’s also timely given the 3rd Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education is running over the weekend.

There’s never any shortage of new and innovative work going on in regards to education, but the challenge remains in (dare I use a non-word) ‘mainstreaming’ these activities, and machinima is certainly one of the weapons in that arsenal.

Anyway, here it is:

Problem-based learning in Second Life: new resource

Another cross-pollination from sister-site Metaverse Health

A comprehensive new resource has been released by the UK’s University of Derby and Aston University, Titled Best Practices in Virtual Worlds Teaching: A guide to using problem-based learning in Second Life, this 40+ page publication covers a lot of ground in an easy to understand way. It’s available as a free download of a little over 6MB in PDF format.

The pivotal section for me is the one on making problem-based learning work in Second Life, with the succinct message being:

The possibilities for education within Second Life are limitless and one must be careful not to use this resource for the sake of it. Any teaching resources provided within Second Life must be embedded within traditional learning methods and fulfil a direct need within the course. Simply using Second Life for the sake of it will require time and effort from students and staff that is unwarranted and provides no additional benefit. There must be a direct applicable benefit to the material contained within Second Life, so purpose-driven use is advised rather than speculative-use.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the documentation of teaching methods in virtual environments continues to improve, and this document provides a superb overview for those new to the approach. From a health viewpoint, some good examples of Psychology projects undertaken in Second Life are given.

Thanks to Virtual World Watch for the heads-up

Body image and virtual worlds: call for study participants

Jon-Paul Cacioli is a Doctor of Clinical Psychology student at Deakin University, and he’s currently conducting a study on body image in virtual worlds. In his words:

“I am looking for participants, male and 18+ to complete a survey regarding both their real world and virtual world body images and psychological states.”

He needs 300 or so participants to take the survey. It’s a fairly intensive process, which takes around 15-20 minutes. If you have that time to give, then go make a contribution toward the increased understanding of how we perceive ourselves in the virtual and real worlds.

Link to the survey

Interview – Denise Wood, University of South Australia

unisa-oct2009-2-smlDenise Wood (SL: Denlee Wobbit) is Senior Lecturer in the Bachelor of Media Arts program at the University of South Australia and the Teaching and Portfolio Leader of the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages. As one of Australia’s many educators who are utilising virtual environments in their roles, I was aware of Denise’s work in regards to disabilities and accessibility, so I asked her to have a chat about her efforts to date in Second Life.

As you’ll see below, that discussion covered a number of areas in detail. It’s yet another example of the promising work being done by Australian educators. I was particularly struck by the growing level of collaboration between institutions, which is imperative for ongoing success.

If you’d like to see the University of South Australia’s Second Life presence for yourself, here’s where to go.

Lowell: To start off, can you give a little history of how you got involved with Second Life at first?

Denlee: Sure – We initially became involved out of interest in the possibilities that virtual worlds offer for experiential learning. As an educator in the field of media arts, I was interested in exploring possibilities for engaging students in problem solving activities within a flexible environment that facilitates collaborative learning activities. So we applied for a University of South Australia (UniSA) Teaching and Learning Grant initially to fund the purchase of the island and to maintain it for a year while we conducted trials with some identified courses. That grant was successful and that is how we initially funded purchase and upkeep of the UniSA island.

Once I was teaching in Second Life (SL) I became concerned at the issues for students with disabilities. As someone with many years experience working with people who have disabilities and as an educator teaching in a University that prides itself on access and equity that was a concern. So we applied to the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) for a grant to develop an open source environment to enhance accessibility in virtual worlds

Lowell: So how much experience with SL did you have prior to making the grant application i.e. was there a key event or experience that ‘turned the light on’ so to speak?

Denlee: I had very little experience in SL prior to applying for the grant. Most of my knowledge was based initially on review of the literature. I spent some time exploring SL prior to applying – and enrolled in building classes and so on, and of course visited education sims, but most came from reading case studies and my own knowledge of simulated learning environments.

Lowell: So how were those first days and weeks in SL for you – did you find it an incredible eye-opener for its opportunities or did it seem a natural extension for you on previous work you’d done?

Denlee: It was a wonderful experience – naturally a little overwhelming initially. Having applied for the grant and received the funding close to the end of the academic year was rather fortunate as it meant that I was able to spend many, many hours over the summer break immersed in SL – I was in SL every day – 7 days a week for about 6 weeks and really did become part of the community through that process. Knowing that we would be trialling courses the next semester was also great motivation to spend the time and make the commitment. I knew I would need to feel very confident myself before attempting to teach students in this environment. And attending building classes gave me the skills but also ideas about what works and what doesn’t in teaching in this context.

Lowell: Let’s talk about the first courses you taught involving SL – what were the educational objectives you were looking to achieve?

Denlee: I trialled two initially. One was a course focusing on games design so SL seemed a perfect environment for achieving the learning objectives relating to that course, which focused on problem solving, team work, collaboration and communication. Students (5 or 6 per team including external students) created immersive games using holodecks on sky platforms.

The other course was one in which students create online portfolios to market their design skills. They created Websites and built complementary portfolios (kiosks) in SL that linked to their websites. The aim was for the students to understand the changing nature of designing for electronic media and the relationship between Web design and the future potential of virtual worlds as an extension of that. What surprised me was that students at first seemed to enjoy the activities and they did some fabulous work, but they were not as positive about the learning experience as we had anticipated.

Lowell: What were the issues they seemed to be unhappy with?

Denlee: Some of the issues seemed to be about the platform (buggy issues and so on) but that didn’t explain it all. And when we really analysed the evaluation data it appeared to be related to their inability to see the connection between the learning activities and their future career aspirations. Many said they would prefer to have created the game in another platform like Flash or Director or another gaming platform. And some of the web design students said they couldn’t see the value as they didn’t believe the future predictions that 3D virtual worlds would become more popular for businesses and marketing.

Lowell: Did they perhaps see SL as less graphically appealing, so more like ‘work’ than play?

Denise-woodDenlee: Actually it was the reverse. Some saw it as inappropriate because it was too much like play – almost as if they had preconceived ideas about what is a valid or authentic learning environment.

Lowell: Ok that’s interesting! So are those courses still being taught in that context – has SL become part of the core work done given the mixed feedback?

Denlee: Well after that experience I was unsure of how to next proceed. But I decided to try again with a different course this semester, only this time I gave students the option of choosing to work with a “real client” in actual life or a client in SL. So in this course, students learn how to create accessible Web sites that are W3C compliant. They are required to work with a client organisation and either redesign an existing website or create a new site that meets very high standards in accessible design. Out of the 20 students in this course, 7 chose to work in SL and that course has proved very successful. The seven students meet with their clients in SL every week and attend a tutorial I facilitate in SL every Saturday. They are also working with disability groups in SL. And some of the tutes are conducted with Gentle Heron from Virtual Ability Island.

The difference – and this is the eye opener for me about virtual worlds – is that they are not focusing on the platform but using it as a conduit to engage on “real” work with “real” clients. What is particularly interesting is that in the previous trials we put enormous effort into running tutorials on how to use SL and we had mentors to help the students, yet they still complained it was hard to navigate and so on. However, in this class the students have had no training in SL at all – I left them to their own devices. They have taught themselves and helped each other. This has shown me that students will engage in learning activities when they are focusing on “real” world issues and not on the technology. The previous courses focused a lot on building in SL, and it appears that perhaps the students would have been more engaged in those courses if they had undertaken projects for clients and not focused so much on learning to build and script. In other words, problem solving can be more effective when students are focused on the project not the skills required to achieve the overall aim of the project.

Lowell: So let’s move over to your area of interest, accessibility. What specifically led you to that research area?

Denlee: I worked in the disability sector for many years prior to being appointed as an academic at UniSA. I was a researcher for an organisation that provides services for children with disabilities and then moved on and established a Govt funded organisation providing training in multimedia for young adults with disabilities. We provided contract work on multimedia projects to graduates of that program. While working in the field I was also actively involved with other organisations providing training in accessible web design. So when I came to UniSA it was only logical that I would want to redesign courses so that our students (future designers) would be equally skilled and committed to accessible Web design and I was able to progress my research at the same time.

Lowell: So did SL seem a natural progression for the work you;d been doing in that area?

Denlee: Yes, very much so. Many of the same principles apply – but we do need more creative solutions to tackle some of the challenges imposed by such highly graphical and multimedia rich environments. Once we received the ALTC funding, we embarked on ethnographic research with people in SL who identify as disabled. I leased an apartment on the Wheelies SIM and conducted many interviews from there. I was interested in identifying the benefits experienced by people with disabilities in virtual worlds as well as the accessibility challenges.

Lowell: Virtual environments are often touted as a boon for individuals with disabilities that may restrict some real world experiences. What’s the more objective view on the challenges and opportunities?

Denlee: The virtual communities provide a wonderful place for people with disabilities to socialise, gain information and for advocacy. The virtual environment also provides a place for people to experiment with identity and so they can choose to represent themselves as someone with a disability or not. It’s their choice – and those who choose not to appear “disabled” find they are more likely to be accepted for who they are, not judged by appearances. For those who are not able to get out of the house much, environments like SL provide a wonderful means for meeting others and also for providing the opportunity foe people in that situation to contribute to the virtual communities in SL. And what really fascinates me are the ways in which these communities have worked together to create their own solutions to some of the challenges.

Lowell: And on the other side of the coin, what are the accessibility challenges that stand out?

Denlee: Obviously SL is a very visual environment – so those with significant visual impairments find it difficult or impossible to navigate. Those who use screen readers for example, can’t access SL without assistive technologies in world as objects and inventory, and locations are not exposed to a screen reader. Then of course most multimedia is not captioned in SL. As voice has become more popular, the environment has become less accessible for those with hearing impairments when they are communicating with residents using voice and not text chat.

Lowell: So with these shortcomings, is there significant momentum toward solutions? And if so, is it primarily community driven or are Linden Lab actively driving some enhancements?

Denlee: Linden Lab has started to show greater interest of late because of the initiatives taken by residents themselves. A good example was the awareness raised by the Helen Keller Day event hosted by Virtual Helping Hands.

Lowell: What are some of the community driven activities that have inspired you?

Denlee: Well, groups like Virtual Ability Inc (VAI) who set up Virtual Ability Island, and of course Virtual Helping Hands and their virtual guide dog you see here. Wheelies and Cape Able (now owned by VAI) and the Health Support Coalition – all these groups show the power that comes when people who share common goals work together on solutions. What we are doing is building on that knowledge using the funding from ALTC to design an open source client that is accessible and can be used with SL and OpenSim. So we are working with these groups to ensure what we create is suitable and informed by their significant knowledge.

Lowell: Ok so how’s that progressing? Can you give a synopsis of key groups involved in its development?

Denlee: We are working with all the groups really – Virtual Ability, Virtual Helping Hands and members of Wheelies. Our contracted programmer is a member of VHH and we meet regularly with others from VHH as we proceed with design and development. We are also working with ReactionGrid, which is based on OpenSim, and they have provided us with four sims for our development work. They are very supportive of the importance of accessibility in virtual worlds.

Lowell: What does OpenSim offer that appeals in lieu of SL?

Denlee: The fact that it is open source. We can work with the open source community on solutions. Everything we do contributes to that open source community as well. We can work on the open source client when it comes to SL, but not at the server level, whereas we can tackle both with OpenSim. But, we are very mindful of the very large following of SL so we want to work at both levels since SL is still a wonderful conduit for linking people together given that large population base. The ideal solution is what I believe Linden Lab always envisaged, a grid with various virtual worlds linked together.

Lowell: Onto UniSA’s presence here – can you give an overview of what’s offered here and what any future plans are?

unisa-oct2009-1-smlDenlee: We will no doubt continue to maintain our UniSA island here – we are planning to trial using our island to facilitate career building – running careers fairs and so on. We are also undertaking research in the area of performing arts and hybrid performance. Intermediality – where actors on a “real life” stage perform with actors in SL.

Lowell: Is the UniSA presence a cross-faculty collaboration or predominantly your faculty?

Denlee: UniSA island is managed by me, but there are several other faculties (we call them Divisions), which plan to trial courses on our island including education and health sciences, and our computer science school also has a presence on SL. We are also doing collaborative work with many other universities. Our ALTC project is a collaboration involving UniSA as lead institution with Monash University, Edith Cowan University, the University of Sydney, RMIT and Flinders University, as well as the University of Sheffield in the UK. And we are also in communication with other Australian universities which have ALTC grants relating to this area.

Lowell: What’s your perspective on the Australian research momentum in relation to virtual worlds – are we leaders or followers?

Denlee: I think Australia is certainly undertaking significant research in this space – so definitely not just following the lead of international universities. We have a very strong presence in virtual worlds in both teaching and learning, and innovative research. Australia is certainly an important international player and making a significant contribution to the field. I think we will see that activity escalate in a short space of time as so many universities are now collaborating and sharing their expertise across many diverse disciplinary areas. A good example of the level of this activity is evident each year at the annual ASCILITE conference, which has attracted a rapidly increasing number of high quality research papers focusing on teaching and learning in virtual worlds.

Lowell: Do you feel there are solid collaborative structures in place to support the growing interest in a way that will be effective?

Denlee: We are seeing that happen I think at a number of levels. Firstly, the ALTC has funded quite a few projects relating to teaching and learning in virtual worlds so this is recognition of the importance of these environments. The ALTC requires universities to collaborate and so these projects bring together teams from universities across Australia. They also provide a mechanism for bringing projects together – so all that bodes very well for supporting collaboration. Also, we have seen a growth in interest in the informal networks recently established and AARNET is playing a major role in supporting collaboration among universities – it is well positioned to do so as the major internet service provider to universities across Australia. is becoming very active in this space as well and has shown great interest in working collaboratively with us.

Lowell: One area that seems to have a long way to go is public-private partnerships, including research. Do you think Australian business is being too hesitant or are there some structural issues more broadly that make collaborations like that difficult?

Denlee: Many of us are looking at the opportunities in that space and one obvious funding source that can assist research in this area is the Australian Research Council (ARC) through their linkage funding scheme. While the ARC does not fund teaching and learning projects, there is considerable interest from academics in undertaking high quality research relating to virtual worlds in partnership with industry groups, and I think you will see increasing uptake of research in this area in the foreseeable future.

Lowell: A final question. What are your plans over the coming 12-18 months?

Denlee: We will be continuing our research into accessibility solutions – that project is funded until the end of 2010. We will also be trialling careers fairs and industry engagement in the coming few months. I will be continuing to teach in SL focusing more on using SL as a platform for facilitating interaction between my students and clients via SL. We are furthering our research into mixed media performance in virtual worlds and we are currently working on a pilot project with the University of Adelaide focusing on entrepreneurship training in virtual worlds. I am working with Professor Noel Lindsay from the Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre at the University of Adelaide on that project.

Lowell: Any last words?

Denlee: I guess for me the most powerful thing about a virtual world like SL is that it provides a medium by which researchers, academics and students can come together to collaborate, undertake research and also for providing experiential learning opportunities for students within a global platform. The other significant aspect of this environment is the flexibility it affords for engaging people who might otherwise not be able to meet, whether due to disability, geographical location or other circumstances.

Check it out in-world

UWA: making everyone welcome

The UWA campus in SL

It began with a team from the University of Western Australia and Google SketchUp. Having won the Google “Build your Campus in 3D” competition, for which the team re-created some of the physical world’s campus buildings in SketchUp, it was but a short, logical step to want to bring those same buildings into Second Life, and create the campus in a more detailed fashion. SketchLife is the product of a UWA student – SketchLife realises SketchUp models as prim-based builds in Second Life.

Jayjay Zifanwe (SL) heads the team which put together the buildings and the surrounds of the UWA campus in Second Life. This team, composed of people from the UWA, together with associates gathered from across the globe – and discovered through Second Life – has done a marvellous job of creating a campus that is welcoming to all. Apart from the rendering of the real-life campus, intended for prospective students, alumni, and the vice-chancellor, there’s also:

– a skybox, intended to be used by university staff to run classes in
– a magnificent art exhibitions, composed of the ingenious works of Glyph Graves
– the entries for the UWA’s art and design competitions.

The main UWA landing site can be found here.

Mini Launch Day, August 21st 2009

4004178744_a7a1d5da80The mini-launch of the UWA sims occurred in August, well before the campus was complete. Jayjay Zifanwe and Ted Snell worked feverishly for several weeks and at least one whole weekend to ready the Astronomy art gallery in the SL Physics building for the occasion.

Spreading the word

After the mini-launch, but prior to the main launch, Wad Halberstadt, from the UWA’s School of Business, was gamely plugging away at teaching his Electronic Communication Strategy classes in Second Life, unaware of the work going on in other parts of the university. It took a chance meeting between Wad’s student, Leonie Clarrington, and Jayjay, to bring the campus builders and the teachers together. Wad and Jayjay have collaborated on the project since that time.

Main Launch Day, October 2nd 2009

uwa_launchOn the launch day of the UWA sims, 40 people attended the ceremony as avatars in Second Life, and 120 people packed into a RL space to attend. The people in the physical space were able to follow the proceedings in SL; the SL folk able to view the video kindly relayed the action for the other people unable to view the video through SL.

The IMAGINE competition: calling all artists

Second Life is swarming with artists of all persuasions, and what do artists like better than extra cash to help them to continue making art?  Peer recognition, perhaps? A place to exhibit? How about all of the above?

What better way to encourage this burgeoning group than to offer prizes, put on awards ceremonies, and then display the winning pieces in pride of place?

UWA has recently launched the IMAGINE 3D art competition, open to all users of Second Life. The response to this launch has pleased and overwhelmed the UWA SL team – there were 30 submissions for IMAGINE, and 40 people were present in Second Life for the awards ceremony for the inaugural month. The IMAGINE competition has been designed to encourage people to push their imaginations to the limits, and to submit work which expresses their best efforts in their SL favourite medium. There is a 100 prim limit on submissions.

Due to the efforts of the UWA team, the prizes for the overall winners at the end of the IMAGINE competition have been increased to L$75,000 each for first place, L$14,000 for second place; also L$14,000 for the best non-scripted entry. Monthly prizes come in at L$5,000 for first place, L$1,250 for second place, and L$1,250 for the best non-scripted entry. Additionally, the two winners receive a custom RL tee-shirt.

Each entrant who submits any genuine entry (not a block of plywood), and does not win a main prize, is eligible to receive money from the participation pool. The participation pool for the month of September was filled by Jayjay Zifanwe, Sasun Steinbeck and Tranguloid Trefoil, and in October, Phillip Vought will be contributing. If you would like to donate to the participation pool, you can do so here.

The monthly judging panel consists of: Professor Ted Snell (RL) – Director, Cultural Precinct, The University of Western Australia, Frank Roberts (RL) – The University Architect, The University of Western Australia, John Barret-Lennard (RL) – Curatorial Director, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Jayjay Zifanwe (SL) – Owner of The University of Western Australia, Raphaella Nightfire (SL) – CEO SW&MB Fashion Productions, CEO Evane Model Agency
Snr Writer Best of SL Magazine, Owner Sanctorum Gallery, Tranguloid Trefoil (SL) – Owner of WASP at the University of Western Australia. Each of these people is well-versed in the judging of art, therefore when they sat down together to judge the September competition, many of their decisions were unanimous.

Along with honourable mentions for the works of Venom Silverfall, Ninka Darkstone, Tweak Serpente/Strix Serenity and Soror Nishi, and the Best New Artist award, going to Isaa Gelber (see the reason why here), the main place-getters for September were:

First Place: Snubnose Genopeak

Best Non-Scripted Entry: Isaa Gelber

Second Place: Alizarin Goldflake.

September Round Winners: view them here.

Jayjay Zifanwe, as the head of the UWA team, has been particularly impressed with the efforts of Quadrapop Lane with regards to IMAGINE, naming her “the jewel of Western Australia”. Along with Jayjay, Quadrapop acts as the co-host of IMAGINE, and is the curator for all the entries. In a world where much art is plonked down higgledy-piggledy next to contrasting, distracting, or down-right incompatible pieces, Quadrapop’s efforts have allowed the entries to shine individually, and create a harmonious whole of all the pieces together.

The FLAGSHIP competition: calling all architects

There were fewer entrants for the FLAGSHIP competition, the design component, and with good reason. While IMAGINE encourages people to push their imaginations to the limits, and to submit work which expresses their best efforts in their favourite media, the end goal of FLAGSHIP is to attempt to bring the winning Second Life build into being as a physical building on the UWA campus.

Likewise, the FLAGSHIP competition attracts prizes of L$75,000 and L$14,000 for the first and second place-getters in the overall competition, and L$5,000 and L$1,250 for the equivalent in the monthly competitions.

Flagship Winner: view it here.

Trademarking and educators: Linden Lab responds

As reported yesterday, there’s been some activity around the use of the ‘SL’ trademark, with Australian educator Jokay Wollongong receiving a takedown notice. I shot through a few questions to Linden Lab on the issue, and Pathfinder Linder has formally responded. So as promised, here’s Linden Lab’s full right of reply:

Lowell: What was the impetus for LL tackling Jokay’s Wiki specifically?

Pathfinder: Jokay’s Wiki is a wonderful educational resource for the Second Life community, and Jokay organizes incredibly thoughtful and informative conferences about education in Second Life.

Some Lindens were recently invited to participate in a conference that Jokay was organizing, and we wanted very much to accept and show our support for Jokay and all the amazing work she’s done for the community. We were concerned, though, that the name of her blog is “Second Life in Education” and that her uses of our trademarks do not comply with our policies and create confusion about her blog’s relationship with Linden Lab.

We realize now that we poorly expressed our concerns by sending her an email from our trademark team, and that we should have reached out more personally to such an important contributor to the educational community. I (Pathfinder Linden) did speak to Jokay inworld after we sent her the email to explain to her why it’s so important for Residents to respect our trademark policies. However, in hindsight, this should have been the first step in our process.

Lowell: Does LL see it’s in its interest to issue takedown notices to educators showcasing one of SL’s strengths (i.e. it’s power as en educational platform)?

Pathfinder: We have great respect for the work of Jokay and other educators in Second Life. We’re also committed to increasing awareness of intellectual property, as we said in our recent Content Management Roadmap, through improved policies and outreach to the community. When we get in touch with Residents about improper uses of intellectual property – whether it be the intellectual property of other Residents, companies outside of Second Life, or Linden Lab itself – it’s nothing personal. It’s simply what we must do to help protect intellectual property.

Lowell: How much confidence should educators have that further trademarks won’t be registered, leading to a further change of landscape that can’t be forseen?

Pathfinder: When choosing a brand name or name for your website or domain name, it’s good practice to check that you are not using another person’s trademark or brand name. Trademarks do not need to be registered – so it’s best to search the web as well as trademark office records, and to consult a trademark attorney if you’re uncertain. This good practice is called “trademark clearance,” and it protects against your having to make a name change down the road.

Pathfinder: In this case, both Second Life and SL have been Linden Lab trademarks since we first started using them for our virtual world many years ago. To help promote awareness about proper use of our trademarks, especially for Residents unfamiliar with trademark clearance, we updated our trademark policies in early 2008, providing additional information and examples. We have also been reaching out to Residents about our trademark policies.

Lowell: How would you respond to claims that actions like this provide further motivation for people to move to other grids or platforms outside of SL?

Pathfinder: Intellectual property rights are part of what makes Second Life unique and compelling, and we’re committed to supporting a community that respects each other’s intellectual property. Although making changes in response to intellectual property complaints can be frustrating, it ultimately makes our community stronger, more aware and respectful of each other’s intellectual property, and a more desirable place for content creators and content consumers alike.


Over to you – is Linden Lab’s position a reasonable part of protecting intellectual property rights or an example of brand protection at the expense of community?

Update: Tateru Nino at Massively has a follow-up piece with some views of educators on Linden Lab’s response to the issue.

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