Murdoch University: ME/CFS Support in Second Life

This story appeared originally on Metaverse Health.

In recent weeks, thanks to a health professional colleague, I became aware of a research project underway at Murdoch University, looking at the use of virtual worlds as a support mechanism for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). It’s an ARC funded, three-year project titled Isolation, illness and the Internet: Exploring the possibility of a second life for sufferers of ME.

Chief Investigator for the research is Kirsty Best, a lecturer in Communication and Media Studies. She kindly spent some time explaining the research project and providing some insight on the wider issues faced by those with ME/CFS. There is also a further viewpoint after the Q&A section from Alex, an Australian living with ME/CFS who has been taking part in the project.

DH: To start off, can I get you to tell me a little about yourself, your specific role at Murdoch and with this project?

KB: I’m a Senior Lecturer with the School of Media, Communication and Culture. I received an ARC Discovery grant last year – the project and the centre are the result of that grant but I am planning to keep it going after funding runs out.

DH: So the part we’re standing in now contains resources on ME/CFS?

KB: I have created some user-friendly resources about ME/CFS. They’re aimed both at people with ME, who end up having to do a LOT of research on their own due to ignorance of the illness, and the general public. We also have a calendar of what’s going on. Then over here I have some major ME/CFS websites that I have found the most useful and user-friendly, with various theories of the cause, various treatment protocols and also support groups.

DH: With the cause theories, how have you assessed their validity?

KB: That’s not my area of expertise, and it’s not about that. This is about giving people with a very misunderstood illness the resources they need to find out more, get support, and be heard. I’m not a scientist. Some of our members are very interested in the biochemistry, etc and in our mailing list and groups the discussions often end up talking about some of these things.

DH: Absolutely – but what I’m getting at is how do you determine that the information is clinically sound? Let’s say an illegitimate site popped up making incorrect claims that could cause harm – how do you screen that?

KB: I don’t screen that. There are a lot of competing theories out there. I am just providing links to the sites that provide the best summaries of what has been said so far. To be honest, VERY little scientific research is even conducted about ME/CFS

DH: Ok, that makes sense. I suppose what I’m getting at is some of the value add for virtual worlds and health can be to provide guidance on the evidence-base or to debunk incorrect information.

KB: That is not what my work is about. I am not looking into causes and effects. I have no training in that. I am looking to provide people with ways to overcome their social isolation using virtual media. This area is a very small part of what the centre is about.

DH: Can you tell me a little about the research you are conducting here?

KB: It’s ongoing. I’m interviewing people with ME/CFS from Canada and from Australia about how and whether computers and the Internet help to ease some of the isolation they experience due to their illness, getting them set up with an avatar, getting them oriented and then seeing if SL is a useful way of supplementing some of their other Internet-based activities or whether it is too hard.

DH: Can you give any details on the methodology you’re using in the research e.g. specific qualitative or quantitative methods?

KB: I have conducted the first round of interviews, we will be having focus groups then more interviews. It’s all qualitiative.

DH: So how large is the first group?

KB: Thee’s roughly forty people.

DH: Can you describe the experience of the interviews and activities to date?

KB: Some had to drop out because of the requirements of SL: they didn’t have broadband for instance, or a fast enough computer. Real accessibility issues. But to be honest, the most important accessibility issues for people with ME are not just about hardware or bandwidth. It’s an illness that affects all systems in the body, including cognitive, and so orientation and navigation become very problematic. I do a LOT of troubleshooting. But there are benefits people are experiencing as well. It’s a mixed bag. A series of tradeoffs. People really like the social interaction, but getting their heads around the technology is hard.

However I have to say that Second Life DOES give an experience that is unique, and that people like. At the last meeting, one of our members who hadn’t been able to make it in a while said that when she saw us standing there, she felt like running up and hugging us, if she knew how to do it! She said how it really made her feel like she knew these people, and since she is pretty much housebound, having the visuals and the voice, and the virtual environment really made a difference. I’m not sure it’s worth the tradeoffs for some people, but for some it definiitely is – it depends on people’s levels of dysfunction in relation to spatial orientation to a large extent.

DH: What made you choose CFS as the research topic? Was it a personal interest?

KB: I’m very passionate about it, yes. These people have the worst of all worlds. They have a devastating illness in terms of quality of life, they have very little support from the medical community, and have to do pretty much all the research themselves–which of course they don’t have the energy for. And they have very little support from their friends and family. In fact this comes up quite a lot, and people are CONSTANTLY saying how their friends and family don’t believe them. or don’t support them, or what have you. And so this place is somewhere they can actually be understood.

DH: Was there a specific event that led you to understand how hard it is for CFS sufferers?

KB: I have a close family member who has had ME/CFS for – it must be 12 or more years now. It prompted me to do a lot of research about the condition. Let’s just say that whenever I try to explain the condition, or this project to anyone, I experience it for myself. I get very defensive. People with cancer or MS don’t feel they are having to constantly justify their illness. It’s very draining. And I”m healthy! It’s FAR worse for them.

DH: In regards to lack of support from the medical community, why do you think that is?

KB: I have been involved with volunteering for an organization in Canada that was actually LAUGHED at by a doctor when they approached him to see if he would speak at an ME/CFS Awareness Day. I think it’s changing slowly though. But very slowly. The Canadian Consensus Definition is extremely important to this – all the other clinical definitions have been sorely lacking.

DH: So for you, what would be measures of success for you, for both the research and the support here more broadly?

KB: Well success for the research would be finding out in what ways virtual environments such as SL can help this marginalized community, despite their cognitive and spatial difficulties. Hopefully we will find out specifically what is working and what isn’t. We already take our members to Virtual Ability island, who have been very helpful. But there are still a lot of ways that the evironment is very challenging to people with ME/CFS, as I have said.

I’m not sure these can be overcome completely. I think part of it is intrinsic to technology itself. There will always be these black holes where the technology fails us, no matter how advanced it gets, because bugs and usability issues are eternal. And for someone with ME/CFS, these are magnified 5000 percent. So I guess success is simply finding ways of amelioriating these black holes, if we know what to look for. I don’t think this environment will ever be for everyone with ME/CFS, but for those it reaches, its impact can be profound. I would say that is success.

DH: You mentioned that ME/CFS sufferers can experience cynicism from some health professionals – if this research demonstrates outcomes as far as social support, could this make those cynics sit up and take notice as whether they ‘believe’ in ME or not, the results will speak for themselves and need to be acknowledged?

KB: It doesn’t prove anything about the nature or reality of ME however. Unfortunate but true. I think you only have to speak to these people and be around them for a while to understand. See them totally struggle with things we find complely simple and no big deal. So I think the only thing that will potentially change someone’s mind is if they were to come here and join us for a few weeks! However, I think it’s really a culture change that needs to go on in both broader society and in the health community.

As there are more and more individuals coming forward and publicising their experiences (in books, online, in other media), as there are more and more projects and support groups and spaces such as this one that are springing up, then the community and the illness can’t help but be noticed. At this point, the culture of cynicism will hopefully slip and be replaced. So I guess I see this is a tiny brick in the wall. I do want to use it as a way to generate awareness in the broader SL community at least. I would like to hold events here and so on. How many health professionals there are that use SL I don’t know!

DH: There are quite a few 😉 Could you forsee collaborative research in the future, with say allied health professionals, on the use of virtual worlds as a support mechanism?

KB: Oh yes, that would be great, but that’s not about changing anyone’s mind. Those health professionals would already be open to it. The people who don’t believe, you can’t really budge them. I hear this over and over again from our members. I believe it. However, as I said, it is changing slowly, so there are some people who would be more open in the first place. They would be the kind we could collaborate with. The “early adopters” so to speak.

===
Alex’s perspective:

Firstly, due to my illness I frequently do not enjoy being on Second Life. This isn’t about fun, it’s about need. I am too sick to function in the real world, but Second Life gives me just that – a chance to interact with people and alleviate the worst affects of severe isolation, in combination with a sense of being in the world, albeit virtual. (I play open world RPGs for much the same sense of being in the world). SL still makes demands on my health, just not as much as real life. One of the big issues is preventing desocialisation – we can become so isolated that we no longer relate to other people. Second Life allows for avatar-to-avatar talks, which while it isn’t as good as real life it does have its benefits.

For the first time I have met another person with long term ME/CFS who has similar health to me. Most people involved in CFS support groups are female, so there are very few long term male patients, and it turns out our experiences are very similar in ways that differ from most of the ladies.

Of course, I am also a long-term advocate for scientific research into ME/CFS, and this is not the first study I have been in with respect to ME/CFS, although this is the most prolonged sociological study that I have been involved in. I don’t know where this is going, and there are risks, because ME/CFS is one of the diseases in which charity and support groups occasionally fail because everyone involved can be too sick to keep things running. I do wish the researchers success in their aims, and I do see potential for this to provide social support for people too sick to find it in real life.

One of the drawbacks we keep running into is a combination of technical problems and illness issues. Some of us can’t handle too many people/avatars being around, and this is aggravated by sound degradation issues when too many people are present, particularly since most of us have problems with adapting to new technology. One fix is being tested at the moment, breaking us into smaller groups, but we have to move far enough away so that SL doesn’t pick up our speech. Large crowds of avatars in any part of SL are likely to cause problems for many of us.

===
You can see the project for yourself here, and I’ve also created a quick walk-through machinima as well:

Crime and virtual worlds: the Australian take

Earlier this month, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) released an issues paper titled Crime risks of three-dimensional virtual environments.

Written by Deakin University’s Ian Warren and Darren Palmer, its focus is identifying the potential harms of 3D virtual environments, discussing best governance approaches and identifying areas for future research.

The foreword, as you’d expect, sums the paper up nicely:

Three-dimensional virtual environments (3dves) are the new generation of digital multi-user social networking platforms. Their immersive character allows users to create a digital humanised representation or avatar, enabling a degree of virtual interaction not possible through conventional text-based internet technologies.

As recent international experience demonstrates, in addition to the conventional range of cybercrimes (including economic fraud, the dissemination of child pornography and copyright violations), the ‘virtual-reality’ promoted by 3dves is the source of great speculation and concern over a range of specific and emerging forms of crime and harm to users.

This paper provides some examples of the types of harm currently emerging in 3dves and suggests internal regulation by user groups, terms of service, or end-user licensing agreements, possibly linked to real-world criminological principles. This paper also provides some directions for future research aimed at understanding the role of Australian criminal law and the justice system more broadly in this emerging field.

The paper overall is certainly well thought out and covers some ground as far back as the early 90’s with the now infamous Mr Bungle episode. As we’ve said in our own paper on policy and virtual worlds, establishing acceptable governance mechanisms is certainly key to future growth and success of virtual environments. Papers like this one from the AIC help to get the issue on the agenda, but even in my most non-cynical frame of mind, I doubt there’ll be much local progress in the near future. That said, kudos to the AIC for being at the forefront, no matter how glacial the progress may end up being.

Read the full report here.

Linden Lab CEO’s art show in Second Life: UWA scores again

Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon / M Linden isn’t the sort of guy associated heavily with Second Life’s burgeoning art scene. So it’s a little surprising to find out he’s about to have his first art exhibition.

What’s less surprising, at least to me, is that the exhibition will be occurring as part of the University of Western Australia’s presence in Second Life. I’ve said previously that the ongoing art and machinima competitions there are some of the best anywhere, so it’s a deserved location for exhibitions like these.

The momentum that has been generated and maintained by the UWA team has been nothing short of astounding, and things only seem to be growing further. Back to M Linden, here’s how he describes his history as an artist:

From the time I was 6 years old until I was 20, I had planned to be a painter. As I was contemplating graduating from college with a fine arts degree and all that being an artist entails, I decided to make a hard left turn and follow a radically different path. I changed my major to economics, graduated and went on to business school to get a graduate degree. I doodle to focus my mind and I can do it for hours. But, I prefer doodles that I can complete in one short sitting. I gravitate to repetitive constructs of unbroken intersecting lines or interconnected parallelograms…you could call them “dynamic connected systems.” I guess my art and my interest in economics shared this “connected systems” construct.

Drawing in 3D in Second Life wonderful. I can think bigger and do more in Second Life. It’s changed the way I think about art. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said it best: “Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.

The Exhibition is called Doodle Art and its opening is on Saturday 27th March at 3pm SLT (9am Sunday morning AEDT), at the UWA’s Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. You can get a glimpse in Larkworthy Antfarm’s machinima here:

There’s also real world event taking place at the University this Friday, hosted by artist Len Zuks – contact Jayjay Zifanwe in-world if you’re interested in attending that.

Credits for the exhibition as supplied by Jayjay Zifanwe:

The Curator: White Lebed
UWA Owner & Co-Host: JayJay Zifanwe
The Gallery builders: The Slingshot, Nyx Breen
Logo by: Miso Susanowa
Promotional Machinimas: Chantal Harvery and Larkworthy Antfarm
RL Host at UWA: Len Zuks

Again, congrats to the UWA team for their work. Whether you like M Linden’s art or not, it’s certainly an acknowledgement of the work done by UWA to date and hopefully a good indicator of ongoing success.

Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love screening on SBS

Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love is a documentary originally screened in early 2008 on the BBC. It’s worth remembering that context, as regular Second Life residents may find watching a little frustrating otherwise.

The documentary follows people who’ve met in Second Life, and the ramifications that has had on their real world relationships. I’ve seen about half of the total content of the documentary and overall I’d say it’s worth a watch, but it’s not as engaging as say the local Alter Ego.

The more discerning Second Life resident will be dismayed at how there’s yet another tawdry and narrowly focused portrayal of life in-world. For me, it was a two-sided experience: annoyance at some of the portrayals but also an acceptance that as a documentary it certainly captured the emotions of the people involved.

Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love screens tonight on SBS at 10pm AEDT.

Interzone’s Football MMO: local conflicts

In 2008, we mentioned the upcoming release of Interzone Futebol, a sporting MMO with some promise.

Over the past week, issues between local developers employed at the Western Australian office of Interzone and the US-based head office came to a head when Interzone’s VP of Business Development, Mike Turner, was confronted by employees.

Game Developer blog Tsumea have a good wrap of events, and for lots more detail, this blog has it in spades (and the Interzone Games URL now redirects to the blog). Finally, Interzone CEO Marty Brickey has responded to the allegations made over at Kotaku, as Seamus Byrne broke the story there in a big way.

The WA developers created the piece below to illustrate the context of what has been going on:

Like any disputes around intellectual property, employee entitlements and job security, it can be near impossible to get a clear overall picture. The video in question shows a bunch of obviously frustrated / angry employees and a defensive CEO not wanting to answer questions on the spot to a camera. The only certainty is that once it has reached to this stage, things have broken down to a level where no-one is likely to see a beneficial outcome.

One of the least certain aspects is why the transfer of game assets from Australia to Collision Games in Ireland – although the touted financial issues would likely be the driving force. Nor is there any reaction from publisher Gamigo on the situation.

The wash-up locally for this, is that Interzone Futebol may still see the light of day, but whether those who’ve worked on it to date get to share in those results is far from certain and arguably very unlikely.

UWA’s Machinima competition: beauty and success

On Monday the University of Western Australia in Second Life had a bash to announce the winners of its MachinimUWA Challenge. What started out as a L$10,000 prize ended up as L$215,000 thanks to the entries being viewed by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Robson.

You can view each of the entries below, with the descriptions all provided by the UWA’s resident dynamo, Jayjay Zifanwe. If you take the time to view each, you’re likely to agree that the overall quality of entries has been very strong. I don’t envy the 12-member international judging panel for the decisions they had to make on the shortlist of thirteen. The final results were:

Winner
CISKO VANDEVERRE, Berlin, Germany
SEEK

“The judges thought that this was an absolute firecracker of a Machinima with a brilliant and very different approach. This had wonderful humour, amazing visual effects, great quality of editing and remarkable camera control.”

Second Prize
BRADLEY CURNOW, Perth, Australia
MachinimUWA: Art Architecture, Research, Teaching

“With Bradley’s work, the judges felt this had wonderful velocity with fantastic cutting to music transients, an epic soundtrack and showed off the “4 main elements” to great effect.”

Third Prize
COLEMARIE SOLEIL, Florida USA
UWA Machinima Challenge Submission

“ColeMarie’s brilliant modern and edgy piece was another favourite. Responding to the announcement, she said, ‘I would like to thank all the artists involved in the creation of the UWA sims,and to UWA in particular, for this terrific opportunity to creatively express myself. To all my friends who gave me my space and understood how much working on this project meant to me, to JayJay for asking me to make this video, and Surrealia Anatine for getting me into machinima to start with. To energy drinks for keep me working late into the night, and Bryn Oh for ‘subtle’ yet threatening encouragements to finish this video.’ ”

Honourable Mention
MASTERDARK FOOTMAN, Dallas, Texas, USA
The Heart of UWA

(video unavailable)

Honourable Mention
CHANTAL HARVEY, Maastricht, Netherlands
University of Western Australia in Second Life

Honourable Mention
LASLOPANTOMIK YAO, Barcelona, Spain
MachinimUWA

Finalist
PYEWACKET BELLMAN, New York City, USA
University of Western Australia in Second Life

Finalist
SOPHIA YATES, Lancaster, Massachusetts, USA
The Challenge – Architecture, Teaching, Research Arts on the UWA sims

Finalist
IONO ALLEN, Paris, France
Seek Wisdom

Finalist
GLASZ DECUIR, San Sebastian, Spain
MachinimUWA: UWA in Second Life, Achieving International Excellence

Finalist
NOVA DYSZEL, Toronto, Canada
UWA in SL Challange

Finalist
MASTERDARK FOOTMAN, Dallas, Texas, USA
UWA Jan 2010

(video unavailable)

Finalist
SOPHIA YATES, Lancaster, Massachusetts, USA
Second Life Virtual University of Western Australia

Details of Judging Panel

1. Professor Alan Robson (RL) – Vice-Chancellor, The University of Western Australia
2. Professor Ted Snell (RL) – Director, Cultural Precinct, The University of Western Australia
3. A/Professor Wade Halvorson (RL) – Lecturing in Marketing, Business and Electronic Commerce, The University of Western Australia
4. Colin Campbell Fraser (RL) – Principal Adviser (External Relations and Advocacy),
Vice-Chancellery, The University of Western Australia
5. Kelly Smith (RL) – Director, International Centre, The University of Western Australia
6. Jon Stubbs (RL) – Director, Student Services, The University of Western Australia
7. Susana Willis-Johnson (RL) – Marketing Manager, The University of Western Australia
8. Dr Carmen Fies (RL) – Assistant Professor, The University of Texas at San Antonio
9. Torley Linden (SL) – Linden Labs
10. White Lebed (SL) – Lead of Burning Life Art Department, Curator
11. Raphaella Nightfire (SL) – CEO SW&MB Fashion Productions, CEO Evane Model Agency, Snr Writer Best of SL Magazine
12. Jayjay Zifanwe (SL) – Owner of The University of Western Australia (SL), Creator & co-host of the UWA 3D Art& Design Challenge

The final word from Jayjay Zifanwe:

“In the words of Torley Linden as he was being TP’ed out at the end of the ceremony to attend to Viewer 2.0 matters, ‘This has been awesometastic!’. Yes Torley. It has indeed.”

Discussion on internet filter on Tonight Live is… live!

As mentioned previously, I had the pleasure of appearing on Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe. The topic of discussion was the Commonwealth Government’s proposed internet filtering legislation and its potential impact on virtual worlds.

Paisley asked some incisive questions that helped set the scene for both the challenges and opportunities the legislation may provide. As I say in the interview, I’m confident environments like Second Life won’t be heavily impacted by the legislation, assuming those of us affected ensure the government understands the issue.

Aside from that discussion, there’s some great music from Frets Nirvana and an interesting discussion on virtual pets with Sapphira Laval. Here’s the full show for you to view:

A big thanks to Paisley for the invitation to appear and to Bliss Windlow and AutumnFoxx Sutherland for their assistance in the lead-up. If you haven’t already, do check out the enormous stable of shows that Treet.TV offer: they are an Australian success story to say the least.

Internet filtering and virtual worlds: Tonight Live discussion

I’m really pleased to be a guest on tomorrow’s Tonight Live With Paisley Beebe. Paisley is an Australian singer and broadcaster we’ve profiled before, and Tonight Live is arguably one of the most popular virtual worlds TV shows around.

Paisley and I will be discussing the background and potential impact of the internet filtering legislation proposed by the Commonwealth Government as well as some 2010 predictions and more. The show is live from 6pm SLT on the 24th January (1pm Monday 25th January AEDT).

If you want to take part, here’s the location of the show, or you can watch it live on the web or anytime afterwards via the Treet TV archive.

National Portrait Gallery in Second Life

There hasn’t been an enormous fanfare about the launch of the National Portrait Gallery’s doppelganger exhibition in Second Life, but there probably deserves to be. For its first foray into virtual worlds, the Gallery has created an impressive exhibition that beautifully showcases the power of digital artwork.

I asked the architect of the exhibition, Greg More (SL: Dynamo Zanetti) to explain each of the exhibits, which he kindly agreed to do. Greg is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT. Since 2002 he’s been primarily engaged in the use of 3D, realtime environments for architecture design visualisation. The RMIT’s island in SL, for RMIT architecture and interior design students, came into existence in early 2007. Greg also happens to be the driving force behind OOM Creative, a local virtual worlds design consultancy

iMirror

Artist: Cao Fei

It seems natural for an exhibition like this to feature machinima, and it’s certainly a striking one that is being shown. Superficially, it’s a montage of Second Life residents’ faces, but the overall effect is much greater.

Greg: “Developed for the Venice Bienale 2007, this is the only work in the show that wasn’t developed specifically for Portrait Island. Space designed to envelope the viewer into a screen experience, and also marks the limits of the landparcel supporting the streaming video.”

CodePortraits

Artist: Patrick Lichty

Aside from the vivid ‘Last Supper’ portrait, which is alone worth a visit, there are also QR codes for each of the portrait subjects, readable by smart phones with the appropriate software installed.

In CodePortraits we can extract these representations from their native environment via Quick Response codes which enable us to watch his archive of footage on our own mobile devices. Viewing these videos on a portable device, that can be played anywhere, at any time, reminds us of the photographs of loved ones and family that we may keep in our wallets, or the earlier tradition of the cameo.

Another fascinating mix of digital media with more traditional imagery.

temporary self portrait in preparation for the singularity

Artist: Andrew Burrell.

The largest work in the exhibition, it’s difficult to provide an explanation of its scope and purpose that’s better than the one provided by the artist himself. In short, the exhibit is a virtual device offering a glimpse of the narratives of the artist’s life, “both remembered and imagined”:

Each of the cubic nodes within the device can forge new connections with its neighbours creating a navigable network of narratives to which the viewer is given access through text and image. The work questions the site of the self and its relationship to the narratives of memory.

Autoscopia

Artists: Adam Nash, Christopher Dodds and Justin Clemens

I have to admit this was probably the exhibit that fascinated me the most. The Autoscopia website explains it nicely, but essentially you enter a phrase such as your Second Life name, and you receive (after a wait) a link to a detailed profile of yourself as found on the internet more widely. Try it for yourself and you’ll likely be surprised with the results.

Autoscopia’s portraits are built using data from internet-based ‘vanity searches’ conducted within the Second Life installation. Each name creates a unique outcome composed of 27 ‘limbs’. Each limb is fed data from websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter etc, with colours, geometry and audio affected by variations in search volume. Data is then re-published via discrete web pages automatically composed through snippets of text and images collected during the search

iGods

Artist: Gazira Babeli

The experience of entering iGods can be a little disconcerting. The Greek temple exterior contrasts against the impressive experience of having your avatar transposed onto one of the seven ‘sins’ on the inside:

Move a little closer and the clones come to life, morphing into the appearance of the observer’s avatar; replicating their image back at them. Gaz’s hall of mirrors reminds us that, in Second Life, DNA is code and in virtual worlds this code can be replicated or borrowed. This unnerving experience exposes fears associated with identity theft and the often reluctant realisation of personal identification with one’s avatar.

The Wrap

According to Greg, the main approach for the exhibition, and the build, is not to replicate existing notions of portraiture or exhibition space. “Gill Raymond, the curator, set a really open brief for the project, and luckily on my advice we developed the space over a couple of phases, allowing for the environment to evolve, accomodate the artists developing the work, and tie things together with the website content”.

Feedback from visitors to date has apparently been enthusiastic, with a significant cohort of visitors spending more than an hour interacting with the exhibits. Kudos to the National Portrait Gallery for their investment in the exhibition. Alongside the ACVA initiative and the momentum built by the University of Western Australia’s Art competitions in Second Life, it’s fair to say that Australian art in the virtual world is an incredibly lively part of the wider art community.

Check it out in-world

UWA Art 3D Art and Design competition: December 2009 winners

The University of WA’s 3D Art and Design competition continues its significant momentum, with the December 2009 winners now announced. The full announcement below, plus you can view pictures of all the entrants on the UWA in SL blog.

As on of the finalist judges, each month makes me more nervous as I realise the depth of talent amongst the artists that have submitted so far. As always, have a look for yourself – the range of art and sculpture is astounding. The December round saw more than 70 entries across the different categories, so it’s an understatement to say there’s lots of interest.

The winners announced:

Igor Ballyhoo & Patch Thibaud truimph in DECEMBER ROUND of UWA 3D Art & Design

Two incredible works took out top honours in the December Round of the UWA 3D Art & Design Challenge announced on the 10th of January at the University of Western Australia’s IMAGINE Challenge Art Platform. On the tie-breaker ‘Chaos In Order’ by Igor Ballyhoo took the top IMAGINE art prize over Anyunie Daviau’s ‘Araucaria Artist Book’ (which won the Artist Book Prize), and renowned architect Patch Thibaud’s submission called ‘UWA Cultural Precinct Nexus’ beat all comers and set a new standard for the FLAGSHIP Challenge.

Igor also took the People’s Choice Award in another close battle that saw over 300 votes cast. This time it was neck and neck with ‘The Cub Rescue’ by Really Scrabblebat and came down to the final hour of voting. An amazing double by Igor, becoming the first to top both categories!

Stunned by the awards win, Igor said, ” I thank all people that voted for my work and I thank the amazing J.S. Bach for inspiration”

The Flagship Build of Patch Thibaud is true masterpiece and has already received a lot of attention in architecture circles. Frolic Mills, a judge for the Grand Prize and CEO of BOSL & CO said, “Patch has been an inspiration to many here in Second Life: From his first build, ‘The Best of SL Boulevard’ to ‘Ciudad de Mexico’ he has received outstanding critics even from people like SL CEO: Mr. M Linden. But what is trully remarkable about his University of Western Australia enty is that Patch was able to build something that can totally be executed in Real Life and that fits right in with the purposes of the University. I would love to see this art gallery come to life in the real world some day! Well done Patch and congratulations!”

Commenting after his win, Patch said, “The University of Western Australia is doing a wonderful thing, in their Flagship Challenge, for architecture in Second Life. The idea of encouraging creations in SL that could be used for a real world building is an innovative and exciting use of Second Life as a design tool, and further strenghthens the relationship of SL with real world applications. And I think the inclusiveness and openness of the process is an inspired and fertile platform for encourageing the arts in SL in general.”

The build can be seen here through the end of January: http://slurl.com/secondlife/University%20of%20WA/70/128/1999

A record total of 69 entries were submitted for the IMAGINE challenge for December and 5 entries to the FLAGSHIP. Professor Ted Snell, Director of the UWA Cultural Precinct (RL), Chair of the judging panel, had this to say about the entries this month:

“The range of works submitted in December was extremely impressive with a much larger number of entries moving on from technical competence in rendering images and objects to speak with an original voice and engage audiences in a conceptually challenging and intellectually rewarding encounter. The winning works were reflective and thought provoking, using the medium as a means of exploring ideas and concepts rather than merely re-presenting borrowed images or reworking existing concepts. They remain vividly in your memory after the screen has been switched off.

The architectural winner displayed a high level of sophistication and combined extraordinary technical competence with intellectual rigour and practicality. ”

At this point, the Challenge has reached 6 continents of the world, with only Antarctica out of the mix. Canada, the USA, the UK, Scotland, England, Spain, Italy, France, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Holland, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Serbia, Tunisia, Germany, Japan and Australia are all represented!

A number of other awards were also presented including the the ‘Best Non-Scripted Art’ prize taken by Sistagrlro Wei with ‘Black Soils Plains Running Through My Veins’. Other winners included Miso Susanowa, Jedda Zenovka, Nyx Breen, Scottius Polke, LollyPop Congrejo, Asmita Duranjaya and Oldoak Merlin.

The competition is now receiving entries for the month of January. Location is http://slurl.com/secondlife/UWA/64/132/250

A new prize has also been added to the IMAGINE Challlenge, and this is ‘The Casey Cultural Award’, which encourages artists and builders in all disciplines to research Western Australian historic OR contemporary Culture and present a piece which demonstrates aspects of Western Australian culture, ecomony or society.

A Machinima Challenge with a L$60,000 1st prize, closing on the 31st of January has also been announced.
http://uwainsl.blogspot.com/2009/12/machiniuwa-uwa-machinima-challenge.html

WINNERS FOR THE DECEMBER ROUND

Imagine Challenge 1st Prize: ($L5,000 + Custom T-Shirt)
CHAOS IN ORDER by Igor Ballyhoo

Imagine Challenge 2nd Prize: ($L1,250)
AURACARIA ARTIST BOOK by Anyunie Daviau

Best Non-Scripted Entry: ($L1,250 + Custom T-Shirt)
BLACK SOIL PLAINS RUNNING THROUGH MY VEINS by Sistagrlro Wei

Honourable Mention Prize for TECHNICAL BRILLIANCE (L$500)
VECTOR BEEHIVE by Scottius Polke

Honourable Mention Prize for SERENITY (L$500)
RADIANT STALLIONS by Miso Susanowa

Honourable Mention Prize for MESSAGE (L$500)
SPRAY ADDICT by LollyPop Congrejo

Honourable Mention Prize for BODY OF WORK (L$500)
WORKING FOR YOU & ME, DEVOTIONAL TRINITY & MECHANICAL BIRDS by Oldoak Merlin

Honourable Mention Prize for IMMERSION (L$500)
HEART SEED by Jedda Zenovka

FLAGSHIP CHALLENGE – BUILDING DESIGN

Flagship Challenge 1st Prize : ($L5,000)
UWA CULTURAL PRECINCT NEXUS by Patch Thibaud

Flagship Challenge 2nd Prize: ($L1,250)
FUTURELab by Nyx Breen

ARTIST BOOK PRIZE

Artist Book 1st Prize : ($L2,000)
AURACARIA ARTIST BOOK by Anyunie Daviau

Artist Book 2nd Prize: ($L500)
ASMITA’s PHILOSOPHICAL BOOK DISPLAY by Asmita Duranjaya

PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD (L$500)
CHAOS IN ORDER by Igor Ballyhoo

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