Monday, March 19, 2007

Trying to put it all together...Dan Reed in Second Life

Looking back, last Friday was probably some sort of milestone where I work (in ITS at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The event was a presentation in Second Life by Dr. Dan Reed, presented on the virtual campus of the New Media Consortium.

CDB Barkley, the canine host of the event, blogged on the event on the NMC blog. CDB also uploaded some images and screen caps from the NMC campus, from the UNC Forest theater, and from ITS-Fraklin, where some folks congregated.

The deal is this, we had a virtual presentation, where Dr. Reed was on the UNC Campus, appearing virtually at the NMC campus, with a virtual simulcast to the UNC Second Life campus, which was broadcast to a live audience, some of whom also had avatars in the virtual space. That's freaky, man...

Now, the folks who were watching this thing from the big screen might have only received the impression that it was a power point slide show with a bunch of 3D cruft, and that gives a somewhat skewed impression of what the '3D Internet' might become. The real value is the participation, and the feeling of interaction before and after, somehow, a sense of place is acheived. The 3D Internet is not really an emulation of real life. Rather, the virtual world is something that's neither a simulation, nor a web conferencing tool. The NMC campus provides a setting, and a tone. The relative position of avatars to each other, and within a space, as well as basic postures (hanging out, standing behind a podium, sitting together) adds a lot of information to any exchange. It's hard to explain, other than participation, but I feel like these sorts of interactions engage portions of the brain that other forms of remote communication don't reach. There's a certain dynamic there that is qualitatively different than a chat or web conference.

I predict that this presentation will be viewed as some sort of milestone, at least for UNC, perhaps for other higher education institutions as well. UNC is not the first campus to have a presence on the 3D web, but the university is full of creative, imaginative people that will probably pull off some unique things. I was around when Mosaic first appeared, and I feel like I'm going through the next cycle. These spirals of internet development seem to move at an accelerated pace, so I predict that two years from now, we won't recognize this place anymore.

For myself, the next steps are to dig into scripting. I was able to do a few things last week, including writing scripts for the Power Point at the Forest Theater. This was a pretty modest thing, but I got my feet wet. I'm hoping to dig into LSL, especially to look at the facilities to hook LSL to resources in Web2.0. The Second Life mash-up is not something I hear about yet, I'm sure it's been done, and that seems like the next logical step. We'll see.

For anyone who was there on Friday, be sure to try this for yourself, you have to participate to understand the dynamics! See if you agree... If anyone from UNC, or any other campus tecchies make it out to SL, be sure to drop me a line so we can hook up virtually!

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