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CyberOne gathers on Second Life

CyberOne snapshot in Austin Hall

We held our first synchronous gathering last night on Second Life, 9-10 and 10-11pm Eastern. (Needless to say, it was a late night for us). Our plan was to get the groups comfortable with the space if they weren’t already (some in our class are “non-techies,” others are Second Life veterans), start to get to know each other, and send them off on their way with their second week’s assignment, the Scavenger Hunt (link is to a public version of the class). The agenda was basically:

  1. 1-15 minutes Get groups organized. We decided to split the class in half: I would take the first ten students to show up; Becca would take the remainder. In theory there should have been 20 students in each time slot. During this time period Ansible doled out spending cash (woohoo!) and instructions for the scavenger hunt. She also added everyone to the official class roster in case we ever need to close Berkman Island to outsiders (which we will when we host the entire class).
  2. 10 minutes Conduct the “Stand up if you…” activity. This is a common activity in face-to-face settings for a group to get relaxed and sometimes to help them address difficult issues. In the latter case, the facilitator escalates the “riskiness” of the questions. In our case, we didn’t really have a difficult issue to discuss, so we mainly did it for the “getting to know you” aspect of the game. (Another variation is to have N-1 seats for a group of size N, and the person standing names a characteristic, and everyone who fits that description has to change seats, like musical chairs but with the standing person being “it”).
  3. 10 minutes Pair the group up and have each pair introduce him/herself to the other using IM.
  4. 10 minutes Each person then introduces the partner to the group using public chat.

Overall, I think the meeting went reasonably well — the first group was definitely livelier than the second, perhaps because it was larger and earlier. (10pm is very late for East Coasters!). I had predicted huge technical problems, but for the most part there were few problems, at least among those who were able to log in. Several people had trouble figuring out the IM interface, which when you have several IM’s going can get difficult, especially because there is an island-wide non-private channel.

It was eerie standing in a room while people are IM’ing and seeing/hearing nothing going on. The overall silence of Second Life compared with (because of There’s built-in voice capabilities) contriibutes to that feeling. It would be helpful if an avatar displayed its IM status — I thought that a headset would appear on their heads, but maybe I was too far away to see them?

Text chat isn’t necessarily the most natural of communication methods — I find it very helpful in There to use it as a “backchannel” when someone is giving a voice presentation, but when the presenter is also using text chat, I think the audience tends to hush up out of respect. Probably we just need to get to know each other a little more, and also show people how to use the IM channels more effectively, to get livelier meetings. Also, the process we imposed last night was definitely constraining — on purpose! Next week will be even more fun, when we bring the law students into the mix.

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