Its Nearly Christmas

Its chilly in Sony PlayStation Home – the central plaza has ice scupltures…

Lifestream Summary – Digital Cultures 2011

I, Me – Course Introductions

I was intrigued by the course introductions and it gave me a change to bring out some of my interests, many of which have involved Internet collaboration on shared digital artworks and models. This kicked off some work on a personal “Life Wall” which was fun. Only a small number of Lifestream events were triggered by this work, but it was a fun exercise. I thought originally it would be a way to get ahead with a digital artifact for the course exercises… but eventually decided to do that on more interesting topics as the readings and discussions progressed.

I, Ai – Personal Identity, Avatar Identity

I have been a user of professional simulation environments and also multi-user immersive social games and virtual worlds for several decades, so I was in my element for some uses of such platforms in the MSc in e-Learning courses. This is reflected in my Digital Artifact entitled “AI – Avatar Identity” and the associated Lifestream events, and also in the contributions made in blogs, in my personal learning space.

I, PI ... Eye

I, Us – Community Participation

I enjoy collaborative projects and have had a number of long lived on-line groups I interact with. I chose to do the Digital Cultures course on-line community ethnographic study on the Gerry Anderson Model makers’ Alliance (GA-MMA) at http://atate.org/mscel/ethno/.

I, Robot – Think Like a Robot

The creation of the digital artifact “Think Like a …” and related blog posts led to a number of Lifestream events where I discuss the use of educational argumentation from an artificial intelligence agent viewpoint. And even beyond that to take a robot or alternative species viewpoint. This is a useful device to prevent a dominant human species position always being assumed.

Think like a Robot Think like an Octopus Think like Skynet

Digital Cultures + Digital Artifacts

My other explorations on digital artifacts on and around the course themes have generated Lifestream events and include:

WallWisher Walls

I have been an enthusiastic contributor to the Wallwisher walls set up at the start of Digital Cultures and IDEL11 for participant introductions, and used for a number of exercises through the course.

This was a new shared media and social tool to me, and it works very well. I have also used Wallwisher walls in a number of my own digital artifacts. The Lifesteam events do not reflect Wallwisher contributions very well, and only seem to post a single event for the initial post onto a wall.

Lifesteam Access

My Lifesteam is at http://edc11.education.ed.ac.uk/austint/my-lifestream/

Technically the Lifestream events for many types of feed from Delicious, some blogs, Wallwisher, etc., leave a lot to be desired and often only state the blog title as the source with little indication of the real content I am afraid.

A PDF format archival copy is available at http://atate.org/mscel/archive/EDC11-Lifestream-Austin-Tate.pdf though the printed version is not laid out as well as the original WordPress blog.

Lifestream – Week 12

Final Assignements

The majority of my work on the course finished last week, and I am now engaged mostly in reading over again selected papers that are relevant to my essays and final assignments on the EDC11, IDEL11 and ULOE11 courses. Some Lifestream events relate to tidying up and preparing extra screen shots for some of those assignments.

OpenVCE Developments

I have been busy on my main research project in the USA on the OpenVCE platform to provide virtual collaboration spaces for distributed teams engaged in emergency and medical responses. I established the OpenVCE group area on the US government’s non-classified “All Partners Access network” (APAN) which uses the ‘Telligent collaboration platform and provides the Adobe Connect services we need for observer access to virtual worlds meeting spaces. This burst of effort on my research project has also involved some further experimentation with the Unity3D platform, for example adding Tokbox VoIP. And also looking at the Collada conversion of the Second Life/OpenSimulator 3D build for the OpenVCE region. This allows the build to be taken directly into Unity3D for future use. These activities generated quite a number of Lifestream events.

Avatar to Avatar Chat

My earlier EDC11 digital artifact was “Ai – Avatar Identity” and one element of this involved an amusing chat bot to chat bot conversation transcript generated on the OpenSim region used for the artifact. It used MyCyberTwin technology for “Ai” and “Be” chatting together. The resulting transcript is at http://atate.org/ai/ai/res/2011-10-09-chat-log-ai-and-be.txt.

So, it was funny this week to see that MyCybertwin in Australia has announced a contest with cash prizes for the best chat bot to chat bot conversation (using though their own limited set of example entities), and indeed a “Turing Test” challenge too. See https://mycybertwin.com/ui/aivsai.jsp.

Lifestream Week 11

On my research project related to supporting the OpenVCE communities I was engaged in setting up a new group portal on the APAN (All Partners Access Network) hosted by the US Government for non-classified work between government agencies, NGOs, organisation and individuals across the world. This replaces the previous HarmonieWeb portal. the APAN network uses the Telligent Collaboration framework to provide the usual blogs, discussion forums, wikis, group chat, etc. And then provides an Adobe Connect service attached to that for the supported communities. We provide “web observer” meeting access to virtual words meeting spaces via Adobe Connect services through these portals. I was involved in a number of training programmes and setup exercises which led to a range of events in the Lifestream as I took on the group owner role on APAN.

I did some further experimentation with the Unity3D platform, and used a Collada mesh translation of the OpenVCE OpenSim region buildings created via a converter service from Tipodean technologies in the USA. We are further experimenting also with the OpenSim-based MOSES grid hosted by the US Government also for work with non-government agencies internationally.

We believe that a combination of the APAN OpenVCE Group for a community web portal and a simplified meeting space in either the OpenSim-based MOSES grid or on a Unity3D setup might offer a long term stable basis for continuing work in the OpenVCE.net community. Currently a Drupal server at Edinburgh is used for the community web portal, and the virtual words service is hosted on the VCE region in Second Life.

I, PI, … Eye

I, PI ... Eye

I have been working on my Digital Cultures course final project for a couple of weeks now. It is a study of Identity, Avatar and On-line Identity, Community Identity and the use of an Analytical Eye over these topics.

http://atate.org/ai/pi/

I would welcome feedback from anyone who has a look at the artifact in its current state. I am still working on elements of it.

Lifestream Week 10

Posthuman Pedagogy

I got ahead with my contribution to the posthuman pedagogy and produced my input over the weekend, entitled “Think Like a Robot”. So I was able to provide it to the class at the very start of the week for discussion. Some commenting on this and other entries as they came in towards the end of the week formed events in my Lifestream.

Eye on the EDEDC Final Assignment

I, PI ... Eye

To create the story I wish to tell for my EDEDC final assignment, I have been pulling together a number of threads explored during the Digital Cultures course and on other MSc courses such as IDEL11 and ULOE11. This has led to extracting some of the elements on different social media and platforms, especially aggregating content into my personal learning and asset collection space at http://atate.org/space/

Uncanny Pedagogical Experiences – Joking Apart

I have kidded on a bit with Siân Bayne in some discussions over the use of what I treated as "cute" terms like the "uncanny" and "ghostly" or "zombie" experiences. I got the idea of the uncertain and mind challenging environments she was described as a learning opportunity. And I do appreciate its a term that has some history (see Uncanny). But the Bayne (2008) reading did start to make more sense to me as a coherent approach to some people’s experiences in virtual worlds. I think I have used teleconference, distance collaboration and other forms of multi-user environments for so long, and have had experience of MUDs and MOOs as they grew from their text beginnings, so that its a more natural experience for me… just like I would not call using the telephone uncanny because I can heard a disembodied voice from a distance. But I can certainly put myself into an avatar shape or type which I know I find unusual or that feels “wrong”.

I found a very nicely constructed site in Second Life this week which allowed for just such an experience, and I blogged about it to draw it to the attention of others on the IDEL11 and EDEDC courses. See "Meta Body – Try an Out of Your Body Experience" – http://edc11.education.ed.ac.uk/austint/2011/11/18/meta-body-try-an-out-of-your-body-experience/

Second Life Pic of the Day

I added a further RSS feed to my Lifestream… the Second Life official feed from the blog which selects a representative “pic of the day”. This is something I already follow on Twitter and find useful. I feel this reflects the continuing improvement of the visuals in Second Life and OpenSim, indicates new facilities as they come along and show cases top builds inworld.

Reference

Bayne, Siân (2008) "Uncanny spaces for higher education: teaching and learning in virtual worlds", ALT-J Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 16, No. 3., pp.197-205.

Uncanny – See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny

Posthuman Pedagogy – Think Like a Robot

Think like a Robot Think like an Octopus Think like Skynet

See http://atate.org/mscel/think/

When discussing the nature of an individual’s beliefs about intelligence, knowledge or the learning process, I have noticed in a number of discussion forum threads on EDEDC and ULOE11 where it can be a useful device to put oneself into the position of an artificial intelligence agent, knowledge-based computer system or a robot. Or go further and think like a creature, or even a disembodied network.

Please add any comments you have here.

Meta Body – Try an Out of Your Body Experience

A very beautifully designed Second Life region is worth exploring. I suggest you arrive in the Meta_Body area first. Use this teleport link:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Porto/132/109/703

Look at the (freely available) avatars to explore your identity and see which feel strange to you, and some which might appeal. Consider why (Bayne, 2008). There are a few male and more female avatars available to try. Select the strangest before you embark on a tour of the lovely areas which are on the land surface, on small islands, on sky islands, and underwater. Sit for a while on some of the areas. Click on things to see what they do.

Eventually find your way to a white ice themed area with a lady playing a white piano. Try touching the black “Omega Star Dream 5″ sphere for an animated tour through some of the lower elements of the region. If you cannot find this use this SLurl to get there directly:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Porto/105/91/62

Reference
Bayne, Siân (2008) "Uncanny spaces for higher education: teaching and learning in virtual worlds", ALT-J Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 16, No. 3., pp.197-205.

Lifestream Week 9

I was pleased that David Richardson (Twitter @_djcr) was able to join in Digital Cultures as my class friend for discussions on “The Posthuman” for the current two week block. After an exchange between us about a couple of the readings (Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto and Pickering’s Asian Eels and Global Warming) he has been tweeting along merrily since then. Quite a bit of David’s input has come as comments into the Digital Culture’s Blog entries… one of which I prepared to give him relevant quick access links and an anchor for his inputs.

My own input to the Posthuman discussions came via my Digital Culture’s blog entry on Posthuman – Connected and a lot of very interesting commentary by classmates and Jeremy (as Tutor) along with notes by me on that. David has also been commenting and adding his thoughts as comments to this blog entry.

I have noticed that I seem to be a long weekend ahead of discussion on the forums on all my MSc in e-learning modules, not just Digital Cultures. I tend to use Friday to prepare the ground for the start of the next week, get the readings organised, file previous material, and I think of start of the weekend as the change over point. That seems to put my Lifestream entries a few days, and sometimes as much as a week, ahead of similar topic events from others. So I felt rather lonely on the WallWisher Walls where I was more than 4 days ahead of any other entry appearing. Then we had an episode where we had two wall accidentally for a while. All sorted now, and entries appearing. Unfortunately, these entries are not reflected in the LifeStream as noted before. I continued to comment on the new virtual community ethnographies as they appeared through the week.

Work on the Moodle/SLoodle experiments was at a lower level this week, though I did a blog post expressing my feelings about the labyrinthine complexity of roles and permissions in Moodle against how I felt it ought to appear. This image from the posting expresses how things seem to me:

Underground Activity

My on-line activity on one aspect of the Digital Cultures course has “gone underground” a little in that I am preparing elements of my final assignment in a web area of my Personal Learning Space and elements of this are not reflected in my lifestream yet.

Research and International Links

Some Lifestream events relate to my research with the OpenVCE.net community and its emergency response groups. There has been a build up of events that relate to a shift of one of the web portals from HarmonieWeb, which provided Adobe Connect services in particular for the OpenVCE.net community, to the All Partners Access Network (APAN). This could be interesting as APAN uses the Telligent Community Platform integrated with Adobe Connect and XMPP/Jabber text chat for synchronous meetings. Details of the transition, which I am managing, are being built at http://openvce.net/apan. More tweets and status messages will appear on this over the next few weeks as I keep the OpenVCE.net community informed of progress.

Another international community I am involved in is KSCO – the Knowledge Systems for Coalition Operations community. We are in the run up to the closing date for submission of papers for KSCO-2012 which I am an organiser for. It will be run in February 2012 this year in Florida. We have just had approval for a proposal we made for a KSCO special issue of the high quality journal IEEE Intelligent Systems, so some Lifestream events relate to communicating this to the KSCO community.

AI, Cyborgs and Robots

When discussing the nature of an individual’s beliefs about intelligence, knowledge or the learning process, I have noticed in a number of discussion forum threads on EDEDC and ULOE11 that it can be a useful device to refer to an artificial intelligence agent, knowledge-based computer systems or robot.

Hayles (1999, pp 23-24) mentioned Philip Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (which was the basis for the Blade Runner movie) through which a number of personal identity and ethical issues are explored. I have previously mentioned some of these issues as having been raised at http://www.philfilms.utm.edu/1/blade.htm

This transferance of the argument to an artificial agent can help avoid the over emphasis of human traits or superior species assumptive arguments. The more we observe of animals and consider artificial agents, the more we will come to realise we are just another type of soft machine. Recent studies apparently show we can even share blood transfusions with chimpanzees, as they are so closely related to us. Dolphins may have a different type of intelligence, but should we put such intelligent creatures in zoos? A recent article by Montgomery (2011) on “How Smart is an Octopus” is fascinating. See http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6474/

Hayles, N. Katherine, (1999) “Towards embodied virtuality” from Hayles, N. Katherine, “How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics” pp.1-25,293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press

Montgomery, Syd (2011) “Deep Intellect: Inside the mind of the octopus”, Orion Magazine, November/December 2011.

Lifestream Week 8

The work on digital ethnographies dribbled over into this week with continuing comments on the ethnographic studies of others in the class, and feedback to those kindly commenting on my own ethnographic study on the GA-MMA community. I made a few changes to the study artifact to take into account some suggestions made. The refined artifact is at the same URL of http://atate.org/mscel/ethno/.

The week has been characterised by some preparatory work for assignments on the three MSc in e-Learning courses I am on. There is a lot to pull together, many interesting areas to explore, and readings to go back over. But I like to start such projects early, do an initial burst of activity to get some material in place, and then take a long time to reflect and refine.

I had a flurry of activity to create a new digital artifact along the style of “AI – Avatar Identity” under the theme “Are You on Another Planet?” at http://atate.org/another-planet/ picking up on the “Other Worlds” and utopian dreams elements in earlier blocks of EDEDC. This involved setting up and the populating a new WallWisher wall and dozens of entries on that – none of which showed in my Lifestream unfortunately due to a glitch in the way that Wallwisher RSS feeds seem to come to Lifestream. It also involved some experimentation with a “grammar” of “connectors” which are meant to give a visual typography based method to show links between themes, token, topics and readings on the course.

Another Planet

I did this originally to be a potential EDEDC final assignment topic. But as I explored, I widened out to try to take a more holistic and “posthuman” aggregating view of the work I had done on EDEDC on personal identity (Life Wall), projected identity (Another World) and community identity (GA-MMA and social networks). I have now proposed and had accepted a theme for my EDEDC final assignment in this area with working title “I, PI, with my little Eye”. My Lifesteam shows a trickle of contributing elements as I build assets and on-line materials for that.

My Lifestream also shows a number of entries reflecting my continuing discussions on the use of Personal Learning Environments, and experience I am gaining with setting up and using a VLE based on Moodle. A frustrating experience as there are so many labyrinthine paths through which roles and permissions seem to be set up.

The initial readings into “posthuman” literature on EDEDC are just starting to come through as events in my Lifestream. I also hope we might see comments from my EDEDC “bring a friend to class” David Richardson. I added a couple of entries on the PostHuman2011 WallWisher wall, but as noted before these do not show in my Lifestream even though I have the RSS feed set up for that wall too. I posted a blog entry giving some background on why I chose to put an image and information about my PSA avatar on the Posthuman 20011 wall. I will use some elements of this in trying to pull EDEDC themes together for the final assignment.

I see also some entries which reflect the interests I have in space exploration. My twitter feeds are often dominated by NASA and ESA related activities. But in a few week’s time, we are off to Mars again. To be more precise, the names of myself, my virtual worlds avatar (who gets the original invitation due to involvement in NASA’s CoLab in Second Life), my wife, and our elderly parents (who watch these missions with interest) are this time on a chip on the deck of the Opportunity Mars Science Lab.

Spacewar – virtual worlds circa 1972

You may be amused to read an account of virtual worlds and computer gaming circa 1962 to 1972. You needed imagination to play then! As you needed imagination for the MUDs and MOOs of the early 1980s.

This is an on-line version of an article in Rolling Stone magazine of 7th December 1972 entitled SPACEWAR – Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums. It starts:

Ready or not, computers are coming to the people.

See http://www.wheels.org/spacewar/stone/rolling_stone.html

I was using that very same DEC PDP-10 computer at Stanford University via a terminal at Hope Park Square in Edinburgh through our own PDP-10 on the ARPANet just after this period.

Stick with the article to further down and you will get a fascinating insight into some of the folks involved in early creative uses of computers when ARPAnet had less than 20 nodes on it… and people were even then concered about “central computers” and “big brother”.

Posthuman – Connected


“Posthuman” as a term is used quite widely and in flowery prose for a range of aggregations of human and other external entities… machinery as in the cyborg, with bionic devices, sensitivity to the environment, connections with others, remote sensing capability beyond normal human sensing, etc.

A person “connected the Internet” by whatever means seems to me to transcend simple improvements to technology which allow us communicate to other separate individuals. The Internet becomes an extension of their capabilities. They can have agents which act within that space in a conceptual sense, and, via connectors, outside that space and back into the real environment. This does not require biological/machine connectivity. The amalgam of a person, their mean of connection to the Internet, and the embodiment of a surrogate on-line agent are sufficient to take us to this “posthuman” state.

We can endow our “avatars” or on-line agents with semi-autonomous capabilities and knowledge via sets of FAQs and answers as we would choose to answer, with sets of processes and procedures, with tutorial capabilities (e.g. MyCybertwin).

But this is a symbiosis of human and AI agent for that person. Not a separately created entity. That raises other issues.

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner film explores issues of personal identity when autonomous cyborgs are created. Blade Runner is based on the sci-fi story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. One aspects covers the nature of our memories and how “real” they might seem even if implanted, adopted or transferred. A discussion of some of these issues is at http://www.philfilms.utm.edu/1/blade.htm.

I personally like the interesting depiction of two types of autonomous AI in Steven Spielberg’s “Artificial Intelligence” movie. This is based on the short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long”. “David” is the child-like robot who implants on his adopted parents and seeks love from them – for thousands of years. “Teddy” is the wise guardian embedded in a toy and there to support David (AI supporting AI).

I think we will see “Teddy” style robots in our life times especially for the young and the old. Imagine a time when the robotic companion or aid along with the Internet is a part of your wider self, and can supplement the biological self as memory fades and capabilities are lost, and keep you in touch with others.

Lifestream Week 7

The EDC11 ethnographic study was completed over the weekend, and provided to allow comments by others on 31st October. It was very interesting to see the other studies as they slowly became available… and I commented on those where I had some inputs to give.

batIt was also Halloween of course, so I could not resist a post or two that brought in my user name “bat”, one of my avatar outfits for Halloween provided to me last year in fact and a chance to wear it again, and a funny reference that came up as we had “Zombie” processes plaguing our Moodle service.

Good progress has been made in the last week on setting up a Moodle 2.1.2 (latest version) VLE for tests and connecting it via the SLoodle toolkit to a classroom in Second Life. Feedback is being given to the SLoodle development community as they move the current test systems from alpha code status to a first beta version that will work with Moodle 2.x versions. My Lifestream indicated a flurry of activity on this testing and interaction with the communities involved.

I was surprised that my Lifestream seemed to have a low number of events on a couple of days when I seemed to be very active on-line, and in areas I believed I had feeds in place. It turns out that all WallWisher feeds I have in place only received a single event, for the very first posting on each of my walls, and none since. Its not clear why. The event itself though is meaningless anyway as it does not contain the useful text posted on a WallWisher entry label, and the pointer does not go to the content of the entry, but just generically to the wall itself. As a snapshot today for my own walls (15+1+14) and some contributions to IDEL11 (2), EDC11 (3), and a new EDC11 “Post Human” (2) wall I have a total of 37 WallWisher “events” to date only a few of which show in my LifeStream unfortunately. [Mentioned at the suggestion of Jen Ross purely for assessment reasons :-) ]

Only showing as a few hints in my on-line activity at present (deliberately) is a concept I am developing for work on “Another Planet”. This involves some new concepts I am developing with an exploration of a non-linear “Neo-Grammar” that uses a visual and typographical style with hyperlinks to present “Connectors”. A Wall Wisher wall that already contains 15 or so entries (not showing in my Lifestream) is being created in support of this experiment. More coming in next few weeks on this.

<Connector> ::= Token ⊃—⊂ Token

Finally, I set up a “Personal Learning Environment” web area and entry web page that brings together a lot of the scattered entry points, summary links pages and shortcuts I have to reach web sites, blogs, discussion forums, WallWisher walls, VLEs, etc for the MSc in e-Learning courses, as well as pointers to my own assignment contributions. Initially I created this as part of exploring VLEs vs. PLEs for the IDEL11 course, but it has quickly turned into my single point of entry at work, at home and on mobile devices for access to my educational resources and work areas. Since I cannot resist looking ahead, I also have the EDC11 “Post-Human” WallWisher board embedded on the page at present. This is a good example of how a PLE can reflect current focus for an individual learner. A more controlled VLE approach would definitely not have focused something for the following week on its front page. I have refined the style sheets a little to give a simple flexible width style that gives a maximum view of the core content and works well on a range of browsers and devices with large and small (e.g. mobile device) screens. This work space is at http://atate.org/space/.

Another Planet

I have been cooking up another project…. the appeal of utopian “Other Worlds” and projecting identities into them (see Gee, 2003). The creative experience of imagineering such a world, making it plausible and “real”, and inhabiting it in a social context is something I want to explore more. I am initially building some images related to this on Wall Wisher…
http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/another-planet

Gee, J. (2003) Learning and identity: What does it mean to be a half-elf? What video games have to teach us about language and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

GA-MMA Virtual Ethnography

My ethnographic study was of the GA-MMA group… the Gerry Anderson Model Makers’ Alliance. The study is at:

http://atate.org/mscel/ethno/

Please leave any comments here.

B(at), Be, … Z…

It’s Halloween from bat, from AT, and this time its not Ai but from Be… and what’s that about Z? See the Holyrood Park blog entry.

Lifestream Week 6

There was an excuse provided by the subject of study on IDEL11 in the last week to look at a “Personal Learning Environment (PLE)”, e-Portfolios like “PebblePad” and “Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs)” like WebCT/Blackboard and Moodle. This was actually quite timely as I was getting concerned that the volume of assets I was creating for the course was getting scattered across the very many social media sites used on various courses, was being locked into the WebCT walled garden for each module, or was being scattered across my own preferred blogging and information sharing sites like OpenVCE.net. I had had an entry page for useful and quick access links for the course at http://openvce.net/mscel since the semester started, but it was inappropriate to personalise that public facing web page too much. I also was starting to build image repositories in my own personal web area at http://atate.org.

So, I have now created a “Personal Work Space” which is acting as a PLE for now, but after the MSc it will be made more generally useful for my continuing life long learning and asset storage at stable URLs. This could be timely as I am within 5 years of likely retirement, and many of the assets I have built over the last 30 years will be ones I want to take into retirement for my continuing interests. I took the opportunity to put in place a new page format and underlying CSS stylesheet that would work more flexibly than my usual project spaces. It accommodates browser width much better, is easier to add content reliably without changing the appearance as my previous tabular layouts tended to, it works in multiple browsers, and it works well in very small windows and on mobile devices. It also uses only simple and standard CSS and uses no Javascript. I moved all the convenient links and a set of useful embedded elements like a course twitter feed as well.

The initial result is at http://atate.org/space/.

There was quite a flurry of activity in my blogs and hence my lifestream this week related to Moodle and the Second Life link up via the SLoodle module and in world classroom object “rezzer”. An updated web/PHP platform to let Moodle 2.1.2 (the latest version) run on one of our servers was put in place last week allowing proper experiments to begin. There is a SLoodle classroom on the VCE region of Second Life and I am blogging and tweeting to the SLoodle community about progress in testing. There are some small issues that are being addressed in the “alpha” grade code currently under review. It is a good time to give feedback to the SLoodle community as they are close to trying to create the first “beta” version of the Moodle module that will be able to run with the latest Moodle 2 versions. My PhD student, Punyanuch Borwarnginn, who is working on Intelligent Learning Environments also has a course set up. She also has her own I-Room/Classroom space on Vue North in Second Life, and is now a course creator in our Moodle system. See http://openvce.net/ile .

There was a flurry of lifestream events related to my completion of a “learning challenge” for the ULOE11 course. This was a fun challenge to learn one of the skills taught to junior hairdressers. I took this seriously and probably went a bit over the top with the effort put in on it. But it was very enjoyable, and I am pleased with the results. The lifestream events show my various blog postings as I went along. See http://atate.org/mscel/hair/ for a summary of the whole show. I have created a colour printable version to provide back to the good people at the hairdressing salon who helped me.

I notice that a lot of my activity on the “Digital Cultures” course does not appear in my lifestream as much of the discussion is now on a non-public Discussion Forum. The ethnography study also involves personal analysis of the corpus of messages from my virtual community… GA-MMA. The emerging results are being created at http://atate.org/mscel/ethno/.

Finally, this week we also heard that John McCarthy had died. He was a pioneer of AI, and the one who coined that term. He was a great visionary too. I made several postings and tweets about his life, and gave pointers to his fun and perceptive short story… “The Robot and the Baby”.

Ai, Ai, Ai …

The automated recloning worked just as planned… and after a server upgrade to OpenSim 0.7.2 Dev Master r/17006 the two autoreplacing clones I had set up on the Avatar Identity region reappeared …

A, B, C … Z

Ai, Be, Clones … Zap. I have been putting off upgrades to the Openvue region that hold the AI – Avatar Identity digital artifact… because I have gown quite fond of all those clones and the amusing and strange positions they have adopted as objects and the breeze have moved them a bit and they have started sliding or bumping into one another even when no one is watching and no users are logged in. Some now stand face to face, or up to their knees in water. Its just funny to see what they have been up to when you go in world.

But the time has come to upgrade. The technology for NPCs and avatar clone creation I used is not persistent over server side upgrades, so all the current avatars, and there are a lot now, will disappear… gone forever, zapped. They will exist now only in snapshots, the machinima and in our memories. The next set will not be the same and will never be the “original” artifact. But simply copies of copies of an idea. I will not look on them the same at all.

Luckily I now have in place some new technology still in an experimental form which will reinstate cloned avatars from copies kept as descriptions in note cards – like clones made from the DNA of a cloned avatar! Is this getting a bit deep?

So bye bye now to Ai’s clones and Be’s clones wherever you are in nooks and crannies all over the region, and I can see some of you as green dots in extreme places.

Lifestream Week 5

My lifestream shows continued commenting on Digital Artifact entries for classmates… and I produced a few more images of my own artifact. There were some very amusing visual effects when I entered the OpenSim region on which the artifact is based and continues to develop as avatars slide about, knock into one another, start bouncing off into the water, etc. I have had a few “rescue” missions to bring underwater avatar clones back to the surface. An attempt to place a large skydome round the whole artifact, to make it look more like it was a moon hung in space with nearby planet surfaces, had an amusing visual effect. It bumped all the avatar clones right out of the way… they were all tumbling over one another and getting pushed along. Another rescue needed.

I had originally decided I could not afford the time to do a machinima of the digital artifact… but the moving imagery of a clone emerging as a cloud and rezzzing gradually really is one of the best parts. So I invested a couple of hours to produce a one minute machinima of this. The cutting and audio track mixing really does take time when you are not an expert at it. The result is on the blog, on YouTube and in the artifact itself at http://atate.org/ai/ai/ .

Everyone is putting in a lot of time on the course and the artifacts they are creating. But its fun to do so too. This opportunity brings out the thwarted (but not very capable) artist in me. I always feel I have more ideas than I can translate to artifacts I feel capture what I want to communicate. But the Digital Culture course offers a platform to release some of this.

I like to get ahead on tasks, so I have been preparing a good bit of the background and addressing technical aspects of gathering data for the ethnography study. I have chosen to address the Gerry Anderson Model Makers’ Alliance (GA-MMA). A start on the study is at http://atate.org/mscel/ethno/. Ethical issues of the study were addressed this week, and my lifestresams shows I engaged with the class on ethics issues. I blogged on it too. I am the School of Informatics ethics representative and look after our ethical processes.

There were a lot of entries in my lifestream from the activity in Second Life on IDEL11, which has been fun, and the start of my ULOE11 “Learning Task” to learn how to blow dry under a professional hairdresser. Lots more detail at http://atate.org/mscel/hair/.

There is the usual scattering of other lifestream entries, especially on Twittter, for some of my interests in world land speed record attempts which I have followed and supported since the 1960s. The next 2 years will see the most activity in this areas since the mid 1960s with attempts to take the record from just supersonic up to 1,000m.p.h.

Ethnographic Studies on GA-MMA

After some discussion with the group and my tutor, Sian, I have chosen to do my ethnographic study on the Gerry Anderson Model Makers’ Alliance (GA-MMA). I did some preparatory work, got some facts and figures together, etc. I started the report itself , as is my working style, on the web page at http://atate.org/mscel/ethno/.

I considered ethical matters, and discussed acting as a “new member” as a probe on how the community reacted. But after discussion on the course forum, I decided against this on ethical groups of misleading a community I am already a member of and potentially making someone in the community spend real time to assist a fictional new member.

I addressed straight away, a potentially serious blocking technical issue which was how to obtain all the messages in a form I could process and analyse locally without individually reading and seeking the threads I feel I want to follow (e.g. on how new members are treated and supported, or otherwise) in the 500 or so postings available publicly. I have installed a message grabbing and archiving software and obtained the message traffic (deliberately without member login to ensure no members only or private messages are included). An initial Wordle tag cloud of this is shown here… which already shows some interesting themes related to the most popular topics discussed, craft modelled, etc.

AI – Avatar Identity – Beneath

An ususual view from under the water looking to all the clones and avatars above the water’s surface. Following a rescue trip to bring out stranded avatars (me, he, she, us, them) who had got knocked into the water…

Lifestream Week 4

“Digital Artifact – AI – Avatar Identity”
The week’s lifestream entries reflected the work that went into the production of the digital artifact for the Digital Cultures course at http://atate.org/ai/ai/ and related experimentation with non-player character (NPC) production via scripts in OpenSim. I use this to produce avatar clones in various outfits in a fantastical scene that might have elements of utopia in my eye. and that reflected a lot of my personal interests. The ghostly “avatar cloud” that appears in Second Life and OpenSim virtual worlds viewers as an avatar rezzes into its form was appealing to me as a “better” represent on of what it is to be an avatar… and I wanted to capture this strange and unsettling element as part of the artifact. I found suitable script and texture resources to recreate this both as a stand along object as as a partially rezzed, but never fully rezzing version on an avatar clone.

VW Cloud Avatar

VW Cloud Avatar

The Cyberchat between my two avatars equipped with MyCyberTwin chat bot via a web interface was interesting to observe. See http://atate.org/ai/ai/res/2011-10-09-chat-log-ai-and-be.txt. I was very surprised at how well they did with relatively little training, and no FAQ or tutorial sections in their repertoire.. which is possible with the technology provided. They seemed very civil. I tried to manually intervene a few times… but they seemed to chat on quite well, even changing the subject them,selves a couple of times.

IDEL11 in Second Life
The IDEL11 course moved some of its work and tutorials in Second life… which I am familiar with, so I was on home turf a bit there. I observed the other new users and their avatars to see how they got on, as part of my research and project work involves supporting new communities and simplifying the access experience for people collaborating using virtual worlds alongside other collaborative technologies.

Aldebaran Nau Demo in Edinburgh

Aldebaran Nao

The Aldebaran Robotics Nao European Tour for educators was in town today, and I went along to see the robot and its software interfaces being demonstrated.

Life Wall Pro – Places as an Anchor for Life Events

I am continuing to explore ideas in using my “Life Wall” for professional and academic purposes, such as presentation of a scientist’s thematic contributions and achievements. I have been testing out ways to describe professional life events as “Placemarks” described in KML and to add them to Google Earth or Google Maps.

An example on my Life Wall Pro version with some locations I have current profesdsional contacts with is at: View Life Wall Pro – Google Map Element

Some background to the XML used for KML Placeholders is here:
https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/Informatics/Google+Maps+Placeholder+in+KML

Exploring the EduNation Regions in Second Life

This is a mixed use and mixed institution educational area, with a number of plots used by a range of Universities, coverages and academic groups. There are a number of “classrooms in the sky” on various levels.

On arrival and initial exploration, the area is not well described or signposted. There is no obvious entry/arrival area and no note cards are offered. Looking round though it was clear there were specific institution and class areas set up for specific subjects. A veterinary studies area had sculptures of horses, and posters and displays related to horse anatomy for example. It had some nice teaching and presentation aids. There was a nice interactive “Artboard 2.1″ using prims for marked lines.

To find out more about the area and its uses, a Google search on “EduNation Second Life” leads to http://heyjude.wordpress.com/2007/02/05/edunation-secondlife/ which has next to no content and no one has posted comments… it’s full contents are:

The Consultants-E are proud to launch the first private island simulator in Second Life dedicated to online training seminars and conferences, and the use of Second Life in Education. EduNation is a 65,000m2 island in the Second Life virtual world with seminar, powerpoint, audio and videocast facilities. Use of the seminar facilities is free. More information at EduNation (http://www.theconsultants-e.com/edunation/edunation.asp)

That URL leads only to “Server Error – 404 – File or directory not found. The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

This is rather typical of educational regions that are not well managed or owned by specific stake-holders. The area should be considered as one that lets people set up individual classrooms and areas and is not meant to have a cohesive design or allow for random exploration and discovery.

A good example of it in productive use by educators, and the reason I chose this region to explore, was a recent demonstration of a new version of the SLoodle module for the Moodle Victual Learning Environment. The demonstration organisers set up a new area well up in the sky and rafter landing at a simple initial meeting space, they dynamically rezzed large platforms nearby to show the facilities. and even rezzed a bridge to let the visitors walk over to that newly created facility. I attended a briefing about the new SLoodle 2 toolset on the EduNation III region of Second Life on Sunday 18-Sep-2011 by Paul Priebsch (avatar name: Fire Centaur). About 30 other educators were there. A feature of SLoodle 2 is the ability to set up “scenes” an rapidly rezz them in and around a classroom for a lesson, and then tidy them away so the ability can be re-used. This was demonstrated live on the EduNation regions. The SLoodle quiz chair can be set up to give rewards to students, or “penalise” them for failure… including dumping them in a shark filled pool with realistic screams!

A blog report of that demonstration is at http://holyroodpark.net/atate/weblog/6149.html. Full size versions of some images of the demo meeting are gathered at http://openvce.net/sloodle

AI – Avatar Identity – Digital Artifact

AI - Avatar Identity
AI - Avatar Identity - Tags and Avatars


Ai & Be – Avatar Internet Chat

Design rationale, background, video, extended artifact and live artifact visiting details: http://atate.org/ai/ai/

Avatar to Avatar Chatbots

My two avatar MyCyberTwin OpenSim chatting away together in OpenSim. Part of an exercise for the Digital Cultures EDC11 Digital Artifact exercise:

http://atate.org/ai/ai/res/2011-10-09-chat-log-ai-and-be.txt

At least they don’t bicker like some recent chatbot to chatbot chat experiments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnzlbyTZsQY

Fast, Far, Forever

I have always been fascinated by fast cars, advanced planes and spacecraft and there is a thread running through my interests which I have been able to explore while creating my “Life Wall” – http://atate.org as part of the MSc in e-Learning Digital Cultures course – so this blog post fills in some background.

Fast Cars
Many members of my family have been involved in motorsport at a number of levels, and I got the bug early on. I had a scrambling motorbike that we used in fields adjacent to our house in Knottingley, West Yorkshire, and later developed a drag racing sprint bike that we raced at Ricall aerodrome on Drag Racing weekends with the North of Britain based British Quarter Mile Association (BQMA). I was already a rally car navigator for my older brotherSon local De Lacy Motor Club events before I could legally drive myself. I can read a map as if its a 3D model laid out before my eyes. We were taught to drive by my dad in our field and on local aerodromes, and I used my brother’s (fast racing) go-kart a few times. Scary to be that close to the ground at nearly 100mph. I passed my driving test almost as soon as I was 17, joined the De Lacy Motor Club and competed in local rallies and driving test and motorcross, and I have a few trophies to show for the effort.

But my interest in fast cars and vehicles went beyond that. I loved the engineering cutaways shown in the “Eagle” comic each week, and I followed a number of UK and US Hot Rod and Drag Racing communities via magazines. I was lucky to be taken by my elder brother to see the first visit of the US Drag Racing Team to the UK, who brought over the dragsters then just touching 200mph from a standing start in a quarter mile sprint. Don Garlits, Don Prudehome, Tony Nancy and the other famous racers of the 1960s were all there when I saw a 200mph run at RAF Woodvale in Lancashire. I was an avid followers of the fascinating battle for the land speed record in the US between Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove as they went through 400mph, then 500mph and then 600mph in the space of a couple of years. My dad took us over to see Donald Campbell doing some of his trials runs on Coniston Water in the UK Lake District. I continue to follow the more recent land speed records attempts and have been a supporter of Richard Noble and Andy Green’s supersonic record car in 1997 with my name being carried in certificates in the car as it did its runs at Black Rock Desert in Nevada. I now support the new Bloodhound SSC car being designed to do 1,000mph. My name will be on its tail.

Fast Planes
The early 1960s were a good time for those interested in fast planes and supersonic or hypersonic travel – with the X-15 rocket plane able to do hundreds of flights straight up into space and back on a ballistic trajectory. We are only just getting back to the time that will be reasonably feasible again with Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two. Though it was not something that was known about to the general population in the 1960s, it later transpired that the SR-71 Blackbird was routinely flying at Mach 3 or more for many hours on high altitude spying and scientific missions since the 1950s. I still find the SR-71 the most beautiful aircraft and take every opportunity to visit one in the museums around the world as I travel. And I take one for a spin any time I can in Flight Simulators.

Far Space
So with these interests, its not surprising I was also interested in space. I was interested in space before sputnik flew, and already had (and still have) a well thumbed copy of Patrick Moore’s “Boys Book of Space”, with pencil drawings of the features of the moon in the back from my pre-teen years. I lived through the early Space Race years, and have my collectors cards that went from Sputnik up to visionary deep space probes and talk of a “Grand Tour” of the solar system which I loved the idea of. It would be some years before my AI planning software was used by NASA JPL as a basis for Steve Vere’s Deviser planning system that would (after its launch) model the activity of the Voyager spacecraft which actually flew this Grand Tour mission, and continues to send tweets which I receive each day of its position far beyond the Solar System edge.

Thomas Cook Luggage Labels LUN

Thomas Cook Luggage Labels LUN

I have ready to use luggage labels (issued for promotional purposes) when I registered my interest in Thomas Cook flights to the Moon!

I am a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society which is a fantastic way to stay in touch with space related activities as an amateur. But I have also worked professionally with the European Space Agency consulting on autonomous spacecraft, and worked on projects with them on planners for the ERS-1 spacecraft and a system for assembly. integration and test of Ariane launchers. Our work at AIAI has also fed into telecommand systems for EUMETSAT metrological spacecraft and for ground station planning for the UK Skynet observation spacecraft.

One thing we have found to be a great way to stay in touch with missions has been to place our name on lists carried on CDs, chips or plaques on board exploration spacecraft. We have had our names on the Opportunity and Spirit rovers now on Mars, and our name was carried on a chip on-board the return capsule on Stardust sample return mission to Comet Temple 1. The chip should be in the Smithsonian museum in future. Our names were also on the Deep Impact comet penetrator mission. Our names and photos (and those of my virtual world avatar after an invitation from a NASA Colab group I am part of in Second Life) have flown on each of the last flights of the Space Shuttle in the last 12 months. Unfortunately, we just missed seeing one launch while in Florida after a launch scrub, but did visit and see the penultimate Space Shuttle Discovery on its pad at Cape Canaveral. But in the past we have seen two shuttle launches. And we will shortly be off to Mars again on the new “Curiosity” Mars Exploration Lab.

Forever – To infinity and Beyond
But perhaps the one I find most interesting, is that our names and a poem I wrote were carried alongside other digital artifacts on board the European Space Agency’s Huygens Titan lander taken by the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn. All contributors were provided with a copy of the whole set of artifacts by ESA when the content were completed before launch. We followed that whole mission. Huygens drifted down through methane clouds gently to land in soft terrain on the shores of a liquid methane lake overlooked by the rings of Saturn through a hazy sky.

Huygens at Titan by Emile Raphael Franco for Planetary Society Art Competition

Huygens at Titan by Emile Raphael Franco for Planetary Society Art Competition

Drift down through the clouds… We’re with you.
Swing slowly on the parachutes aloft…

Our names now stand by that methane sea, at a point in the solar system beyond the distance where the Sun will eventually grow in its red giant stage and consume the Earth. To infinity… and beyond…

Lifestream Week 3

The White Screen of (Slow) Death

The week was characterised for me by being on travel and working with mobile devices and a slow 3G connection. It is a time to remember that not all our students and distance learners are on fast broadband networks, and every item of content, image and thumbnail download and reload for trivial clicks must be paid for. I experienced blank white browsers screens for over a minute while typical content management systems like WordPress composed their page for rendering… made up of hundreds of images and user icons.. and then showed it all at once.. immediately followed by some click to get you really where you want to be (like login prompt) followed by a total reload of every one of the same content items. These systems are poorly designed for bandwidth limited connections, mobile devices and so on. The systems seem not to have provided fall back styles, and forgotten the art of low bandwidth images, progressive rendering of pages with image and tables sizes predefined, etc.

Twitter, Discussion Forums and Blogs

My life stream this week indicates I can continue to interact reasonably well with others I collaborate with via Twitter while on travel. Though not having a simple way to view new tweets to #tags is an issue… only supported in systems I have with TwitterDeck on my desktops. Threaded discussion Forums are easy to follow, keep up to date with and input to, they can be looked back over indefinitely, searched, and new posts can easily be seen. I would say should be a preferred mode of operations for distance educators. Skype is okay if permitted in your location, but is bandwidth hungry, needs a 100% time connection (3G can drop out frequently in low signal areas), but not ideal for some topics that do not require synconicity. Blog posting are possible, but massive over use of images, header images and so on make this an expensive and time consuming frustrating process for the distance learner or user.

Reading and Comments

I did manage to get on top of core readings for my MSc in e-Learning modules and do some of the secondary reading. That was useful to interact with other students. It allowed for a bit of fun on the Digital Cultures course Skye chat this week, where one of the core reading authors was present. I was half serious about my comment on “tabloid headlines” for phrases such as “uncanny” environments and “hierarchical violence”. But “strangely” and in “uncanny” way I find myself using those phrases as I start to look at a visual artifact for week 4.

@ – THE symbol of Digital Culture

@ is perhaps the iconic symbol of digital culture and computer use. More so even than the ubiquitous “www.”.

The @ symbol we all use in e-mail came about very early on in the development of computer networks and inter-personal collaboration. In fact it was used on some of the very first Digital Equipment Company (DEC) Programmed Data Processor (PDP) machines (DEC PDP-10s) that were connected together to form the ARPANet around 1969. ARPANet was the predecessor of today’s Internet. Ray Tomlinson working at BBN (who built some of the packet switching systems that form the basis for the Internet) extended a local single computer programme which left messages for other users so you could pass messages between nodes on ARPANet by addressing a user with user@host.

The Edinburgh AI Department ran the DEC PDP-10 for the UK AI community which was connected to the ARPANet. As a PhD student in 1972-1975 I used the local PDP-10 and one at Stanford for my research work in AI planning, and I recall using the send message program and user@host frequently to leave messages for other AI planning PhD students I collaborated with such as Gerry Sussman at MIT and Earl Sacerdoti at Stanford University.

See for example http://inventors.about.com/od/estartinventions/a/email.htm.

The @ (“at”) symbol though does have quite a history and goes back far earlier than the internet and the emergence of digital culture, see http://email.about.com/cs/emailhistory/a/at_history.htm.

Who is Me, My Avatar and His Clone

Experiments with avatar cloning facilities as a basis for non-player characters (NPCs) in the latest development versions of OpenSim… for a possible visual artifact as part of the MSc in e-Learning Digital Cultures Course.

Me and My Clone

Me and My Clone

Through the Keyhole

I am travelling this week and in a location with no broadband or desktop computer. When travelling like this, I usually use a mobile device and 3G wireless access and limit myself to basic e-mail and a few low bandwidth browser operations. I make notes and lists of things to do on my return. But the period of absence from Edinburgh was longer than usual this time, and thing can start to build up quickly. After a few days I find I am spending longer making notes on what I must do when I return than actually working on something productive.

The (lack of) speed and (lack of) screen real estate becomes a serious problem for much of the type of work I do, but this week that was made more acute with the types of web pages and visual material in use on the MSc in e-Learning courses. The typical type of web page served by a CMS like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, and even Twitter, is filled with images, thumbnails, and other bandwidth hungry elements, and if usually designed with style layouts which do not allow for progressive rendering. A blank page is offered while many many elements download and then the page appears some time later. These sorts of sites are almost unusable on a typical 3G connection independent of screen size… and this becomes especially frustrating if this is the bulk of the material being accessed.

I quickly developed a sense that I was peering at the world through a very small key hole.

Lifestream Week 2

I am finding the summary of logos postings, comments and image uploads that I engage in across a typical work week an interesting observational sport.  I did a bit of analysis of the keywords and phrases in my postings across edc11.education (for EDEDC11) and Holyrood Park (for IDEL11)  and a Wordle scatter diagram of the phrases used.. and it shows a lot of consistency in the topics I blog about across the two areas.  The “Life Wall” which I put quite a bit of energy into in the first two weeks of the MSc in e-Learning figures most prominently.

Wordle Diagram for EDC11 as at 28-Sep-2011

Wordle Diagram for EDC11 as at 28-Sep-2011

My Life Wall at http://atate.org is now pretty much as I wanted it to be… though I have yet to work out how to properly add tags onto the Google map.

I had quite a few tweets and some blog entries about “Other Worlds” a theme of the film fest and tweeting events on EDEDC11 this week.  I drew attention to some highly detailed world and imaginative worlds developed in film (Avatar), Prose (Larry Niven’s Ringworld), Games (Gran Turismo) and Artworks (Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” reconstruction in Second Life).  It allowed for some enthusiastic exchanges between myself and other class members on these areas. I provided YouTube video links for these in SynchTube at http://www.synchtube.com/r/aiaustin.

Recollections of the first few years of the net

While reading Bell (2001) I was reminded of the time in the late 1960s and early 1970s when cyberculture was beginning.. and how quickly it grew after basic computer access and communication became possible.  We are social beings. Let me recall a few things as stepping stones.

My own use of computers began in the days before networks were seriously developed. Computers were largely standalone big machines in air cooled facilities.  My first programming exercises at a night class at Leeds Polytechnic around 1967 were submitted on coding sheets via punch operators on punched cards and the turn round was one week to the next evening class.

Things improved when I went to the University at Lancaster in 1969… we could punch our own cards :-) and then leave them in pigeon holes to be run overnight on the University’s single ICL 1900 computer. A mistake in the program due to a simple typo was a no no if you wanted to get a result.  We could program via flip switches in octal code a DEC PDP-8 that was the size of a large upright fridge freezer.  I write some interrupt routines for a disc driver on a a basic operating system using a limit of 1K words of memory on that around 1970.

But things were changing and interactive access to the same type of computer was coming thanks to a link up between Edinburgh University AI people and Malcolm Atkinson, then the Computer Manager at Lancaster, and since then a long term colleague, co-investigator and recently Director of the National e-Science Centre based in Edinburgh.  A precocious 17 year old programmer called John Scott at Lancaster wrote a real time access version of the Edinburgh POP-2 Language for the ICL 1900 and we were away into the cyberworld for real.  We learned POP-2 for most of our programming exercises, for data structures, and for a new AI course at Edinburgh around 1970-1971 which I signed onto.  These, and the consequent links to Edinburgh researchers interested in planning using computers set the direction for my whole career.  With encouragement from Donald Michie and Jim Doran at Edinburgh I did a final year undergraduate project to build my first AI planner – Graph Traverser 4 – and used a “compilation” approach to how plans were composed. I applied it to a range of benchmark tasks that others had tried their planners on. It far outperformed the others.  In July 1972 I  was able to get a small grant to allow my continued work on this and its writeup to continue after my degree – my very first research grant!

Donald Michie in Edinburgh had offered me a PhD place at Edinburgh and I joined him at the Department of Machine Intelligence and Perception in October 1972.  Real time access terminals using POP-2 and the time sharing Multi-POP system were the order of the day.  But it was to be an exciting time… 

Within a year the DEC-10 that was used by all AI researchers across Britain was installed in Edinburgh and became connected to the ARPANet – it was the 6th or 7th node on that network. Our access terminals could now be used to “Telnet” across to log on to other DEC-10s.  I especially used the Stanford  machine.  There was rudimentary chat, and e-mail was started with the famous “@” character being used to address users on other hosts.  Working for the first 2 hours each morning UK time I was often one of the few people on the entire network and had access to 2 DEC-10s for my work.  Multi-User Dimensions (MUDs) were experimented with soon after in the machine I used at Stanford… and the rest is history…

Reference

Bell, D (2001) Storying cyberspace 1: material and symbolic stories, chapter 2 of An introduction to cybercultures. Abingdon: Routledge. pp6-29

Other Worlds in Serious Games

Simulations of real or imagined worlds have been used for many years to assist in training.

One of my favourite simulated games is the PlayStation Gran Turismo series… our long loved Toyota MR2, now no longer with us, is still available to me to take for a spin in GT5…

Other Worlds in Film – Avatar and Pandora

The detailed realisation of Pandora, its geography, flora and fauna by James Cameron and his creative team for the film “Avatar” is a good example of the detailed imagination and background hard science that goes into the creation of an imaginary “other world”.  For some this detail and level of potential immersion in the film or its associated media and games is very appealing.

Ai'tswayon and Ikran Ai'tsyal

Ai’tswayon and his Ikran Ai’tsyal (Na’vi language for Ai fly and Ai wing) – See  http://atate.org/ai/navi/

Introduction to Pandora Youtube Clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBGDmin_38E

Lifestream Week 1

My Lifestream was set up on Monday 19th September 2011, and allowed to import activity in a number of feeds backdated to 1st September, so there were quite a few initial records. I blog and tweet as myself and as my virtual words avatar “Ai Austin”, often for very different purposes and roles, so I included feeds from both “characters”.  As well as the default EDC11 WordPress entries, my initial feeds include:
  1. Twitter feeds
  2. Blog entry feeds on the Drupal-based OpenVCE.net – the Open Virtual Collaboration Environment – which I use for my technical blogging for much of my research on collaboration, virtual worlds and intelligent systems
  3. Various MSc in e-Learning blog posting and comment feeds on the Holyrood Park Hub and Holyrood Park Blogs
  4. WallWisher Wall feeds
My blog entries from week 0 on the Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning (IDEL11) and the Understanding Learning in the Online Environment (ULOE11) were tidied up a little to establish better categories and tags. I made initial entries in my EDC11 WordPress blog and again modified them a little and added tags to improve the way they present to others.  I altered the appearance of my EDC11 blog, and completed the “About” page under a header tab.  I added a custom tab for experiments on a “Life Wall” for experiments I have started to complement the dynamic Lifestream. I added custom widgets to the right side to give a personal tag cloud, a short “message of the day” I can easily edit to give information directly on my blog front page, and a “search my blog” box.

It was interesting to look over the feeds sorted by each day, and via the useful icons types and realise that there were already a number of different types of interaction I make on the Internet and with the communities I work with. Educational technology is figuring a lot in the last few weeks, as is work on OpenSim.

Life Wall Pro – and Refinements – and the Baby Pictures

bat Life Wall v2 2011-09-22

bat Life Wall v2 2011-09-22

The elements of the Life Wall have been encouraging me to dig out all sorts of stuff that was buried away, and recall events and dates (sometimes with the aid of my wife and others) which were already only dimly there.  But they have been brought back to vivid life through developing my personal Life Wall.  I assume everyone will want photos of them when very young on their Life Wall… there are few events in life as important as being born! The baby photos of me at a few months old and age 1 year are up there now. Did I look cute then?

The live Life Wall is at http://atate.org – Hover a mouse over a tag or clipping for more detail. Click on the thumbnails for some larger versions of the images.

Life Map

I had already added a link to a “Life Map” on which I think a lot of life’s experiences could be noted through places visited and dated events.  I feel this element of the Life Wall could be so valuable, that I have adjusted the clippings column that will map to one HD screen of presentation to allow for an embedded Life Map directly on the main display.  There is a link to a larger map which could then be shown over 2 X HD displays when clicked.

Life Map Pro

The Life Wall idea and presentation could also be adapted to professional purposes, e.g. to collect together and present a researcher’s entire scientific contribution. It could allow then to look at their work and relationships. They could bring in professional contacts and the mappings between people, projects, organisations, tools, etc. Displays could include professional social network and project relationship diagrams (e.g. CMU Catalyst), FOAF, knowledge asset roadmaps (Macintosh, Filby and Tate, 1998), etc.  I am developing this aspect now.  As for Life Map Personal I hope to make the approach reasonably general and create an empty Life Map web area which others can copy and adapt to use themselves.

Reference

Ann Macintosh, Ian Filby and Austin Tate (1998) “Knowledge Asset Road Maps” Proc. of the 2nd Int. Conf. on Practical Aspects of Knowledge Management (PAKM98) Basel, Switzerland, 29-30 Oct. 1998, (U. Reimer, ed.). Available from http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/project/oplan/documents/1998/98-pakm98-roadmaps.pdf

BAT Life Wall – Refining the Idea

I have found the development of the “Life Wall” a very interesting experience, and sort of went to town on developing something that potentially could be reused in different contexts and used by others. Here are some notes I am making on its development.

bat Life Wall v1

bat Life Wall v1

Origins

The Life Wall came about in September 2011 as Austin Tate was exploring social web and community tools for introducing students to one another on the Edinburgh MSc in e-Learning. WallWisher was used to let people post media clippings to show their interests. But other forms of exchange were also useful.

Rationale

Life Wall is an exploration of use of tags and clippings, links and annotations in a number of visual and layout styles to look at your life story, things you have done, people who have influenced you, etc.. Elements are included to encourage reflection and recall. Emphasis elements encourage reflection on the impact on your life of the things you include. The Life Wall encourages archiving of older and non-computer-based material.

Life Wall is designed to be placed on two main displays, designed for presentation on 2 X side-by-side HD displays (1920×1080), but should be viewable on other screens.

As with all forms of social media, ensure you only show what you wish and do not disclose information which could pose a security risk.

Alternative name: Life Story

Life x N

The Life Wall concept could also be used for a couple. Developing the wall with your partner could be a fun (or surprising) experience and let you recall joint memories. Extensions to an entire family “Life x N” are possible.

Life Lines and Life Style

The displays are designed to be flexible and customisable. A CSS style sheet (“Life Style” – life.css) is used to allow for simple changes of font, style and colours of headings, bullets, etc.

  1. One display panel can include a pin board for media clippings, images, videos, audio files, etc. WallWisher is one possible choice for this panel.
  2. A second display supports a tag cloud with tags meaningful to you, and with a relative weight in terms of style. A regular style is adopted for each “Life Tag”:  tag weight : url link : hover text : visible text
  3. A left column may show an image of you, and provided suggestive links, which you can customise or remove. Suggestions include:
  • Life Links
  • Life Map
  • Life Style
  • Life FAQs
  • Life To Do

BAT Life Wall

BAT Life Wall v0

BAT Life Wall v0

I have been inspired by the WallWisher and ideas for creative media in some of the course guides for the MSc in e-Learning… and have begun to think of ways to explore the use of tags and clippings to let someone tell their life story in unstructured, time line and narrative ways.

I wanted to look at the idea of your life in 2 x HD screens of display space.  My trial setup is called 2 x HD x bat (my initial and long time computer login name). Spoken in a spelled out way as “two” “times” “h” “d” “times” “b” “a” “t”.

This might be useful for some of the assignments on the Digital Cultures course too :-)

Welcome to my MSc in e-Learning EDC11 Blog

I am pleased to announce the creation of my bog for the MSc in e-Learning at http://edc11.education.ed.ac.uk/austint/

Feeds on my LifeStream are being aggregated from myself and my virtual worlds avatar “Ai Austin”.  They initially include Twitter (@batate and @aiaiaustin), WellWisher walls and the OpenVCE.net Virtual Collaboration Environment where I frequently post content.