All 12 entries tagged PhD

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November 07, 2008

Reflections on competence and anxiety in SL and RL

I’m curious at to whether there may be some correlation between anxiety about roleplay, and about learning the conventions of SL, and reacting against the weirdness of SL on one hand and a person’s general feeling of confidence and in RL.

My initial response to SL was how conventional it is – I’d’ve assumed that people would be as fantastic as possible and the environment would be as surreal as you could make it. Instead the majority (94%? 96% I heard the statistic once but can’t track it down to confirm it) appear as human and often as close to their real self as possible, only slightly taller, slightly thinner and slightly younger. The first response of a lot of institutions when they acquire an island is to replicate the RL buildings on their campus. (Interestingly, this was predicted in Snow Crash, in that novel the very experienced people replicate reality because it’s more of a mark of achievement to do so, and even tp in private, to maintain the illusion as much as possible, adding to the sense of immersion.) So I appreciate I’m in a minority here, but SL is by no means too strange from my perspective.

My relative experience of the two worlds is 3 years in SL, 45 years in RL, yet I would say the different levels of competence and anxiety I feel about the two environments are pretty similar – last night at the fashion show I gave some thought about what to appear as – but apart from Liz was the only non-human there. Was there some sort of convention about appearance I wasn’t aware of? Was there any disapproval about the lion dancing on the tables? It was difficult to tell, and despite the anxieties I felt there, ultimately I suppose I don’t care, because there’s always the quick get out of clicking the little x in the top right hand corner. In contrast, this week I received an invitation to a conference dinner, with the dress code of “smart casual”. Again a similar anxiety, what is “smart casual”? What clothes are OK? I’ve not read that instruction before but was there an unwritten rule in all previous conference dinners that I’ve not picked up on? Will I turn up in my usual clothes and be the odd one out and not have the ability to tp out of there?

So does this level of feeling of incompetence, inadequacy and bewilderment in RL mean that I’m better equipped to deal with the strangeness of SL and hence to me being prepared to use it as a learning environment?


July 28, 2008

maybe it's a breakthrough

Here’s a sign that I’m on the right track. Adapting the thesis to fit the new model has meant me losing about 1000 words, without losing any meaning to what I’m writing, in fact I think it’s clearer. That’s got to be a good sign.

Although the vertices aren’t the same distance apart. That would be impossible since a lot of the triangles are right-angled. Which explains why my 3d model in second life looks very wrong – I was adding identical tetrahedrons to the central tetrahedron and trying to make a cube that way. What a waste of an hour.


July 27, 2008

Breakthrough or BS?

The basis of my PhD is a structural framework to synthesise all the various bits of literature I’ve come across (I’ve been using stuff from all over the place – computer-mediated communication, robotics, theatre studies, serious gaming, anthropology, psychology, sociology and education) and bit by bit put the separate things into categories, mediated presence, identity, learning activities, characteristics of the environment, characteristics of the learner and errm that’s it.

What I didn’t have was an overview of how these might interact with each other. And then I discovered activity theory. Or rather a colleague lent me a paper on it, since I’d mentioned I’d had it explained to me and not understood it. This one made it clear to me (I think I’d thought it was more complicated than it was). Most of the categories I’d got mapped to the categories in activity theory, but I was missing two – the community (although I’d been aware that that was missing from the model) and the division of roles and effort (guess I’ve not read enough Marx).

Two categories left over were the idea of mediated presence, the way different forms of presence are constructed within a mediated environment, and identity, since identity can be formed and reformed within a mediated environment (at the drag of a mouse it seems).

Activity theory is represented as a set of six points forming four triangles on a plane like this:

http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2004/proceedings/symposia/symposium7/mcateer_marsden_files/image005.jpg

adding a point above and below forms two tetrahedra with points on like this mermatv1

Not cool though, since it emphasises one point over another. What you’ve got in essence though is a tetrahedron with a tetrahedron stuck to each face. Moving the vertices around so that they’re the same distance apart creates this:

MERMAT with diagonal connections

Which is actually nothing more complicated than a cube. Now does that like it could be useful or have I just lost the plot with all these diagrams?


July 17, 2008

Lively seems a bit deadly

Just gave Lively another go. It’s been touted as another rival to the immersive virtual worlds out there, but frankly I can’t see it. The load time is incredibly long – and there is very little choice as far as avatar looks are concerned – perhaps they want to shorten the period between taking your first look and deciding to hand over some dosh to make yourself a bit more individuated. But that’s a policy that will backfire if people get bored before they get hooked, which they will.

Other things that seem very weird. People just stand around, or sit around doing nothing. You occasionally get a bit of chat (usually moronic – not the platform’s fault but maybe it’s just not encouraging people to interact more deeply). I got a “hellooooooo” and a “do any girls in here have webcams”. Deeply sad (and that’s from someone who spent around 12 hours in SL over the last weekend.

In order to move your av you have to click on it – it then zips all over the place – there seems to be no weight to anything, or resistance. Environmental kinesics is the key to making these things feel right. I read that in this month’s Xbox magazine so it must be true.

But the weirdest thing is that all of the arrows move the camera in the opposite direction, hit the right arrow key and the camera moves to the left, hit the forward key and it moves backward. Who would design something that works back-to-front – unless theyre having a laugh at our expense.

Still one good thing is that it shows that Google arent as smart as they think they are. Good! All these billionaires in their twenties were making me feel inadequate.

Talking of inadequacy – just time to get to that beach party in SL ….


March 24, 2008

PBL in SL – Virtual Quests

I’ve just finished a paper for ALT-J analysing the range of learning activities that are taking place in the Theatron project. It’s been useful for me because it’s helped me get my head round the range of activities that are taking place in it, and the choices that people are making about the environment. One choice is that people are using it for collaboration and production, but not for PBL, on the whole. This is probably because it makes more sense to do this using the web, then bring the knowledge into SL. Still – if we do develop the PBL side of things, I’ve dropped a SLURL to a potential resource here http://slurl.com/secondlife/Education%20UK/242/53/22 This is by Chris Eggplant – who is possibly the strangest looking av I’ve met in SL – and that’s me saying that!

lion on education island

Me taking a look at Education Island this afternoon


January 06, 2008

More on PhD

I’m doing a PhD in education – and two years in realised I hadn;t actually done anything specifically about education in the work I’d been doing. It’s a five year programme – so there’s time to address it – the only problem was that I realised this in the middle of my upgrade …

So I got my head round constructivism and behaviourism and situativism and all the other stuff – well “head round” is an exaggeration – I found a brief glossary and read that (it’s the LADIE taxonomy – very useful). I’ve also read a paper on metaphors of learning – acquisisiton and participation. And I’ve just come across something on Freudan and Lacanian analysis of learning.

Why this has helped is that it’s all enabled me to realise – I’m just not really very interested,

I mean, the papers are all very readable, and there’s some insights in there that could be useful – but it’s really not something I want to get bogged down into – actually understanding how people learn or what the competing theories are. I just want to know what they do and maybe how to make it better. The whole idea of postulating what happens in people;s brains when they do it just seems unnecessary – and too difficult to really determine anyway.

Superficial? Maybe – but it makes doing the literature review a lot easier – if anything mentions psychology I can just put it away and move on to the next thing.

Any other educationalists really go along with this – or am I letting the side down in a big way here?


February 10, 2007

random thought

Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum.

These would be the successive phases of the image:

1 It is the reflection of a basic reality.

2 It masks and perverts a basic reality.

3 It masks the absence of a basic reality.

4 It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum

Baudrillard, 1988

Are virtual worlds pure simulacram?

No – because even they are grounded in the practice of the body (Taylor, 2002). So does anything exist as pure simulacram? Probably not. So nothing is hyperreal? Or maybe I haven’t got Baudrillard. Need more coffee…

Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988), pp.166-184
http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Baudrillard/Baudrillard_Simulacra.html accessed 10.2.07


October 23, 2006

getting myself organisised

I’m now getting into the literature review for the PhD. I’ve only done two days so far (one last weekend and one the weekend before that) but it seems that nothing I’ve read really takes any notice of anything else. I’m looking at the definititions of presence, and sub-categories of presence, and it seems that people are using the same phrases to mean different things, and different phrases to mean the same things. I’m having to go through defining my terms as I go, because there’s no shared understanding of what those terms mean.

I guess partly it’s because “presence” as a a concept is trans-disciplinary – and the people looking at presence in the sense of telepresence (in videoconferencing and using teleoperators) haven’t thought about it in teaching terms, and those who’ve thought of it in teaching applications seem to think of online learning only in terms of text-based asynchronous learning platforms. One writer even said something along the lines of an added problem being that in online teaching the professor can’t challenge misunderstandings when they arise. What? That’s true but only in some situations. And the third group of people whose work I’ve looked at – those analysing gaming – have a lot of insight into aspects that really fall into the category of presence, but don’t seem to really use the term.

The weirdest aspect is that there seems to be no clarity between the different aspects of the idea, like the authors have merged it all into one, or drift from one aspect to another without defining their terms. Is this general for education research, or have I just started with some of the sloppier thinkers? Is anyone else finding this?


October 17, 2006

starting to write the phd

in theory Saturday and Sunday should have been my days for working on the PhD. It did take me a while to get down to working on it – I spent a lot of time re-reading where I’d got to and trying to make sense of it, then trying to work out what area I needed to start reading to get started on the literature review. That took more than a day and I got nowhere. Part of the problem I guess is that I haven’t actually written anything since December last year. For the first few months of the year my available time was taken with editing a book, the rest of it was taken up with attending, and then writing the assignments for, the Advanced Research Methods course. In fact, I didn’t really have time properly to do that, I had to skip one of the sessions to get the time to write the assignments. The problem with working full time is that you only really get one day a week to work on the PhD, and that’s not going to be every week. Which means when the sessions are running, nothing else can happen.

Anyway – I think I was having difficulty starting the literature review because I was thinking of the whole review. When that got nowhere I planned instead to take a learning and teaching activity that happened last year and start analysing that. I started looking at the literature that I needed to read to understand what was going on in that activity, and started writing! I guess some people need a very focused target for their reading and writing in order to get something started. That might be a tip for other students to get started. Think small and focused at first.

Clearing a space is getting trickier because I’m now getting invitations to do stuff. I have to learn to start rationing those out, otherwise my time is going to be limited again. I figure one day off every week is about right, but acquiring the self-discipline to turn stuff down is something I’m still having to work on.


September 29, 2006

Not an effective Friday

Well today was meant to be spent working on the DIVERSE 2006 conference proceedings and planning my PhD. Instead I slept in to 10:30, spent the morning on ebay and shopping, and the afternoon reading and sleeping. I finally got down to it at 5:00 and am just taking a break now at errm 5:40. I did test out the videoconferencing set-up in theatre studies via Skype in between naps, though.

The DIVERSE 06 proceedings are the first set we’ve put together. We’ve had problems getting previous ones published, then decided to gather the papers from 01 to 04 together thematically as a series of books. I’ve edited the first of these books together, hopefully that will be out soon. The thematic thing actually worked so well the plan was then to collect papers from later conferences, to form follow-up books. The idea was that publications based around a theme, rather than linked only by being at the same conference, would have a longer shelf-life and a broader appeal. The reality, of course, is that contributors want their stuff out straight away, rather than wait until enough papers are collected together on a common theme to form a book. So, OK, not one of my best ideas.

What I’m doing therefore is carrying on with getting the three books collecting papers from 01 to 04, and now editing together the proceedings for 06, which is also picking up papers from 05 where people want them published. 07 proceedings can then be all the 07 papers plus whoever missed the deadline for this year, then 08 can be for the 08 papers. And then we’re on track. I might still give contributors an extra year to submit, though.

Reasons not to shop at Morrison’s
1) The sausage rolls – full of gristle
2) Ade2 – on the face of it a drink that also contains vitamins is a good idea, but mixing together pineapple, passionfruit and soya Why??
3) DVDs – note to any retailer selling DVDs – don’t store the boxes in one place and the DVDs somewhere else – any customer not aware of that ends up going home with just the box. Plus who wants a DVD that’s been knocking around outside of its box. Just leave them in the box and tag it like everyone else does.

And I did a bit more family history research. I found my great-great-great-grandmother Eleanor Nelson in the 1851 census. Living in the same place as in the 1861 census – but with her name mis-spelt, which is why I hadn’t come across the entry before. She was a nurse in West Norfolk and Lynn hospital. I think one day I’ll have to go over there and take a look at what the place is like.


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