Archive for October, 2011

GA-MMA Virtual Ethnography

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

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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.


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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 I had had an entry page for useful and quick access links for the course at 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

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

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 .

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 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

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”.

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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 …


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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.


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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 .

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 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

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.

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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

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.


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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…

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AI – Avatar Indentity – Machinima

YouTube Video at


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 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 I was very supervised 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.


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