Whooshup Reorganization

To reflect what this blog has become, the format has changed to emphasize the enormous number of useful links to resources we provide. To go to the whooshup blog and conversations about these resources, just scroll to the bottom of the lists of resources!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Report: Second Life Trial Discussion

We conducted a proof of concept discussion group meeting on Second Life tonight. A few others managed to get all the technology worked out and we met with Bert Dreyfus and had a chat. I encourage the others to give their comments on the meeting, and general impressions, under this post.

The good news is, it happened at all. There were so many technical glitches and hurdles and snafus that it is really amazing that we actually discussed philosophy with an incredibly intrepid professor. He really wants to enable the webcast audience to ask questions directly to him, or when he can't attend, to interact with one of his TA's, and is willing to push the limits to make it happen.

The bad news is, the technology is still so fragile it's frightening. First we had to meet, figure out who was who with the strange names, and get everybody so they could hear the voice communication. Talking and listening were both difficult, and it often seemed like talking on a cell phone just going out of range. The Second Life servers had a bad night - we all crashed one time and had to log back in, and there was a lot of "lag time," where everything gets slow or jerky.

In summary, every caution about the technical difficulties and distractions inherent to the Second Life approach - from a steep learning curve to figure out how to use it, to very unnatural and fragmented communication - was verified. What do we do?

We'll try again. We agreed to carry on with a "real" startup discussion group next week. I hope everybody can pick up the challenge and try to attend. There's an old saying - something about always getting back on the horse that throws you. If Professor Dreyfus can keep trying to make it work, I'll keep trying too.


foundrysmith said...

Things went reasonably well considering the technical problems. There was a discussion, and I did get something out of it!

I think that if there were a moderator with a working audio headset, it might help to keep things moving along.

Also, if there were some kind of group chalkboard where the moderator could type in discussion topics, it would help with the folks who are having problems with the audio connection.

Having the avatars raise their hands using the /hey command on the gesture menu should help to keep things semi under control.

Maybe one could post suggested discussion topics on this blog prior to discussion session, so we may all be on more or less the same page. Presumably, we will be focusing on lecture material available in the previous weeks podcast.

I know there is voice recognition software that more or less will instantly convert speech to text, once it has been trained for a certain voice (I have Dragon Naturally Speaking on my computer, it works surprisingly well). This would allow the moderator to speak and have his or her comments posted in real time. It might then work out best for everyone if they type in their questions/responses for the groups consideration.

Looking forward to next week!

Karl Tyson said...

Here is the reaction to the test that came by email from Bert Dreyfus:

"Thanks for the follow-up. I enjoyed the test too, but I am worried. Right now it might as well be a conference call. I just see the avatars standing there and read what they have written. Then I make a speech. There is no direct give and take, and the fact the we have avatar bodies doesn't play any role at all. But, as you say, we need to try so we can find out what is possible."

This underlines the question we have already come to grips with - can Second Life work for online discussions or not?

Demographer said...

I commend you pioneers, and also hope to convey my many thanks to Prof. Dreyfus for trying to make this work! It feels a little bit like history in the making...

wlthaya said...

I, too, wonder what the ultimate benefit of the difficult to maneuver bodies on screen will be. As I had no mike I had to spend my time trying to type furiously to have any input--otherwise it felt very much like listening to the podcast.

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