HUMlab Seminar


For my Swedish colleagues at HUMlab, Umea University, I am giving a seminar on May 8th! See details below:

Seminarium om Macbeth och virtuella världar – i HUMlab och i Second Life

Angela Thomas från University of Sydney kommer den 8 maj kl 11 att tala om “Inside the mind of Macbeth: Understanding and interpreting literary worlds in a virtual environment” i HUMlab. Tillsammans med studenter har hon arbetat med en omfattande gestaltning av Macbeth i en virtuell värld inom ramen för det uppmärksammade Virtual Macbeth-projektet.

Thomas genomför seminariet i Second Life (ifrån Australien) och kommer där att visa upp det virtuella Macbeth. Allt detta visas på stor skärm i HUMlab inför seminariedeltagarna i labbet. Angela Thomas är bland annat känd för sin bok Youth Online: Identity and Literacy in the Digital Age (Peter Lang, 2007).

Drama, English and Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival”

Group DIscussion and Planning

This week in my children’s literature class we finished a drama we started last week using Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival”. My purpose when doing drama with students is to showcase as many drama and theatre techniques as possible that teachers can use to investigate a literary text, whilst maintaining the integrity of the literary context of course. In this week’s session we were engaged in improvised roleplay, teacher in role, writing in role, gestural experimentation, storytelling, drawing in role and suitcase theatre. It involved creating a narrative arc within the drama elements using context-building, poetic, reflective and narrative action elements. After years of research both in my MEd and PhD and beyond, I am genuinely convinced that role-play is one of the most effective teaching strategies ever to have been developed. Unfortunately it is still underused a lot by teachers! Hopefully my students are the kind who will step outside their comfort zone and be creative with their own classes.

Preparing for the Farewell

Writing in Role


Group Discussions and Planning

Experimenting with Gestural Symol

Drawing in Role

Writing in Role

Shaun Tan's "The Arrival"

Suitcase Theatre

Let There Be Light

Red / Wild – Art in SL by AM Radio

Which way up?

Again, thanks to Corwin, I visited a new art installation by AM Radio. The info details about the work include the following notecard:

AM Radio’s The Red and The Wild

IDIA is pleased to host artist AM Radio as the inaugural artist-in-residence at IDIA Labs – an exhibtion and installation sim for virtual installation art and performance.

THE INSTITUTE FOR DIGITAL INTERMEDIA ARTS is a hybrid art and design studio established as part of the Center for Media Design at Ball State University and funded the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The institute is an interdisciplinary research and design environment that explores the intersections between arts and technology. Students, faculty, staff and industry partners engage the discourse of emergent media design on projects employing virtual reality, visualization, simulation and human computer interface in this project-based immersive learning center.

As always, AM Radio enjoys exploiting the SL space and creating art that is on the one hand familiar, yet on the other hand is very surreal. Here is another photo:

Am Radio's Red / Wild

Corwin has been teaching a virtual photography group and taught me how to make a wireframe view today, so here’s another photo from the installation, this time converted to wireframe -

AM Radio's The Red / WIld

Second Life offers so much potential for creativity, and I’m always learning and experiencing new examples of that. Thanks Corwin!

Transformative Works and Cultures

I am going to be interviewed for the Transformative Works and Cultures journal by William P Wend!  It’s a fun process. The journal claims that: “Interviews  - showcases interviews with interesting people in academia, media industry, or fandom”, so its an honour to fall into that category. Stay tuned, and thanks for the invite William!

Achariya Reviews Macbeth


Thanks to Achariya, there’s a lovely post about Macbeth on Rezzable that offers a thoughtful and favourable review of Macbeth (whilst at the same time blending in a fashion shoot and links to commercial vendors for clothing and avatar items). Here are my favourite quotes from her review:

The sim transported me into a world that went beyond a stage play and into the text itself, sending me alone into an imagined Macbeth, pacing through the fields, approaching the castle on the cliff…

I found myself thinking about Macbeth in a much more creative and visceral way after watching it grow around me in sound and vision — a clear reminder that plays are not static texts to be read, but springboards for the imagination.

Thank you so much Achariya! If you haven’t seen Achariya’s fashion blog, it’s definitely worth a look – she cleverly blends in theories about identity, literacy, the body and digital culture to her fashion discussions.

Refining the 3D Sketch


Last night I went on a “walk through” the developing Second Life build with chief architect Chris (CJ Carnot) and my friend and colleague Nick (Corwin Carillon). (Is “walk through” a common term in virtual world design by the way? We’ve been using this term for the past year or so to describe the process of walking and/or flying through a development and discussing it along the way. Maybe its from architecture?). During the walk through we refined and redefined the space, the experience and the 3D sketch of my part of the sim. In my original brief I had numerous source images for the NMC build team to draw from for various spaces, and now I’ve converted some of our favourites to inspiration boards inside the space for quick and easy reference. I’ve annotated the board with a few notes as reminders of things we may have discussed about the build, or that I need to remember for myself about the purpose of each aspect within the literary role-playing experience.

This process of sketching in 2D, writing prosaic notes, sketching in 3D, adding inspiration boards, and doing walk throughs and so on is very exciting. It reminds me of some of my art classes, where we learnt to draw by using simple geometric shapes, then slowly adding the details to refine or where we learnt to paint by first using only blue paint to get shapes and shadows right, and then layering the details on top. Its all very creative and artistic and magical. When talking to Chris about architectural elements to include for example he quickly redesigned some things with simple white prim shapes until we were both happy with the feel – there’s still more to sketch out (both in 2D and 3D), but by next week we’ll be starting the refined build, texturing and detailing. It’s such pure and creative fun (errrr… a lot more fun than grading assignments and writing accreditation reports about our courses, but shhhh you didn’t see me say that!). It doesn’t even feel like work really!

Drama using Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival”


This week and next we’re doing some extended drama work using Shaun Tan’s wonderful graphic novel The Arrival. It is a story which examines the migrant experience from a range of perspectives, using sepia images that blend historical reality with fantasy. Shaun Tan came to speak at the University of Sydney about this book and he gave some incredible insight into the research he did and the way an artist works. He spent four years creating the illustrations for this book.

In our drama, one I based on work I have done with UK drama guru Jonothon Neelands, we started by focusing on the narrative journey of one character, and took a single image from the page to do a close reading of what was happening. With no text in the graphic novel, I asked students to find possible readings and multiple voices for the characters, and we moved from completely improvised roleplay to scripting dialogue and performance. This served the purpose of a lot of context building action, and next week we’ll do further work on exploring narrative and writing and drawing in role as a means for reflective action. Here are a few shots from the classes:

Drama Class

Drama Class

Drama Class

Drama Class

Drama Class

Drama Class

From Moleskin to Sim

From Moleskin to Sim

Now that the new sims are here, I’ve been working with Larry and co at the NMC to map out my part of the space. I sent the build team a detailed 20 page brief for one section (the literary role-playing area) and a 10 page brief for another section (the central University meeting point and gathering area)! Phew!

Yesterday I drew a rough map of the literary space into my moleskin and today I woke up to see it had been converted into a giant prim to map out the land! It was completely surreal to walk around in my own drawing. You might be able to tell from the drawing that my mapping and drawing skills leave a bit to be desired – Larry asked me what the cute little deer was and I had to explain that it was Cerberus, the vicious hound from hell!! Pffft ;)

Inanimate Alice – Teaching Featured


The class I taught a couple of weeks ago on Digital Fiction in which I used Inanimate Alice as a focus text is now featured on the Inanimate Alice iTeach blog! After a few exchanges on twitter and email, Jess Lacetti (who developed the fantastic pedagogy pack that accompanies Inanimate Alice) published this piece about my class. Included is a quote from me about why I selected Inanimate Alice as my focus exemplar:

Inanimate Alice provides a great starting point for pointing out to teachers an exemplary form of Digital Fiction. It progressively uses more complex features related to what I’ve termed (Thomas, 2005) as the affordances of digital fiction: multimodality, multiliteracies, hypertext, interactivity, spatiality, and identity. For English teachers who are not adept with technology it provides a wonderful introduction to new forms of narrative, yet the developing sophistication makes it richly layered with features that can be discussed, debated, analysed and interpreted by e-literature theorists. Pragmatically, it is something that every single teacher I work with can leave my workshop and go back and use it in some way in their classrooms. It has connected with all of my students at some level, whether they teach year 2 or year 12. It is very difficult to find such rich examples that are suitable for use in the classroom context and that have a universal appeal. More recently, the encouragement for teachers and their students to remix or mashup the story allows for a much higher level of participation within and around the narrative of Alice’s journey, and its clear that the authors are genuinely pushing boundaries and shaping new narrative possibilities – true artists of new media authoring.

Thomas, A. (2005). Positioning the Reader: The Affordances of Digital Fiction. For: Reading the Past, Writing the Future. Brisbane, Queensland Council for Adult Literacy Inc. pp.24-33.

It’s an honour to be included in their special news section – thank you so much Jess!

Digital Fiction Class

University of Sydney in Second Life

University of Sydney in Second Life

I’ve been in Second Life a while now, and have been teaching classes there since 2006. My first classes were taught on a little plot of land that I bought myself on a mainland island called Matisse. Next I was given “visiting scholar status” at the Teachers College -University of Columbia sim thanks to Professor Charles Kinzer and I taught for one semester there. For the past two years the New Media Consortium gave the University of Sydney a sponsored plot of land for teaching, thanks to the generosity of CEO Dr Larry Johnson. Finally, in February the University decided to fund some land and yesterday the land arrived! Here’s one of the empty islands, all ready for a very exciting development. Stay tuned :)

Twelfth Night in Second Life

Twelfth Night in SL

Today I attended a performance of Act 1 of Twelfth Night in Second Life, produced by the SL Shakespeare Company. I really enjoyed it as the quality of production and acting was outstanding. The set changes (accompanied by sim lighting changes, sound effects, weather effects, movement) were magical – obviously an excellent technical team behind the scenes. Here are some photos I snapped throughout the performance, and below, a presentation about theatre in Second Life that features the SL Shakespeare Company.


Viola and the Captain

Sir Toby Belch

Duke Orsino and Viola

SL Shakespeare Company


Sir Toby Belch

Congratulations to Ina Centaur, director of the company!

YouTube Edu and Academic Earth

Did you know that YouTube has recently launched a YouTube Edu compartment of channels, an edu directory and edu search facility? I was impressed that there’s one Australian University channel already full of great resources – professional looking videos and series of lectures (i.e. the fascinating video about 3D cinema above from UNSW).

Also recently launched is Academic Earth, “thousands of lectures from the world’s top scholars” (though no Australians on this one).


I’ve been enjoying this series of lectures on The American Novel Since 1945, with Professor Amy Hungerford. I think sharing content via video is only going to grow, and as Mark Pesce said in a recent lecture (which I also watched online), this kind of sharing really shifts the balance of power from the institution to the clients / students – they will have the opportunity to “shop around” for their courses and academic advisors in ways they’ve never been able to before. I bet this scares a lot of institutions (it scares me too!).

Digital Storytelling Blends the Ancient with the New

DigiTales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories

What a wonderful surprise I found in my mailbox today!! This amazing book DigiTales: The Art of Digital Stories was sent to me by author Bernajean Porter, a new colleague I made contact with in Second Life recently. This book is a beautiful blend of the tradition of storytelling beliefs, theories and processes with the art of using new media for expression, emotion and creativity. The book is filled with magical quotes from literature, literary figures, academics, inventors, politicians, teachers, and story lovers. And whilst treating the subject with deep and critical thought and enthusiasm its also very funny. What an excellent resource this is. Thanks Bernajean!


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