New Literacies, Digital Media and Classroom Teaching Conference

I am convening a conference on September 3 and 4 which I am very excited about – click below for the conference flyer.

NewLiteraciesFlyerPDF

UPDATE: Here is a tv news spot about our conference:

and here is some assorted media coverage from the conference:

New Literacies conference media

Technology in Teaching: A Podcast with Chris Best and Angela Thomas

technology2

Hello there! Whilst in London, I spent an afternoon with Chris Best (a former student of mine who has been teaching there ever since he graduated, and who now produces a series of podcasts about technology in teaching). We did a podcast – quite informally – about what was happening in my world and why I was in London and the like. Here is a link to go to the podcast: I am “Episode 18″. Chris and I giggled a little as we were working out how to do the podcast, but we eventually settled down and discussed the state of our respective contexts and how our work needs to develop as teachers to account for new social and discursive practices of online communities.  Let me know if you have questions or comments!

The Ancient Greek Village of Eleusis Suffers

Eleusis post-curse

The ancient Greek fishing village of Eleusis suffers since the Goddess Demeter cursed the land.

Eleusis post-curse

Graveyards are filled with freshly dug graves for the weak and the young who could not struggle any longer, their poor bodies giving up all heat after experiencing the first Winter known to mankind.

Eleusis post-curse

Graveside vigils are kept to protect the souls of loved ones until it is time to meet Charon, who ferrys them across the river and to the entrance of the Underworld. Safe passage requires a coin, but with the village in crisis, all coins have gone to the temple as offerings to Hera and Demeter, to remove the curse.

Eleusis post-curse

But some are too spent to pray, they simply lie on the grave with misguided notions that their body warmth can be exchanges. The epitaphs they’ve written a verbal reminder of how Demeter directly caused her young child’s life to expire.

Eleusis post-curse

How can these people’s dire grief be lifted? Perhaps never. But perhaps you – you YOU – would like to enter the world with me and try to help?

If you are interested in online role-play for educational purposes, please let me know! I’ll be organising some workshops in the second half of the year if I can find SL educators who are interested in taking part.

HUMlab Talk/Tour Video

SafariScreenSnapz002

Today I gave a tour of Macbeth for the HUMlab in Sweden! Click here if you’d like to view the video stream of the tour. It goes for about an hour. It was a bit of an experiment for us to do the live streaming, but it mostly worked well, except an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction in which I lost my hair! Thanks to Jim Barrett for the invitation to speak and for doing all the camera work.

Storytelling with Ghosts

Storytelling with Ghosts

Part of my Greek myth build is completed now! Here’s an image of the graveyard, where participants will tell and write stories in role. I’m going to also ask experienced students to make personifications of grief – I did a rather non-metaphorical example of a person expressing grief here:

"Grief" in 28 Prims

I have to confess I bought a “basic mannequins prim” set online and just positioned each prim to make this statue. I think the set is a great bridge for non builders (like me!) to start using the tools more creatively. It only took me an hour, and I have zero building skills. There was a full permissions set available so that means I can give copies of the set to all my students and send them off on a task. It really focusses attention on the body, and is a reminder that the body can be and is present in an online drama and role-playing session in all sorts of ways.

HUMlab Seminar

Macbeth

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).

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.

http://idiarts.org

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

travelogue

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

Refining

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!

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.

Malvolio

Viola and the Captain

Sir Toby Belch

Duke Orsino and Viola

SL Shakespeare Company

Olivia

Sir Toby Belch

Congratulations to Ina Centaur, director of the company!

UKLA Conference Keynote

 

I am speaking at the 45th UKLA International Conference Making Connections: Building Literate Communities in and Beyond the Classroom.

Here’s my abstract – come on along if you are in the UK and interested :)

Inside the mind of Macbeth: Understanding and interpreting literary worlds in a virtual environment.

Angela Thomas

University of Sydney

Virtual Macbeth was designed to demonstrate how we might best use the affordances of virtual environments for Education. Shakespeare’s Macbeth reimagined in Second Life provides an adaptive bridge between classic texts and new media technology.  In the virtual, the abstract can be made concrete, and complex poesis and abstractions of Shakespeare’s verse can become embodied, elusive, visceral, and affective. The poetic use of metaphor, image and symbol that permeate Shakespeare’s language is brought to 3D life using the online world as a discursive design space where visitors experience the motivations and emotional journey of character, and explore and make personal sense of the universal themes of Shakespeare.

In this presentation I will demonstrate Virtual Macbeth and discuss the way the design of the island allows students to explore aspects of narrative theory, literary criticism, drama theory, gaming theory and digital culture. In particular, I will highlight the deep potential of virtual worlds for immersive, experiential and student-centred learning. I will also explain how Virtual Macbeth is designed for engaging the participatory and co-creative potential of new media – something young people are embracing in out-of-school contexts but yet to be adequately utilised in classroom contexts. Here, students have opportunities to remake, co-create and  mash-up Shakespeare,  thus participating in  cultural exchange,  creative expression, online community discourse and educational outcomes.

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