Thursday, June 7, 2007

Are there any immersionists here? (opinion by Jonathon Richter)

by Jonathon Richter

Editor's note: Another thoughtful response I wanted to share on the blog. - Ross (Milo)

Identity and projection; Disclosure and protection. The "purpose" of Second Life and the repurposing of identity for the sake of Learning Objectives. oh yeah!

The flexibility of this environment is one of it's greatest assets and, paradoxically, one of its great challenges. Like any paradox, we cannot draw a straight line of cause - effect to define and articulate it - but can, at best, surround it with examples and descriptions. This is a truth that emerges out of context, like Nola says.

I think there are many variables that people distinguish amongst in order to make their choice about whether their Real Life name and identity be used.

I venture that some folks, in order to propel their imaginations into the 3D Virtual World, need to hide their true identity to effectively capitalize on their chosen "task" (to take on a role). Hiding their true identity helps them stay in character and keeps, as Jerry Seinfeld calls it "worlds from colliding". A friend of mine plays ArthurConan Doyle inworld... he IS Sir Arthur. He's in a Caledon-like sim called "New Babbage" and he has derived much great educational and personal valence from playing this part to the hilt. He doesn't like to share his RL name and that's cool. He has taken on a role that requires him (by his own devising) to keep RL and SL separate. His role in SL is different than mine - a proselytizer and advocate for education in virtual worlds. I didn't let folks know my real name for some time but, like Ross/Milosun, found it better in sum than not to after consideration.

I think it depends on the nature of the (a) learner/user; (b) the nature of the environment, sim, or build ; and (c) the nature of the task -- each of these have variable dimensions within them that necessitate various levels of need for projection or "immersiveness" into SL:

I see here indicated two dimensions of the quality or degree to which the designers/teachers of Immersive 3D Worlds intend students/users to invest in developing an ecological understanding (how complex, fibrous and interconnected the build is, relative to what they need to do and learn) and the relative alignment to which students/users themselves project their own sense of self into that world.

Dimension = Activity Immersiveness Requirement

Roleplay and historical inquiry activities undoubtedly require a "deep" investment on the parts of designer/teacher/student. I think everyone in the GaLiSL group is interested in this "Immersionist" type of learning.
Going inworld and participating in a dance or primtionary game requires some investment, but not as much contextual, contingent interaction and knowledge as roleplay or historical inquiry (for example). Here there's a "shallow" investment on the designer and teacher and a "medium" level of investment on the part of the student/participant is required - no?
Attending a presentation or wandering through things that are already there (art shows, watching movies, etc.) "inworld" requires a "shallow" investment, relatively speaking.

The degree of Immersiveness is dependent on the purpose, as illustrated above, and also on the relative capacity of the participant to project their sense of self into the 3D environment and the task, itself:

Dimension = Participant Immersiveness Capacity

The degree to which participants in 3D Virtual Environments pick up the contextual cues and immerse themselves in the 3D world such that they understand and appropriately develop the degree of cognitive complexity and contingency required to learn what the teacher / designer intends.

Participants can "under immerse": not go deep enough into character, leave one foot in Real Life (talk about things inappropriately (Nintendo DS in Caledon!), be disconnected with the imaginative projection required (and thus, not engaged).

Participants can "over immerse": pushing the environment to be more than what the designer or teacher intended ("no, we are not actually IN a movie here, little Johnny")

Participants can (hopefully) align their degree of immersiveness JUST RIGHT for the task and environment.
I would think that this is an aspect of research that has already received some attention.

What I wonder - is whether it would be useful for people to understand how teaching and learning in SL works (best practices) - if they could see different SLED Projects placed on this first scale (Activity Immersiveness Requirement)?

We may then be better prepared to have a conversation about what the features of these various SLED Projects have that engaged students appropriately in some situations, but not others (scale two: Participant Immersiveness Capacity).

... as a result of this discussion, I would like to include "Activity Immersiveness Requirement" as a scale in the SaLamander Project ratings for learning objects in Second Life.

Would this be useful?

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