Thursday, 10 May 2007

Eduserv Foundation Symposium 2007: pre-event

Here's one part of what I do for a living, and also a glimpse of another world I inhabit, outside of the Outer Hebrides.

I'm currently doing some work for the Eduserv Foundation on the use of Second Life (an online environment) in education in the UK. Tomorrow, they have their annual symposium.



As the subject matter involves online environments, this year their symposium is being held in both the "real world" and in Second Life. That means that speakers and some delegates will trot down to London in order to do the conventional (or traditional, or soooo last century) way of meeting, presenting and discussing. Here's the programme and real world location.

The event will also be streamed through to Eduserv Island, an area within the Second Life environment developed and maintained by the Foundation for meetings, events, education and social occasions.



The pictures on this page shows me wandering through Eduserv Island the evening before the event. Second Life is a bit difficult to explain if you haven't used it; basically, you do everything through your computer. Go online, develop an avatar (as you can see, mine is kitted out in formal wear), and walk, fly and wander round various places. Either socialise, meet, or attend events, and/or develop a whole range of buildings, infrastructure and multimedia stuff.


Communication is the key within Second Life, and the Eduserv Island has bags of facilities. In the previous pictures, see some wooden seating and a formal conference room. In the one below, here's a seating area for eight, on a transparent glass bridge connecting two bits of the island:


Meetings in Second Life are currently done by using messaging and other textual systems. Soon, voice will be added to the software which will speed things up a bit. 

Best of all is the Eduserv bubble, which floats high in the sky, and is reached by a teleportation switch from the island ground:


I quite like the way they Eduserv have modelled the SL arm of the event on a typical conference. Entering the conference location...



...the first thing you see is a registration desk and a delegate bag of (I presume?) (virtual) goodies to pick up:


Here's the main conference auditorium. I've chosen here to fly up and stand on the roof to overlook where tomorrows event will be held. Speakers, who will have avatars, will stream their media through the big screen on the right, so people can follow what is happening in London. Delegates in both London, and on the island in Second Life, will be able to ask the speakers questions:


I've been to several online events in Second Life now, and am finding them slightly preferable to "real world" ones. One key reason is that, as with tomorrow, I can get up at 9:40, make myself a pot of coffee, sit down and still be able to attend the opening of the event at 10am. I'll look very smart and presentable in Second Life, though in the real world I'll be sitting in my dressing gown, unshaven, eating porridge and looking my usual unkempt morning self. But no-one will see! (Roll on the day when job interviews and all meetings with clients will be conducted in this manner).


One of the other good things about Second Life is how easy it is to mash-up or blend content in with other web applications. As you can see, in my session I took 10 snapshots (basically screenshots), using the facility for this in the Second Life software. These I've quickly uploaded to my Flickr account, and tagged with the conference tag - efsym2007 - so they can be easily found by Flickr searches and other applications. I've then merged them into this (Wordpress) blog entry on my website. All surprisingly quick and no deep teccie knowledge required.

What happens when the event is over tomorrow? I can go outside, then activate and watch the sunset:


...and be cheered by the fact that my participation in the event will have:

  • cost me zero in travel and accommodation expenses

  • committed me to a total travel time of some 20 to 30 seconds

  • been totally carbon neutral (apart from the electricity used to power my PC that day)

  • not been subject to the whims of air traffic controllers, leaves on the line or some other transport infrastructure problem

The downside is that the drinks reception at the end of the event will only be "tasty" for those delegates attending the real world version. Ah well.

Roll on the conference (both virtual and "real")...

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