Making Sense of Virtual Worlds

On the heels of an 'augmented' good time at the ARE2010, I headed to Denmark as a guest of Roskilde University to participate in the Making Sense of Virtual Worlds and User Driven Innovation workshop. Held at the lovely venue of Magleaas, just north of Copenhagen, this three day (June 7th - 9th) workshop, funded by the Danish Strategic Research Council KINO, brought together academics and a few industry players from all around to share with each other the research they have been doing in virtual worlds.

'SENSE-MAKING STRATEGIES AND USER-DRIVEN INNOVATION IN VIRTUAL WORLDS is a collaborative project, running from 2008-2011, that joins university researchers at two Danish universities, Roskilde University and Copenhagen Business School, and a range of different partners who work practically with virtual worlds in different organizational contexts (encompassing both public organizations and private business). The project has a practice-orientation both in the sense that the aim is to analyze a plurality of different virtual world practices and in the sense that a goal is to further the development of those practices through the application of relevant theories, methods and analytical insights.

All the participants – both university researchers and partners – are active actors in virtual world practices through their engagement in the project and, in some cases, their interest and engagement in virtual worlds extend beyond project-related activities. The project operates with a view of innovation as socially and culturally specific practices of meaning-making taking place in sociotechnical interaction. In those practices, objects, subjects and knowledge are shared, negotiated and constructed.' - Roskilde Website

After 3 days and a series of interesting presentations, I got a glimpse at how various researchers (mostly Nordic) are using virtual worlds, mainly Second Life. Now honestly there is no way I feel I can summarize what was discussed. The workshop was an action-packed time with activities and in depth conversations running from breakfast until dinner. Everyone I met is doing interesting work.

I highly recommend that readers visit the Roskilde Virtual Worlds Research site for the best coverage of the event and watch this video explanation of some of the virtual world work at Roskilde by Sisse Siggaard Jensen, Professor of Digital Communication at the Dept. of Communication, Business, and Information Technologies.

Here are some personal event highlights:

- Ursula Plesner with the Copenhagen Business School's presentation, 'Selling the Selling Point: How to create users of Architectural Models in Second Life', looked at how real world architects use virtual world platforms.

- A GREAT conversation with Terry Beaubois, a real life architect and professor in the School of Architecture at Montana State University (MSU) and the Director of the Creative Research Lab at MSU. I can't express enough the take away from our conversations alone.

- Meeting Dr. Yesha Sivan, head of information systems department at Tel Aviv Academic College, founder of Metaverse Labs (a leading think tank focusing on linking virtual and real worlds), and advocate of developing standards for virtual worlds with the same moniker as I have.

- Edward Castronova's keynote and thoughts.

- Every table and after session conversation I had.

- Ates Gursimsek, PhD candidate at Roskilde University, sharing the work being done with Metrotopia and the international machinima contest set to understand virtual worlds and how people innovate with and in them in Linden Lab's Second Life.

-Learning to belly dance, thanks Odul!

- Professor Jay David Bolter, Georgia Institute of Technology, keynote on Mobile augmented reality and the future of virtual worlds. Jay shared both VR and AR work going on at Georgia Tech including work fellow researcher Blair MacIntyre is doing with KARMA and this AR shooter game called ARhrrrr.

The workshop also participated in a live broadcast of Metanomics, Robert Bloomfield's Second-Life show that explores the serious uses of virtual worlds. Metanomics write up on the broadcast here, video below.

The Nordic Virtual Worlds Network has a video channel of brief interviews with some of the researchers (me included), and these bloggers, The Humlab, and Mia++ covered the event in more real-time.

A huge thanks to Sisse, Dixi, and all the other folks at Roskilde for such an informative event and I hope my participation was helpful to its success. The workshop allowed me to meet interesting people, learn lots about user driven innovation in VWs, and most importantly observe how far the gap is from the academics using 3D web technologies and those developing the technologies. I look forward to future collaboration with Roskilde and hope to help bring the latest in web3D to such incredible researchers doing such amazing work.


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