The Main (SLS) channel was updated on Tuesday, March 1st, with the server maintenance package deployed to the three RC channel is week #8. This comprises a server crash fix and “minor internal improvements.”
The server deployment thread lists any RC deployments for the week as “TBD”. however, speaking at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, March 1st, Simon Linden indicated it is unlikely there will be any RC deployment until week #10 (week commencing Monday, March 7th 2016). These will apparently have an update that addresses a means by which a simulator can be intentionally crashed.
Currently, the official viewer from LL remain unchanged from the end of last week:
Maintenance RC viewer version 184.108.40.2061655, dated February 26th
HTTP updates and Vivox RC viewer version 220.127.116.111302, dated February 22nd
Quick Graphics RC viewer version 18.104.22.1681103, dated February 17th
Project Bento (avatar skeleton extensions) version 22.214.171.1240099, dated January 20th
Oculus Rift project viewer version 126.96.36.1995296, dated October 13th, 2015
Obsolete platform viewer version 188.8.131.520847 dated May 8th, 2015.
As noted in my last TPVD meeting notes, the Lab were awaiting an update to OpenSSL. This has now been released and there is minimal impact for SL. This therefore should require any fast-tracked update to the viewer.
The simulator user group meeting saw a general discussion about allowing broader access to the Experience Keys database (the KVP) without land owners necessarily having to grant permission to specific Experiences.
The idea here is that there are applications which rely on persistent data or utilise grid-wide data exchange (e.g. a teleport network, a vending system network, etc.), and applications which require script settings survive the script reset. Currently, the way to achieve this is to use external data stores (see BUG-11499 for one example).
Some feel that if there were a way to dissociate the KVP database from things like avatar influences, then it could be used for such applications, removing the need for external data stores and the rick of those data stores vanishing / not being available. However, this is not something the Lab is particularly keen on, for a number of reasons. For example, it could result in their servers storing a lot of data and carrying a lot of database quires and updates, something that might not scale terribly well with volumes and associated storage space cost. Nor would it necessarily safeguard the data any better (if the Experience owner downgrades to Basic or ceases paying their Premium subscription, the data will be lost).
During the discussion Oz indicated that the Lab has no plans to make grid wide experiences available any time soon, due to concerns about how “certain internal features” would scale.
In January 2016, I wrote about an interview with Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in Second Life), a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and which appeared in that august body’s newsletter, UCI News.
WithinA (virtual) world without Parkinson’s, Heather Ashbach discussed Tom’s work, touching on the fact that it is now part of a National Science Foundation funded study examining how on-line environments affect social interaction and self-understanding as well as physical-world experiences of disability. Having commenced in July 2015, this study will run through run through until June 2018, and one element of the work is currently taking place in Second Life at Ethnographia Island. Jadyn Firehawk, one of the participating artists in the Ethnographia Island study, IM’d me about it, prompting me to hop over and take a look.
The formal title of the research at Ethnographia is Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self, and Tom is co-Principal Investigator alongside Donna Z Davis (Tredi Felisimo in Second Life), a strategic communications professor at the University of Oregon. Donna specialises in mass media & society, public relations, strategic communication, virtual environments and digital ethnography. The work they are undertaking focuses on the experiences of people with disabilities who are using immersive virtual spaces to represent themselves free of the shadow of any disability, and do things they may not be able to do in the physical world.
In their introduction to the work, Donna and Tom describe it thus:
Since some early human first picked up a stick to use as a cane, people with disabilities have been at the forefront of technology innovation. What can their creative uses of and adaptions to on-line social interaction teach us? The researchers will explore this question by studying how people with disabilities create and interact socially in virtual worlds, and how they use different kinds of devices in their homes to experience these on-line environments.
Twenty 32×32 metre studio parcels have been made available to applicants with disabilities, who have been invited to share their experiences, insights, and thoughts on their disability: what impacts has it had on them in terms of their experiences, social interactions, dreams, and how have they used it? How have they used it to change their experiences living with that disability?
How applicants use their space has deliberately been left open, although some pointers were given as to how they might think about using it: for expression through 2D or 3D art, thought media presentations / displays, as a space in which they can develop art or expression through external media such as blogs, or the creation of interactive spaces designed to give others insight into their experience or as a game – or any combination of these ideas.
The result is a series of studies, widely varied in nature and content, some of which – such as Jadyn’s own Reconstructing Identity After Disability. This is a beautifully presented and moving story of how she has come to deal with her bipolar disorder after the condition left her unable to continue in her career as an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and how the use of virtual spaces in Second Life and the friends she has made here have empowered her creativity in both the digital and physical realms.
“When I sent in my application to participate in the project, I did not know yet what I wanted to build,” Jadyn says of the installation. “All I knew was, I wanted to create an installation that somehow represents the many-faceted, (re)enabled life that SL has made possible for me, but I had no idea exactly what I was going to build.
“I started looking back in my inventory to things that dated back to my earliest days in SL, and realised it essentially documents my entire time in SL. From that I got the idea of perhaps doing my build as a sort of museum exhibit, telling the story of my time in SL.”
Involvement in the project has been both cathartic and insightful for Jadyn, providing her with a clearer view of the last fifteen years of her life, the changes her condition has wrought and a understanding of ow she has come to terms with it.
“I met Tom and Donna through the Parkinson’s disease support group at Creations Park four years ago, and I’m thrilled to be taking part,” Solas NaGaelai says of her involvement in Ethnographia. “Not just for the creative aspect but to be amongst others that have disability. I have a hunger for learning and adapting, and from what I see so does each individual involved in the project. The insight of dealing with their life challenges to me is a very enlightened experience, and helpful one.”
Solas was diagnosed with a particular form of Parkinson’s Disease known as Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD) – the same form of the disease which struck Michael J. Fox. When first diagnosed, she was a full-time fashion designer. However, as the illness progressed, she was forced to leave that career behind. Fortunately, her discovery of Second Life provided Solas with a means to re-engage in her passion for design, notably through her Blue Moon Enterprise label.
For her piece, Solas has created a model based on Edmund Blair Leighton’s 1901 painting The Accolade. It’s an interactive piece in which visitors will be able take free costumes she has designed and dress as either the queen or the knight and take their places within the scene. As such it reflects both the creative freedom Solas has found in Second Life, and offered her the mean to present visitors with the opportunity to share in her love for a bygone era, as depicted by Leighton and his peers.
Virtual worlds, as Tom and Donna note, are just a part of the much larger domain of internet technology and on-line presence which we can use to define ourselves and potentially reach beyond our personal limitations, whatever form they may take. But studying the “whole” of the digital environment really isn’t that possible; as such, smaller scale studies like Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self allow researchers to focus down on smaller communities and groups and investigate specifics.
Through it, and the involvement of those participating in it, both Donna and Tom are confident they will be able to present a better understanding about how new on-line technologies influence how we think about our bodies, how we think about social interaction, and how we think about the role of the internet in everyday life, all of which will have implications for improving health care and social support for people with disabilities.
Visitors are welcome to tour the installations, and I recommend taking a look at the accompanying website when doing so – the links are given again below for convenience.
STOP PRESS NEWS
Having opened its doors in November 2015, Ethnographia Island had originally been set to run through until March 2016. However, as I worked on this article, Tom and Donna were in discussions concerning additional funding for the work.
On Friday, February 19th, they were able to tell me that the funding had been confirmed, and that as a result, Ethnographia Island is set to double in size with the addition of a second region.
“This means not only more spaces for individual disabled folks to have parcels for some creative building, but also some larger, collaborative parcels where groups of people with disabilities can let their imaginations run free!” Tom said as they passed on the news to me.
So, if you have a disability of any kind and would be interested in a parcel, please IM Donna (Tredi Felisimo in SL) or Tom (Tom Bukowski in SL), or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. They would love to have you participate!
“I create in Second Life for my own amusement, things for photos, things to adorn my avatar with, things just to see if I can,” Zib Scaggs says of her work as a creator and photographer. “I share many of those creations with others who adorn their avatars and take their own photos too. Simple enough.”
Simple it may be, but it is also something that has led to Zib becoming the latest artist to be invited to exhibit her photography at Dathúil Gallery, operated by Max Butoh and Lυcy (LucyDiam0nd). Entitled Slow Motion Riot and a Nude, the exhibition opens on Thursday, March 3rd at noon SLT, and will run through until the end of the month.
“The images,” Zib says of the exhibition, “are of those things I have made, or avatars I adorn.” She also notes that she doesn’t look for hidden messages or nor deeper meanings in life or art.and doesn’t hide them in her own work. Thus, Slow Motion Riot and a Nude presents a series of images, some in muted colours and tones, some black-and-white, which should be interpreted exactly as the eye sees them, and not with any idea that there is a particular story or nuance behind them.
Sitting between the images are little behatted zebras in ones and twos (and which also feature in one of the images in the exhibition). When touched, these will offer the visitor a little gift created by Zib, and which may be one of the items featured in the pictures around the gallery.
Given the artist’s statement about her work, I’m loathe to say too much on it, lest I perceive meanings which aren’t intended to be there. What I will say, however, is that each of the pieces offer at Dathúil is both intriguing and eye-catching; when taken together, they present another exhibition which should not be missed.
As noted towards the top of this piece, Slow Motion Riot and a Nude officially opens on Thursday, March 3rd at noon SLT, and runs through until March 30th.