On Friday, June 30th, Jayjay Zifanwe contacted me with some excellent news: the University of Western Australia (UWA) is to retain a presence in Second Life for a further two years – albeit on a reduced scale.
UWA has enjoyed a long presence here in Second Life, operating multiple regions and becoming a stalwart supporter of virtual arts through its grand challenges and other competitions and opportunities offered to artists to present their work, as well a through support of machinima in physical world film challenges, such as those run by Screen My Shorts.
However, in September 2016, it was announced that due to changes within the UWA, its digital presence was to be largely shut down, with all but one of the five regions being removed from the grid at the start of October 2016, and the last given a stay of execution for at least a year.
Then, in October 2016 came word that one of the regions would transfer to the management of Sonicity Fitzroy (aka Dr Phylis Johnson) of the San Jose State University (and is now called SJSU Virlantis), while the four remaining regions – University of WA, UWA, UWA Winthrop and WASP Land would remain in place in-world until July 2017 before finally vanishing into the night.
Now, two of the regions will be continuing for at least two years, as a jubilant Jayjay informed me via IM:
“I’m pleased to be able to tell you that thanks to the ‘UWA Community Partnerships Programme’, the University of WA and UWA regions will now be remaining in Second Life for the next two years,” he said. “This is absolutely wonderful news, and I’d like to thank everyone who have believed in and participated in all we have done and achieved over the years.”
Nor is that all. As noted above, one of the things UWA is famous for in it patronage of the arts, is its series of grand challenges involving 2D and 3D art and machinima – and there is good news here as well.
“A benefactor has donated L$300,000 for a machinima challenge,” Jayjay went on. “So we will be running one with art as the theme. Participants will be asked to select one or a number of artworks on display at UWA and weave a story around it or them.”
Full details on the news about the extension to the two regions, and detailed information on the machinima challenge will be made available via the UWA of SL blog in due course. In the meantime a hint of the coming news can be found on the blog.
For now, congratulations to Jayjay, FreeWee Ling and everyone involved in making this happen.
With machinima, you are getting a glimpse into the soul of the artist. They’re not making this film so they can sell tickets at the movies. They are making this to show you who they are.
– Jayjay Jegathesan
The above statement comes at the start of The Drax Files World Makers episode 32, and perhaps perfectly encapsulates a good part of the message offered within it. It also encompasses much of what Second Life is for so many of us: a means of expressing ourselves fully and freely and without the burdens we often face in the physical world – a point Jay Jay also makes later in the film.
This segment is a slight departure from previous episodes, in that it could be said to cover two different, if related, themes. On the one hand, it offers insight into the amazing world of Second Life machinima and the ways in which the platform offers many unique ways of artistic freedom for film-makers. On the other it is a personal look at Jay Jay’s own role within the platform, both at founder and manager of the University of Western Australia’s presence in-world and through it a patron and champion of the arts and machinima through his in-world alter-ego, Jayjay Zifanwe.
These two threads, woven together through the UWA’s ongoing series of art and machinima challenges, make for one of the most complex pieces yet produced by Drax as a part of the World Maker series. In it, he precisely balances insight and understanding into the appeal of machinima and the creative potential Second Life offers the medium with a clearly understandable examination of Jay Jay’s and the UWA’s work in-world, presenting audiences not necessarily well-versed in Second Life with a narrative flow combining both elements into a cohesive whole.
From Jay Jay’s opening comment, we see machinima initially framed through the UWA’s ongoing series of art and machinima competitions (such as Pursue Impossible, which is currently underway), and which serves also to underline the fact that just about every kind of film genre and type known in the physical world can be produced within the virtual – and to extremely high standards.
This richness of opportunity is further underlined with brief statements on their art by some of second Life’s top machinima makers such as Rysan Fall (long a personal favourite), with clips from films by others such as Tutsy Navarathna (ditto). Through this comments, albeit individually brief, the audience gains a well-rounded view of machinima and its creative power and value, as well as into way so many find it so personally satisfying.
And just in case there are any doubts over machinima’s position as a genuine form or artistic and creative expression, I’d at least point to Rysan Fall’s short film Invisible City. This not only topped-out the machinima category for the Project Homeless competition sponsored by the City of Parramatta, new South Wales, it took second position overall in the competition, beating many films made solely in the physical world with its context, narrative and production quality.
Rysan Fall’s brilliant Invisible City
Art and machinima serve many purposes in Second Life, just as they do in the real world, and it is to the UWA’s credit that they have sought to embrace this as much as possible through their promotion of virtual arts – such as with their involvement in Project Homeless, as mentioned above.
On Saturday August 1st, 2015, the University of Western Australia (UWA) announced the opening of their 2015 Grand Art and MachinimUWA Challenges. Jointly entitled Pursue Impossible, between them, they feature an opening prize pool in excess of L$400,000.
The Challenges are sponsored by Tom Papas & SciFi Film Festival, Reign Congrejo & BOSL, LaPiscean Liberty & SL Artist, AviewTV, Pixel Bits, Virtlantis, Phillip Vought, Carolyn Steele & York University (Canada), Taralyn Gravois, UWA Marketing & Communications, as well as the UWA Virtual Worlds Project.
Pursue Impossible invites entrants to consider what their “impossible” might be. Is it the goal they have achieved or which they’ve seen achieved by their loved ones, friends, family or heroes achieved and which has sought to inspire them? What have they overcome which they once thought to be impossible? How do virtual environments empower people to visualise, create and push the boundaries of the possible? What are those things we deem to be impossible, but which we may still pursue and conquer as individuals or collectively? What are the impossibilities of the mind or heart or soul? Do we see the seemingly impossible and try to overcome it, or do we allow it to overpower us?
“Those who pursue what may at first seem impossible are the ones who keep the world turning,” UWA’s Jayjay Zifanwe, Manager of the School of Physics at the university states of the theme. “What if Ghandhi did not believe he could overcome the impossible for his country? What if Dr Fiona Wood did not believe in second skin for burn victims? What if Professor Barry Marshall did not believe in himself and use himself as a human guinea pig for the benefit of mankind?”
The theme is also a reflection of a new brand launched by UWA in May 2015, which featured Jayjay’s work in developing a UWA presence in Second Life, and which is promoted by the university in video which may help get entrants to the Challenge thinking as well.
Please refer to the official UWA blog post for the major rules and considerations in entering the Challenge, and to find out about the prizes in the art and machinima categories. However, in summary:
Each category (art and machinima) currently has a prize pool of L$195,000, with a L$50,000 first place prize, and 11 prizes overall
Entrants are free to submit entries to either the art or the machinima categories, or to both if they wish
Art entry notes:
Art entries are limited to one per entrant, should preferably by submitted with COPY permissions, and must not exceed 150 LI, and must be free from any copyright issues – if third-party content is used in an entry, permission must and been sought and granted from the creator for its inclusion in the Challenge
Sounds, lighting, particle effects, etc., should be scripted to turn off when not in use. You may be asked to provide a revised entry if it is too intrusive or interferes with the display of other works
Exceptionally large or complex builds will be placed on platforms above the gallery with a teleport (TP) device and poster on the gallery floor and a return TP on the platform. You may provide a TP object and/or poster (no more than 2 LI) or we can place one for you. TP objects should be set to copy/mod and given to FreeWee Ling to add scripts and to place
Machinima entry notes:
There is no limit to the number of machinima pieces an entrant might submit; and while not a “hard” rule, machinima entries should preferably be no more than 4 minutes and 30 seconds in length, although this is not a “hard” rule
All submitted machinima must be made specifically for this challenge, and must include “For The University of Western Australia’s MachinimUWA VIII: Pursue Impossible” in the opening credits
Machinima entries do not have to be filmed within the UWA’s Second Life regions, but there will be a special prize available for a film which starts at the Winthrop Clock Tower and Reflection Pond, the starting pond for the UWA’s own Pursue Impossible video (above)
All entries to the challenge should be able to be interpreted by the casual viewer as representative of the theme.If the link is difficult to ascertain within a piece of art, it should be referenced in a note card accompanying the work; if it is difficult to ascertain in a video, it should be referenced in the notes accompanying the film on the web.
Art submissions should be made via the art entry receiver at the UWA Art Challenge Platform in Second Life, accompanied by a note card which includes your name, city, name of artwork and a description of artwork.
Machinima entries should be uploaded to any publicly accessible location, preferably YouTube or Vimeo, and the details of the entry (name, creator, location, etc.) supplied to Jayjay Zifanwe and LaPiscean Liberty in-world or by e-mailing the details to Jayjay (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The closing date for entries is midnight SLT, on October 31st, 2015. Winners will be announced in December 2015.
When entering, do please note that as with all the UWA’s public programmes, an entry may not be accepted if it is deemed to be excessively abusive, violent, offensive, bullying, harmful, insulting, or contains inappropriate material or excessively foul language. Depictions of explicit sexual activity, as well as material deemed offensive based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation are not appropriate for the Challenge, and may be rejected. Final decisions in these matters will be made by the UWA Cultural Precinct.
As with the UWA’s Grand Challenges, there will also be a set of audience participation prizes available. The pool for this currently stands at L$15,000 apiece for the two categories (art and machinima), and I’ll have more details on how you can enter this aspect of the challenge in due course.
Above: Tutsy Navarathna’s Grand prize winner in the Machinima category 2014 Grand Art and MachinimUWA Challenge
Over the last few years, it has been a delight and pleasure for me, through these pages, to help showcase the UWA’s work benefiting the arts in Second Life. Entries to their Challenges a special arts programmes have always been of an incredible standard, and I’ve enjoyed viewing them as a both a member of the public and more recently as a member of the judging panel. It is in this latter capacity that I’m looking forward to seeing the diversity of entries submitted in both categories this year, and would like to offer all those who do enter, the very best of luck!
FreeWee Ling is perhaps best known for her tireless work on behalf of the University of Western Australia (UWA), and co-organiser and curator of the UWA’s art-related projects, activities and galleries within Second Life.
At the end of 2014, she rightly gained recognition from the Australian Department of Education for this work, and was awarded an Endeavour Executive Fellowship that allowed her to travel from her home in the eastern United States to spend four months at the UWA in Perth, Australia, where she was based with the UWA’s Department of Physics.
FreeWee was encouraged to apply for an Endeavour Executive Fellowship by colleague Jayjay Zifanwe (Jay Jay Jegatheva in the physical world, Manager of the School of Physics at UWA) and her application was supported by a letter of recommendation from UWA.
Now, JayJay, FreeWee and the UWA are encouraging other Second Life residents to take the opportunity to follow in FreeWee’s footsteps, and applying for a 2016 Endeavour Executive Fellowship and, if selected by the Australian Department of Education, travel to UWA.
News of this was passed to me by Carmsie Melodie, who Tweeted me to point to a write-up on her blog. The same write-up is also available on the UWAinSL blog, where FreeWee has also written about her experience as a Fellowship awardee – so if you are interested in applying, do make sure you read FreeWee’s article.
The Endeavour Executive Fellowship is a 4-month study period in Australia, focusing on learning and building skills and knowledge through a host work environment in the applicant’s field or area of expertise, rather than through formal enrolment in a study programme. It offers financial support (up to Australian $18,500) towards professional development opportunities for the successful applicant, and an opportunity to study at UWA for four months.
Commenting on her experience in applying, FreeWee said:
The Endeavour application process was fairly easy, all done online. You need to describe what you want to do, get a couple of people to write recommendations, get certified copies of transcripts, etc. But it’s all carefully laid out in the online application. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about it. You can’t win if you don’t enter!
Once I was notified that my application was approved, the program turned me over to a caseworker who supported me from leaving for Perth to arriving back home. My caseworker was great, always responded quickly to any concerns I had and monitored my progress throughout my stay.
Should you decide to apply for the Executive Fellowship, please be sure to contact Jayjay (in-world via IM or note card or via e-mail to: jay.jay-at-uwa.edu.au) and / or FreeWee (in-world via note card) for advice and support on how the UWAinSL can assist you in your application.
Do note as well that submissions for Fellowship applications close on Tuesday 30th June, 2016.
With thanks to Carmsie Melodie for the pointer via Twitter.