Thursday, October 16, 2014

Research in Virtual Environments - Update

My quest continues to apply existing research findings from my doctoral program. Progress has been made to create my own virtual world regions and incorporate artful freebees available via Creative Commons licensing. Family members have joined in to experience virtual field trips and communities across distance. Fusion Unlimited Networks Research was incorporated as a non-profit company in March 2014 to use simulation for philanthropy. In May, I joined colleagues to work part-time at UCF's Institute for Simulation & Training in METIL. A huge milestone was the publication of my dissertation by Proquest in October 2014. For anyone who is interested, a .pdf document is available from the CIRET website. Naturally, my virtual region has to become a tribute to space exploration and marine exploration, and well.. all exploration!

Space Room in Virtual Cabin Retreat
Delightful's Region on Kitely
Discovering new pathways of inquiry are sought to design research questions regarding virtual experiences. Possibilities abound as the OpenSim platform and community matures. Many researchers are trying to become versed in multiple platforms, exchanging knowledge along the way. Another great way to learn is from children of course. Some of my grand-children are old enough now to join me together in the same place or apart to gather virtually. We have created memories to treasure of shared, virtual experiences more meaningful with loved ones. Cross-generational learning is feasible to assist the aging and maturing population.

Discussing Lego Camp Together
Discussing Lego Camp Together at a Distance
Creating and participating in mirror worlds offer the potential for using virtual environments for training. The challenge has been how to inexpensively create models and environments. Continued involvement with the MOSES OpenSim community afforded the opportunity to learn about a scanning project of the actual location where I work. Participating in making the machinima below was a bonding event in itself. I cannot wait to learn the digital literacies to get behind the camera and make stories myself. Considering the talent and generosity within the community, it won't be long for me to learn. Many people are excited to make stuff to print in 3D. I want scan stuff to put into 3D worlds. Again, the possibilities are promising.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Richness Afforded by Avatar Use

Do we really have a common definition of avatars? Many people think of the movie Avatar that featured a man inhabiting the form of another species where he was required to take on characteristics of that being while overcoming his own human limitations. This notion of avatars seems partially true.

Avatars to me represent an interplay with 'self' that is as diverse as the personalities of the people whom inhabit their avatars. Of course not all people inhabit thier avatar, if they have one at all. Much more research is needed on identity, but it is clear that the leaders who foster communities across distance and time zones often use avatars. These communities provide the glue that connects annual events like conferences.

Speaking of avatars, The Virtual Education Journal of the International Society of Technology in Education's Virtual Environments Network features some profiles of educators who are often tireless scouts of new media and technology. The issue is called My Avatar and Me. Check it out:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Applicability of Research

New chapter. My research journey included defending my dissertation on 12-19-13. The findings led me to add the term embodied to the title after it was so clear to me how survey respondents were attached to their avatars, groups, and the milieu of virtual environments. 

I took my time to consider avenues of future research and applicability. Since my last post, I moved back to the Orlando area and am researching how to start a non-profit corporation to apply and continue my research. Philanthropy appeals to me to give back for the blessings I have received. 

Last year was tumultuous with taking on a new job, moving to a new city, my daughter's car accident, and then getting caught up in a reduction of force all while trying to complete a doctorate program. Waiting until degree completion would have been optimal, but the challenges served my thinking and my study. The document turned out to be about 320 pages. Hopefully, I am pioneering some new realms of thought. 

There are many other capable researchers exploring personality and identity using avatars. Several researchers are also studying collaboration. Gaming mechanics and the impact of a learning organization kept coming back to me so these elements were added to my calls for future research. In the end, I mashed up many ideas and constructs that will take years to apply in praxis. 

Last September, the OpenSim Community Conference was the first community-supported event that illustrated what committed volunteers can do with sufficient tools, time, and leadership. Things worked so well that it felt somewhat miraculous. I was merely a spectator admiring the hard work of others. The event made me think  of how transformations occur in people, groups, organizations, and society. How do we detect and see the currents of change?  
Open Simulator Community Conference 2013 venue
I have been thinking a lot about cross-generational learning and how strengths-based teaming allows those with motivation to learn and enjoy whatever they are committed to doing. The craze of massively open online courses has in my mind led to replacing the C in MOOC from course to community. It is the transformative capability of community collaboration and involvement that attracts my fascination. Such transformations enable people (and groups?) to believe in what they previously thought not possible. This is the business I want to be involved in to invest my strengths.   

Personalized learning suggests that those who have interest and ability should be able to advance and collaborate with others who share goals. Wouldn't in be revolutionary if online virtual conferences could be open to anyone with capability and commitment to engage? Such events could lead to virtual open online communities. A sort of sponsorship could make it work. Sponsorship is something I think a lot about too. 

Once virtual communities form, what makes them sustainable? My study suggested that how volunteer communities build learning communities towards transdisciplinarity impacted empowerment. The potential for virtual learning organization communities may preserve scant resources of time, energy, funding, and the environment. Much more research is required. I am looking forward to new opportunities to learn and grow now that I am finally, Dr. Truman. My gratitude cannot be more heartfelt for my mentors, peers, family, and friends.