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SpaceJunky – Australian Second Life band doing well

I received a press release today from Australian Second Life resident Bella Dutton about music outfit SpaceJunky. The whole virtual band thing is far from new (I was involved in one in 1994) but it\’s great to see another Australian artist doing well.

The full text:

\”FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Australian band SpaceJunky follows path from Tibet to Virtual Reality to the Next Big Thing

Tunes Island, SecondLife, (Jan 24, 2008) – This Thursday through the weekend millions of viewers around the world will have a chance to learn about an Australian band whose efforts to reach the public have taken the road less traveled, to say the least. Digress a few years: Tania Smith (known in SL as Shakti Cianci), lead singer and founder of Australian cosmic pop/rock band SpaceJunky traveled to Tibet and asked a Tibetan oracle in his temple if her band would ever be heard by the world. After rolling the dice an unusual four times and pondering for some moments he looked at her and simply said “yes”.

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Flash forward to a year ago: Tania was searching the internet for an ancient Tibetan symbol that scholars like Robert Thurman of Tibet House were unable to decipher, and her search returned a link to a virtual online world she had never heard of before called SecondLife.

Tania then decides to re-create her band members in SL, eventually recruiting the help of a virtual publicist, stage manager and lighting designer, photographer, and other supporters on her team, with the intention of creating a virtual experience of a SpaceJunky concert in SL.

Now to the present: SpaceJunky’s shows are always packed and through their growing popularity they have gained fans around the world, sold cds, gotten real-world radio play and magazine covers, YouTube fan videos, offers to air their upcoming video and real life product endorsements….just like in real life.

So this week SpaceJunky are being featured in a CNN interview called the Next Big Thing with CNN Chief Technology and Environment correspondent Miles O’Brien whose attention was caught by their innovative use of cutting edge technology to promote their band. O’Brien has also long wanted to be the first news correspondent in space, so SpaceJunky had a virtual spaceship built in space for the interview, which will be aired on CNN and CNN International Jan 24 through the 27th.

All this is made more important by the fact that Tania and bandmates Luke Mason and Dan Harris live separately in the USA, Malaysia and Australia.
“Our dilemma is that our band members now live on three continents in three time zones on opposite sides of the planet, so being a band in Second Life allows us to promote our music and stay connected through the internet. Hopefully it will allow us to do what we really do, which is play live in real life too.” As professional musicians who have worked with large touring bands such as Kylie Minogue and stood on some of the world’s largest stages, they find it ironic that recognition might come to them as an animated virtual act.

Tania credits this cosmic journey to her Tibetan guidance, and as such is helping various Tibetan causes including aiding the project to build the Potala Palace in SecondLife, where the real life Dalai Lama himself will be invited to visit, and if so she will have the opportunity to sing for His Holiness. Tania admits that honor would be “virtually amazing”. \”

Second Skin

Second Skin is an upcoming documentary on the impact virtual worlds are having now and the increased impact they\’re likely to have into the future.

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There\’s a trailer for the documentary released today and it looks like a polished production covering some of the key challenges facing society in the virtual world sphere. World of Warcraft is a heavy focus but Second Life and other worlds appear to get decent air time.

Singapore\’s Mirror World shows business promise

I received a press release today from Singapore-based company \’Virtual Worlds\’, touting their Mirror World which is under development and due for launch at the end of this year. The full text of the press release is below by essentially it\’s a platform that will allow creation of replicas of real-world locations for the purpose of 3D walk-throughs. It\’s aimed squarely at tourism operators and its appeal is obvious. Never been to Egypt? Then do the virtual tour of key locations and decide if it\’s the holiday for you.

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It looks promising but like any new development it will face the challenge of a growing number of competitors. Interoperability with other worlds is a holy grail for any option at this stage but any new development needs to take the growing movement in that respect into account.

We\’ll be following this development closely and hope to do a more detailed preview in coming months.

The full text:

PRESS RELEASE

22 January 2008, Singapore — Virtual Worlds , developers of the world’s first “Mirror World” ,announces the availability of the world’s first platform for virtual tourism to industry operators today in Singapore.

From key tourism destinations, places of interest , historical sites to realistic full scale 3-Dimensional replicas of entire cities. This mirror world of our existing planet – “Mirror World” allows end users to journey through “virtual words” in the comfort of their homes – creating a brand new exciting marketing tool for tourism industry players like tourism destination operators, Hoteliers, Shopping Malls, Retail Outlets and more to showcase and sell their destinations and facilities to key markets around the world.

What sets Mirror World apart from other 3D environment developers in the market is its commitment to the recreation of reality. All images, environments, content and cityscapes are designed to be as life-like and accurate as possible to the real world. A Beta version of the software with the capability to show certain parts of the world is already available today. The technology today allows support for up to a million objects per view area as well as sound and music , complete with special effects showing realistic weather patterns and powerful animation effects. Providing the most realistic virtual reality tour of any destination available in the market today. The company is already in discussions on several projects with tourism authorities and facilities operators in the region to build 3D replicas of their existing sites. Virtual Worlds expects to completely map the globe in phases, providing a brand new exciting, interactive platform for vacation , travel planning and learning.

Another interesting factor about the platform lies in its ability to be able to import exsiting 3D drawings of existing infrastructure and buildings . That means we can do a
very rapid buildup of the location. Targeted for a world wide launch in end 2008, consumers will be able to explore parts of the world in 3D, meet and chat with friends from all over the world all from their desktop over a internet connection and most importantly win prizes to travel around the world.

\”This is an important and necessary step in the development of Virtual Worlds,\” said Terence Mak, Director of Virtual Worlds Asia. \”Virtual Worlds has always been depicted with a fantasy, its about time we changed that thinking and use of the same technology to make the world a smaller place. Air Travel & Tourism is booming with the availability of budget airlines, consumers are beginning to be more world conscious, what is missing is a technology and a platform to showcase the World in 3D to a global audience. We hope to be the partner with many of the worlds interesting places and help them showcase what they are doing to make the world a more interesting place.”

A more global site will be announced later in the year. For more information, please visit the Virtual Worlds Site.

Update: an interview with Terence Mak can be found here.

Two key reports released on Second Life and education / non-profit sectors

The first is entitled: Best Practices from the Second Life Community Convention Education Track 2007 and was prepared by Cathy Arreguin, MA Educational Technology.

Get the report here or further details on it here

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The second is Best Practices for Non-profits in Second Life – Fall 2007 by Rik Panganiban.

Get the report here or further details on it here

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If you work in either the education or non-profit sector these are well worth a read.

Death Of A Skeptic Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1, Bix Ashbourne describes his early days as a Second Life resident:

I start wandering. Rude people, silent people, gregarious people, bothersome people, strange people, oddly dressed people…is this Los Angeles? So much for a different life. Armed with the in-world names of some real-life friends, I discover the search function, and ultimately, them. Kat, an in-world designer and RL computer genius and discussion board friend, comes to my rescue, showing me places to go, standing patiently while I avoid the type of nervous breakdown that only comes with information overload. Shows me some freebies, gives me some landmarks, then offers to tweak my avatar for me to de-burr me of the Noob flash. I let her in on my password, and a little while later, voila`! I am now ready to swing in SL, rolled denim pant cuffs notwithstanding.

I go back to one of the landmarks that Kat had given me, a public gathering place called The Shelter. A wonderful place for noobs, although, in retrospect, I might have chosen a more subtle experience, with less flash, motion, and conversation. I am befriended by a very sexy woman named Willa. The experience with her simply reinforces all the good things I\’ve discovered, thus far, about SL, and she is alluring, the conversation flows very well, the mutual attraction kicks into high gear. After a while, the heat is on, and we TP to a new location.

It is at this point that I discover I\’m gonna have to get a penis.

This had, until this moment, escaped me; my one real-life penis exists in a state of recluse that makes Howard Hughes look like tabloid fodder, getting a cartoon penis is not even on the radar, as I\’m still trying to acclimate to the movement controls, let alone appearance sliders and what not. Regardless of this minor detail, Willa and I have a very good time, and I am not only reminded of the power of words, but have also been exposed to their power in a new context. I also come to the realization–pun thoroughly intended and application expected–that this particular activity, in the context of SL, is a veritable \”interactive porn\”. With the addition of voice chat, which I am thoroughly aware exists yet I do not, at this time, participate in, I can easily see how the level of satisfaction get raised several notches.

There\’s a line, here…a line one can sit right on the knife-edge of…and it\’s the line between organic and electronic. You begin to question the human experience in organic terms, wondering how it is one can get some satisfaction from a non-tangible, fabricated, yet near-wholly interactive experience. Here we are, lonely, stretching out across the world in our beds, our chairs, our desks, getting pleasure from someone we\’ve never met but is, nonetheless, NOT a total stranger. Speed dating, with graphics. When you realize that scientists are working on developing organic circuitry and components, ostensibly with intent to make production less toxic to the environment but also opening up the door to someplace for mankind to go when the human body has become outdated, the mind becomes filled with the stuff you only read about in science fiction stories as a kid.

Love in the ether, lust as binary.

A stream of numbers now has the burden of carrying our stream of consciousness, our desires, our joy, our anger. Human, organic passion has now ramped up its dependence on copper wires, surface-mount components, blinking lights, mega-corporation call centers, and the piloting skills of UFO pilots to avoid our clunky, gum-and-duct-tape satellites. (I wonder what the alien equivalent of duct tape is. I wonder if they depend on it as much as we do. Surely, they\’ve advanced enough they don\’t need to carry wallets.) I can feel the detachment from RL beginning. I don\’t know if I\’m sad to say it feels good.

Willa informs me that she\’s seeing a modest handful of avatars, and can\’t find herself to commit to only one, the news of which simultaneously fails to surprise me and stings a little. So much for keeping RL and SL separate, I suppose. I do the software equivalent of a shrug, and accept what\’s been thrown at me. We have one more encounter; over the course of time, she decides that she does want to be with one, and one only. Naturally, I am not it. We stay in touch, on occasion. We know a lot about each other\’s real lives, have shared some deep conversations and relied on each other for a shoulder; we DO have good conversation. There\’s still a small, soft spot in my digital heart for the woman, somewhere.

It\’s at this point that I realize that which I already knew, but have now deemed it too late in life to do anything about; I can\’t be fake about anything. I bring myself into everything I do, SL not excepted. As I wander back into the grid, I begin to realize, over the course of time, that SL is a virtual \”do-over\”… you get a chance to try out interactions that failed in the past, work on them, tinker with them; you can beta-test new approaches, with the worst-case scenario being having to find a landmark to TP to, and fast.

Fortunately, the face slaps in SL don\’t leave marks. Let\’s hope no-one scripts those.

Furries, sexuality and griefing: one viewpoint

I received an email today from well-known Australian Second Life resident Wolfie Rankin, with some fascinating thoughts on sexuality, furries and the issue of griefing. His views in full below – the only alterations are changes to spelling and capitalisation:

\”Some interesting things have come to light during a discussion with a friend who\’s an Officer at a large Furry Sim.

It turns out that a lot of griefers, including those in well known griefing groups, are Furries themselves.

This will sound strange, but here\’s how it works.

Furry #1 has a bad fallout with his Gay lover on Secondlife, So rather than taking it on the chin, decides to seek revenge… returns to SL as an Alt, loads up with weapons, and griefs. He may target his former lover or grief the entire sim where they hung out.

Or another scenario is that he asks someone in a griefing group to do it for him.

How do we know for certain?

Well it turned out that quite a few from that certain SL griefing group also had accounts on a well known furry art page and had used similar names to the ones on that art page.

Once this information came to light, quite a few from this well known griefing group suddenly left it.

I\’m not putting Furries down, as you know, I\’m one myself… However, it\’s well known that some Furries are also huge \”Drama Queens\” who whine a lot and cause the rest of us to grind our teeth. They\’d be the best candidates for this kind of thing.

Also, I\’m not saying that griefing groups are entirely made up of furries, that\’s not true.

It\’s very clear now, that many who go griefing and target potential gay areas of SL, have personal sexual issues… For instance, a young lad who\’s having feelings, but can\’t cope with the idea that he might be gay, might takes it out on others who he either thinks are gay, or are openly gay.

In other words, he\’s trying to assert his heterosexuality by targeting anything even loosely considered to be \”gay\”

Saying that it\’s done for \”Lulz\” is simply a thin veil hiding larger problems, when you spend hours in the day griefing SL and then making a video of it for YouTube, there\’s definately something not quite right.

People who are secure in their sexuality would never worry if the bloke up the road is gay or bi or whatever\”.

It\’s an interesting take and there\’s no doubt those sexually conflicted may adopt aggressive measures to assert one viewpoint. One of the key opportunities and challenges that virtual worlds offer is exploration of social issues like sexual identity. What are your thoughts on the issue – is the viewpoint above a valid one?

Australian Second Lifers at 2008 Linux Conference

Over on the blog devoted to Australian users of Second Life on the Linux platform, they\’ve mentioned that this week there\’s Australia\’s annual Linux conference.

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A swathe of Australian Second Life residents will be there, so if Linux and many hours of technical discussions are your thing, a quick trip to Melbourne may be in order.