This week I was finally FORCED to sort out the random smatterings of insight I have gleaned from hanging out in games and VSWs over the past year.
Why? Because I had to present something coherent on the topic at Training 2007….and as Ed Schien has explained to us no-one likes to look silly in front of a large audience ; )
I’ll spare you all the gory detail about my experience of delayed plane and difficulty finding room once I got to Disney. Suffice it to say that at 11:30 I found myself in front of my laptop with a blank screen and a strong desire to make sense of it all ASAP.
Here is what popped out by 4AM the same morning:
My first observation is the insight is that we need a taxonomy for these digitally mediated environments. I am sure there are already many out there. But for my simple mind, which on good days has the attention span of a ferret on two cappuccinos (thanks to Gary Dickelman for this quote), this is all I can handle.
Borrowing from Ed Castranova’s work, at the top I have what I call 3D Synthetic Worlds. Below that there are two primary categories: Virtual Social Worlds (Which I have also heard referred to as Emotive Networks) and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs).
My second observation is that while VSWs and MMORPGs are kin…they are definitely not twins. As I mentioned previously in this blog. Many of the arguments that luddites leverage against the application of VSWs for learning and/or collaboration are in-fact arguments about Game Sensibilities (not MMORPG mind you, just regular games). Here is my .02 on trying to sort out where these things are Kin and where they are Twin:
Given this palette to work with and leveraging a VSW Platform such as Proton, Forterra or even Second Life, there is no rule that says you can’t incorporate the sensibilities of games into that environment. Only difference is that it won’t cost you millions of dollars.
If you think of developing a VSW/MMORPG “Mash Up” then you gotta define to the sensibilities that differentiate these spaces from others and then determine if the learning need being addressed is better served by leveraging those sensibilities. By 3:30 AM, here are the sensibilities that popped out. Note that my Irish education came to mind here as onomatopoeia and my love for William Butler Yates poetry seemed to slip into my sleep deprived synthesis.
I have written about some of these sensibilities before. In a later post (pending the arrival of my Articulate Software) I will put some more detail and video illustrations around them to convey what I am talking about. Again, what I provide here is NO SUBSTITUTE for getting into these spaces and experiencing them yourself.
Finally, borrowing from a pitch I saw Roger Shank do one time, I tried to fit the learning leverage points that these environments provide. I have started building a repository of educational examples of 3Di Learning and will start to tag by how much FREEDOM they provide ; )
At the end of the day I leave the conference even more fired up about the possibilities for 3Di and Learning. In David Metcalf’s talk he gave an astounding statistic. He said that the military spent $14.6B on Immersive Sims last year. Given that the entire U.S. Training budget is in the $60-$70B range and given that where it comes to bleeding edge technology the military usually leads and corporations follow, I think that we are on the cusp of something very big when we talk about the integration of 3Di technology with Learning and Collaboration.
This week, I also got to see more of the enterprise focused 3Di Learning and Collaboration Environments. Of particular note in this regard was Proton Media. For enterprise applications of 3Di where you need security, access via 56K, VOIP, Application Sharing, LMS integration and in- world browser access, enterprise focused 3Di vendors (Forterra being another with Multiverse not far behind) are well worth checking out. Their business models are different and work more on site license basis. You can’t really design and develop yourself within the worlds as you can within SL, but what you give up on that front you gain with the ability to plug into your existing apps and offerings within the enterprise network. Think of these apps as Centra/Interwise/Adobe Connection Meets Secondlife.
At the end of the day, there may not be one multiverse, but many. At IBM we are thinking not only of the concept of multiple multiverses and having the ability for your avatar to pop from one to another just as easily as you can go from the Starbucks page to the IBM page on the 2D web today. We are also pondering the concept of Intraverses…virtual worlds that represent a parallel corporate universe that is inhabited only by its corporate citizens.
Exciting times indeed! Now if only I could get some sleep. As Ed Castranova says in Synthetic Worlds: “Those of us who do research for a living actually don’t have much control over the subjects we study; thinking goes on 24 hours a day, and it seems that if a topic so desires, it can force a higher priority for itself than we want it to have.”
For me that subject is the mash up between 3Di and the incredible potential it affords those of us in the learning profession to truly create engaging experiences allow working, doing and learning to fuse into a more pleasurable and satisfying experience for the knowledge worker.