Sunday, December 14, 2014

Power Point Presentation Boys and Girls Club

Link to Powerpoint Presentation :

Task 6

            As virtual worlds, such as Second Life, World of Warcraft, and more, become increasingly prominent in our society, it is important that we understand how these virtual worlds affect the “real world.” It’s no wonder these virtual worlds have gained such popularity; in these worlds, users can now look however they want by building their avatar. Users now have powers they could never have in real life and, most importantly, the social hierarchy is clearly mapped – in the real world, you are dealt the cards you are dealt. In these worlds, it is now within your power to level up, get better weapons, nicer clothes. The worlds are large enough that no one can remember who you were three weeks ago, a luxury not so easily afforded at school or work. Any negative implications of virtual worlds come as a result of blurring the lines between the virtual and the real world.
            As pointed out earlier, social hierarchy is not only mapped out but also tends to contrast starkly from real life. This can affect a user in two ways, either a growth of confidence, or a detachment from real world rules and regulations. For many users, these virtual worlds are a place to feel accepted and be around others with common interests. For those lacking a safe space or environment where they feel they can be who they really are without persecution, knowing there are others out there who will accept them can give them the confidence they may not be able to find outside of a virtual reality. This isn’t always so apparent since it is a quiet side effect. What is more obvious is when the user becomes detached from reality.

            This can manifest itself in many ways. At its least harmful, the user can start to forgo social rules and cues for those that are set up in their virtual community, leading to isolation. In more extreme cases, users can start to act out. Isolation can lead to resentment and frustration with real world contacts. Unfortunately, this can lead to violence, which is often the only time our society discusses the real world implications of virtual worlds. Since the positive affects of virtual worlds tend to be more subtle, it isn’t obvious where the connection is or that it is even worth discussing. But the truth is, virtual worlds can be very helpful in establishing a safe space for users to feel included. The positive effects are not always discussed, but are certainly noteworthy. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Task 5

The Boys and Girls club of Milwaukee would greatly benefit from the creation of a virtual world. The virtual platform that would be best served for them would be Second Life. Considering the level of maturity needed to handle such an endeavor participants in this virtual world must be over 13 years of age. This will provide them with the necessary maturity in order to learn, grow, and create with the help of a sponsor that will help them get accustomed to Second Life. Considering the difficulty in becoming sufficient in Second Life sponsors will need to be competent at teaching young users the basic around Second Life. This plan will outline why the creation of a virtual team will help the Boys and Girls Club, what influence that members will have on the virtual group, and also any considerations that must be in mind regarding the virtual group. This plan will explain the benefits of this virtual team and how it will help teens to grow and be part of a virtual group, while helping them become more effective users of technology.
            A virtual team is “a group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology.” (Lipnack, 2000 pg. 352) Through the creation of a virtual team it will be possible to foster creativity and learning in the young people that will be using Second Life. In theory over time the use of Second Life could connect not only members from the Milwaukee area, but also from statewide or nationwide members thus allowing members a chance to learn about their peers from varying areas around the country. This formation of a virtual group will be helpful as it will be a rich enough form of media in order to serve the needs of the organization. Being able to communicate synchronously is an important characteristic of Second Life and one that will make it possible for someone to teach a new user in the form of a walkthrough of various functions. Miller describes managers and how they select media forms based on the task ambiguity, “managers will be more effective if they choose a communication medium that is a proper match for the ambiguity of the task at hand.” (Miller, 2015 pg. 240) Thus using Second Life is very worthwhile for it gives users the freedom and autonomy to create and do as they please, something that teens strive for.
            Members of the virtual group will have all of the impact on the group, from the new users to the sponsors and trainers all of the content will be created by the users and thusly create a new world for users to learn and explore. Channel expansion theory is something that will take place over time as users become more and more connected with the technology, “richness perceptions will depend on an individual’s personal experience with a specific medium.” (Miller, 2015 pg. 241) As more and more time is spent with the techonology we can theorize that users will become more and more useful in the techonology and it will provide them with chances to learn new things about Second Life and to bring new things to the table in the virtual group. Considering this Second Life is a great platform for the Boys and Girls club as it will allow for members to continually grow and learn new things about the medium the more they use it.
            Implementing this virtual group or team will require a few distinct steps, as Beverly Geber has written. The first step is to create a mission, and for this virtual group the mission is quite simple. To foster growth in young people, while creating content in Second Life and allowing youths to learn and become a part of a virtual group and help them carry over their knowledge and experience in Second Life to other aspects of their lives. Norms must also be addressed, respectful communication habits, along with the other norms of the boys and girls club must be adhered too while inside of the Second Life. Also it will be necessary to create a team leader that will create and monitor aspects of the virtual group, for example if conflict does arise the team leader will decide how to move forward and solve any issues that may arise throughout the use of the virtual team. While planning the group it is important to select new users carefully as to not open the group up to any trouble making members. This is a very important aspect of this plan as its success hinges greatly on the first wave of new members being able to use and learn the system in order to implement new ideas, creations, and work.
            Using Second Life for the Boys and Girls Club will require a group of dedicated individuals to teach the first users, however once those users are proficient in the medium the idea will be to for older users to help newer users along in order to expand their use of the medium more and more. While the Boys and Girls Club can still meet in person this use of a virtual group will allow for members to meet when it may not be possible to meet face to face and it will let members learn more and more about other members and to strengthen the group as a whole.

Lipnack, Jessica., (2000). Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology. John Wiley & Sons. p.352
Miller, K. (2015) Organizational communication: Approaches and processes. Stamford, CT: Cengage.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lab 2 Task 4 - Media Characteristics of Second Life

Media Characteristics of Second Life

Second Life is an online virtual community that allows users to simulate a real-life environment.  Users are able to ‘build’ locations, customize appearance, and communicate via voice and text within the tool.

On its surface, Second Life seeks to achieve a higher level of social presence compared to other online communication tools.  The customizable avatars, the ability to ‘see’ one another throughout the tool, and interact using your avatars seems to attempt to simulate face-to-face interaction throughout the virtual tool. 

One area where I don’t see Second Life effectively simulating ‘real life’ interaction is given the consideration of media richness theory.  The avatars in Second Life do not seem to do much to replace nonverbal cues such as gestures.  While you can ‘see’ the avatar you are communicating with, the fact that it isn’t real seeming leaves out a large part of the human element.

While Second Life does not seem to effectively solve the problems addressed by media richness theory, it does relate closely to the social information processing theory.  By using the avatars, almost ‘virtual humans’ in the tool, I can easily see where a relationship formed in Second Life could over time develop many of the same qualities of a face-to-face relationship.  Because users have full control over their appearance, it is also possible to present oneself in a manner that is differently from how the user would appear in ‘real life’.  This could help facilitate relationships that may not otherwise have formed offline.

It’s easy to see how a relationship formed in Second Life could become hyperpersonal.  Because both individuals can present themselves however they choose, their companion could easily become the ‘perfect partner’.  Second Life even has a website dedicated to virtual ‘romance spots’. (Linden Research, 2014)

While the anonymity created by having a virtual persona in Second Life could easily lead individuals to present themselves untruthfully, this same level of anonymity could actually lead others to be more open and forthcoming.  Because it isn’t required to reveal your true identity, a user can be completely open and honest without fear of their real life being affected.  In this way, Second Life creates a level of privacy that can’t easily be duplicated by other social media tools.

Comparison with Other Web 2.0 Technologies

Second Life is extremely unique.  While it does share some similarities with other Web 2.0 technologies, I feel that the differences by far exceed the similarities.

Second Life vs. Facebook

Facebook as a social media tool revolves around personal sharing.  Users share personal images, videos, thoughts and ideas with a network of people who they are generally closely associated with in real life.  Facebook has a high level of media richness on behalf of all of the different methods of sharing it provides.  Interactions on Facebook can easily impact a user’s real life.

This is starkly different from sharing on Second Life.  Users on Second Life can form relationships with others who they have no real-life connection, create whatever persona they want, and generally interact without consideration for how things they share would be perceived by their real-life acquaintances.

Second Life vs. Twitter

Twitter is largely used for one-way sharing.  Users can post thoughts, ideas, articles, pictures and videos to be shared with their followers.  Limited communication can take place back and forth, but for the most part everything is completely public.

Twitter is fast, easy, and efficient.  There’s no extra software to download, no virtual world to log into, and no avatar to create.  With Second Life, the investment is higher, the privacy is greater, and the ability to disconnect from the real-world is much greater.  While there are similarities between the tools in that they can be used for communication, I feel that the differences are so significant that for most use cases they would not be interchangeable.

Second Life vs. Snapchat

Of the three Web 2.0 technologies compared, I feel that Snapchat actually has the closest resemblance to Second Life.  That’s not to say that they’re “the same” or could easily be interchangeable, but I think they both aim to appeal to a similar type of user.

While there are loopholes such as screen captures, Snapchat aims to appeal to those who are concerned with privacy.  Individuals are encouraged to share ‘self-destructing’ photos, with the aim that what they share will disappear and therefore not have a large impact in their other real-life relationships.  This sense of privacy, like with Second Life, can easily encourage users to be more open and forthcoming and share things that they might otherwise be afraid to share.

In spite of the similarities, however, it would still be difficult to use the tools interchangeably.  Second Life again requires much more commitment to set up and use, and provides greater means for a deeper level of sharing.

Pros and Cons

For individuals who are shy or have challenges with personal sharing, I can see the Second Life environment very appealing.  For a member of a virtual team who may be less compelled to ‘open up’ and share using other technologies or even face-to-face, the environment could encourage higher levels of participation and sharing.

While in some ways this encourages a higher level of openness, it’s important however to remember also that it can also lead to deception.  Users are able to present themselves as their ideal view of themselves, and if a virtual relationship ever extends into real life, this could lead to confusion or even disappointment.

I think Second Life could have a place in virtual teams and relationships, but should be used in conjunction with other Web 2.0 technologies, and not in place of.  A balance of the ideas of social information processing needs to be weighed against the importance of media richness and ‘real life sharing’.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lab 2 Second Life

1. ReginaldKennethDwight is the user name I chose, (my normal online alias).
2. I changed my Avatar to a vampire then did not know how to change it back.
4. I understood decently how to get around and navigate the world, but did not really know what there was to do.
5. My first impression honestly was that second life was a tad bit boring as I did not run into any other users when I was on it.
Kevin Hurst

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Group Lab 2 - Intro to 'Second Life'

Post the following information on your Blog. 
1.) The name of your avatar(s) - User Name is Diversity1a, Display name is 
2.) What you changed about your appearance and why - Only changed the shoes.  it was a bit difficult. I had a hard time figuring out how to do it. 
3.) A screen shot of your avatar(s) in Second Life on UWM’s sim (optional) 
4.) Challenges in getting oriented to Second Life - I didn't know what to do. I watched the video and was still confused. I will get it eventually I will get it after playing with it for a while.
5.) Your first impression of Second Life - I think it's kind of cool. I really want to learn it.. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Group Lab 2 - Intro to 'Second Life'

Post the following information on your Blog. 
1.) The name of your avatar(s) - User Name is JaredUWM, Display name is Jared
2.) What you changed about your appearance and why - Only changed the shirt.  No particular reason, just trying to figure out how it all worked.
3.) A screen shot of your avatar(s) in Second Life on UWM’s sim (optional)
4.) Challenges in getting oriented to Second Life - Trying to figure out what I'm 'supposed to do'.
5.) Your first impression of Second Life - The concept seems unique.  At this point, I'm not entirely sure what the goal is or what I'm supposed to do with it.