Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Socio-technical Diversity

Tonight's CTU class discussion focused on how companies strategize, evaluate new endeavors and plan for the future. These socio-technical systems included Media Bars at Starbucks and third-party partnerships at Amazon.

Some of the Media Bars are gone now, yet a handful remain scattered around the country. My family and I visited one in San Antonio during the recent ISTE NECC conference and remarked at how cool it was to browse and enjoy tunes while socializing over a favorite beverage. We proudly brought home a souvenir CD that included our favorite tunes.

Now, we have iPODs and iTunes, but the convenience, coupled with browsing while socializing, was fun. The lack of widespread adoption was attributed to iPODs and competing technologies. I was surprised and gratified to visit one, as there are only four remaining sites (according to a Starbucks' employee).

Tonight's Second Life skills included avatar customization and shopping. Prior to touring, several students demonstrated their diversity by changing into Batman, Mr. KoolAid, different genders and robots.

Some were new to setting up a folder for our avatar's normal shape, skin, hair, eyes and clothing. Two students lost their hair, skin and shapes, but after searching for a few moments, were restored.

IF you misplaced your body or hair, do not despair! We will find them. *grins*

One class took a field trip to the NMC Orientation site. After moving through the tutorials and past the trolley car, we flew over to the southeast corner to visit the Educational Center. We picked up a set of academic robes, thanks to the New Media Consortium (NMC) and Stella Costella.

What a great place! Inside, we were able to buy for $0 a host of great educator free items, including educational tools, builder's toolkits, clothing, books and custom looks. We even picked up academic robes in preparation for graduation.

We used the game design group's instant message window to communicate while touring. While voice was successful, mine disconnected for a few minutes, while I continued to chatter. *grins* Note to self: Make sure the Talk Button is lit when traveling.

The second class wove Desire2Learn's conflict with Blackboard and a recent decision by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

We discussed OpenGrid architecture and OpenSim, then speculated on the barriers to operating a virtual world server on a home PC and connecting it to a worldwide grid. The ensuing discussion ranged from system requirements to the issues associated with digital rights for virtual world content.

We ended the night by rezzing some of the NMC Games, then set up a mahjong table to discuss rezzable game pieces in preparation for next week's class.

We will meet again next week to continue reviewing the class content, play with rezzers, and distribute a guide to exploring Second Life.

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