People love the idea of walking into a picture and being able to walk around a tree to see what’s behind it. In a 3D world with the help of an avatar you can do just that! You can walk away from the fixed camera view, no longer passively tied to following where the film director or camera person wants you to look, instead you can look wherever you want to look. The very idea of being able to walk into a picture raises a sense of wonder and curiosity. Of course, the reality of how to achieve this brings us back to earth with a bit of a bump. To achieve such a 3D view you need to download a program to your computer, and then figure out its controls. The wonder can evaporate very quickly when people recognize they must employ tools, and considerable patience, to achieve the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ effect.
I wanted to move my students as quickly as possible over this bridge of curiosity and into the 3D space of Second Life™. This meant mass producing avatars, creating both males and females so that I could give each student an avatar in the first class. I churned out these avatars until I got a message from Second Life saying that I appeared to have exceeded the avatar allocation for my household! (I made 10).
Opening a Second Life account
The process for opening an account involves registering with Second Life then downloading the client. Once you have registered you must go to your email to collect a password and/or click on an account activation link. There are a range of entry points to the Second Life platform and they vary slightly from each other. These entry points also land you at different orientation stations and some are better than others. I recommend people go to Orientation Station (slurl: Orientation Station, Scholar 110, 102, 25) because that is the least crowded orientation I have found (less lag to contend with) plus it has simple clear graphics, and lots of space to practice walking around.
Problems with registering before or in class
If you try and get your students to register their account beforehand, you will find some do it while others won’t for various reasons. If you register in the class then each student must access their email immediately. Many people still use home based email and don’t know how to access it remotely, or they can’t recall their password. Sometimes, it takes a few hours to get your confirmation through to your email account. The result can mean an uneven start for the class with a couple of students twiddling their thumbs unable to proceed at all.
How to mass produce avatars
To prepare for the class I created a mass of Google email accounts and then went into SL and registered each account individually. This is a tedious process but well worth it by the time of the first class. Each student was given a temporary avatar with password and even an email address if they wanted to use it.
Meet your avatar
We used the new avatars created by Linden Labs with their fixed appearance of set clothes, shapes, skins & facial expressions. I also discovered some of these new avatars have permanently attached underwear! Of course I did not realize this at first and spent a good chunk of time with a student who had acquired a freebie dress that made her avatar’s bra show. I clicked away using edit etc and scratched my head wondering why on earth the bra could not be shifted! I guess these particularly respectable avatars are aimed at business people entering Second Life for a meeting; people too busy to fuss with their appearance and clothing? Or people afraid they might suddenly lose their pixel sized threads in the middle of an important virtual presentation?
Ironically, the results convey an embarrassingly obvious newbie-ness, just like the earlier Ruth avatars with their ice cream dolloped hair and purple shirts. Still, these avatars worked fine for the first couple of classes, leaving us free to concentrate on movement and communications. The students now all have their own personal avatars to play around with and I have worked out how to remove underwear when necessary! The answer is to simply swap skins with a less shy avatar from your inventory library!