Historical Maps, GIS, and Second Life

I’ve just come across a presentation (in three parts) given by David Rumsey, over a year ago. Worth a view!

“A talk given by David Rumsey at the March 6, 2008 launch of his historical map library and exhibition in the virtual world of Second Life. The talk was delivered at the Rumsey Map Islands in Second Life. All of the maps in the talk can also be seen and downloaded from Rumsey’s free online map library at www.davidrumsey.com

Part I

Part II

Part III


Canadian Historical Review – article on game for history

I’m happy to say I had a hand in this article.

History computer games have become an economic and cultural phenomenon, and historians should seize the opportunity to participate in their development. Players of history games are interested in the past and in the big questions that drive historical scholarship. In this way, games have the potential to draw players into the discipline if we can discover the best way to express history though simulation. But what research do we draw on as we study how to accomplish this transformation? This essay is the product of a meeting of historians, educators, and gamers who joined previously separate lines of inquiry to identify literature and models that we believe form the foundation for developing a theory of good history through gaming.


Les jeux vidéo à thème historique sont devenus un phénomène économique et culturel, et les historiens devraient saisir cette occasion de participer à leur développement. Les personnes qui jouent à des jeux historiques s’intéressent au passé et aux grandes questions qui mobilisent la recherche historique. Par les jeux, il est peut-être possible d’attirer les joueurs dans la discipline, si nous parvenons à découvrir la meilleure façon d’exprimer l’histoire par la simulation. Mais à quelle recherche faisons-nous appel quand nous étudions les moyens de réaliser cette transformation? Cet essai est le produit d’une réunion d’historiens, d’éducateurs et de spécialistes du jeu qui ont relié des pistes de recherche jusque-là indépendantes afin de repérer les études et les modèles qui, croyons-nous, serviront de base à l’élaboration d’une théorie de bonne pratique de l’histoire par le jeu

box, Slideshare, and Angel

At a number of places I teach, we use ANGEL as our LMS.  One can of course upload content into Angel, and have students look at it – powerpoints, recordings, images, whatever. So far, so ho-hum. One thing that I am concerned about though is ownership of any materials that I have created that I upload into Angel. Depending on where you work, this could get dicey.

So I’ve recently starting using ‘box‘ to upload and host my audio lectures, and deliver them to the students in Angel. I could of course just upload into my space here on wordpress, or onto any number of servers I have access to. But that’s fiddly – and box is free. No messing with ftp. AND, the link to the files is a secure one, so I don’t have to worry that somebody will stumble across my lecture via Google.

Similarly, slideshare does a great job of delivering slides (and it will sync audio to them). When I first started playing with slideshare, anything you put on there was public, but I see now that I can control the privacy to a degree. After you upload your slides, you can set a contact list of people who are allowed to see them. This is a bit more fiddly than box, but if you’ve got the course roster handy, maybe not so much of a problem. And of course you can embed the slides a la youtube, so integration into Angel should be straight forward.

Of course, I haven’t tried that yet; there’s usually some kind of kink needing straightening.

Journal of Virtual Worlds Research: Education and Pedegogy Issue

There’s a new issue of the JVWR out, well worth a look-see:


This edition of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research is dedicated to exploring the breadth of designs, pedagogies and curricular innovations that are actually already being applied to teaching and learning in virtual worlds. We encourage participation from a broad range of academics, researchers, educators, and educational practitioners from across the disciplinary spectrum – including, but not limited to: curriculum development, educational administration, distance education, information and knowledge management, instructional technology, e-learning, communication and education, sociology, art education, and visual culture. We strongly encourage submissions that illustrate key findings with examples and case studies; experimental research; pedagogical innovations; and best practices for the integration of virtual worlds technologies into the learning experience.

Interacting with Immersive Worlds Conference II – registration open

The second edition of Brock’s Interacting with Immersive Worlds Conference is taking place this summer. Registration is now open. I was able to attend last year, and it was the highlight of my conference season. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this year, so I’m going to miss out on some brilliant sessions.

Interacting with Immersive Worlds
An International Conference presented at
Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario
JUNE 15-16, 2009

Register to attend at: http://www.brocku.ca/iasc/immersiveworlds

Focusing on the growing cultural significance of interactive media, IWIW will feature academic papers organized along four streams:
-Challenges at the Boundaries of Immersive Worlds features creative exploration and innovation in immersive media including ubiquitous computing, telepresence, interactive art and fiction, and alternate reality.
-Critical Approaches to Immersion looks at analyses of the cultural and/or psychological impact of immersive worlds, as well as theories of interactivity.
-Immersive Worlds in Education examines educational applications of immersive technologies.
-Immersive Worlds in Entertainment examines entertainment applications of immersive technologies, such as computer games.

The IWIW conference also features 4 keynote speakers:
-Janet Murray, Director of Graduate Studies, School of Literature, Communication and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology
-Espen Aarseth, Associate Professor, Department of Media and Communication, IT University of Denmark
-Geoffrey Rockwell, Professor, Department of Philosophy and Humanities Computing, University of Alberta
-Deborah Todd, Game Designer, Writer and Producer, and Author of Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light

Visit the conference Web site at http://www.brocku.ca/iasc/immersiveworlds

Organizing Committee:
Jean Bridge, Centre for Digital Humanities, Brock University, jbridge@brocku.ca
Martin Danahay, Department of English Language and Literature, Brock University,
Denis Dyack, Silicon Knights, Catharines, Ontario, denis@siliconknights.ca
Barry Grant, Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, bgrant@brocku.ca
David Hutchison, Faculty of Education, Brock University, davidh@brocku.ca
Kevin Kee, Department of History, Brock University, kkee@brocku.ca
John Mitterer, Department of Psychology, Brock University, jmitterer@brocku.ca
Michael Winter, Department of Computer Science, Brock University, mwinter@brocku.ca
Philip Wright, Information Technology Services, Brock University, philip.wright@brocku.ca

SLOODLE v 0.4 available: educational tools in SL

Get your Moodle and Second Life mashup tools, make your LMS immersive!

From Serious Games Source

Founders of the SLOODLE project have announced the release of SLOODLE version 0.4, a toolset that will assist educational presentations in Linden Lab’s virtual world application Second Life. The project integrates Second Life’s classroom areas with Moodle, an open-source e-learning environment.

Thinking Worlds: Rapid World Authoring

A constant complaint regarding virtual worlds – especially by educators, who are busy enough already! – is the steep learning curve required to get anything worthwhile up and running. Various companies are addressing this (vastpark, justleapin, et al), so it will be interesting to see what emerges. A strong candidate for frontrunner, at least as far as education goes, is ‘Thinking Worlds‘, from Caspian Learning.
Their authoring system [download it here] uses libraries of templates so that 3d worlds can quickly be put together. Then, especially attractive to educators, they have another whole suite of tools to rapidly embed learning objects, formative assessments, scripts (in the sense of things people say, for easy NPC creation), and so on:

Rapidly create challenges and tests using simple templates for MCQ, Options, Checklists, Image drag and many others.

Build non linear scenarios and branching dialogue using wizards and templates.

Develop entirely new learning interactions by selecting controls and customising the GUI.

Build a library of learning interactions to reuse and share.

Setup 3D Scenes

Add different worlds, characters and objects from libraries – templates, wizards and icons using simple drag and drop.

Place new cameras, triggers and paths with the click of a button.

Use animations, particles and sounds for context.

Story Board

Scene Flow canvas uses visual action nodes and wires to intuitively build interactivity.

Vast array of simple action nodes giving designers the power to create complex scenarios and performance measurement.

Easily test, change, amend and extend your design.

Very flexible yet simple to use – drop down lists, check boxes and simple English.

These worlds can be embedded into websites, or they can be stand-alone applications on your computer. Both of these options are attractive – also is the fact that it is a ‘walled-garden’ approach, keeping out the stranger, more dangerous inhabitants of online worlds (a concern for primary and secondary teachers). Indeed, worlds published with Thinking Worlds are also SCORM compliant, and can be embedded in LMS’s. This is, strategically, a master stroke- you’ve got your LMS set up, why not use Thinking Worlds for your immersive component?

One of the demo worlds is called ‘Rome In Danger‘, and seems to be a jump-back-in-time to save the Romans kind of world.


A tag line on the Thinking Worlds website says ‘build a game in a week’. We shall see…

10th VAST International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archeology and Cultural Heritage

First call for papers:

10th VAST International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archeology and Cultural Heritage
7th Eurographics Workshop on Graphics and Cultural Heritage


September 22-25, 2009, Valletta, Malta


Call for Papers

-Towards a “digital agenda” for the integration of technologies into Archeology and Cultural Heritage-

Nearly every organization whose mission includes promoting access to cultural information, is well aware of the value of digital applications, and digital technologies are finding their way into cultural organizations. Nevertheless, a clear-cut division still exists between humanities researchers, computer science researchers, information scientists, librarians, and campus technologists, which prevents a complete achievement of the  potential represented by the integration of these disciplines. Each community has distinctive practices, lingo, assumptions, and concerns. Understanding technology needs of the humanities, and more specifically of Archaeology, Libraries and Cultural Heritage, has particular relevance to the future of knowledge and education delivery, as well as, to develop shared technology services to enhance humanities research now and in the future.

The main goal of this VAST is to bring together professionals from all fields to start a true dialogue on CH needs and ICT solutions and achieve a true integration of disciplines. This VAST aims at disseminating the idea of a more systematic integration of digital practices in research and education programs for CH, exploring good practices, guidelines and skills development possibilities to structure long-term initiatives and move towards a “digital agenda” for Archaeology, Libraries and CH.

This is why we are seeking contributions that advance the state of the art in the technologies available to support sustainability of human heritage.

– 2/3/4D Data Capture and Processing in CH
– Augmentation of physical collections with digital presentations
– Data Acquisition Technologies
– Digital Libraries
– Digital capture and annotation of intangible heritage (performance, audio, dance, oral)
– Interactive Environments and Applications for CH
– Long term preservation of digital artefacts
– Metadata, classification schema, ontologies and semantic processing
– Multilingual applications, tools and systems for CH
– Multimedia Data Acquisition, Management and Archiving
– Multi-modal interfaces and rendering for CH
– On-site and remotely sensed data collection
– Professional and Ethical Guidelines
– Serious games in CH
– Standards and Documentation
– Storytelling and Design of Heritage Communications
– Tools for Education and Training in CH
– Usability, Effectiveness and Interface Design for CH Applications
– Visualization

Archeology: Dr Zahi Hawass – General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt
Museums: Mme. Christiane Naffah – Director of the Research and Restoration Center for France Museums

The best papers presented at VAST 2009 will be selected for re-submission on a special edition of the upcoming ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH), an online, peer reviewed publication.

VAST 2009 introduces the “VAST-STate-of-the-Art Reports (VAST-STARs)”, inspired by the EG STARs. These are papers providing useful novel overviews of research in the fields of computer graphics, computer science  and related fields that can benefit the multidisciplinary nature of VAST. They are survey papers in what the community considers important areas that have not been covered before or recently. Their aim is to give a detailed account of the principles, algorithms and open problems of a research area, so that an interested reader can quickly become up to speed in this field.  We warmly encourage all colleagues to submit to the VAST-STARs reports. The VAST-STARs will be published with the full papers and are also eligible for the best paper award. Two VAST-STARs will be selected by peer review and will be published in the EG proceedings together with the full papers.  VAST-STARs authors will present their work with a 60 minute presentation during VAST 2009.

We are soliciting five types of contributions:

=Full research papers presenting new innovative results. These papers will be published by Eurographics in a high-quality proceedings volume.

=VAST-STARs providing a useful novel overview of research in the fields of computer graphics, computer science  and related fields that can benefit the multidisciplinary nature of VAST.

=Project papers focusing on on-going projects, the description of project organization, use of technology, and lesson learned not innovative technical content. These papers will have an oral presentation and will be included in a “Projects & Short Papers” proceedings volume. Authors will have the option to present a poster during the breaks to provide more information regarding the project.

=Short papers presenting preliminary ideas and works-in-progress. These papers will have an oral presentation and will be published in the “Projects & Short Papers” proceedings volume.

=Tutorials and Workshops: half-day and full-day working sessions that provide an opportunity to educate and share on key topics of interest face-to-face. Tutorial submissions will be published in the “Projects & Short Papers” proceedings volume. Workshops that provide supplemental materials in time for the CD-ROM printing will also be included. All material will be made available on the VAST 2009 website.

All types of submissions will be reviewed and feedback given to the authors. See detailed information on the VAST 2009 website under Submissions.

Event Committee: Kurt Debattista – University of Warwick, Sandro Spina – University of Malta
Program Committee: Cinzia Perlingieri – University of California at Berkeley, Denis Pitzalis – The Cyprus Institute, STARC
Local Organisational Committee: Sandro Spina – University of Malta, Chris Porter – University of Malta, Keith Bugeja – University of Warwick.
VAST-STARs Committee: Fotis Liarokapis (Coventry University – UK), Michael Ashley – University of California at Berkeley

– ISC –
Achille Felicetti (PIN – University of Florence)
Aderito Marcos (Universidade do Minho – Portugal)
Alan Chalmers (University of Warwick – UK)
Alan Smeaton (Dublin City University – Ireland)
Alberto Proenca (Universidade do Minho – Portugal)
Daniel Pletinckx (Visual Dimension – Belgium)
Daniel Thalmann (Virtual Reality Lab – Switzerland)
David Arnold (University of Brighton – UK)
Erik Champion (Massey University – New Zealand)
Eva Zányi (University of Warwick – UK)
Fotis Liarokapis (Coventry University – UK)
Graeme Earle (University of Southampton)
Holly Rushmeier (Yale University – USA)
Kriste Sibul (ICOM-CC – Estonia)
Jean Angelo Beraldin (National Research Council – Canada)
Juan Barcelo (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona – Spain)
Michael Ashley (University of California at Berkeley)
Milena Dobreva  (Institute of Mathematics and Informatics – Bulgaria)
Karina Rodriguez-Echavarria (University of Brighton – UK)
Luis Paulo Santos (Universidade do Minho – Portugal)
Mercedes Farjas (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid – Spain)
Nadia Thalmann (MIRALAB – Switzerland)
Paolo Cignoni (ISTI – CNR -Italy)
Robert Sablatnig (Vienna University of Technology – Austria)
Roberto Scopigno (ISTI-CNR – Italy)
Sofia Pescarin (CNR – Italy)
Stephen Stead (Paveprime Ltd – UK)
Vittore Casarosa (CNR – Italy)
Maria Theodoridou (FORTH – Institute of Computer Science – Greece)
Bianca Falcidieno (CNR – Italy)
Isabelle Bloch (ENST – France)

Abstract submission (full/project/short/workshops/tutorials/VAST-STARs): 12th May 2009 (23:59 PTZ)
Paper submission for full papers and short papers: 15th May 2009 (23:59 PTZ)
Author notification: 21st June 2009
Camera-ready: 28th June 2009

Conference Web Site: http://www.vast2009.org/
Event Chairs: Kurt Debattista, Sandro Spina – org_committee<at>vast2009.org
Program Chairs: Cinzia Perlingieri, Denis Pitzalis – prog_committee<at>vast2009.org
General Info/Organisation/Logistics: Sandro Spina – info<at>vast2009.org

Report on the Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age Conference, Trondeheim, Norway

From Andrew Reinhard, a report on the recent short conference detailing the nascent Classicists-discover-computer-games movement:

A revolution is happening now and the flashpoint is Scandinavia. Both Sweden and Norway have fought and won to keep Classics as a vital and viable subject of study at the secondary school and university level. Activist bloggers like Moa Ekbom in Sweden (see her Latinblogg), and activist students like Magnus Eriksson in Norway have been responsible for rescuing canceled Classics programs while at the same time finding ways to resuscitate Classics, promoting and publicizing both Latin and Greek as important for contemporary audiences, not just relating to scholarship, but also to popular culture, stripping the stigma of elitism from Classics and proving that Classical Studies is indeed essential for anyone.

The Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age conference was organized by Classics professors Thea Selliaas Thorsen and Staffan Wahlgren, both of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology just outside of Trondheim, Norway. The first of its kind, this conference sought to survey Classics in computer games and virtual worlds as presented by fifteen speakers from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Full report here. I note one of the games mentioned is Caesar IV, which I’ve written about a number of times on this blog. Another series of blog posts from the conference floor live here. I look forward to future iterations of this conference, and hope they come to this side of the pond so I stand a chance of attending.

Google Earth, Politics, and Replacement Geography

A disturbing  indication of how important Google is for shaping everything…. including the recent past:

From O’Reilly:

On June 26 Andre Oboler of the Jerusalem Center For Public Affaris published a report titled Google Earth: A New Platform for Anti-Israel Propaganda and Replacement Geography. In the report Dr. Oboler states, in part:

“…sites known to be ruins in 1946 are claimed to be villages destroyed in 1948. Arab villages which still exist today are listed as sites of destruction. The Google Earth initiative is not only creating a virtual Palestine, it is creating a falsification of history.[…]

The inclusion of virtual Palestine, superimposed on Israel in the core layer of Google Earth, is an example of replacement geography advanced by technology. Those wishing to find directions, explore the cities of Israel, or randomly wander across this small piece of land are immediately taken to a politically motivated narrative unrelated to their quest.”

What makes Oboler’s report compelling is not the fact that users have altered history and geography to suit their political purpose. Rather, it is that Israel, unlike other nations, has had this information included into the default display.

[other examples are included in the O’Reilly report]

This is especially pernicious, when you consider how most users of web-services (or computing services more generally) rarely question the default settings.  Replacement geography, indeed. It is one thing to provide a layer that shows a political history, quite another to just ‘slip it in’. Shame on Google.

Final word to O’Reilly News:

There is a wider issue for all of Google’s hundreds of millions of users. Google has built a reputation and a successful business based on trust. Google users trust that when they do a search, look at Google Earth, or use any of Google’s other services that accurate data is being provided to them. I have no evidence that Google’s search engine, for example, is in any way tainted by politics Despite that I find myself double checking the results Google provides with new search engines like Cuil and Mooter and even the venerable Alta Vista. Google has already lost the trust of many Israeli, Jewish, and pro-Israel users. What happens to Google’s business if this lack of trust spreads to the wider user community as they become aware of the charges of political bias?

Just Leap In: Light Embeddable MUVE?

Another day, another MUVE, this one browser based (when the larger predators can’t exploit a niche, smaller, more nimble creatures move in to fill the void). From SLENZ

Canadian-based Leap In Entertainment (http://www.justleapin.com/ ) thinks it can do what Google couldn’t, and has launched (Mid-January) a brand new virtual world that might actually stand a chance, according to Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/01/12/just-leap-in-tries-to-succeed-where-lively-failed/)

So, geek wannabe that I am, I downloaded the wee application to open JLI spaces, and set to work. This is still in beta (is anything ever NOT in beta anymore?).  Because each space is self-contained, the graphics get loaded up quite fast, even on satellite-net. Movement controls are standard, allowing 1st and 3rd person views. Preloaded textures, objects, ‘characters’ (don’t know what these are supposed to do – chatbots maybe?) can be dragged-‘n’-dropped into the space. New spaces can begin with templates, or it appears that you can begin with a tabula rasa – but if building is your thing, this probably isn’t your space. If you want a quick and easy MUVE however…

What might make this a useful environment for education is that audio and video can be uploaded with drag-n-drop into the space – tv frames and projectors are provided (unlike in SL, where you have to search to find one, or build it yourself).  So, you could imagine a group project, where folks are dispersed across the land, meeting in a JLI space, easily bringing in videos etc. Media streams quiet easily. Chatting is text-based.  Spaces can be embedded in blogs or webpages, facebook, the usual gamut. ‘Portals’ can be created (a red British phonebox is one option), networking together the different spaces, so one could easily set up a series of classrooms if one wanted.

I can’t embed the space here, since wordpress strips out iframes etc, but you can go here to see the demo space, with a movie of one of my ABM models as it (the model) runs.

Anyway, this will be one to watch!

Just Leap In!

Virtual Excavation in Second Life Has Found a New Home

My thanks to Colleen Morgan, who has found a lovely corner of Anteater Island, an island in SL associated with the AAA/American Anthropologist and UC Irvine, for me to re-establish my virtual excavation.

I hope to have it up and running within the next month, at which point I’ll give the exact  slurl and invite feedback and criticism.

Thank you very much Colleen!