Cory Ondrejka, Vice President of Product Development, leads the team developing Second Life, Linden Lab's award-winning, user-created digital world. His team has created the revolutionary technologies required to enable collaborative, atomistic creation, including distributed physical simulation, 3D streaming, completely customizable avatars and real-time, in-world editors. He also spearheaded the decision to allow users to retain the IP rights to their creations and helped craft Linden's virtual real estate policy. Prior to joining Linden Lab in November, 2000, Ondrejka served as Project Leader and Lead Programmer for Pacific Coast Power and Light. At PCP&L;, he brought the "Road Rash" franchise to the Nintendo for the first time with "Road Rash 64" and built the core technology teams that completed multiple products for Nintendo and Sony consoles. Ondrejka is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, where he was a Presidential "Thousand Points of Light" recipient and became the first person to earn Bachelors of Science degrees in two technical majors: Weapons and Systems Engineering and Computer Science.
Brace for Impact: How User Creation Changes Everything
Highly flexible virtual worlds are starting to allow content created by one user to be experienced immediately by other users. This "user-created content" has the capacity to significantly change how games can be used for learning. Technical limitations have traditionally limited the creation of educational games to professional game developers, as they were the group with access to the game-building tools. Second Life is a unique digital world that puts the tools in the hands of its residents. Through a scripting language, embedded 3D design tools, an easy-to-use character creation system, and methods for exchanging data with the real world, Second Life allowing highly interactive learner-to-learner and amateur-to-amateur creation and education. Of equal importance, Second Life residents retain the intellectual property rights to their creations.
This symposium will begin with a brief overview of Second Life's features and technologies before moving into specific examples of resident learning and research. Specifically, the ability of residents to teach other residents within Second Life will be examined, with a focus on the broad adoption of the scripting language and the use of classes to drive new technologies and fads within Second Life. In fact, amateur-to-amateur education is a core component of the social framework in Second Life.
The second area will be the use of Second Life for medical research. This will cover the virtual hallucination experiment; the Brigadoon project and the impact of bringing autism and Asperger's Syndrome patients and family members into Second Life; Wilde Cummingham and the experiences of cerebral palsy patients in Second Life; and, the Live2Give project. In addition to specific details about these projects, this portion will focus on how Second Life residents were able to leverage Second Life's technology and business model through only modest investments in time and money. Second Life's research policy and the reasons why it created one will also are covered.
The third subject will be the use of Second Life as a platform for education and social exploration. Multiple college classes have been using Second Life since early Beta in 2002. Game design, architecture, fashion, urban planning, dispute resolution and online world design have been taught so far, but this is clearly only the beginning. In addition, experiments in entrepreneurship, sociology, and direct democracy are also being undertaken. Like the medical discussion, this section will also highlight how schools are able to use Second Life easily and cheaply.
This portion of the symposium will feature Dr. Megan S. Conklin from Elon University Dept. of Computing Sciences who will describe how she and other faculty have used Second Life in their own university classes, highlighting "101 Ways" to use Second Life in such contexts, including sample assignments, essay topics, discussion topics, and in-world activities (scavenger hunts, building tutorials) that she has developed for use by her students.
Finally, the symposium will conclude with a look into the future of collaboration, user creation, and digital worlds. Innovation and commoditization, often the bane of conventional online games, are strongly positive forces within Second Life. When combined with a fluid economy and the freedom to convert digital currency and goods into real-world wealth, it is clear that potential application space of digital worlds is only beginning to be explored. For educators and researchers, a clearer understanding of this possibility space is an important first step in learning to harness these new products and technologies.
Innovation in Game Design