Virtually Prepared, but Extremely Excited

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Since “virtually” as an adjective actually means “nearly” or “almost,” I wanted to make it clear that I am not quite prepared, but I am extremely excited for the JJIE Virtual World Project. Furthermore, the main reason I used “virtual” is because “virtual” is not only one of the most important aspects of this project, but it is also one of the things I am most excited to learn more about.

Now that the JJIE Virtual World’s Project is finally underway, I am so extremely excited for so many reasons.

First, I am excited to be working with so many extraordinary students, professionals, technologists, and researchers to reach one unified goal: to amplify the voices of the marginalized youth in the Juvenile Justice System with innovative technology.

Speaking of innovative technology: this is one of the main reasons why I am “virtually” prepared. OpenSimulator is something I had never experienced before this project; however, all of my insecurities have been calmed thanks to the help of our Virtual World expert, Gwenette. She has already set up a Virtual World Welcome Workshop on OpenSimulator JJIE Virtual World grid, where a set of tasks is awaiting to help us all orient ourselves.

Although not all of us will be working on the technology side of this project, I think that it is so important for every team member to become familiar with the Virtual World environment. As a journalist for this project, the only way I can fully capture the story for the Virtual World is by knowing the types of questions and information I must collect and relay to our VW creators. Furthermore, if we are expecting our audience to navigate through this world as they follow the youth’s story, then we should know how to do the same.

When I first began my inworld experience, I was completely lost. However, the video tutorials and entire Workshop that Gwenette has created for us has really helped me to become more comfortable in this world. After the Prim-Building Tutorial, I feel like I can actually contribute to this world (to a very small extent), and that I can actually teleport, fly, walk, and use many different forms of transportation to navigate inworld. Although I don’t feel completely connected with my Avatar quite yet, I am sure I will begin feeling “one” with her once I can get her clothed the way I want and gain more inworld experience.

Now, as a member of the Journalism team, my next step is to find a story to bring back to life inworld.

Here’s to my first post — sorry about the length, I am really just so excited – the other ones won’t be as long!

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& So It Begins… (Well, Continues)

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Meeting1_1e3
First Group Meeting @ The Center

Since Derek and Erik (our two virtual world builders) did so much work over the summer on the virtual side of the project, we can hardly say that this is the “beginning” of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) Virtual Worlds Project.

However, today was our first meeting.
We met early for an 8:15AM breakfast at the
Center for Sustainable Journalism. After some social time, we met in the conference room to begin talking Virtual Worlds & Machinima.

After brief introductions of each of the team members, we immediately began discussion of the Georgia Juvenile Justice system and some of the main issues involved. Referring to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (founded by Leonard Witt, the project director), we discussed this niche journalism as well as the main issues in the system: Mental Health, Substance Abuse, LGBTQ, Disproportionate Minority, Evidence-Based Practice, Indignant Defense, and the School-to-Jailhouse Pipeline. Just like the JJIE, the goal of our project is to give juveniles in the justice system a place to speak and really amplify their voices in a way in which others can actually walk through their story as avatars in a virtual world.

Next, Derek and Erik gave us an overview of what they have been working on with Gwenette all summer: creating a scene of a Chicago circa 1990’s story. They showed us around the virtual world a bit, and told us about many of the components that went into its development.

Then, we met virtually with Gwenette Writer-Sinclair (Virtual World project consultant).  She was inworld and we met with her via the live image and sounds of the world projected into our meeting room. She presented more in-depth information about the virtual side of the project and gave us a visual tour of the JJIE Welcome Workshop region. Although we will all be working in different groups (Journalism, Public Relations, Virtual/Tech, Research), it is important that we all know how to navigate through the Virtual World. This will allow everyone to understand the affordances of the immersive, virtual world platform and possibilities for our project. This understanding is especially important for Journalists as they collect the stories and gather all of the necessary information to relay over to the inworld builders, so that they can develop each scene of the story.

This being said, Gwenette will be assigning different inworld tasks so that the team can become familiar with the affordances of OpenSimulator platform. She has already created tutorial exercises in the Welcome Workshop region that we will enter using the Firestorm OpenSim Viewer, as soon as we create our JJIE VW Grid avatars.

We also discussed the group’s basic communication platforms:

  • E-mail
  • Group Meetings (all 12 weekly Wednesday + separate group meetings)
  • GoogleDrive in order to share assignments, docs, pictures, information, etc.
  • We may also meet with each other inworld during our tasks in the JJIE Welcome Workshop region

The meeting ended with a reminder to create an Intro Presentation about ourselves – who we are and what we do best. Through these presentations, we will be able to determine our project roles and split into groups by the next meeting.

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