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Monday, October 14, 2013

The Science Circle in Second life (C) – Stareyes Galaxy Reporting

There are many clubs in Second Life © (SL), and one of the choicest is the Science Circle. It was established by Chantal (nymf.hathaway) as a forum for discussing top-of-the-line science topics using interactivity of SL as the main feature of the framework.

I met Chantal and her second-in-command, Jes (jes.cobalt) at the Science Circle Library, which is a donation from a Russian mathematics professor.

SLE: I looked at the list of topics the seminars and discussions have run on and I must say I am impressed. Chantal, can you please tell how the Science Circle came about in the beginning??

Chantal: In 2007, I started a philosophy forum in a Greek building my husband created. More and more people joined... feeling the need to find something more and deeper in SL then the usual. At a certain point I noticed the amount of professionals we had and thought of something more appealing for them. So I started SC (Science Circle) with the thought of educating those who appreciate such and give the professionals the ability to share knowledge, work together cross disciplinary and have an open communication between students and scientists. I closed the forum and kept SC, and from the start SC was a success as it filled a need - and of course we evolved.

SLE: How many people are in the circle?

Chantal: 71 at this point, and the students group I think 97. The students get notified about every meeting SC has and are invited.
SLE: At the start, there was a great "hype graph" rise in institutions joining SL. The disappointment must have been very profound. How have you been able to keep SC going?

Chantal: Because in the end... SC is best off in SL, no other platform offers us the abilities to do what we do... our participants agree fully. So we have a team working in OpenSim but our main focus is SL, website and FB page. I connect with as much science related groups, institutes that are still left in SL and share as much our activities as possible. Jes and I recruit every 6 months, scientists as well as educators. Attracting RL scientists to join us in SL is much more difficult though.

We then discussed the conditions under which RL scientists must get online and agreed that for a lay RL person it is not easy – for a single seminar for instance, one would need to learn the intricate ropes and ladders of SL quickly, which can be frustrating, especially for someone who just won’t “get” it.

SLE: As I said the topic in the seminars and panel discussions has been very challenging, to the lay person. What kind of attendance do the events get?
Chantal: We see attendees from age 18 till 70 and we get a wide audience: students in a certain field as well as the retired elderly feeling the need to stay active...and everything in between. And even for the dedicated professionals - there is so much in the social space here that can distract even the brightest minds. Science always gives you enough to discover, talk about.... never ending story really. Every week a new discovery is made by so many around the globe. For the science circle we ask our 71 professionals to offer Jes and me a stunning subject... within a few weeks our calendar is full and we need to spread the rest on the following calendar!

SLE: In your own words, what is the added value to science that SL can offer?

Chantal: The fact you can visualize science. By building/designing and by field trips for example. We have a Stonehenge build on which two of our professors worked did the build...the other scripted the universe above: which you can set to any date in time. Other professors are able to beam their own account in a RL auditorium for their students to see... and the builder of Stonehenge gives the class.

SLE: How do you see the way forward in science dissemination and experimentation in SL?

Chantal: I really am worried... LL didn't see the value of educational sims... if you ask me... 3D worlds like SL are the best platform. It’s internationally available

SLE: Do you think LL communicating SL and marketing it as a game dilutes the value?

Chantal: Good question... I think they should have communicated both are important instead of focusing on one group; the gamers, and increasing the prices was a stupid move... exodus started, now every self-respecting Uni owns their own grid.

SLE: Jes, can you describe your role in SC?

Jes: I manage educators and presentations under the umbrella of Asia and Oceania.

SLE: How do you see people from that region participating, how is the activity compared to the rest of the world?

Jes: From what I gather so far our participations from here is rather slim.

SLE: Jes, do you have any idea how the language barrier might affect the participation?

Jes: That is definitely a factor, yes. We have a few members from here whose English is not their native, they participate very well. But certainly I think we miss out on people whom do not speak English.

I participated in a very interesting seminar where Deepthinker Oh described the so-called Monty Hall problem, based on an old TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal”. Participants in the seminar were given an interactive presentation of how the odds change in the contestant’s favor when the game show host manipulates the three doors behind one of which is the prize. The possibility to gather several people from all around the world in the virtual space was evident, and the actual interaction with the three boxes was a real benefit to the visualization of the problem. The key point in the whole was how people will tend to stick to their original choice even when the host allows the contestant to switch – increasing the odds that way. The psychology of the mind acts on impulses learned in early life, and those based on evolution rather than rational thinking.

I am looking forward to participating in the Science Circle in the future. The community seems to be very welcoming, as Jes clearly states: I'd like to extent a warm invite to our group to your readers who are interested if possible!”

Science Circle Library:


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