To Guide
Avatars99 Colonizing Cyberspace

Avatars99 BIG BOARD Schedule

Extended Session Descriptions

V-LEARN Track Virtual Worlds in Education - Evaluation & Assessment

We are witnessing the rapidly accelerating development of learning tools connected to the expanding role of the Internet and computing in education. At this time three key concerns drive the choices of educators in the large-scale adoption of these tools - access, quality and scalability. The tools must enhance learning outcomes, conform to and support the standards that ensure performance and equitable distribution. They must offer a long-term viability and value to the educational process and ensure broad, user-friendly access to the diverse and geographically distributed communities of students, instructors, administrators and institutions who will be using such tools on a daily basis.

Personal computing expanded the market of technology to unknown heights in the 1980s. Now it is the global educational community who will become the driving force of technology into the next millennium. Why? Because educators scale the technology and introduce it to the broadest base of future users and developers. The rise of computer-mediated education, distance, distributed and lifelong learning now informs the global objectives of many members of the educational community.

Knowledge building, learning communities, active learning, social context, collaborative education, team-based and project-based learning, constructivist education, multiple learning styles, student-centered, teacher-mediated -- all of these terms and phrases are hallmarks of the emerging literature on effective online learning. Virtual Worlds - collaborative, multi-user 3D environments - address and support all of these critical objectives in various ways. How much and in what ways?

These are the questions we ask and issues we will address in the in the Avatars '99 Educators' Track Panels

Is Cyberspace Soul Space? (a panel, see session web site)

The talks address the significance and design of cyberspace and will be hosted by the virtual worlds team at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Erik Davis, author of "Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information" (Harmony Books, 1998), and Michael Heim, author of "Virtual Realism" (Oxford U. Press, 1998) will present talks in a world designed by the virtual worlds team at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. A panel will follow and a moderated discussion with all avatars. Over the past two years, the Art Center team has built experimental environments to push the limits of virtual reality design. You can find more about their work at

USC Presents: A Motley Crew of Autonomous Agents (presented by Celia Pearce see home page for this session)
USC would like to introduce Avatars 99 participants to our "cast of characters" --a group of "pedagogical" (i.e., teaching) agents designed to facilitate self-guiding learning. These
autonomous teachers, tudors and teammates and even therapists interact dyamically with learners in various training and learning environments. We are currently working on techniques for making chracters more compelling and placing them in dramatic story contexts. Some of our agents have been seen previously at SIGGRAPH, Agents 99 and other conferences dealing with computer graphics and artificial intellgience. You may have already met STEVE, a virtual reality tudor designed to teach task-oriented procedures, and ADELE, a medical tudor who supervises students learning self-guided patient diagnoses. We will also introduce you to a "pedagogical drama" involving Gina, an animated therapist who helps her patient Carmen learn to cope with her child's cancer, and a computer generated skit featuring Jack and Steve, a couple of slackers who demonstrate that agents can have not only emotions but a sense of humor. Session will be hosted by Celia Pearce with possible contribution from other ISI staff. Presentation will include PowerPoint and video presentation media.

The mysterious unnatural phenomenon of the flying RODS (by Dave Blackburn)
I would like to use the Active Worlds Platform in conjunction with the streaming Web audio and video capabilities at Electronic Cafe International to make a comprehensive presentation on the Web to discuss and bring a level of understanding to the Global Flying Rods Phenomenon. We may even be able to get Jose Escamilla, discoveror of RODS, to join us online from England, where he will be lecturing on Rods.

Establish Your Unique Place in Cyberspace (by Wes Horlacher)
Don't let "thinking outside the box" merely land you in a different box, however new and open it may seem. Expand your thinking beyond the fashionable new boxes. Don't let "Online," "Interactive," "Avatars," "Virtual," "Worlds," or even all of "Cyberspace" itself box you in, stifling your true Cyber-potential! Get the gumption to *stay* on the expanding frontier of transformational technologies and social phenomena

Multi-User Tech Talk (by Andrew Phelps)
This is an extension of some discussions that started at Digital Biota 3, although ALL are welcome. I will be there, it is looking very probable that Jeff Sonstient of V-net is going to be there as well, and hopefully YOU will be there as well. There has been a lot of debate in various circles as to what the neccessary requirements of a massively interactive world really are. I argue for persistence and evolvability, some argue for stability and scalability, still others argue for realism and emotional emersion. What ARE the neccessary components, and how can they be implemented technologically? What relationship does this issue have with content, and what should be the focus of would be innovators? I will attempt to explore these issues with regards to my experience in running a V-Net server, and the custom Oracle based system I developed. We will also look at some of the successes (and failures) of commercial ventures like Ultima On-Line, Everquest, and Asheron's Call in terms of the technological issues. I welcome anyone and everyone to participate and offer their viewpoint on these issues. See Andrew's home page.

Memes are idea-genes, and they evolve in a way that is abstractly analagous to the way genes evolve, which is by getting together and changing each other's meanings. (by Karl Erickson)

Join Karl Erickson and other members of the Fluidiom community to discuss ways that virtual worlds can be used to model ideas in volumetric space, and to discuss how such idea modelability can be particularly conducive to the art and science of community. SessionTitle: Novel Memetics in Fluidiom

SessionText: Memes are idea-genes, and they evolve in a way that is abstractly analagous to the way genes evolve, which is by getting together and changing each other's meanings. Fluidiom will be used for modeling complex ideas in volumetric space. Volumetric space is the space that we are all familiar with, so it is only appropriate that we model our ideas there, especially in a communal way like in a virtual world. Memetic evolution is evolution by human natural selection. The popular notion of meme-viruses refers to the repeated selection of ideas by large amounts of people for reasons that aren't necessarily related to the quality of the ideas. The selection may be so automatic that it becomes easy to say that the meme-viruses select the people instead of the other way around. The interesting memes, however, are those that are selected intentionally for their fit within significant contexts. This includes fitting solutions to problems, assets to needs, and answers to questions. What is important are the relationships between memes, which dictate their relative positions in a memetic tensegrity-network. If two memes have no particular relationship to one-another as yet (perhaps due to their having just been tossed into a general-level brainstorming pool), they can be made to roam about, testing relationships with other memes on an arbitrary basis. In this way, large relationship spaces can be searched with varying degrees of automatedness. Potential links that the contents of the memes themselves suggest can be approved or disapproved by the user, but once approved, the relationships take on additional meanings, and consequently change their visual and structural associations within a model. Join Karl and other members of the Fluidiom community to discuss these and other ways that virtual worlds can be used to model ideas in space, and to discuss how such idea modelability can be particularly conducive to the art and science of community.

See Also Speaker Bios and Session Tracks

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