Thursday, February 28, 2008

24/7 DIY The Superhero Panel: Rheingold , Jenkins, Ito, Seeley Brown, Benkler

The 24/7 DIY video conference was exceptional. Really. It should be the new standard for what conference should be––particularly those humanists discussion media. The premise for media use was do-it-your-self, which meant all the participants on stage and in the audience were media activists of one shade or another. And that was rad. Dynamically, it created so many opportunities for rich conversation across the room. Not just shouting up at the big dogs. Now I am going to fly in the face of all the collective good will and blog the plenary session with the big dogs, Yochai Benkler, John Seeley Brown, Joi Ito, Henry Jenkins, and moderator Howard Rheingold. The subject as Rheingold put it to the panel was utopian visions of how a media public might be formulated in the next decade. Here are their opening remarks as best taken down by me on the fly.

I post comments in the order they were made, leading with HR, HJ, JI followed by post on JSB, JB & comments from Mimi Ito.

Next Gen Media Literacy: how to feel at home and know what you are doing

Caring comes from culture. It does not come from economics and not politics.
––Joi Ito

HR: How should we think about what to do to influence democratic governance? How should we imagine institutions of governance thinking in future? I would like you to participate in some magical thinking, as the outcome is not decided yet. What is your best vision of the best scenario by which we might be able to influence the outcome.

HJ: Media has a much longer history than history of youtube. Remember when media distribution was much more difficult. For example, look at kids using toy printing presses in mid 19th century, amateur radio, early SF [science fiction] fans of 1920s. Think of African American filmmakers responding to Birth of a Nation with their own films or the viding movement begun 30 years ago. What were they involved in fighting for. Patty Zimmerman in Reel Families describes amateur cinema as something transformative because it would bring about diversity, a larger public sphere, and a larger market place. But home movies were stuck in the home––no distribution system. My vision is for a future where everyone has the power to participate and diversity is central to that universe. Not we will build it and they will come. Education, law, politics––turn them loose in the streets. Make the connections between communities to make sure they learn form each other, so majoritarian principles don’t drown out the voice of the minority. We’re not there yet. Moved beyond technical issues to a lens that focuses on cultural and social change.

JI: I think about big problems like the environment. Economic and political interests that corrupt the system. We can’t solve it from top down. It’s too complex and there is too much corruption for it to happen top down. Human beings have a strong survival instinct. Revolution is not about force its about information, more about voice and less about votes. Global Voices. Providing everybody with a voice is the most powerful thing we can do. You can’t when we think about media politics, economics, and entertainment as seaprate. They all connect. Napoleon said something like, “I would rather control the country’s songs than laws.” We need to influence the hearts and minds of people. Stuart Brand’s diaries at Stanford, half of it is about girls and drugs. At some point there is a trigger that gets pulled. I fight for the open Internet and now mobile Internet. We don’t give up anonymity and free speech just because we are looking at the First World. Caring comes form culture. It does not come from economics and not politics.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gecko-Inspired Material

File under insanely cool. This from MIT news, the development of patch for internal injuries inspired by gecko lizard. How’s that for biomimicry.

Drawing on some of the principles that make gecko feet unique, the surface of the bandage has the same kind of nanoscale hills and valleys that allow the lizards to cling to walls and ceilings. Layered over this landscape is a thin coating of glue that helps the bandage stick in wet environments, such as to heart, bladder or lung tissue. And because the bandage is biodegradable, it dissolves over time and does not have to be removed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stanford Metaverse U: SUMMIT virtual medicine with real impact

I participated in the Stanford Metaverse U conference organized by the excellent Henrik Bennetsen of the Stanford Humanities Lab. Interoperability, platform standards, and open-source servers were all part of the heated conversation during the Metaverse Roadmap meeting that preceded the conference and the conference itself.

The fight right now is for platform dominance. The field is wide open for entertainment platforms. WoW is reaching a plateau in user numbers (still a whoppingly large subscription base of 10 million). Second Life with it’s 7 million some visitors, residents, or however you want to call them is perceived by many to be among the walking wounded. Imagine a very large moose with gunshots to back thighs, but still making its way through the VWs forest. Many of the first-gen users are disgruntled––more details on that later––but there is nowhere to go that provides the same affordances of UGC. Don’t count the Lindens out yet. They are trolling for the multi-million VC round.

My favorite talk at the conference was doctors Parvati Dev and Wm. LeRoy Heinrichs, who represent the
SUMMIT research laboratory for learning technologies at Stanford. They showed simulations of VW training of medical students, the modes of evaluation of this computer-simulated interactive training, and the perspective, particularly from Dr. Dev, that these tools enable long-distance teaching and aid in poorer nations’ knowledge acquisition. She believes so deeply in the importance of the distribution of know-how and in developing the tools to manifest the knowledge that she is leaving her directorship at the Stanford lab to work in emerging nations. Hard not to respond passionately to IT used in smart ways to help people learn critical information.

Here is some of the ways the Stanford team is working. They have promotional video and research papers available.

––The photographic and video images are made available on Internet for educational purposes. The open sourcing of material is already in effect.

––Collaborative nature of the research. The Stanford labs collaborate with several universities including ones in Wisconsin, Michigan, Sweden, Australia, and India. Department of Defense (Homeland Security), National Institute of Health, foundations around the world and dean of Stanford medical school are funders of the program. The
iAnatomy pilot is the first project with shared images and teaching tools.

––HAVnet surgical simulator and surgical simulation training are part of the investigation. This includes high-resolution images and real-time interaction. They are telemedicine to a new level. Live surgery over the Internet. “High resolution stereoscopic images phases link Stanford, Michigan, multiple cities.

––Patient education and empowerment. For examples, the Advanced Immunization Program (
AIM) vaccination program

––Triage drills for bio-warfare and other kinds of massive-scale attacks.

–– Cross-disciplinary evaluation framework of media-rich/simulation teaching and training

––The experience of life and death for medical students, even if it is simulated

The examination and diagnosis of the virtual patient is often done with real players playing the sick person, not AI. Watching it is frightening, like a SIMs session gone terribly wrong. The verbal exchange between emergency medics talking to each other over headset puts one’s heart racing. The simulation tips into the adrenaline of role-playing. It feels very real. Dev says, “Simulation-based training allows students to work in a safe environment. They can make mistakes, they can do things they could never do with real patients.” She stresses that the students experience the direct impact of life-or-death decisions.

The Stanford SUMMIT project has tested over 4,000 students with these new training methods. The results show in interview and looking at examinations that the students learn as well if not better using the simulations. These are some very serious games toward the learning environments of the future.

Links to conference live-blogging archive below

conference notes
VWN live blogging

Monday, February 18, 2008

Beijing Olympics and mobile media

In our previous post, Olympics are in your pocket: Part One, we began to study how 2008 Olympics affects mobile media and new strategy of Wireless Service Providers (WSPs) in Beijing Olympics. With the approaching of Beijing Olympics, we will keep a closer look at the intersection between Olympics and mobile media.

According to the most updated data , in 2007, China Mobile has gain 369,339 thousands subscribers. As the biggest WSP in the China, China Mobile, has strong effluences on China's wireless communication market. Also their strategies and the services they provide will definitely affect the behaviors and consumption of China's mobile phone users. What services will China Mobile provide for the Beijing Olympics are interesting topics for media analysts to study the role of mobile media in Olympics.

According to the report from, China mobile has planed to provide a series of services during Beijing Olympics. First, text message, they will provide a set of special services concerning Olympics via text message, an communication channel which is extremely popular in China. Second, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) services, with the cooperation of Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG), China Mobile has built the 2008 Beijing Olympics official WAP website. Subscribers will get the most resent information regarding Olympics from this official WAP website. Third, China Mobile will provide new services which require the support of new technologies to highlight one of the slogans of Beijing Olympics, high-tech Olympics. These services include mobile TV, mobile map, mobile bank, Olympics Special Channels and so on.

Will Chinese mobile phone users buy these services? Which services will attract more consumers? Will international users have interests to these services? These are the questions we will discuss in the next half year.

Also, we are looking forward to hearing your ideas about these topics.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Obama Super Tuesday: feeling history

My friends and I did the due diligence of standing on line for 3.5 hours then standing inside the Boston World Trade Center for 2 hours to see Barack Obama and John Kerry and Ted and Caroline Kennedy + Governor Deval Patrick and Fitchburg mayor Lisa Wong speak that the ultimate rally before super Tuesday. According to the governor’s site 10,000 people came out.
Having spent a lot of time in virtual worlds and wonking about on
copresence¬¬¬¬––mediated real-time exchange––I thought it would be very nice to see face-to-face what I am used to seeing almost exclusively on television and Internet: participatory democracy in action. (I am an Obama supporter. I do what to see the possibilities of the change he envisions.)
Hearing all the politicians speak at length and without commercial interruption or Youtube attention span was gratifying. I like that Obama loves to talk with people. The direct address, the energy, and the good sense are…exciting as hell. But the most electrifying aspect of the gathering was the crowd.

On TV you don’t get the intensity of the range of people or the individual face. You only get the crowd. It felt historic to stand side-by-side with such an electrified group of people. The racial diversity, the signs of class divergence, the different generations all focused on making a moment come true. That said, this does feel like a generational battle. Fired up. Yep. Regardless of the results, this love fest will have done the assembled good. People looked not just at the stage but at each other. If Obama has helped with something it is at the very least calling the assembly––reminding people that we are at our best as a community.

When I went to vote in Somerville today, midmorning, my fellow Americans were comprised primarily of the over 70 crowd. They represented for me classic blue collar New England Democrats. Have to say, they were fired up too. Come on, they were there in bad weather and voting on a race that hardly addresses them. Would they have liked Monday night’s rally. I say why not. Mutual respect, governor. If the collective fandom makes Obama into a demagogue then that’s missing the point. This is the time for conversation¬¬¬¬ and the more perspectives the better. Hilary Clinton
won the Massachusetts primary despite all youthful enthusiasm for Obama.

The Times bloggers seem to favor Obama too, as all they could say about the Clinton win was $$$$.

9:27 p.m. | Money, Money, Money Here’s a hint about Mrs. Clinton’s strong showing in Mass. She way outspent Mr. Obama on television. Per the Campaign Media Analysis Group: She ran 309 spots, costing $65,000, compared with 120 spots by Mr. Obama, who spent $27,000. That spending in Massachusetts is from Jan. 2007 through Feb. 3, 2008.

Happy Chinese New Year

Today is the Chinese New Year.
We would like say special thank you to our participants, guests and visitors from China. Thank you for your interest to our programs and thank you for your participation.

Happy Chinese New Year!
Project Good Luck

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Back to Shanghai

I have been back to Shanghai for about two months. Just as I adapted quickly to the quasi-enclosed (only in the actual world, not on the internet for sure) life in Warwick one year ago. It took me no time to tune back to the rhythem of Shanghai. It is a bit strange. As I have mentioned in my first blog, Warwick is a place where you meet more dogs than real people in an afternoon stroll. I remembered the terrible experience of walking (in a Warwickian speed)in the Victorian metro station in London one day, trying hard not to bump into other people walking-or more precisely running-all around you. And Shanghai metros is even worse. It has more people. And not many people take too seriously the traffic rules both written and unwritten.

But I did not suffer any change-of-environment syndrome like many returned students do. I have picked up my old habit of waiting for the bus to pass first in the pavement even the green light is on, walking to the right, not to the left; getting ready to be stuffed into an already packed bus physically and mentally. Sometimes I even doubt if I really have been away for 12 months as everything here is so familiar to me.

But something is different.
1. The Party Secretary of Shanghai (in some respects like the major of Shanghai) has changed twice.
2. A skyscraper, which will be the tallest building in China upon completion, is under construction along with several metro lines.
3. Prices increased overnight ranging from pork to housing, with the only exception of employees' salary.

Maybe this is the so-called "Shanghai speed".

By ShenWei

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Research as Platform Specific: Avatar-Based Marketing

Part two of three-part Interview with Market Truths’ Mary Ellen Gordon, managing director of the award-winning VW marketing research group. For summary and part one, click here.

PGL: Is there any clear or significant difference between this kind of research in real life (RL) and Second Life (SL)?

G: Yes. We’ve thought a lot about what works in world and what doesn’t. Clients ask, Why not do the surveys in world? The answer is because surveys are not a good format for live interaction. For examples, I cannot show up at Second Fest [an in-world music festival] to ask them a bunch of questions. From a technical standpoint, computing resources are limited. Also, you don’t want to disrupt the experience. Go out for quantitative and in for qualitative. We had to change the way we approached it from a traditional market research perspective. We had to be more approachable and fun and informal. If you did a lot of the traditional method people would think you are odd. “You sound like a recording.” You need to keep the same standards or rigor and reliability, yet not sound stilted in-world. When we end SL focus groups people often say, “That was fun.”

I should have mentioned that another factor in our decision to go out to the Web for most quantitative research is confidentiality. For in-world qualitative stuff, we close down the area within 100 meters of where we are collecting data so we are out of (voice or text) hearing range of anyone who might be in the area and don’t allow other people to run scripts to prevent spy scripts. Even so the Linden Labs Terms of Service agreement (TOS) mean that technically speaking they can access any information they like, so going out to the Web when we’re collecting quantitative information just makes it that much more secure.

In focus groups, the real difference is that in RL you want to keep one conversation going. What we found about SL focus groups, of which we conduct 90% in text [as opposed to VOIP], is that you have a whole bunch of conversations going on at once. One tool we use a lot to give some order is a scripted object that is essentially a ‘raise hand’ indicator that gives feed back about who said what. Then the moderator might start with the three people out the group who said ‘no’ to the questions rather than the seven who said ‘yes.’ [In this example people are using their whole body to talk.] You need to practice in changing your expectation of being in control of everything going on. Also, you can read the transcript in a case you did not catch everything. Or have them fill in note card so you have several different kinds of communication happening at once.

The SL focus groups are strangely self-policing. In a RL focus group or a class for instance you often have one person dominating conversation and the moderator or professor needs to intervene somehow. What happens in SL is that the other participants will moderate. For example, we had one participant in a focus groups on in-world entertainment for whom the answer to every question was ‘Beyoncé.’ After a while, it was the other participants who said, ‘OK, enough with Beyoncé.’

PGL: The SL population seems more keyed in, more active?

G: Pretty much, yes. The SL population is extremely engaged as participants in the research, which makes their responses so much more useful. As a group they are smart and switched on. Who ever is still there are 30 days has gotten past the clunky initiation process. They are more outspoken. When they are engaged they will give thoughtful answers. I have found the most thoughtful responses to open-ended survey questions.

The other thing about this is that they [participants] are really engaged in SL, so if the topic is at all SL related (or we can at least create some sort of SL link), then they really have a lot of things they want to say.

PGL: For Market Truths as a company, do you see yourselves as survey avatars or their RL users? I ask this question in light of Paul Hemp’s article in Harvard Business Review, “Avatar-Based Marketing.”

G: There is way less separation between the two. [Hemp’s article is] speculation. All the empirical evidence that we have points in the other different direction.

PGL: What happens when critics say, ‘You’re not even talking to real people.’

G: What we’ve done is ask questions about both [avatars and players]. It is important to be really clear about whom we are talking about and even among avatars, since many have alts, which avatar.

One of out first MT projects was on the women’s clothing market in SL. We looked at personal style in RL and personal style in SL. What we found it that if you see an avatar dressing conservatively in SL, then 2:1 that person dresses conservatively in RL. The same for avatars who dress hippy or arty, it’s a 2:1 SL to RL. The third category where there was that strong correspondence was casual clothing– people who dress casually in RL also tend to in SL and vice versa. There is a correspondence with risqué clothing too, but it is not as strong. The aspects of dress and appearance that tend to be skewed are things such as size and ages. In general, dressing in SL tends more toward the risqué side of spectrum in general in comparison to real life. When we first when in (2006), you could only find ball gowns or mini skirts. We did observational research from hundreds of clothing stores with thousands of items. When we did the fashion report, we found that what many people wanted to wear were business suits. While business suits were the most common answer to a question about types of clothing respondents wanted but had been unable to find, there were also lots of requests for other more conservative and professional clothing.

Just to clarify, those ratios are in relation to chance – so you’re twice as likely to be able to correctly predict if someone dresses a particular way in RL by knowing how they dress in SL than you would be if you just guessed based on the overall proportion of the population that dresses that way.

I should have also mentioned that we’ve also found links between RL and SL behavior in entertainment (e.g., people drawn to more social forms of entertainment in RL tend to be in SL too; same for people who are drawn to more solitary and discovery-oriented forms of entertainment), real estate (RL real estate experiences influence in world real estate preferences), and brands (different attitudes toward brand activities in world depending on RL brand attitudes). We find the same sorts of patterns in our proprietary customer research.

PGL: What indicates to MT that virtual worlds (or is it only SL) merit their own market survey?

G: We are interested in virtual worlds [VWs] generally. I see this as the way that media is going. It feels like the Web did in early ‘90s––who is using VWs, the penetration. When I first heard about SL from David Rowe, the other MT director who is a technical guy, I spent the whole weekend there. The first time I saw a Web browser it was Mosaic, same experience. Everything is going to go this way. If virtual worlds are going to be where the Web is now in ten years, then a group like ours can potentially help determine how things will work. Early on, MT did Web surveys and we did not like the way it was done and did not trust results.

The other thing I should mention here is that VWs are also just a really useful venue for collecting information. As described in the discussion of focus groups, people tend to give very thoughtful answers, and VWs are also a very good way of reaching particular types of customers. For example, we have done research for a high tech company that wanted to use SL to collect data because it was a good way to tap into ideas from tech savvy people. We can also have focus groups with people from different countries, different states, etc. and manipulate things in 3D. That’s much better than face-to-face focus groups (which are limited to people in a single location) or online focus groups that don’t offer the same degree of immersion and ability to manipulate objects in real time in 3D.

We still do “regular” Web surveys, and do trust them when we have something like a customer list to work from so we’re surveying a list of people we know care about whatever it is we’re asking about, but it’s those surveys that rely on sampling from online panels that I’m much more cautious about for the reasons described previously.

In terms of the psychographic profiles of users, SL is over represented in creative, marketing, and technical fields. We hope to investigate during 2008 the profiles of users on other platforms, such as and Kaneva.