Saturday, August 27, 2005
The increasing popularity of synthetic worlds (embodied as MMORPGs, or massively multiuser online role-polaying games, avatar-based communication systems, etc.) is a phenomenon that several key academics believe is worth considering in terms of its potential impact on education. This is because many of the students entering our academic institutions do so with a deep experience with synthetic worlds in the form of console and computer-based 'video games'. Now, there is emerging a coordinated effort among researchers at several major universities that seeks to develop plans for the implementation of what is being called "synthetic world technology". Organized by Edward Castronova, the effort proposes the establishment of a Center for the Study of Synthetic Worlds that will explore this technology, develop a deeper understanding of it, and then use it to build synthetic worlds for research and education. The inaugural conference of the Center for the Study of Synthetic Worlds will take place later this month in Bloomington Indiana. For details on this interesting conference click here.
Friday, August 26, 2005
The Croquet development team at the University of Wisconsin is now beginning work on a six month pilot project to demonstrate instructional potential of a Croquet-based learning environment. The project involves partnering between our group and Michael Connors, a professor in the Department of Art at the UW School of Education, to develop authoring tools that allow the instructor to create an instructional environment to address critical barriers involved with the art critique process and provide students with means to upload, share, and critique their art projects within collaborative online spaces. The goals of critique in art are to remove individual perceptual barriers, develop an appreciation of how others perceive one's work, to overcome biases related to psycho-social conditioning, and develop skills of articulation and critical discourse. We are hoping that this project will lead to the development of generalized Croquet-based authoring tools that can be adapted to many different curricula, such as those in Law, Sociology, Psychology, Guidance, Business Management, Medicine, etc..
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Some of the recently reported Socket I/O problems with UNIX Squeak 3.8a1 VM may be related to why Squeak tends to perform so badly as a webserver and why there have been challenges in getting a robust TeaTime working in Croquet on platforms other than Windows. Without going into the technical details (some of which can be seen in David Shafer's emails posted on the Squeak VM List), a Socket I/O problem cascades in a way that causes bad behavior in UNIX Squeak-based servers when those servers are receiving large numbers of closely spaced connections. In certain cases this problem may be responsible for intermittent bouts of long latency in Squeak VMs - of up to 1.5 seconds before an incoming packet is detected by the Socket plugin. At the same time, the Squeak VM appears to handle UI input events at rates of 400 per second or more without a problem. All of this may be related to why it has been a challenge to pull together a robust TeaTime in Croquet and it now appears necessary to do some platform specific network layer tuning of the VM as we close in on a working v 1.0 release of Croquet. David P. Reed has recently suggested that this aspect of Squeak performance may have gone unnoticed since it doesn't manifest in large file transfers which have been the primary form of benchmarking to date.