Thursday, May 29, 2008

Virtual Worlds Are the New Poetry

Podcast. Found Quote: Laura (Riding) Jackson renounced, on grounds of linguistic principle, the writing of poetry: she had come to hold that "poetry obstructs general attainment of something better in our linguistic way-of-life than we have."

So. What would that "something better" be?

Video games. Virtual worlds. Poetry gets in the way of video game
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I do not know a single person who has spent time in virtual worlds who does not secretly wish for a "Through the Looking Glass" experience in which they enter the world, but can't quite figure out how to get back. And why not love it? It has everything you might want --

As for me, well, in the early and mid-1990s, I avoided those types of computer games. I preferred games like Sim City or "serious games" that blended education and training. I did not like the early experiences in virtual worlds. They reminded me of first-person shooter games, but with unfair advantages, since they involved charms and magical processes, and a one-on-one fight to the death with whomever you encountered along the way. No thanks.

My son, Marshall, and all his friends were a different story. In 1997, when he was 13, he started playing Ultima Online, a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORG). His persona in that the virtual world game was a skeleton wearing a long gray wig and wearing a wedding dress.

“You’re Miss Havisham?” I asked.

“Whatever,” he said. He was in eighth grade, but they had not yet had to read Dickens’ Great Expectations.

“Why are you a skeleton bride?” I asked him.

“That’s my avatar,” he said.

“What’s an avatar?” I really did not know.

“It is a divine being that has come to earth in physical form for a special purpose.” He clicked on an icon on his computer screen. “Look. Read.”

It was the definition of an avatar, which seemed borrowed directly from the Bhagavad-gita. No wonder this was such heady stuff. Turn yourself into a divine being. Make your being do what you want, until, of course, it is killed in combat with a wilier opponent, or one who has a better controller.

“Glad you like it,” I said, retreating to the kitchen where I poured myself another cup of hazelnut coffee. I then grabbed the book I had been reading, Norman Cohn’s, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, and settled in for a nice round of reading about true believers and flagellants who thought that they could ward off plague, pestilence and moral turpitude by whipping the first layer of skin from their backs.

Did it work? Ask the Shiite devotees on the festival of Ashoura. My personal feeling is that it does work, but who wants to go through the pain? Mortification of the flesh is so darn uncomfortable. Why break ourselves down when we can be gods and goddesses (at least on a screen)?

At first, I ignored virtual worlds, except for the occasional excursion into it when I couldn’t avoid it for professional purposes. Breakthroughs would occur. I’d go in, customize an avatar for myself, try out the activities available, and the leave feeling rather annoyed. I could not help but wonder if the person behind the avatar I had just spent time inanely chatting up --“Hi, cool boots, where did you find them?” and “Where did you get your skin? Love the tats on your neck” -- was a 13-year-old like my son was when he first started spending 6 hours at a stretch in Ultima Online. I found out later that he had even set up one of my computers as a server for the game.

He was hooked. I was worried. He was not getting enough fresh air and exercise.

When he took up skateboarding, I was thrilled, even though it meant road rash, broken fingers, and a circle of friends that included delinquents and guys who drank liquids from a bottle in a brown paper bag. Yeah. But at least he was getting fresh air and was interacting with real people. That was real life. It was where your heart actually beats, where real liquid actually pumps in your veins.

He had not really lost interest in virtual worlds, but I did not understand how it worked. This was 1997 and he was a part of a nascent trend that involved popularizing social networks via the web. It was far beyond forums, discussion boards, listserves, and the newsgroups I was still involved in. was setting up complex networks of acquaintances, and relating to them in a fluid, interest-based way. He was learning negotiating skills and leadership. I did not see it, though. I just saw a 13-year-old spending a lot of time eating Pringles and drinking Jones soda.

Strangely, Marshall's heightened interest in the Real World coincided with my own surge of interest -- not in the Real World (too scary) -- but in virtual worlds. I was starting to not just see, but live, the potential. I tried to tell Marshall about it, but he was not interested. Instead, he showed me how high he could "ollie" on his skateboard.

One afternoon, while I trying to decorate an office space in a virtual world, Marshall came into my office.

“Mom. I think I need to see a doctor. I think I cracked my wrist.” Marshall proffered up his swollen wrist. His face was flushed with pain.

“Why is your back bleeding?” I tried to keep the alarm out of my voice.

“Uh, yeah. Well, we were doing some stuff with some whips and chains, and I accidentally hit myself. Justin had a couple of nunchuks, too.”

“What was the purpose of that? What were you trying to accomplish?” I heard my voice rising in alarm.

“Mom. It was fun. Don’t you know anything? They were cool. Justin told me where he got his stuff. I think they sell them at the Medieval Fair,” he said.

Marshall’s wrist was merely sprained. The injuries on his back did not amount to anything more than deep scratches. His face glowed. The twin forces of the need for Mom, and the need to forge an independent identity made his eyes sparkle even as he winced as the nurse applied antibiotic ointment.

“Can we go by Braum’s and get a Butterfinger shake?” he asked.

“You think you should be rewarded for this?” I asked, incredulous. He laughed.

That night, I heard Marshall laughing as he managed his avatar in world. “Hey, Mom. Justin’s here. I recognize him. His avatar is stupid. I’m going to trick him. Watch….”

I watched Marshall maneuver his avatar, all the while avoiding leaning back in his chair, where he might scrape his fresh injuries.

For the first time, I connected to what he was doing.

Poetry is supposed to make you feel immortal, in touch with the gods, filled with “divine afflatus.”

Poetry consists of words that are supposed to function as avatars on the page.

Hah. Good luck.

Reading and thinking are hard work, and sometimes my mind wants to be led by my eyes in a glorious, glittery world of seductive encounters, magical capes and gowns, and enough fairy dust to sprinkle around so that people fall in love with whatever they behold.

The written word has just too many hard edges.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Interview with Veronica Inoue, Learning Review

Welcome to an interview with Veronica Inoue, managing editor and director of Learning Review, the first publication in Spanish dedicated to elearning. The interview appears here in both Spanish and English.

1. What is your name and what is your connection to e-learning?
Soy Verónica Inoue y me desempeño como Directora Editorial de Learning Review, una publicación que aborda los temas de capacitación y desarrollo con nuevas tecnologías, donde se incluye el e-Learning. Learning Review comenzó como una revista latinoamericana y ahora ya tiene una edición completamente exclusiva para España. Además, soy alumna de una Maestría por e-learning y realizo otras actividades a veces como tutora y otras como participante.

I am Verónica Inoue and I’m the Editorial Director of Learning Review, a publication that presents themes of training and development with new technologies, which incluyes e-learning. Learning Review began as a Latin American magazine, and now it has an edition that is completely exclusive for Spain. In addition, I have a master’s degree in elearning, and I am often involved in other activities; sometimes as instructor, and sometimes as participant.

2. How did you first become involved in the topic of e-learning?
Estudié Recursos Humanos en la Universidad y vimos este tema en la cátedra de Capacitación. Dado el interés que me causó este tema (allá por el año 2001), realicé mi tesis en este tema; investigué sobre las implementaciones que se estaban haciendo en distintos ámbitos en Argentina en ese momento.

I studied Human Resources at the university and we say this theme in the department of Training and Development. Given the interest that this topic inspired in me (back in 2001), I decided to do my thesis in this area. I investigated the way that elearning was being implemented in several different areas in Argentina at that moment in time.

3. What is the Learning Review LatinoAmerica, and how did it come into existence?
Learning Review Latinoamérica es una publicación sobre capacitación y desarrollo mediado por tecnologías (e-learning, m-learning, blended learning, educación en mundos virtuales 3D), así como sobre mejora del desempeño humano, gestión del conocimiento y capital intelectual. Produce una revista trimestral en papel para toda Latinoamérica, un newsletter mensual con noticias, eventos y adelantos de la edición en papel, y un sitio web que se actualiza diariamente. (

Learning Review Latin America is a publication that covers technology-mediated training and development (elearning, mobile learning, blended learning, and education in 3D virtual worlds), with the goal of improving human performance, the development of knowledge and intellectual capital.

Learning Review Latinoamérica nació para cubrir la necesidad de información y actualización que demandaban los profesionales de capacitación y desarrollo de las empresas de esta región. Es la primera revista sobre esta temática específicamente, en habla hispana.

4. What is the magazine's primary mission? Who is your target audience? Why?
Our primary mission is to be the partner enables training and development professionals to demonstrate the commercial value of their skills and specialties. We would like to establish a space where training and development professionals find, in a single place, all the information they need to keep current. We also aim to share experiences, trends, research, opinions and news in the training and development sector, that boost one’s knowledge in a continuous and accessible way.

Nuestra misión principal es ser el socio que permita a los profesionales de capacitación y desarrollo rentabilizar las prácticas de su área, así como generar impacto en el negocio.
Establecer un espacio donde los profesionales de capacitación y desarrollo encuentren, en un solo lugar, toda la información para mantenerse actualizados.
Difundir las experiencias, tendencias, investigaciones, opiniones y novedades del sector de capacitación y desarrollo de personas, que permitan crear conocimiento en forma continua y accesible.

Our target audience consists of the following:

Directors of human resources
Training and development managers
Directors of consulting groups that specialize in e-learning, corporate training, continuing education
Leaders of e-learning proejcts
Instructional designers and instructional technologists who work in e-learning projects
Chairs and others responsable for human resources careers and those affiliated with universities that offer e-learning

El target de nuestra audiencia conforma:
· Directores de recursos humanos.
· Gerentes de capacitación y desarrollo.
· Directores de consultoras de e-learning, capacitación corporativa, educación continua.
· Lideres de proyectos de e-learning.
· Diseñadores instruccionales y tecnólogos que trabajen en proyectos de e-learning.
· Responsables de carreras de RRHH y afines de universidades con oferta presencial y por e-learning.

5. What do you see as the most exciting new directions in elearning in Latin America today?
Creo que finalmente está insertándose en la mayoría de las empresas medianas y grandes. Latinoamérica siempre se encuentra uno o dos pasos atrás de las tendencias mundiales que suelen darse inicialmente, en Estados Unidos, Europa, Japón. Entonces, si bien en las grandes empresas el e-learning es un hecho y ya están yendo en busca de integrar el m-learning o los mundos virtuales, en las empresas medianas está iniciándose el proceso de incorporación y de integración a la modalidad presencial de capacitación. Desde muchos gobiernos de países latinoamericanos, se está comenzando a incentivar estas prácticas de e-learning, principalmente desde la incorporación de esta modalidad de aprendizaje a instituciones públicas. De hecho ya hay interesantes casos de e-learning gubernamental en Latinoamérica.

I believe that elearning is finally being incorporated in the majority of mid-sized and large companies. Latin America always seems to find itself a step or two behind global trends that tend to

6. What are some of the main barriers?
Lamentablemente, la conectividad sigue siendo una de las barreras más difíciles de quebrar en esta región. El problema nunca está en las capitales de los países o las grandes urbes, sino en las pequeñas poblaciones más alejadas de los centros urbanos.
También falta mucho más incentivo, capacitación, iniciativas por parte de los distintos ministerios o dependencias del gobierno (los ministerios de educación, de trabajo, deberían generar políticas y ponerlas en práctica para hacer de esto una cuestión de interés nacional).
Y por supuesto, no puedo dejar de mencionar la barrera cultural que en muchos países aún se torna como principal dificultad. En este sentido será fundamental el rol y la posición que tomen las universidades y los colegios; integrar el e-learning en la educación (en todas las etapas) es fundamental para ir rompiendo esta barrera cultural.

Sadly, connectivity continues to be one of the most difficult barriers to overcome in this region. The problem never occurs in the capitals of countries, or in the large cities, but in the small population centers more distant from the urban centers. Also lacking are incentives, training, and initiatives on the part of different ministries or branches of the government (ministries of education and of labor should generate policies and put them in practice in order to make this a question of national interest.)

Of course, I must not fail to mention a cultural barrier that in many countries still presents itself as the principle difficulty. In this sense, the role and the position that the universities and high schools take is absolutely fundamental. It is important to integrate elearning into education (at all stages) because it is vital in order to go forth breaking down cultural barriers.

7. How can more people have access to elearning?
Esta es una pregunta que es sencilla de responder; el problema es poder poner en práctica aquello que decimos (que es lo más difícil en Latinoamérica). El e-learning puede hacerse accesible a más gente si se pueden concretar iniciativas desde distintos frentes: gobierno, empresas privadas, instituciones académicas. Todos estos actores tienen una responsabilidad social; en este caso, hablando sobre e-learning, su responsabilidad es hacer del e-learning algo accesible. ¿Cómo? A través de capacitación online en cibercafés (que están muy difundidos en toda Latinoamérica); integrando esta modalidad en todas las cátedras de las universidades; promoviendo la capacitación online en centros comunitarios (ya sea tengan o no Internet); integrando el e-learning en la escuela (primaria y secundaria) y sobre todo capacitando a los maestros y profesores.

This is a question that's easy to answer, but the problem is having the power to put into practice what we're talking about (which is most difficult in Latin America). E-Learning can be made more accessible to more people if it's possible to firm up initiatives on different fronts: government, private industry, academic institutions. All the parties have a social responsibility; in this case, speaking of e-learning, the responsibility is to make elearning something that is accessible. How? Through online training in cybercafes (which are widely available throughout Latin America); integrating elearning in all university departments; promoting online training in community centers (whether or not they already have Internet); integrating elearning in primary and secondary schools, and above all, training teachers and professors.

8. What would you like to see happen in the future?
Me gustaría ver que en Latinoamérica se aprovechen todas las oportunidades y ventajas que tiene el e-learning y el blended learning, no solo en las grandes empresas sino en todos los sectores.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

If You Are...


You are.
and still if you are
You are.

millifleur serendipitous standard
significant and motley
such eradicated standards and times
we live in
when all is said and done
talk self surrender
tackle the plentiful calendar
columnar in spite of heart
stuck together with spit & kisses
x for luck
i have a knack for that
such an illustrious nihilist
plundered penny-wise
fallen into that behooved something
brittle evasion & glassy

You are.
and still because you are
You are.


Kithie ...
from Good Deeds Society (forthcoming)
orlando, florida
may 5, 2008