What do you do when the University you spent some of your most formative years at gets a sim in SL? Not just one sim but 2! And to top that off is offering a huge Linden Cash prize for an Art and design Competition?
Why, you go check it out of course.
That is what i did when one of the arts groups I am in sent out a notice about the competition.
I landed in a sand box... good start... I looked around and recognised some of the half built buildings... there was the Physics Dept and there was the clock tower from one of the iconic buildings on campus... uh oh are these guys falling into the trap most institutions in SL fall into and think that rebuilding the RL campus in SL is the way to give functionality to their SL campus?
I spoke to the owner, JayJayZifanwe, and over the next few days was drawn ever deeper into being involved in the project, he realised already that building RL buildings in SL was not the best way to utilise SL for a University where they aim to hold inworld classes for their students and take advantage of the other networking opportunities of this VR platform. I was drawn into this thanks, partly, to my Mentor habit of answering questions the newby wasn't aware they needed answering (and some of these people were pretty freshly minted in SL, less than 3 months old and building their Campus buildings in SL), questions of script loads, prim counts, land parceling... all the thousand and one details that make Estate Management such a complex job and not an easy job for a new resident.
JayJay had got some SL builders to help out with the non-RL stuff and the Art & Design Challenge had already attracted a few interesting names. I thought about entering one of my works, but then JayJay asked me to build a landing platform for the main sim, and shortly after that (after finding out what I had been doing in SL for the last 2 years) he asked me to co-host the Art & Design Competition... I said yes, and any chance at that 50,000L prize went out the window... but... I now had the opportunity to work alongside a team which was doing some extraordinary things and were attracting the attention of some highly skilled, intelligent and experienced SL residents.
The UWA builders had one RL advantage - they had built the campus already (at least in part) for a Google maps Competition, and it turns out one of them had written the package they were using to make the prims out of world. I watched as they completed a selection of the buildings for the Official opening on October 2. By this time I had met them in RL at the University.
On 2 October I was sitting in an office in the Physic Dept using a specky high end Mac to be inworld as SL hostess for the sim opening. Down the corridor in a lecture theatre JayJay and his Uni team were giving speeches that were being streamed into SL. Unfortunately there were the usual SL issues of lag - and most of the SL audience could not see the video or hear the speeches but, to their credit, all the SL audience stuck it out. I hadn't been able to see the video at home during the testing we did, so i wasn't too surprised it didn't work for a proportion of the audience - and we never did manage to find out what the issue was (and i have a in-home networking guru who tried his best to figure it out, making sure all the right ports were open and other arcane things that most of my SL audience on the day would not have the computing skills to fiddle with). But the usual SL interactivity worked well - one of the lecturers was in Sweden and has been holding his classes inworld while he is away. His powerpoint slides in SL and voice from SL to RL worked fine... so the tools that most of the teaching staff might use were proven to work to a lecture theatre full of the heads of Departments and Schools from around the Campus. Including the Vice Chancellor of the University - who was most pleased with the avatar which had been made up for him.
We had quite a few curious Uni people come into sl over the next few days - my mentoring skills came in handy.
The Art & Design Challenge has kept me and JayJay busy since the opening - getting ready for the judging and then last night we had the first of the Winner Announcement parties - which seemed to go very well indeed... the increased prize money and extras Jayjay has managed to secure for the Challenge winners drew gasps of awe and surprise from the audience - and not a few cries of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.
Now to get UWA in SL a website, blog, twitter account, flickr, koinup etc to advertise the events we have planned and to increase their social networking....
So now you know why I've been a bit quiet here for a bit :-) - Photos and links will be added shortly