Monday, April 23, 2012

Usher in OpenSim: One Hour, 19 Prims, Staircase!

Studying the Usher Staircase  
Location: Nevermore Region, Jokaydia Grid

Give me an idle hour during exam week, and my thoughts return to fixing little problems my last class identified with the Virtual House of Usher. There's a small chance that I'll teach with the simulation in the 2012-2013 academic  year, so I decided to spruce up things in OpenSim.

On both that grid and in SL, much of my summer work will focus on adding more clues directly from Poe's stories-within-stories that make "Usher" such an interesting tale. These additions further my pedagogical purpose of adding reasons to return to the primary text. After all, one purpose of the simulation is to deepen how students read the text.

But first we need stairs that work!

Many students new to gamelike spaces never really figured out the spiral stairs I had once thought so clever. So when parts of Usher returned to Second Life, Enktan Gully's staircase, a "dollarbie" from Enkythings, saved the day. Along with other repairs and revelations from the Fall 2011 final exams that took place in Jokaydia Grid, one lesson included getting rid of the spiral stairs.

Enktan's original gave me the model for reproducing a more battered and rustic version in Jokaydia Grid.  Finding the right Z-axis spacing would have been tough, otherwise!

Here's Roderick at work.

Roderick Works on the stairs i...
And after an hour, on both grids, the finished product. It weighs in at 19 prims, to the original's 31 and, I think, about 30 for the spiral.
Stairs Done!
While I don't have any problems with available prims in OpenSim, it's best to never let a build get in the way of learning. I even put aesthetic considerations after that, though both builds will get some needed attention this summer in their decor, particularly in deepening the sense of general gloom.

I don't suppose there are any "gloom consultants" out there?


Cecil Hirvi said...

If you want them to really connect with the book better, make them each create a short machinima based on Poe and shot on your sim.

Make it a little contest. Perhaps the winner gets, I don't know, a chance to be teacher for a day. lol

Anyway, I find that making films based on a book DO force a person to study the book intently.

I read Moby Dick over and over while I was making "Warriors". Sure, nobody got the references because mostly nobody read that book, but that isn't the point is it?

Iggy O said...

On my campus, Cecil, doing machinima takes TOO much time given the support needed for a short project. We only use virtual worlds for one assignment now.

Were I taking them "in" for a whole semester, I'd have them make machinima. Now a digital story might work....get them to retell how they'd end Poe's tale!

Iggy O said...

Everyone should read Moby Dick. That more Americans recognize Scooby Doo (ROT ROH, RAGGY! RONSTERS!) is a testimony to our intellectual squalor, Daphnae's hotness aside!

It's all in Melville's novel, the entire crazy Anglo-American 400+ years of striving for what cannot be attained, despite pain, slaughter, and philosophizing. Ahab is our archetypal New World wrecker, his reach always exceeding his grasp on his madman "errand in the wilderness."

And the Whale? It's just a blank canvas Ahab paints his craziness upon. Moby Dick is like the other dumb brutes and virgin land destroyed for sport or profit in our four centuries since Jamestown.

Put Moby Dick as one bookmark, On the Road as the other and you have it all, from New England Transcendentalists to Beaknik Existentialists. After that the moron-othon commences, and we are all Devo.

Cecil Hirvi said...

Digital stories sounds like a good idea.

When I used to teach new media workshops, I had newbies go cut out pics from magazines and paste them along their writings.

Perhaps they could make an E-book? With pics from the web? I'm always suggesting fun ways to use new media tools with literature but that might not be what your school is currently looking for.

Interesting thing about 'Moby Dick' is that it wasn't an immediate success when first published. In fact, it was considered a "dud" for Melville and it wasn't until the 1920's that academics rediscovered his book and marked it as one of the great works of all time.

Kerouac found immediate success with his work and, well, eventually drank himself to death.

Anyway, I guess the word "difficult" can mean many things to many people.

Peace out.