Go ahead and snicker with derision when I say the words “Second Life”… I hear ya. I am not sure why I thought of this, maybe it was Audrey Watters recent critique of the zombie like revival of VR — (Marketing) Virtual Reality in Education: A History.

I am hear not to praise Virtual Reality, but just to reclaim a tiny flaming zombie bit of it. Back in 2007 when I was working with NMC, yes the first time VR was mid-term on the Horizon, we decided to change up the mode of our online conferences from audio-based slide talk overs (pretty much webinars today) to take place in the 3D world of Second Life.

Of many memorable experience, the one that stands out was from the November 2008 NMC Virtual Symposium: Rock the Academy (the NMC archive site is total link death but the program PDF seems to still be there).

The closing session was The Revolution Will be Syndicated by Jim Groom (then of UMW) and Tom Woodward (then of University of Richmond):

The coming revolution will be syndicated through a web of feeds making ideas ever easier to find. Sharing will no longer be the exception, but the rule. Enduring these hard, transitional times takes not only a revolutionary mindset, but the resourcefulness of a survivalist, therefore the methods we will examine are not only mind altering, but they are also very cheap, flexible, and open. This presentation will involve some performance art in an effort to “revolutionize” how we imagine webbased publishing in higher education. Come to this session ready to doff the chains of LMS slavery and join the brave new world of web-publishing in the Age of Syndication.

Part of my role in working with presenters were to get them out of the mindset of entering a 3D world to show 2D slides projected in a slab. This was no problem with Jim and Tom. They had a vision of props, the had audience participation, and this gimmick where we passed out these special glasses so the audience could see the “truth”:

like the difference between these signs:

The premise was that educators were becoming LMS zombies, and it was only with the open web tools, the power of syndication, and frankly, flame throwers, could we fight the zombie future. Our second life designers had created these zombie avatars, so at the key moment, several of us became zombies, and Tom and Jim fried the zombies with their flame throwers.

Those are the pieces I remember. My own blog summary was The Revolution is Syndicated! (and the zombies immolated). Jim has it covered to as Mother Trucking Zombies.

It was nothing short of a blast, and our guiding logic while preparing this “talk” was to make it fun and use the virtual space to our advantage.

I think this presentation was just further evidence for me that given the tools and possibilities of the web, there’s no reason to transport the tired means of communicating in these new spaces.

I mean, come on, how can setting the entire audience on fire, literally, ever be considered a failure in presentation terms?

But there was a problem that Jim spotted in 2013 (after I was gone from NMC) was that all the video archives from the events we had done had been hosted by blip.tv — and as so many things hoisted onto free services (cough, posterous), they were annihilated.

But you cannot keep a good zombie video down. I was pretty confident, and confirmed today, that I had all the source video from this event. You see one thing we did for these events was to run one avatar’s view as a video stream, so it could be broadcast elsewhere in Second Life and out to the web. And the software we used (Wirecast) would also create an archive.

This was my early set up, with two computers:

Later I figured out how to do it on a single laptop with Soundflower to route the audio

(a lot of this stuff came in handy when 3 years later I was figuring out ds106 radio streaming; my copy of Nicecast is from the Second Life era).

All of this to say I did have a video of the entire session. even if it was only 320×240 mp4. Also, for reasons I cannot remember, when they played videos in the session, the sound did not go out on the stream. There was a lot of things to juggle in doing this.

But this post is just a way to bring the video back, I popped it today onto vimeo:

Beyond the goofiness of Second Life and the performance aspect, the message then is true to where we all are today. Dealing with LMS zombies. Making a case for blogs and syndication.

And now, with your VR on your iPhone and strap on viewers, you can dismiss Second Life as primitive or stupid. And yes, a lot was. But it’s case then of lumping all the faults and bad things people do with a technology in with the things that we could and did subvert. It really was a refreshing change from the flatness of Elluminate slide show torture chambers. They other thing I remember is that in webinar based virtual conferences, when the sessions end, everything shits down. But because we were in a virtual world, people hung put, and stuff happened between sessions. And there was a different kind of social presence that you do not have when your communication channel is a text box or a twitter chat.

There are a lot more memorable moments– Gardner Campbell spontaneously levitating, the real time 3D projections of Cynthia Calongne, Brian Lamb leading a DJ party which led to avatars dancing on a school bus… well maybe it was silly. But it sure was not dull. And unless you were present then, I am not sure you can be so swift to dismiss it all in one stroke.

That said, I have no interest in going back there (unless it is to spend the $7980 Linden in my account).

The last memory is jogged again of where I find those photos in my flickr stream, a timeline I rely on so much- the adjacent photo is of this dog, Skinna:

It dawns on me that all of this stuff I did that month in November 2008 when I was house sitting in Iceland!

UPDATE July 6, 2016

While the NMC web site archive is terribly crippled, through some poking around the tubes, I find a slideshare by Mike Bogle who summarized his virtual conference experience; specifically slide 10 has a few links related to the Zombie session.

Look the archive video exists on their web server

As well as a transcript of the Second Life chat log (well Mike has a typo in the URL, here is the one that works)

That was my way of archiving stuff, there’s more there, but naturally you cannot explore the directory structure.


So the New Media Consortium has all the old media but they do not have the web espirit to keep it tied together. If you do not care for your own past you only have a future that is stuck in the present. Which is past,

Top / Featured Image: If you cannot tell because of the flames, that’s Jim Groom and Tom Woodward lighting things up at an NMC Virtual Conference in Second Life way back in 2008. I was there, I took the photo (or my avatar did); it is a flickr photo https://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/3009660041 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. Well hello, Still True Friend Alan. This was a fun remembrance to read even though I wasn’t there I feel like I was because of the power of my imagination. I like the part about flamethrowers and everybody getting on the bus. If that was the DS106 syndication bus then it makes perfect sense to have the audience members perform a pseudo-physical act in demonstrating their commitment to their future actions in First Life by having them practice in Second Life even if it is a metaphor but a darn good one.

    Well, goodbye. I am going to go watch the video now to see the flamethrowers and the bus.

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