Call: closed systems / open worlds

Closed Systems / Open Worlds

Edited by: Jeremy Hunsinger (Wilfrid Laurier University), Jason Nolan (Ryerson University) & Melanie McBride (York University)

This book will consist of explorations at the boundaries of virtual worlds as enclosed but encouraging spaces for exploration, learning, and enculturation. Game/worlds like Second Life, OpenSim, Minecraft, and Cloud Party are providing spaces for the construction of alternatives and reimaginings, though frequently they end up more as reproductions. We seek to challenge those spaces and their creativities and imaginings.

These worlds exist as both code and conduct. Code is a modulating multiple signifier, in that the interpreters of the code vary from human to machine and that our understanding of the signifier changes the worldliness in itself. The conduct of both participants and administrators of these spaces influences how they flourish and then fade. As such the worlds and their anima/animus are socially constructed fictions where authors/creators/users, both above and below the actions are sometimes in concert, yet often in conflict with the space and intentions of the originators.

This book seeks critically engaged scholars who want to risk the possibility of change in the face of closed systems. We are looking for critical or speculative essays that must be theoretically, empirically and/or contextually grounded chapters of 5000-6500 words plus apparatus. Doctoral students and non-tenure faculty members will be afforded blind peer review upon request.

We are aiming for 12 -14 chapters that define the boundaries and thus likely futures of research on virtual worlds.

Aug 1, 2014 – 250 word précis with 5-10 key references
Aug. 30, 2014 – accept/reject proposals
Feb 1, 2015 – final draft due
July 1, 2015 – feedback from reviewers
September 1, 2015 – final version
December 1, 2015 – in press

Queries and submissions:

Topics may include:

  • alternative and minor game/virtual/etc. worlds
  • archeologies/genealogies of virtuality
  • augmented and mixed-reality worlds
  • distributed cognitions
  • early explorations in virtual learning environments
  • the freedom of limitations
  • identity construction and/or identity tourism
  • the limits of simulation and emulation
  • memories and forgetting in virtual worlds
  • multisensory virtual environments
  • multisensory exclusions in virtual worlds
  • narratival and post-narratival andragogies, ‘learning worlds’
  • negative spaces as learning spaces (bullying, trolling, flaming, etc.) in virtual worlds
  • non-social virtual worlds (dwarf fortress, some forms of minecraft, etc.)
  • real world virtual worlds and boundaries (Lego, Hello Kitty, WebKinz, etc.)
  • replication of real world environments/problems
  • surrealism, unrealism and constructable alterities of/within virtual worlds
  • transformative virtual classroom
  • vapourware and virtuality
  • the virtuality of learning
  • event of interest at Ryerson: Second life

    The Infoscape Research Lab is pleased to welcome a lecture by

    Jeremy Hunsinger, Virginia Tech
    ‘Exploring Science in Second Life through the Interplay of Information
    and Interactivity’

    Mar 10, 1pm
    Rogers Communication Centre 329

    Science in Second Life operates through the modeling and interacting
    with virtual objects. These objects are primarily visual constructs
    represented on the screen. There is an interplay of interactivity
    and information found in constructions of scientific environments and
    tools in Second Life. In this presentation I analyze builds in Second
    Life that do one of three goals, either they are classroom materials
    about sciences, sites aimed at toward improving the public
    understanding of science, or sites that represent scientific history
    and institutions. Construing the construction of objects as locations
    of intersubjective experiences about science, I argue that there is a
    varying mix of information and interactivity that is necessary for the
    production of knowledge in virtual spaces and the lack of information
    and/or interactivity hinders that knowledge production.

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    “Down the Rabbit Hole” day

    Cory Doctorow points out that today is Down the Rabbit Hole day, so here is something i drafted recently that normally i would never post.


    Culture in virtual worlds? Critiquing the complexities and our assumptions

    Jeremy Hunsinger

    Granted this model of culture makes things more complex and clouded than many current ideological strands of the cultural sciences and humanities might prefer, but in virtual worlds, where the environment is constructed either through fixed programmed interfaces or the through the results of genetic algorithms, the construction of subjects and objects as different in any knowable sense is speculative at best. The assumption that many cultural scientists, and humanities scholars make that if it seems to talk and act like a subject or like them’ then it is a subject very much depends on the environment. People have been simulating conversation in virtual worlds for years, and simulating actions just as long, beyond that people have been designing these virtual world for cultural effects that frequently do not come to fruition.

    Consider the possibility of a virtual world developed to support natural and cultural sciences. In this world, the humans interface with the world is intended to simulate nature, such as pseudorandom distribution of wind or water flows over abradable media such as sandstone, or the bifurcations of tree roots as they interact with the soil. The purpose of such a world would be to see to what extent artifacts found in nature are likely man-made or man-influenced or not. In this game, individual actions add up to a part of the simulation, thus an ‘avatar’ would be the combination of forces over time as mixed with the forces and the fun would be had by influencing and changing the additive and multiplicative efforts of many people over time. The actions ‘avatar’, as a natural forces, is a combination of many possible people’s influences over time where time is one of the variables that consensus can effect and the interface can model, so that some people may slow down to a bacteriological time, or speed up to human time onward to the geological times of redwoods, and onto that of mountains. One possible sub-game may be to produce objects that might be confused with archeological artifacts, such as the Sphinx. Another sub-game that would surely arise is the design and or defacement of areas of the world for artistic or other purposes. We can see from such a game, that the ‘avatar’, or that which acts on cultural objects in the world may in fact be plural, and may produce things that are not considered artifacts as much as terrain. This possibility, the dissociation of the avatar from the individual and the dissociation of the products of the avatar from the culture is an extreme example of the reality of what people already do in virtual worlds today.

    This dissociation of cultural subject and cultural production problematizes much of the scholarship being done in virtual worlds which depends on the assumptions that subject/s create or exist in relation to objects, but in the messiness of programmable systems, the mixing of subjects/objects into quasi-subjects, quasi-objects, and the pluralization of the relationship between a persons interface and their ‘avatar’, causes one to be immediately skeptical of the reported experiences of people acting through their interfaces in the virtual world. Even their reports should be colored by the researcher’s inability to discern the authenticity of the persons reporting given that the world they experienced through their screens, speakers, and haptic devices could be entirely different from that world experienced by a person using different devices, having different proficiencies, or living in different cultures. This is not to say that we cannot make assumptions about world, subjects, and objects, but it is to say that the assumptions that we rely on in the f2f world that ground our research may not be, and frequently are not valid assumptions. In short, when exploring culture in virtual worlds, we need to take care in our methodological choices and their assumptions for even the most basic assumptions such as, “my student in my virtual classroom had the same experience as my other students” is likely to be false in ways that are profoundly different than the ways it may be false in a f2f classroom. Similarly, our assumptions about the causes of behavior, social, economic, and cultural, must account for the new forms of re/mediation in their models, else they will likely end up describing less a model of subjects in a virtual world, then describing the base assumptions of their observations or experiments yet again.


    Delanda, M. (2006). A new philosophy of society: Assemblage theory And social complexity. Continuum.

    Guattari, F. (2000). The three ecologies (G. Genosko, Trans.). London: Athlone Press.

    Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social : An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford University Press, USA.

    Latour, B. (1993). We have never been modern. Harvard Univ Pr.

    Latour, B., & Porter, C. (2004). Politics of nature: How to bring the sciences into democracy. Harvard Univ Pr.

    Law, J. (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. Routledge.

    Maltzahn, K. E. V. (1994). Nature as landscape: Dwelling and uderstanding. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

    Suarez, D. (2009). Daemon. Dutton Adult.

    Veblen, T. (1990). The evolution of the scientific point of view. In The Place of science in modern civilization. Transaction Publishers.

    CFP: Learning in Virtual Worlds


    special issue of Learning, Media and Technology

    issue theme: Learning in Virtual Worlds

    Edited by Jeremy Hunsinger and Aleks Krotoski

    Virtual worlds are learning worlds.

    There is substantial evidence that people learn in virtual worlds. While most learning in these spaces is informal, existing outside the school curriculum, formalised learning environments have also been developed in textual worlds, MOOs, MUSHes, MUDs and multi-media spaces like ActiveWorlds(R), Second Life(R), World of Warcraft (R) to support educational goals in primary, secondary, higher and lifelong learning contexts.

    The extensive writings on virtual reality and virtual worlds over the past four decades have covered the breadth of the phenomena and experiences of learning via CMC in these situated spaces; this call for papers seeks scholarship that builds upon and extends those accounts. We seek research that deals with learning and research in social networks or among friends, learning through play, learning through artistic creation and learning in unconventional virtual realities. We seek papers that examine learning or modes of learning that occurs in unexpected ways.

    For example, workshops have been transformed with the inclusion of new materials, like clay or other art equipment, encouraging participants to express themselves through different modes of communication. Such physical practices mirror the opportunities afforded in virtual environments, increasing potential outcomes by breaking down borders of expression, creating a place for play, and expanding discourse. We seek research that aims to capture similar alternative practices in learning within virtual worlds.

    While all forms of scholarship and research are welcome, we prefer theoretically and empirically grounded study in the social or behavioral sciences. We seek a special issue that exemplifies methodological pluralism. The use of visual evidence and representations is also encouraged.

    Submission guidelines:

    This special issue is edited by Jeremy Hunsinger and Aleks Krotoski. Please contact them at and to discuss your submissions. The editors welcome contributions from new researchers and those who are more well-established. Submitted manuscripts will be subject to peer review.

    Length of papers will vary as per disciplinary expectations, but we encourage papers of around 6000 words. Short discussion papers of 2000 words on relevant subjects are also welcomed for the ‘Viewpoints’ section. Learning, Media and Technology submission guidelines and referencing styles will be followed [see:]

    The guest editors will consider papers received by March 15, 2009. Fewer than 10 papers will be accepted. The special issue will be published in early 2010. Please send papers to, clearly indicating that your submission is for the Special Issue on learning in virtual worlds.

    Workshop on Humanities Applications for World Community Grid

    IBM Presents:
    A Workshop on Humanities Applications for
    World Community Grid

    On October 6, 2008, IBM will be sponsoring a free one-day workshop in Washington, DC on high performance computing for humanities and social science research.

    This workshop is aimed at digital humanities scholars, computer scientists working on humanities applications, library information professionals, and others who are involved in humanities and social science research using large digital datasets. The session will be hosted by IBM computer scientists who will conduct a hands-on session describing how high performance computing systems like IBM’s World Community Grid can be used for humanities research.

    The workshop is intended to be much more than just a high-level introduction. There will be numerous technical demonstrations and opportunities for participants to discuss potential HPC projects. Topics will include: how to parallelize your code; useful tools and utilities; data storage and access; and a technical overview of World Community Grid architecture.

    Brett Bobley and Peter Losin from the Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities have been invited to discuss some of the NEH’s grant opportunities for humanities projects involving high performance computing.

    If attendees are already involved in projects that involve heavy computation, they are encouraged to bring sample code, data, and outputs so that they can speak with IBM scientists about potential next steps for taking advantage of high performance computing. While the demonstrations will be using World Community Grid, our hope is that attendees will learn valuable information that could also be applied to other HPC platforms.

    The workshop will be held from 10 AM – 3 PM on October 6, 2008 at the IBM Institute for Electronic Government at 1301 K Street, NW, Washington, DC. To register, please contact Sherry Swick, Available spaces will be filled on a first-come, first served basis.

    More about the World Community Grid

    World Community Grid, a philanthropic initiative developed by the IBM Corporation, offers researchers a unique opportunity to accelerate the pace of their work while also mobilizing people worldwide around critical social issues.

    Launched by IBM in November 2004, World Community Grid uses grid technology to harness the plentiful, underutilized resource of PCs and laptops to support humanitarian research. Today, volunteers around the globe have donated the computational power of close to 1 million PCs; World Community Grid is harnessing their power when the computers are on but not in use to help advance promising research. Results on critical health issues have already been achieved, demonstrating World Community Grid’s potential to make significant inroads on a great range of future projects that can benefit the world.

    World Community Grid is available free-of-charge only to public and not-for-profit organizations to use in humanitarian research that might otherwise not be completed due to the high cost of the computer infrastructure required in the absence of a public grid. As part of IBM’s commitment to advancing human welfare, all results must be published in the public domain and made public to the global research community. Current research partners include The Scripps Research Institute, The University of Texas Medical Branch, New York University, University of Washingon, French Muscular Dystrophy Association, the University of Cape Town and The Ontario Cancer Institute.

    Looks like Ill be at this:)

    Fellowship and Conference

    Since Tuesday I have been in Milwaukee visiting SOIS and CIPR as part of my Information Ethics fellowship. I attended a discussion about a possible future conference on translating intercultural information ethics across the situated understandings that term implies across a plurality of contexts. That seems like a great project, I’m happy to help out there. For the rest of the time, I attended the conference Thinking Critically:Alternative Perspectives and Methods in Information Studies. It was an excellent conference and I met many interesting people in the field of information studies, most of which are leaders in their field or soon to be so. I also attended the 2008 Samore Lecture: “Interpreting the Digital Human,” by Professor Rafael Capurro, at the Allis Museum, which provided an excellent end to the conference. I had excellent dinners and conversation with colleagues that I’ve not seen for some time, and with new friends and colleagues. I suspect that I’ll be seeing many of these people again over the years. It was a great experience all around, though I did not get enough writing done on a promised paper that is overdue. It really looks like the CIPR and SOIS are up to some great things and I’m happy to be affiliated with them as an Ethics Fellow for another year.

    Unrelated to the conference and my fellowship, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Thomas Malaby who has a book forthcoming on Linden Lab. We spoke at length about problems of research, computer game studies, his work with Linden Lab and his related work. It was a fantastic conversation and I hope to have similar conversations in relation to my work in Second Life in the future.

    All in all the problem of alternative methods and the communities that support them is an important issue in my career. I have been affiliated with many groups on this topic from Phil Graham’s old NewMediaResearch, heterodox economics, and the political science perestroika movement list, to my current work with InterpretationandMethods and Theory, Policy and Society, not to mention my work with the Association of Internet Researchers. The work that I perform is primarily interpretive methods, from ethnography to textual analysis, though I’ve been known to use quantitative when it adds to the argument. The key to me though is to come to notion of understanding and being able to communicate what actually leads to certain understandings of the world. It concerns me that there are so many people with so many of the same issues across so many different disciplines and there is so little conversations amongst them. Though there are broad interdisciplinary efforts and efforts toward inclusion.

    Congressman Mark Steven Kirk and Friends are Ignorant about Second Life (R)

    Mark Kirk today joined with local parents, teachers and law enforcement to call for federal action to protect kids from child predators and registered sex offenders on “Second Life”

    [From Congressman Mark Steven Kirk – 10th District of Illinois]


    The headline should be Representative Mark Kirk is Ignorant and encouraging regulation based on ignorance. While he and his cronies in ignorance “Mount Prospect Mayor Irvana Wilks, Mount Prospect Police Chief John Dahlberg, Mount Prospect Officer Dirk Ollech and 10th district parents and teachers Janet Joy and Bonnie Graham of Arlington Heights” might believe that children are at risk in Second Life. They have failed to do their homework. Second Life keeps children separate from adults by providing a separate Teen Grid. This is separate from the adult grid, where people over 18 may do what people over 18 may do. The teen grid is policed and vetted by employees of Linden Labs. There is very much no chance that these children are at risk. Even a cursory investigation would have undermined the Representative’s position. I hope that he doesn’t judge other things based on ignorance of the facts.

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    CFP: Learning and Research in Second Life® Oct. 15 Copenhagen @ IR 9.0

    Call for Papers/Participation

    Please join us in a workshop on learning and research in Second
    Life(R) on October 16, 2008 in Copenhagen at Internet Research 9.0 (

    Paper Deadline June 15th.

    Second Life is a 3d virtual environment created by Linden Lab (R)
    which has captured the attention of researchers and teachers from
    around the world from a variety of disciplines.

    This workshop aims to improve the understanding of Second Life as a
    Learning and Research environment. It will bring 35 researchers
    together to collaborate, discuss and workshop diverse topics related
    to research and learning in Second Life. We will pursue a full-day
    schedule in which participants will discuss their work and interests
    on four different topics: learning in Second Life, integrated
    learning, the contributions of research to the community and ethical
    research methods. How can we better enable learning in this sphere?
    How can we better enable research?

    Our honored keynote will be Pathfinder Linden

    Researchers are requested to submit papers and short biography to
    , which will be selected and distributed amongst participants before
    the workshop. First invitations will be offered to those who provide
    full papers for consideration.

    These papers have two purposes: first is to provide a common platform
    for understanding our research and teaching and second submitted
    papers may be considered for publication in an edited volume being
    produced in relation to the workshop, or possibly in peer reviewed
    publication derived from the workshop (these are currently under

    Subsequent invitations will be made based upon research/teaching
    statement and biography with priority given to people submitting full
    papers. If you are interested in participating, please send an email
    containing your information to

    Decisions will be made by August 1st, barring incident. There is a
    limit of 35 participants at the physical meeting; the event will be
    simulcast into Second Life which will be organized by Jason Nolan.

    We welcome professionals, faculty and graduate students to participate.

    This workshop is sponsored by Linden Lab, creators of Second Life, and
    is organized by Jeremy Hunsinger, Rochelle Mazar, Aleks Krotoski and
    Jason Nolan. Lunch, coffee breaks and the room is included in
    participation. (And you’ll probably get a t-shirt!)

    *We are also seeking additional sponsors, please contact
    if you would like to sponsor this workshop.

    things progress in second life

    After spending 1/2 hour or so this afternoon discussing his projects and ideas with Hackshaven of NOAA, I went downtown and met with Suzanne Seggerman of Games for change to talk about having some games for change in Second Life. She was in town because there was a Macarthur event. Rik showed up a little later, he seems to be getting on very well at global kids. I met a few other of the people associated with various projects and we came up with some good concepts for second life projects for games for change. It was a good time, I like hanging out with the macfound folks.

    After that I came home and ran into Joi on IM and we chatted about Kula, CC, Icommons and Larry’s possible congressional bid. Joi said Mimi had asked about me, so i dropped her an email to see what’s up. While i was talking to Joi, Bryan Campen said hi on im, good to see he survived the days illness.

    Similarly, i was talking with my fiance most of this time. Though, in parallel, i was also talking to my friend merentha in sl, she was taking photos and playing with windlight. so expect more buridan simon photos to randomly appear on the intarweb.

    Other things in that regard, I submitted a panel proposal to internet research 9.0 on Science in Virtual worlds. My paper looks at the indices of interaction and information in virtual worlds as education environments. Other people from OII, FSU, and Ryerson also submitted.

    I’m working with Aleks Krotoski on the proposal for a journal special issue on second life and I’m working with Aaron Delwiche on a separate publishing project related to second life. There is another one that includes Tracy, but that is farther out.

    Linden Lab is sponsoring the second Preconference workshop on Learning and Research in Second Life at Internet Research 9.0. That CFP should be out by the end of the month.

    oh i’m also going to WORKSHOP ON EMERGING NORMS, LAW AND ETHICS IN VIRTUAL WORLDS co-organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Science & Technology Law, and The Center for the Study of Law, Science and Technology at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law (Arizona State University) on march 10 @ ASU. It is invite only and I’m glad i was invited as it is right up my alley.

    The final things going on in second life for me is Lessons in Second Life, which I think is going to hit 20 meetings next week or perhaps last week. It is a weekly get together on the topic of ‘learning’ in second life. Usually 5 to 20 avatars show up and we discuss anything they want in an open table format.

    I was working on an ‘ethnographers in second life event’, but it looks like that is not going to occur this semester.