Saturday, July 07, 2007

Woodburied

Early april Aleister Kronos blogged on the University of Woodbury entering Second Life (he does keep up with Universities). I've meant to go over there to take a look for some time, but haven't gotten around to it.

Let's start with a quote from Al's blog:

"First stop, the brand new island of Woodbury University, also called, by a lucky happenstance, "Woodbury University". The build is only in its infancy, but since I could TP in there I thought it worth a mention. I was particularly taken with the Millennium Falcon - but I don't suppose that will survive to the final stage of the build. "Woodbury University is committed to providing the highest level of professional and liberal arts education." It is in Burbank, California, and has just over 1500 students."
Soon it became evident that their arts education may have been somewhat too liberal
By the end of april Prokofy Neva reported in the Second Life Herald on a Griefer attack of Woodbury island.

The Linden police blotter reports the following:
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2007
Violation: Community Standards: Harassment, Soliciting Abuse
Region: Woodbury University
Description: Organizing abusive attacks on regions.
Action taken: Suspended 3 days.

Well, Griefer attacks (annoying buggers starting scripts on your island such as particlescripts or floating nude images) may happen. It is a nuisance to most serious Secondlifers and more so to people investing in land, but usually it is no big deal - disturbing the peace for just a few minutes usually.
Second Life Herald reporters seem to have been monitoring this sim afterwards and
pried into this as Woodbury University was closed by Linden Labs at the start of July on account of violating the Terms of Service.
Below is a short piece from the Herald (July 3 2007):
"Sometime Saturday, Woodbury University’s Second Life island dropped off the map of the virtual world. Second Life players have grown accustomed to intermittent outages from their metaverse service provider, sometimes spinning fanciful stories about tsunami and seismic activity as part of in-world roleplay. A virtual catastrophe does not appear to have been the cause of Woodbury’s demise, however..."
Below is the notice received by one of the island admins:
Tizzers Foxchase: (Saved Sun Jul 1 12:19:36 2007) Linden Lab has continued to find inappropriate uses of the Second Life region "Woodbury University" under your control. On the 16th of April, you were informed of problems with the activities taking place in the region. Many members of the Woodbury University group (which controls the region) have been detected before and after that date causing severe problems in Second Life, in violation of the terms of service. These problems include incidents of grid attacks, racism and intolerance, persistent harassment of other residents, and crashing the Woodbury University region itself while testing their abusive scripts. Due to the ongoing problems, Linden Lab has no option but to immediately close the Woodbury University region. If you believe that this notice has been sent in error, or that the details of this incident have not been adequately examined, please address your concerns in an e-mail to abuse-manager@lindenlab.com Sincerely yours, Customer Support Linden Lab 945 Battery Street San Francisco, CA
Mark Wallace at 3pointD reports:
"What do you do when a group of troublemakers is disrupting the operation of your virtual world? If you’re Linden Lab, which runs Second Life, you ignore the griefers themselves and simply go after the owners of the land they happen to be operating from. Big props to our managing editor over at the Second Life Herald, Pixeleen Mistral, for catching the story of southern California’s Woodbury University, which had its private region in SL deleted a couple of days ago. Why would the Lab wipe Woodbury’s investment? Because a group of SL residents who were not part of the university and who have long been accused of causing trouble have apparently been using the Woodbury land to build and test their disruptive devices. There’s definitely culpability on the part of both the griefers and the university, but LL has shown some really poor judgment in the way they’ve handled the situation thus far."
From Woodbury's point of view:
"I think it is unreasonable to invite universities into the world and then ask them to stop acting like a university. I am deeply repulsed by the eagerness of otherwise smart, well-intentioned people to try to solve all the underlying tensions of SL by banning residents or entire islands at the drop of the dime. This strategy needs to stop at the doors of academe whose whole existence is founded on the idea of educating others (presumed a priori to be lacking in the knowledge they seek) and exploring new ideas together in the open communication forum known as the classroom.
We created a living campus in Second Life where people of all stripes got together, shared ideas, and learned from each other. An art gallery had just been built that was going to house a student show on homelessness in LA and powerpoint lectures on Darfur were planned. Metaverses are a burgeoning phenomenon, and rightly so, but their controllers will need to assume a more relaxed stance before users give them full credibility. I see them in the future functioning much more like a utility or internet hosting company as more people become accustomed to living out their fantasies-- and realities-- in these worlds."
said Dr. Edward Clift, Deputy Director, School of Media, Culture, & Design and Chair & Associate Professor, Dept. of Communication at Woodbury University to the reporters of the Herald
The story continues on the Second Life Herald in a piece by Pixeleen Mistral and extensive commenting by Prokofy Neva:
"Where is the academic activity? Where are the other academic groups in SL standing up for this sim? Unless somebody is willing to really, really stretch it, I fail to see how griefing posses and fooling around with builds that they themselves destroyed or were supposedly infiltrated and had distroyed (very murky story there) can be construed as academic. Self-expression perhaps, but then the kind of self-expression that fails to realize that your right to swing your fist ends at someone else's nose."
Finally the row made it even into serious Real Life press as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
"The company (Linden Labs) took the drastic step, officials said, after administrators for the university's area ignored warnings to stop avatars -- digital characters -- affiliated with its region from engaging in disruptive and hostile behavior."
The story is shrouded in many ways, but here's my two penny thought:
Fact: There has been Griefer activity on Woodbury Island
Fact: The activities are a violation of the Linden Terms of Service and spread into the region surrounding the Woodbury sim.
Linden: Woodbury has provided space for Griefers
Woodbury: We are victims
The truth is hard to find out, but there are several issues that lead me to believe that Woodbury is not entirely clean in this matter, and Mark Wallace's remark "LL has shown some really poor judgment in the way they’ve handled the situation thus far" seems a little premature.
In fact I do tend to agree with the ever critic Prokofy Neva that Linden is taking the right steps, though a little more sensitive communication would have been in place.
Quotes and Related articles are linked for further reading.

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