Friday, June 24, 2011

Interviews – A Brief Update

A few weeks ago, I started conducting interviews with several artists, writers, and museum visitors in-world and so far, have obtained fantastic feedback! I am thrilled to possibly play a small role in changing how SL is viewed in academia. I have to say that I continue to be amazed at the talent, creativity, openness, and friendliness of this community. As I have said before, I want this research project to be about you – every hour spent in SL reinforces my belief that your voices must and will be heard in academia. While perceptions are slowly changing and SL (and virtual worlds in general) is becoming more than “simply a game” for the academic community, this stigma is still, unfortunately, very prominent in museological discourse.  While we cannot force stakeholders to change their mind overnight, I believe that education can and does have an impact on acceptance of technological and media advancements.
Thank you all for your continued support!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview Questions

Here are some examples of questions/issues I would like to discuss with you as part of my study:
·         What are some types of activities you enjoy doing in SL art museums or galleries?
·         What do these activities mean to you?
·         What feelings, if any, emerge when participating in these activities?
·         What thoughts stand out for you when participating in these activities?
·         How does the virtual museum/gallery space contribute, if at all, to your understanding of these activities?
·         How do your in-world persona and your involvement in the SL art community contribute, if at all, to your understanding of these activities?
·         How, if at all, do you share information acquired while participating in these activities with others in SL?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Where else but in SL?

Study Invitation

Kathleen Cool (Kathleen Koolhoven), a Doctoral student at the Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences at Nova Southeastern University, is conducting a study on how SL residents experience and make meaning of activities in virtual art museums and galleries through their avatars.

The study will be conducted entirely in SL. Participation will involve one to two IM interviews lasting no more than one (1) hour each. Interviews will be conducted entirely in English, so you must be able to communicate fluently in this language to participate.

To be eligible to participate, you must also have visited several art museums and/or galleries in SL and have actively participated in various museum/gallery related activities such as openings, tours, group discussions, individual/group contemplation of the displayed works, read notecards on works/artists, etc.

Participation is voluntary and your SL identity will be protected. You will never be asked to disclose you real life name and you will be allowed to withdraw from the study at any time without penalty.

If you would like additional information on this study or are considering participating, please IM Kathleen Koolhoven in SL. 

Study Information

Study Information for “Informal learning as performance: Toward a hermeneutic phenomenology of museum learning in Second Life

Principal Investigator: Kathleen Cool (Kathleen Koolhoven), Doctoral Student, Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, Nova Southeastern University – email:

Co-Investigator: Dr. Steve Terrell (Statistics Shostakovich), Professor, Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, Nova Southeastern University – email:

You are being asked to participate in a study on informal learning in art museums and galleries in Second Life.

The research procedure involves an interview conducted via IM that will last approximately one (1) hour. With your permission, the IM log of the interview will be saved to my computer and will be moved to a secure/encrypted folder on my computer. After the interview, your avatar’s name on the IM log will be replaced by a pseudonym. As such, publications resulting from this study will never contain your avatar’s name. No information that personally identifies you will ever be disclosed and I will never ask you for your real life name.

With your permission, I may contact you by IM for a second interview in SL. If you do not wish to be contacted after the initial interview, please let me know. I will respect your wish to be left alone.

Participation in the study is voluntary and you may discontinue your involvement at any time without penalty. If you are not comfortable with a question, you may tell me that you do not wish to answer that particular question or you can simply teleport to another location. You can also ask me not to include some or all of your responses in the saved IM log. I will also gladly share my findings with you and will ask you for your input. Again, if you do not wish to be contacted after the first or second interview, please let me know.

The only foreseeable discomforts associated with this study are loss of privacy and time. There are no direct benefits from participating in the study. The study could, however, contribute to a greater understanding of the informal learning process in virtual worlds by shedding light on how SL residents like you experience and make meaning of various activities taking place in virtual art museums and galleries through their avatars.

You can keep this notecard in your inventory for future reference. If you understand this information and consent to participate, please IM me, Kathleen Koolhoven, and state “I agree to participate in your study.”

If you have any questions or comments regarding this study, please feel free to contact me, Kathleen Koolhoven, by IM or by email You may also contact my dissertation advisor, Dr. Steve Terrell by email


As part of my study, I will be conducting informal one-on-one interviews in SL. To ensure the protection of all participants, extending to both SL and RL identities, my study was reviewed by Nova Southeastern University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB)  and deemed to pose minimal risks to participants.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pirats La Criee Art Gallery – June 14, 2011

Fiona and Winter – seeing your work makes my research worth it!  

Currently Reading

Geraci, R. M. (2010). Apocalyptic AI: Visions of heaven in robotics, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

While the author focuses mostly on robotics research, chapter 3 of the book is dedicated to virtual worlds and SL in particular. The book may not be geared towards virtual museum education and digital art per se, but it does deal specifically with related matters of perception such as identity and sacred elements in in-world communities. The apocalyptical and fundamentally dualistic viewpoint taken by Geraci is, while radically different from the Heideggerian approach I am taking in my study, an interesting one worthy of consideration.

Introduction/Research Philosophy

As some of you may know, I am a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences at Nova Southeastern University conducting research on how learning is experienced in SL museums through avatars.  While my research track is generally broad, being computing technology in education, I have academic and professional experience in the diverse fields of Art History, Museum Education, and Information Science. Given my background, studying virtual museums and born digital art works felt like a natural choice. Fundamentally, I am interested in the age old question raised by Walter Benjamin in his The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction essay – how does changing modes of production (digital media and environments, immersive builds, simulations) affect how we experience, relate to, and learn from art?
In an attempt to understand virtual viewing (and in turn, learning) practices, I am using a qualitative research method - Hermeneutic Phenomenology, based on the philosophical works of Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer - to interpret my research findings. The title of this blog references Hermes, the messenger to the gods in Greek mythology and not coincidentally, at the etymological root of my chosen research method, hermeneutics. In a way, I feel like my role in this research endeavor is similar to that of Hermes, in that I am interpreting your experiences of the studied phenomenon.  Unlike Hermes, who has been portrayed as a liar and trickster, I want my research process to be entirely transparent to you, hence the purpose of this blog.  
After interacting (and befriending) many of you in-world, I realized that I needed some sort of web presence to bring my research closer to you as well as to receive important and much needed feedback from you. In this blog, I will be documenting my research efforts and keeping you all updated as to my progress, successes, and failures.
I am a firm believer that research is not the result of isolated study, but rather a symbiotic exchange between a researcher and members of various communities, whom I like to refer to as co-researchers. As my co-researchers, I want you to have input in all aspects of my study and in turn, have a “voice” in the academic community.
Please feel free to comment and make suggestions – everything you write will be read and taken into consideration.  I am also thinking of using this blog to share current research and views on virtual worlds and virtual museums in particular. If you come across anything of interest, please share it with me! I am always eager to learn something new or through a different perspective.
If you ever have any questions or want to chat in-world, my name is Kathleen Koolhoven (Kathleen Cool in RL) – I hope to “see” you all very soon :)