Steph+Suw Podcast: First! [en]

[fr] Suw et moi avons enfin enregistré le fameux podcast-conversation dont nous parlons depuis notre première rencontre, en mai 2004. C'est en anglais et c'est assez long, mais on s'en est pas trop mal sorties pour une première!

Each time [Suw]( and I meet, we talk about recording a podcast together. [We met for the first time in June 2004](, and if I believe the [Podcasting and Beercasting Thoughts]( I wrote a little less than a year later, that was indeed when we first started talking about using audio to record conversations.

I’m definitely sure that we talked about it at [BlogTalk 2]( I don’t think Skype was in the air then, but we talked about hooking up our phones to some audio recording device, and left it at that. At that time, people were getting excited about “audioblogging” (did we already talk about “podcasting” back then? It seems a long, long time ago) and we agreed that were audio really became interesting was in rendering conversations. (See the [Podcasting and Beercasting Thoughts]( post for more about that.)

Anyway, now we have [Skype](, and [Call Recorder]( (which reminds me, I need to write up a post about the ethics of recording audio conversations), and we finally got round to doing it. It’s a bit long-ish (40 minutes — not surprising if you know us!) and has been slightly edited in that respect, but honestly, it’s not too bad for a start.

Here is roughly what we talked about.

– [San Francisco](, web geek paradise
– City sizes (see this [London-SF superimposition map](
– Segways
– The cat/geek Venn diagram ([Twitter error message](
– I really want a Wii
– IRC screen names
– The difficulties of pronouncing S-u-w
– When geeks name children: A unique identifier or anonymity?
– Stalkers and geoinformation
– Perceptions of security
– Giving out your phone number and address, and personal boundaries
– Airport security ([background…](
– Risk and expectations of risk
– Death, religion, and the medical industry
– Naming our podcast… something about blondes, apparently
– Clueless marketeering from the Fabric nightclub in London
– The repercussions of having a blog that people think is influential (even if
you don’t think it is)

Let us know what you liked and didn’t like! [View Suw’s post about this podcast.](

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Rédaction d'infos pour [en]

Mon travail de rédaction pour [le thème internet de](, un site d’information et de prévention destiné aux adolescents, avance plutôt bien.

[L’association CIAO]( m’avait contactée il y a déjà bien longtemps, mais entre un job d’enseignante à quasi-plein temps à l’époque, des rechutes de [TMS](/tms/), et les débuts un peu sur les chapeaux de roue de [ma vie de consultante indépendante](, le rédaction a vraiment commencé au compte-gouttes. Mais là, depuis quelque temps, on a trouvé un rythme de croisière à coups d’après-midis dans leurs bureaux et de nombreux litres de thé de menthe assaisonnés de quelques gâteaux et chocolats.

Si vous avez un moment — et surtout si vous connaissez les adolescents de près ou de loin — votre avis sur ce qui est déjà en ligne m’intéresse grandement. Est-ce que ça vous paraît adapté, pertinent, adéquat?

Le thème est loin d’être complet. Seront mis en ligne prochainement des chapitres tournant plus autour de la “sécurité informatique”: virus, phishing, spam. Le reste attend d’être rédigé…

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Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me [en]

[fr] Cinq choses que vous ne saviez probablement pas à mon sujet. Un petit jeu qui tourne dans la blogosphère.

This is [way overdue](, but I have a guilty conscience after having been tagged by [Jonas](, [Ric](, and [Dannie]( I think the main reason I haven’t yet published this post (well, I have now, but look at the dates I was tagged upon and you’ll understand) is the difficulty in figuring out how I can tell a **very** varied audience (which includes family, strangers, IRC buddies, close friends online and off, googlers, passing acquaintances, work relations and all the others) things that “they” probably don’t know about me.

So. I’ve had to conjure up a target audience. Let’s say the target audience are people, online or off, who know me somewhat but not that well and have maybe not known me for many many years. My close friends and family will probably know the five things I’m bringing up here, and none of them are “secrets”. Some of these facts are even already “out there” if you care to look for them.

That said, here goes.

1. I have a 21cm-long scar. I got it for my sixth birthday, and it beats all the other birthday presents I ever got. (Came with a price, though.)

2. My middle name is Jane. I like having a middle name, and I quite like the one that was chosen for me. This hasn’t always been the case.

4. My mother died of cancer when I was 10. It was only about fifteen years later that I managed to ask my dad which type of cancer she had, and details about her illness.

3. I usually start writing my posts at the beginning, work straight down, tag and categorize, and hit publish. I rarely proof-read or re-read.

5. My “pre-bunny” nickname was Gummywabbit. People kept thinking I was a guy, and I got sick of it.

What I chose to list here obviously says a sixth thing about me: I have a tendancy to get caught up in extremes. Too dramatic or too futile, too much or nothing at all. I work hard towards exploring the middle ground, but as you can see, I’m not always successful. Lucky you anyway, you got sixth things for the price of five!

I’m not tagging anyone myself (peer-pressure etc), but I’ll be happy to tag the first five people who ask me in the comments. And anyway, anybody is free to take up the meme and post their one — aren’t they?

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Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins [fr]

[en] Citations and some French comments/paraphrasing of danah boyd and Henry Jenkins's interview "MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)". Must-read if your life has anything to do with teenagers.

Je viens de finir de lire ce fascinant interview de [danah boyd]( et [Henry Jenkins]( au sujet des [adolescents et d’Internet](, intitulé “MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA).” Si vous travaillez de près ou de loin avec des adolescents, ou si vous êtes parent d’adolescent, prenez vingt minutes pour le lire. ([PDF pour imprimer.]( Voici les passages qui me parlent le plus, avec quelques commentaires. La mise en évidence est de moi. (Avertissement: tartine ahead.)

Cela fait bientôt deux ans que je fais régulièrement des [conférences dans des écoles](, pour faire de la “prévention blogs” ou “prévention Internet” en général. Ce qui me dérange depuis longtemps, c’est cette idée reçue qu’Internet grouille de pédophiles et est par définition un espace dangereux.

J’ai beaucoup apprécié de retrouver dans les paroles de ces deux chercheurs des choses que je pense ou dis, sans avoir fait autant d’études formelles à ce propos. Jolie confirmation de mon intuition et de ce que j’ai pu déduire de mes expériences directes.

J’essaie souvent, un peu maladroitement, de mettre en avant le rôle de construction sociale que jouent ces espaces sur internet. Voici ce qu’en dit danah:

> These sites play a key role in youth culture because they give youth a space to hang out amongst friends and peers, share cultural artifacts (like links to funny websites, comments about TV shows) and work out an image of how they see themselves.


Une autre thèse que je défends et que ce ne sont pas ces espaces qui créent les comportements “déviants” des adolescents, mais qu’internet nous donne simplement accès, en tant qu’adultes, à des choses qui étaient auparavant cachées. A noter qu’une bonne partie de ces comportements font partie intégrante des processus de socialisation des adolescents, même s’ils ne sont pas plaisants.

> While integrating into cultural life is a critical process that takes place during these years, the actual process is not always smooth or pleasant. Bullying, sexual teasing, and other peer-to-peer harassment are rampant amongst teenagers, as these are frequently the tools through which youth learn to make meaning of popularity, social status, roles, and cultural norms. MySpace did not create teenage bullying but it has made it more visible to many adults, although it is not clear that the embarrassment online is any more damaging to the young victims than offline. […] No one of any age enjoys being the target of public tormenting, but new media is not to blame for peer-to-peer harassment simply because it makes it more visible to outsiders. In fact, in many ways, this visibility provides a window through which teen mentors can help combat this issue.


Le vrai problème, ensuite, est la réaction que vont avoir les adultes face à ces comportements auxquels ils sont confrontés, et qu’ils ne peuvent plus nier.

> Adults are confronting images of underage drinking or sex, discussions of drug use, and signs of bullying and other abusive behavior. […] In many cases, schools are being forced to respond to real world problems which only came to their attention because this information was so publicly accessible on the web. […] Much of the controversy has come not as a result of anything new that MySpace and the other social software sites contribute to teen culture but simply from the fact that adults can no longer hide their eyes to aspects of youth culture in America that have been there all along.


Pour le moment, malheureusement, la réaction la plus répandue semble être une forme de panique morale (“internet c’est dangereux”, “les adolescents ont des comportements criminels sur leurs blogs”). Je me réjouis de lire les conclusions de danah concernant les causes du vent de panique gravitant autour des modes de socialisation de notre jeunesse. Je pense personellement qu’il y a également une autre piste à explorer, et qui tourne autour de ce qu’on pourrait appeler la “culture de la peur”.

> Understanding why moral panics emerge when youth socialize is central to my research.


Les outils de l’internet social sont de plus en plus utilisés dans le monde professionnel. Même si à mon sens c’est plus un problème dans le monde Anglo-Saxon qu’en Suisse (quoique… ça nous pend au nez), les écoles devraient apprendre aux enfants à exploiter le potentiel de ces outils et gérer les risques que peut comporter leur utilisation, plutôt que de les interdire ou les ignorer comme étant “des jeux d’enfants”.

> Social networking services are more and more being deployed as professional tools, extending the sets of contacts that people can tap in their work lives. It is thus not surprising that such tools are also part of the social lives of our teens. Just as youth in a hunting society play with bows and arrows, youth in an information society play with information and social networks. Our schools so far do a rather poor job of helping teens acquire the skills they need in order to participate within that information society. For starters, most adult jobs today involve a high degree of collaboration, yet we still focus our schools on training autonomous learners. Rather than shutting kids off from social network tools, we should be teaching them how to exploit their potentials and mitigate their risks.


De même, si effectivement ces espaces numériques sont terriblement dangereux, il est important que l’école enseigne aux adolescents comment gérer leur présence en ligne, plutôt que de les encourager à l’éviter. La citation qui suit est une allusion directe à la volonté de certaines instances aux Etats-Unis (et ailleurs) de bloquer l’accès aux sites de “réseautage en ligne”, comme MySpace, depuis les écoles.

> Suppose, for the sake of argument, that MySpace critics are correct and that MySpace is, in fact, exposing large numbers of teens to high-risk situations, then shouldn’t the role of educational institutions be to help those teens understand those risks and develop strategies for dealing with them? Wouldn’t we be better off having teens engage with MySpace in the context of supervision from knowledgeable and informed adults? Historically, we taught children what to do when a stranger telephoned them when their parents are away; surely, we should be helping to teach them how to manage the presentation of their selves in digital spaces. The proposed federal legislation does nothing to help kids confront the challenges of interacting with online social communities; rather, it allows teachers and librarians to abdicate their responsibility to educate young people about what is becoming a significant aspect of their everyday lives.


Je vous cite maintenant un long passage dans lequel danah parle de la question des prédateurs sexuels sur MySpace, de la couverture médiatique de ce phénomène (qui contribue à créer un climat d’alarme déconnecté de la réalité), et des chiffres sur lesquels on se base aux Etats-Unis pour justifier l’inquiétude ambiante à ce sujet.

Il y a quelque temps, j’avais moi-même été à la recherche de matière première (chiffres, enquêtes, etc) concernant les prédateurs sexuels sur internet. Depuis des années que je baigne dans la cyberculture, je n’avais en effet jamais rencontré ni entendu parler d’une seule histoire du genre, ce qui me paraissait en décalage avec la frénésie médiatique et les opérations de prévention à grande échelle dont j’étais témoin.

Sans grande surprise, je n’ai pu mettre la main que sur une seule étude (celle-là même dont parle danah) qui fournissait des chiffres alarmants. Mais en regardant de près l’analyse des résultats fournis, j’avais été quelque peu sidérée de voir des choses comme “une fille de 13 ans à qui on a demandé sa taille de soutien-gorge” rentrer dans la catégorie “unwanted sexual sollicitation”, sans précision de l’âge ou du sexe de la personne posant la question. De plus, j’aurais apprécié une étude comparative de la quantité de “sollicitations sexuelles non désirées” dont sont victimes les ados à l’école, dans la rue, ou dans leur club de sports. Dans le troisième paragraphe que je cite, danah fait le même genre de critique.

Elle nous rappelle également que la grande majorité des enlèvements aux Etats-Unis sont l’oeuvre de personnes connues de l’enfant. D’un point de vue statistique, les enfants courent plus de risques en allant aux scouts ou à une sortie de catéchisme qu’en traînant sur MySpace. De plus, elle nous rappelle que la peur des prédateurs, régulièrement utilisée pour priver les jeunes d’espaces publiques (numériques ou physiques), sert aussi à détourner notre attention d’abuseurs statistiquement plus significatifs. Les jeunes courent plus de risques d’être victimes d’abus à leur domicile ou à celui de leurs amis que dans les espaces publics.

Voilà, grossièrement résumé, les arguments principaux de danah boyd dans les paragraphes suivants.

> The media coverage of predators on MySpace implies that 1) all youth are at risk of being stalked and molested because of MySpace; 2) prohibiting youth from participating on MySpace will stop predators from attacking kids. Both are misleading; neither is true.

> Unfortunately, predators lurk wherever youth hang out. Since youth are on MySpace, there are bound to be predators on MySpace. Yet, predators do not use online information to abduct children; children face a much higher risk of abduction or molestation from people they already know – members of their own family or friends of the family. Statistically speaking, kids are more at risk at a church picnic or a boy scout outing than they are when they go on MySpace. Less than .01% of all youth abductions nationwide are stranger abductions and as far as we know, no stranger abduction has occurred because of social network services. The goal of a predator is to get a child to consent to sexual activities. Predators contact teens (online and offline) to start a conversation. Just as most teens know to say no to strange men who approach them on the street, most know to ignore strange men who approach them online. When teenagers receive solicitations from adults on MySpace, most report deleting them without question. Those who report responding often talk about looking for attention or seeking a risk. Of those who begin conversations, few report meeting these strangers.

> The media often reference a [Crimes Against Children report]( that states one in five children receive a sexual solicitation online. A careful reading of this report shows that 76% of the unwanted solicitations came from fellow children. This includes unwanted date requests and sexual taunts from fellow teens. Of the adult solicitations, 96% are from people 18-25; wanted and unwanted solicitations are both included. In other words, if an 18 year old asks out a 17 year old and both consent, this would still be seen as a sexual solicitation. Only 10% of the solicitations included a request for a physical encounter; most sexual solicitations are for cybersex. While the report shows that a large percentage of youth are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences online, there is no discussion of how many are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences at school, in the local shopping mall or through other mediated channels like telephone.

> Although the media has covered the potential risk extensively, few actual cases have emerged. While youth are at minimal risk, predators are regularly being lured out by law enforcement patrolling the site. Most notably, a deputy in the Department of Homeland Security was arrested for seeking sex with a minor.

> The fear of predators has regularly been touted as a reason to restrict youth from both physical and digital publics. Yet, as Barry Glassner notes in [The Culture of Fear](, predators help distract us from more statistically significant molesters. Youth are at far greater risk of abuse in their homes and in the homes of their friends than they ever are in digital or physical publics.


Henry Jenkins nous rappelle que le décalage entre générations de parents et d’enfants pour ce qui est de l’adoption de nouvelles technologies n’est rien de nouveau. Les parents et enseignants sont souvent effrayés par le fait qu’ils ne comprennent pas ce que les jeunes font avec les technologies de communication d’aujourd’hui, et qu’ils ne sont donc pas en mesure de protéger ou superviser les enfants lorsqu’ils les utilisent.

> History shows us a recurring pattern surrounding the adaptation of any new communications technology. Young people are often early adopters: they are more open to new ideas and experiences; they are looking for ways to leave their mark on the world and they are seeking places where they can socially interact with minimal adult interference. Parents and teachers are often frightened by these new kinds of communication technologies which were not part of the world of their childhood: they don’t really understand what their young people are doing with them and they don’t know how to protect or supervise their children while they are engaged in these activities. The situation is thus ripe for moral panic.


Henry continue sur les conséquences désastreuses d’une limitation de l’accès internet dans les écoles et bibliothèques. Cela handicaperait les enfants qui n’ont pas un bon accès internet à la maison et qui n’auraient donc pas l’occasion d’apprendre à utiliser ces outils sociaux s’ils ne sont pas accessibles depuis l’école.

Il ne faut plus maintenant parler de fossé numérique, mais de “participation gap” (décalage participatif — il y a sans doute une traduction meilleure). Les jeunes sont en train d’acquérir d’importantes compétences en réseautage et collaboration qui auront une conséquence sur leur futur professionnel. Ceux qui n’ont accès qu’à un internet filtré n’auront pas cette chance et s’en trouveront prétérités.

> What a kid can do at home with unlimited access is very different from what a kid can do in a public library with ten or fifteen minutes of access at a time and with no capacity to store and upload information to the web. We further handicap these children by placing filters on the Internet which restrict their access to information which is readily available to their more affluent classmates. And now this legislation would restrict their ability to participate in social networks or to belong to online communities. The result will be to further isolate children from poorer economic backgrounds, to cut kids at risk from support systems which exist within their peer culture, and to limit the social and cultural experiences of kids who are already behind in acquiring important networking skills that will shape their professional futures. All of this will compound what we are now calling the participation gap. The early discussion of the digital divide assumed that the most important concern was insuring access to information as if the web were simply a data bank. Its power comes through participation within its social networks. The authors of the law are reading MySpace and other social software exclusively in terms of their risks; they are not focusing on the opportunities they offer for education and personal growth. In protecting children from those risks, they would cut them off from those educational benefits.


Il y a des parallèles à faire entre les activités de socialisation de la génération “parents” dans leur jeunesse, et ce que font les ados d’aujourd’hui. Les activités sont déplacées en ligne, mais au fond, c’est assez similaire. D’après Henry, une des conséquences est la diminution des occasions qu’ont les jeunes d’être entre eux hors du contrôle des adultes. Là, je pose une question: si c’est vrai pour les Etats-Unis, qu’en est-il de l’Europe? J’ai le sentiment que cette problématique est peut-être différente.

> As I suggested above, most parents understand their children’s experiences in the context of their memories of their own early years. For the baby boom generation, those defining experiences involved playing in backyards and vacant lots within suburban neighborhoods, socializing with their friends at the local teen hangout, and participating within a social realm which was constrained by the people who went to your local school. All of that is changing. Contemporary children and youth enjoy far less physical mobility, have less time outside of adult control, and have fewer physical places to hang out with their friends.

> Much of this activity is being brought online. What teens are doing online is no better and no worse than what previous generations of teens did when their parents weren’t looking. The difference is that as these activities are being digitized, they are also being brought into public view. Video games bring the fantasy lives of young boys into the family room and parents are shocked by what they are seeing. Social networks give adults a way to access their teens’ social and romantic lives and they are startled by their desire to break free from restraints or act older than their age.


Il est réjouissant d’entendre que grâce en particulier à la téléphonie mobile, les jeunes sont plus régulièrement en communication avec les membres de leur famille et leurs pairs qu’autrefois.

> Because of mobile phones, current college students report greater ongoing communication with their parents than in previous generations. As Misa Matsuda has argued, networked technologies are allowing today’s youth to maintain “full-time intimate communities.” While the socialization that takes place in digital publics is equivalent to that which occurs in physical publics, new media is allowing youth to be more deeply connected to their peers and their family members, providing a powerful open channel for communication and sharing.


En ce moment, MySpace et les autres outils de réseautage en ligne sont perçus comme des menaces à l’ordre public, dit Henry. Mais on peut regarder les choses différemment et les voir comme un terrain d’entraînement pour nos futurs citoyens et dirigeants politiques. Il mentionne que les jeunes d’aujourd’hui prennent des rôles publics de plus en plus tôt.

Note intéressante: la recherche actuelle démontrerait que les joueurs de jeux multijoueurs en réseau ont des aptitudes importantes pour le travail en équipe, une meilleure compréhension de quand prendre des risques et lesquels, de traiter des sources d’information complexes, etc. J’avoue que ça m’interpelle particulièrement, puisque j’ai personnellement plutôt des inquiétudes concernant les conséquences néfastes que pourrait avoir sur des jeunes en développement le fait de faire une partie de leurs expériences de vie dans un monde dont les règles ne sont pas celles de la réalité. A creuser, donc.

De nouveau, Henry relève que les jeunes n’ont personne vers qui se tourner lorsqu’ils ont besoin de conseils concernant les choix et problèmes éthiques auxquels ils sont confrontés dans ces environnements. Une partie du travail fait pour la Fondation MacArthur consistera à proposer aux jeunes, parents, et enseignants des lignes de conduite éthiques qui les aidera à prendre des décisions informées et sensées au sujet de leur vie en ligne. C’est clairement plus constructif que de mettre des filtres sur tous les ordinateurs publics et de laisser les jeunes se débrouiller seuls avec ces questions.

> Right now, MySpace and the other social network tools are being read as threats to the civic order, as encouraging anti-social behaviors. But we can easily turn this around and see them as the training ground for future citizens and political leaders. Young people are assuming public roles at earlier and earlier ages. They are interacting with larger communities of their peers and beginning to develop their own styles of leadership. Across a range of issues, young people are using social network software to identify and rally like-minded individualism, forming the basis for new forms of digital activism. Current research shows that teens who participate in massively multiplayer games develop a much stronger ability to work in teams, a greater understanding of how and when to take appropriate risks, an ability to rapidly process complex bodies of information, and so forth. At the same time, these teens are facing an array of ethical challenges which are badly understood by the adults around them. They have nowhere to turn for advice on how to confront some of the choices they make as participants within these communities. Part of the work we will be doing for the MacArthur Foundation involves the development of an ethics casebook which will help parents, teachers, and students work through some of these issues and make sensible decisions about how they conduct their online lives. We see this kind of pedagogical intervention as far more valuable than locking down all public computers and then sending kids out to deal with these issues on their own.


Voici, en très résumé, les conseils principaux que Henry propose aux parents. J’y retrouve le conseil que je répète un peu comme un disque rayé, de conférence en conférance: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.

> Parents face serious challenges in helping their children negotiate through these new online environments. They receive very little advice about how to build a constructive relationship with media within their families or how to help their offspring make ethical choices as participants in these online worlds.

> […]

> 1. Communication with your daughter or son is key. Build a trusting relationship through dialogue. It is important to talk with them about your concerns; it is even more important to listen to what they have to say about their online experiences and why these sites are such an important part of their interactions with their peers. […]
2. Create an account to understand how the site works, but not to stalk your kids. […]
3. Ask your kids how they choose to represent themselves and why. […]
4. Talk about private/ public issues with your kids. Help them to understand the consequences of making certain information publicly accessible. Get them to think through all of the possible audiences who might come into contact with their online information. Teens often imagine MySpace as a youth-only world. It isn’t and they need to consider what the consequences would be if their grandparents, their teachers, admissions officers or a future employer read what they said about themselves. […]
5. Talk through what kids should do if they receive unwanted attention online or if they find themselves the victims of cyberbullying. […]

Voilà. J’ai fait un peu plus de traduction libre que ce que j’avais prévu, et peut-être un peu moins de commentaire — mais la plupart des citations parlent d’elles-mêmes. J’espère que vous aurez trouvé intéressant ce que disent ces deux chercheurs, [danah boyd]( et [Henry Jenkins]( A nouveau, je ne peux que vous encourager à [lire l’interview en entier]( si vous travaillez avec des adolescents. Si l’anglais est un obstacle infranchissable pour vous, la [traduction Google]( peut vous aider.

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Michael Hampton is My Hero of the Day [en]

[fr] En principe, les problèmes de serveur sont résolus. Retour à la normale aussi vite que j'arrive à transférer les données avec la connection wifi très approximative que nous avons ici.

[Michael Hampton, also known as io_error]( just saved my life today by solving the [encoding problem on my new hosting]( It seems something went wrong when I imported my SQL dumps into the new database. Solving the encoding issue seems to have solved the “can log into admin but can’t do anything” WordPress issue (if someone can explain why, I’d be interested).

And [danah]( is my heroine of the day, because after a morning of [politicians]( and [WiFi fighting](, it was nice to hear an [interesting talk](

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Harvard Law in Second Life [en]

[fr] Un cours de la prestigieuse Harvard Law School est en train d'avoir lieu en partie à l'intérieur de Second Life. Quand je parle de Second Life comme outil/média éducatif, c'est à des choses comme ça que je pensais. Je suis allé y faire un tour, j'ai parlé avec une des instigatrices du projet, et je compte bien essayer de suivre en tous cas une partie de ce cours, qui a lieu les lundis et mardis.

By chance, I picked up [a link to today’s RocketBoom]( in the #wordpress IRC channel (thanks, [twidget]( I don’t often watch [RocketBoom]( “Popular internet video show. Pretty geeky. Funny.”), but the new presentator (en?) had a nice British accent, so I watched the whole thing.

A [Harvard Law course in Second Life]( caught my attention. I watched the trailer, and decided to [hop in and see for myself]( I’ve been telling people around me that [Second Life]( provides opportunities for education that we can barely yet imagine. I’m glad to see that it’s starting to happen. [Watch the trailer for yourself]( [10.5Mb].

Inside the Second Life lecture hall (a replica of the real Harvard one, from what I understood) I chatted a while with [Rebecca]( (one of the instigators!) and a student, LZ.

I learnt that the class was open to “public” ([“at large”](, they call it), and I’m very tempted to participate. I missed the first classes though, yesterday and today, but the [wiki]( contains a lot of information and is supposed to give links to the lecture videos (haven’t found those, I’d be glad if somebody can point me to them). A lot of [reading material]( is online. They also have a [20-minute introduction to Second Life]( but [Flock]( can’t find the missing plugins I need to view it. Damn!

So, anyway, had to let you know about this. I think it’s exciting!

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Culture Shock in Second Life [en]

[fr] Second Life est vraiment ressenti par ceux qui l'utilisent comme un espace physique. Preuve en est le sentiment de désorientation qui m'habite alors que je découvre cet espace -- sentiment très proche de celui qui a accompagné mes premiers jours un Inde: un choc culturel. On trouve également dans Second Life des problèmes de racisme. A mon avis, un terrain fertile pour mieux comprendre, par exemple, comment l'utilisation de jeux vidéos interactifs (comme WoW) peut agir sur nous.

After [my first few hours inside Second Life](, I realized that the confusion I was feeling was very similar to what I had experienced when I [first arrived in India]( I was suffering from a [culture shock]( “Some thoughts I wrote down after a few days in India, in French.”).

There were people all around me that looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. I had trouble communicating (I’d try to chat and I’d fly up in the air) and identifying what I saw in my surroundings. I didn’t know where to go. I read notes which mentioned places which ringed no bells. I just didn’t know what to do or where to start.

But what really rang the “culture shock” bells for me was that I was feeling anxious and afraid of the avatar-people around me. I feared somebody would pounce on me (well, my avatar, but by then the identification process had kicked in), or animate my avatar against my will, or start shouting obscene things at me. I felt pretty insecure and vulnerable amongst all these people with masks on their faces. I had no idea what to expect from them, just as I had no idea what to expect from people when I landed in India.

In India, I was afraid to go out by myself and explore. In Second Life, I get some of that feeling too. I’m afraid of ending up in “bad places”. Talk of griefers and guns makes me scared. So I tend to hang out in the [New Citizens Plaza]( a lot. *(Note: if you click on that URL, you’ll be shown where that place is on a map of Second Life. If you’re running Second Life, you can click on the “Teleport” button to go there. Doesn’t seem to work for me, though.)* Then last night [buridan]( showed me to [Joi](’s [island Kula]( (fun stuff there with merry-go-rounds and dancing floors).

The interesting point here is that I’m exploring Second Life space just as I do real physical geographical space. I find the same patterns in my behaviour. Same with activities that do not match anything in my life experience yet: flying, teleporting — I don’t tend to do these things much yet, just as it took me a while to start taking rickshaws on my own, queueing to get somebody else to photocopy (“Xerox”) documents for me, and fend off beggars efficiently.

Second Life is much more than “chat with graphics”. As I told my Grandma on the phone yesterday, when she asked me what on earth my last posts were about, it’s almost like an “internet inside the internet”. There are chatrooms in it, but they are informal and transient: put a few people in an open space, and if they gather and start talking, you have a chatroom-like atmosphere. But you can walk/fly/teleport away, [do your hair]( or build/program stuff while the others talk. All that without leaving Second Life.

As a long-time IRC chatroom inhabitant, I see two major differences between what I’m used to and Second Life.

From the chatroom point of view, first of all, you cannot be in two places at once inside Second Life. On IRC, I sit in way more than one chatroom at a time, and it’s not uncommon for me to be conducting conversations in two or three chatrooms at once. In Second Life, you can send private messages in parallel to the “physical group conversation” you’re having, but you can’t have more than one group conversation.

Another “quality” of Second Life that strikes me is that it’s less “partial-attention-friendly” than text-only chat or instant messaging — or even web surfing. I find it very hard to do “something else” at the same time as I’m in Second Life. I think it has something to do with the graphical nature of Second Life, and how rich an environment it is. There’s enough material *inside* Second Life for partial attention as it is 🙂 — but also, the fact there is a graphical representation of the people you’re chatting with helps capture one’s attention. (Maybe I feel things this way because I’m new to Second Life, I might think differently later on.)

So, even though Second Life is an entirely on-the-computer thing, it clearly activates the pathways in our brains that we use to deal with physical space and beings. I’ve already said many times that the internet is broadly perceived as “space without space”, but it’s much more obvious in Second Life. Another element that shows us how “real” this virtual environment is to our brains is the presence of [racism in Second Life]( The topic came up when I was talking to a few “Furries” (ie, people with an [animal-like avatar]( who mentioned there were “furry areas” because Furries were often subject to discrimination from others. Even though we know the aspect of a Second Life citizen is a mask, it seems to have an impact on the way we relate to him/her.

This, to me, is related in some way to the fact that the learning experiences you make in interactive virtual worlds (think “video games”) affect your “non-game” life as well (think “flight simulators”). Which can bring us to question, for example, what effect it can have on one’s brain to spend a long number of hours “killing virtual people”. But that’s another chapter!

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First Steps in Second Life [en]

[fr] Mes premiers pas dans l'environnement Second Life. En trois sessions (hier soir, ce matin, et ce soir) j'ai tout de même réussi à changer d'habits et de coupe de cheveux. Je trouve l'apprentissage difficile. Ce n'est pas habituel pour moi de me sentir maladroite et submergée d'informations devant un ordinateur!

A few months ago, I signed up for Second Life. I spent one evening going through the “training” island, and then didn’t go back until yesterday (Second Life won’t run on my windows box).

Well, people, I’m finding it really hard. I’m not used to finding myself in an environment I have trouble using and which is confusing to me. Here’s the story of what I’ve been through and understood (or not) — with pictures, so that you can get an idea what’s going on in there if you’re not familiar with Second Life. I’m Stephanie Spicoli in Second Life — do get in touch in-world if you have an account.

One thing I’ve pretty much figured out is how to use the arrows to walk around. Sounds silly, heh? At first, I kept running into things. Now I’m getting used to turn left/right, and backwards/forwards.

Yesterday evening, I spent some time in the welcome zone — lots of weirdos there. A kind person helped me out a bit by giving me things and showing me some place I could go to which were nice.

Put this way, it sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. What happened is I started having all sorts of little pop-ups appearing on my screen. I didn’t know for the life of me what to do with them. First I clicked “Discard” on all of them because I didn’t know what they were. Then I had to ask her to give them to me again, and vaguely understood I had to keep them in my Inventory (that’s where you store things in Second Life, kind of like a big handbag). But I couldn’t figure out how to put them in there. Actually, I just had to close the pop-up windows, they were already in my inventory. Gosh. Thank goodness chatting is pretty similar (albeit somewhat laggy when it comes to typing feedback) and I’m at least familiar with that part.

Very confusing I then teleported to New Citizens Incorporated, a place which gives classes and has lots of free stuff for newcomers. You can see the shops on this photograph. I went into one of the shops, and the shelves were absolutely packed with all sorts of stuff which didn’t make much sense to me. Well, one type of item I understood was “clothes”. I wasn’t really interested in clothes at first, until I saw another person wearing exactly the same outfit as I was! I was still wearing the default outfit they give you in the training zone.

That set me off on my first mission: try to get some new clothes. Not as easy as it sounds. I managed to get a box or two of female clothes off a shelf (Cmd-click on the box, and choose buy). Of course, I tried to wear the clothes directly and ended up with a box on my head. Then I understood I had to go in my inventory, drag the box out of it so it was on the floor, Cmd-click on it, choose open, then go back into my inventory, look at what items of clothing were in there, Cmd-click the ones I wanted to wear and choose “wear” from the menu. Sounds like a lot of trouble just to change clothes, doesn’t it? Well, it was. It probably took me an hour. Needless to say that in the process I ended up in my underwear — though hopefully I managed to avoid being stark naked in the middle of NCI Plaza.

Classes you can take at New Citizens

At that point I was ready to try to do something with my hair. Somebody told me there were classes organized for new Second Life citizens, so I went to have a look at the program. Unfortunately there was no class named “dye your hair pink in less than 30 minutes”, so I postponed that piece of fun to the next session.

Instead, I played around a bit with the camera controls (I desperately wanted to see what my face looked like) and tried to take a snapshot or two. Managed to zoom out! Well, I still have a lot of learning to do. Zoom in and out works now that I’ve understood I can use the MacBook trackpad scrolling technique (go up or down the trackpad with two fingers, and it scrolls/zooms). As for detaching the camera from right behind my avatar and moving it around and up and down… well, sometimes I manage, sometimes I don’t. It’s a bit hit-and-miss — again, not something I’m used to on a computer. I’m aware that for many people, normal computer use is just as confusing as Second Life is for me now. It’s an interesting experience for me.

As I’m writing this, I’m trying to remember when I did what. I’ve been on Second Life three times (last night, this morning, tonight). I’m honestly not certain which part of the story I’m telling you was last night, and which part was this morning. My memories are a bit confused and jumbled up.

Right, I went to look at the time I took the various screenshots I have: this morning, I chatted quite a bit with a bunch of people who were trying to build a Griefball.

Meet the Griefball!

A Griefball? Well, as one put it, mainly a statement — but the idea was also that this ball would then be programmed to get rid of griefers. Griefers are the Second Life equivalent to trolls. We had one this morning, by the way: he was dancing all over the place and making noises and stuff. Pretty irritating. I “muted” him (the equivalent of “ignore”) and then I think somebody else filed an abuse report on him. How do you mute somebody? Not too hard: Cmd-click on that person’s avatar, and click “Mute” in the menu that appears.

This morning, I also decided to do something about my hair. After a few random clicks in my inventory (I saw I had different kinds of hair in there) I finally landed in the hair style editing menu. Holy cow! There are **tons** of settings. You can literally spend *hours* doing your hair in Second Life.

Spend hours doing your hair

I also managed to make it pink (my initial goal). The magic slider for that is “rainbow colour” (don’t ask).

Tonight, I:

– grew a pink tiger-tail (not quite true, somebody gave it to me)
– swapped my red shirt (arghl, not nice with pink hair) for a green one (which I modified myself!)
– went for a stroll in the park by sunset
– got stuck in a mountain (no photos of that, I was too busy trying to get out).

Want pictures? Clicky below:

Stephanie Spicoli New green shirt Sunset

Overall, for the moment, I’ve met quite a few nice helpful people. What makes Second Life exciting is also what makes it really difficult to get into: it’s complex. I’m spending a lot of time learning stuff which isn’t really that interesting in itself for me (I have no ambition to become a digital hairstylist) but which is needed for what’s coming next. Feeling comfortable with your inventory, moving the camera about, doing things with objects… there are all basic skills and I’m not comfortable with them yet. But if you want a world where people can be digital artists, build businesses, organise live music performances or conferences, you need that level of complexity to allow users to be creative.

As one of the people who helped me out this morning said: “there’s not a lot of hand-holding”. Inside Second Life, of course, there are classes and coaching, but in my opinion the interface is complicated enough that it’ll get in the way from getting help in-world for many people.

I’m certain there is (will soon be) a market for introduction classes to Second Life… in First Life.

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Second Life: c'est quoi? [fr]

[en] A brief explanation of what Second Life is. It's a graphical world you access to by signing up on the website and downloading a programme to your computer. In that world, you are represented by an "avatar" (you can see mine from the back at the bottom of the picture, in the middle).

You can interact with other people there by chatting, and you can also interact with objects in the world, or even create things. Everything you see in the photograph was created by people like me (only they have a bit more experience, obviously!)

There is money in Second Life you can use to buy and sell things. If you make things people want, like clothes, you can actually make money inside Second Life and convert it into real (First Life) currency. Second Life is free to use, though you'll need a paying account if you want to do fancy things like own land.

The difference between Second Life and online multiplayer games is that there is no goal or meaning to it other than what we put into it. You can go into Second Life because you like chatting in a graphical environment, or because you enjoy being a digital hairdresser/stylist/architect/whatever. You can organise conferences or even musical events. Basically, anything is possible.

03.12.2006: Lecteurs du Matin Dimanche, par ici!

[Second Life]( est un monde virtuel. On y accède en ouvrant un compte (comme pour la plupart des services en ligne) et en installant un programme sur son ordinateur. Un monde virtuel, ça peut ressembler à ça:

Very confusing

Là, vous me voyez en bas au milieu de l’image, de dos. Il y a deux ou trois autres personnages dans l’image, et au fond, une série de magasins. On est représenté dans le monde virtuel par son *avatar* — un personnage du monde virtuel que l’on peut contrôler et [façonner à sa guise]( “Photo. Certains avatars sont très élaborés.”).

A l’intérieur de Second Life, on peut se déplacer, chatter avec les gens que l’on rencontre, agir sur les objets du monde que l’on rencontre, et même fabriquer toutes sortes de choses. Tout ce que vous voyez dans la photo du haut a été construit par les “résidents” de Second Life (des gens comme moi, mais qui maîtrisent un peu mieux). Quand on se déplace, le champ visuel (la “caméra”) se déplace aussi automatiquement.

Si on veut, Second Life est comme un grand chatroom, mais avec un environnement graphique. Du coup, on ne va pas se contenter d’intéragir avec les personnes présentes, mais aussi avec le monde lui-même.

L’interface graphique fait penser aux jeux de rôle en réseau multi-utilisateurs comme [World of Warcraft]( La grande différence entre un tel jeu et Second Life est que dans Second Life, il n’y a pas de “but du jeu”: comme dans la vie réelle (First Life), c’est nous qui produisons les buts et le sens.

Second Life est gratuit. Si on veut posséder du terrain, par contre, il faut un compte payant. A l’intérieur de Second Life, il y a de l’argent. On en reçoit un peu au départ, et on peut l’utiliser pour acheter des choses. Comme dans Second Life n’importe qui peut créer des objets, on peut aussi s’improviser artisan ou artiste digital et vendre ses productions à d’autres. On peut même [y gagner sa vie]( — en fait, toute une économie parallèle est en marche dans ce monde, et comme il y a un taux de change entre la monnaie “virtuelle” de Second Life et de vrais dollars, elle peut avoir une incidence sur la nôtre.

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History of Online Life [en]

[fr] J'ai beau dire dans mes conférences que ce que l'on met sur le web est hors de notre contrôle, et risque de devenir permanent, je suis de plus en plus confrontée à  la disparition de l'histoire numérique. Quelques réflexions sur l'histoire de Kaycee Nicole Swenson, l'adolescente fictionnelle qui mourut de leucémie en mai 2001.

I’m having a chat with [Kevin]( (who should blog more!) about some past things, and he’s hunting around in [the Internet Archive]( for photos and stuff. A lot of it (2003, 2004) is already gone. Can’t be found.

During my talks to teenagers, I always stress that something you put on the web is out of your control, and that you cannot “remove” it. In some cases you might, but you can’t be sure there isn’t a copy lying around somewhere.

Another thing I tell the kids I talk to is the [Kaycee Nicole Swenson story](/writing/kaycee) — the young leukemia patient who died; she blogged for two years, was active in online communities, exchanged phone calls and presents with other bloggers and chatters, and was even interviewed for the New York Times — but never existed. Her original blog has been taken down, and a lot of stuff I referred to at the time when I wrote about the story. I [googled for her]( to see what came up. Amongst various results came [this blog entry from 2004]( It ends like this:

Debbie Swenson did something that few writers have done before: she brought a character into the world of the living, gave her a working heart and soul, and affected real people’s lives with her work.

In my opinion, that should be the purpose of all writing: to make a real difference. So in this case, my hat is off to Debbie for her skill and wisdom.

Pardon me? Duping people is “wisdom”? Please allow me to disagree strongly. I wanted to post this comment and although it [appears in coCo](, it didn’t get posted to the original blog because of some MovableType templat problem. Here it is:

Well, maybe we (because I was one of Kaycee’s readers) can cherish the memory of many cancer patients, but we can also cherish the memory of having been duped.

If I’m going to put energy in a relationship, I want it to match reality, somewhat. Otherwise it makes no sense.

Have you seen The Matrix? Maybe we should all eat little pills that make us happy — if we don’t know we’re not living in reality, where’s the damage?

Some of my thoughts on the topic, in French:

And in English:

All this happened in [May 2001]( “See my blog archives at the time.”). It makes me feel like such an old-timer. Was anybody else around? Who remembers Kaycee Nicole?

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