A Visit with iSkye Silverweb – Muffled Sounds of Summer by Donna Davis

iSkye's Table

iSkye's Table

iSkye Silverweb has been Deaf since birth. Her first language is American Sign Language (ASL), but she is fluent in English and somewhat so in Spanish. She relies heavily on text to communicate in Second Life.

From the time she was five years old, iSkye had a hearing aid which bolstered her  residual hearing. This allowed her to hear music and some speech, and she learned to speak with a lot of intensive speech therapy. However, in adulthood she suddenly lost her hearing, to the point that her hearing aid became useless. As a result, she is now completely deaf.

Art is not iSkye's profession, but it has been her saving grace. Writing, drawing, and 3D creation have brought her through many difficult moments, and allowed her a voice in visual form. That creative expression is perfectly on display at her build in Ethnographia, entitled “Muffled Sounds of Summer.” As she recently explained when showing her display to the Ethnographia community on August 15, 2016, the design is an attempt to illustrate what it was like to be a deaf child at a family function.

The build features a larger-than-life picnic table with a little girl who sits under it reading a book. It represents an autobiography based on a memory of iSkye's from when she was a child. At family summer picnics, she could be seen with at least one book close at hand, usually sitting under a tree or somewhere near the adults, reading. She could not understand the conversations of the adults; often it was just background noise mixed in with radio sounds and occasional shouts of kids playing their games. When visiting her build, be sure to use your camera and look up. You might even fly up onto the picnic table. Look for the captions that appear and fade, which symbolizes what she could hear. These animated captions wonderfully represent what “hearing” was like for her.

On the picnic table sits a radio emitting musical notes that float and fade into the sky. iSkye explained, “I could feel the vibrations of the music on those wood floors so I loved to dance with others there… it's really about that invisible wall that you experience when you don't hear well.” Another perspective you can gain from wandering through her build comes from discovering a mouse under the table. She noted “that was kind of one of the details you notice when you're a little kid on the ground… mice, ants. I sat under a tree and watched a whole colony of ants doing their usual foraging and bringing home food after a long trek. You notice more things on a different level because you're not so busy listening and talking. I had fun putting bread crumbs out for the ants. They were amazing, picking up these HUGE crumb pieces and carrying them off home, and while I enjoyed those experiences, I couldn't really share them with anyone else. They were too busy doing their social things like baseball, grownup chatting, etc.

While you may find yourself feeling rather small as you explore iSkye’s build, that is not by accident! She said “there was always a bit of the attitude that the things I had to say, or share, were not as significant or something. I'd get the facial expression equivalent of a pat on the head... anyone know what I mean? A sort of patronizing, 'very nice, dear' that just made me go even quieter. I dove deeper into my books. At least I wasn't missing any conversations in those!”

Another subtle feature of the build is that each of the people is in silhouette. iSkye explains that she designed it that way because “they were sort of less real to me than the ants and mice and my books...” She is also quick to add, “I hope nobody got the sense I was having a pity party—just this made clear the invisibleness of not hearing well.”

iSkye is certainly not invisible in Second Life. She has been a volunteer leader with Virtual Ability (her home community), and has been also been actively involved with BURN2 and Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education. Thank you, iSkye, for being a part of the Ethnographia community as well!

SLurl: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ethnographia/157/185/24


Building a culture of possibility—Meet the SL13B builders: Jadyn Firehawk by Donna Davis

As noted in an [earlier blog post], the Ethnographia Island community recently participated in Linden Lab’s celebration of Second Life’s 13th Birthday (“SL13B”). For SL13B, individuals or groups throughout the virtual world were invited to apply for a parcel of virtual land on a series of temporary islands created especially for the birthday celebration. The celebration had a theme of “shared adventure” and our proposal to build an exhibit about “Sharing a Culture of Poss(a)bility” was accepted!

A whole group of Ethnographia Island community members chipped in to turn the empty parcel we received into a beautiful build, with Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “The Starry Night” as its theme. Three people in particular really made this happen: Jadyn Firehawk, Shyla the Super Gecko (Krijon), and Fidget (FidgetsWidgets). They were awesome! Together they reached out to nearly every member of Ethnographia Island so they could share their unique stories, and these were then included in the design. Over the next several weeks we’ll introduce you to many of those who participated in the SL13B, beginning now with Jadyn Firehawk.

SL13B Ethnographia Parting Shots 07-03-16_009 (2).png

Collaboration in any environment has its opportunities and challenges. So, what’s different when the environment is virtual and the community of collaborators represent any number of disabilities? We learned a good bit about that in SL13B, and Jadyn certainly has a great perspective given all she did. After the dust had settled, we sat down for a conversation about collaboration. Jadyn emphasized, “I’m normally the lone builder. I LOVE to do replicas, like… ‘can you build us a replica of the SF Museum of Modern Art for the SL Community Convention?’ I’m all over stuff like that. I love it!” But she added, “‘collaboration’ is just not something I’d ever tried before nor was sure I could do.”

However, Jadyn is not completely new to collaboration! We recently blogged about two houses on display at Ethnographia Island through July 31st, designed by Kasimir Deimatov and built by Jadyn. Jadyn clearly has a history of collaborating in very supportive ways. In addition to her work with Kasimir (who is quadriplegic), Jadyn helped build a ballroom on Ethnographia Island for Keao Wright (who is blind). In her work with Kasimir, she became his hands; with Keao, Jadyn worked as her eyes.

Jadyn had not planned to take on a leadership role in SL13B for Ethnographia Island. But she saw an issue brewing that she knew she could resolve. She felt the deadlines looming and saw a lot of good ideas, but nothing had yet been built. Additionally, she’d learned through other builders who understood the nuances of the exhibit building policies that the build could get quite complicated. Jadyn offered her support once again, this time knowing her technical experience could come in handy. The original concept for the design would require everyone build something that represented their individual Second Life experience. However, the SL13B building regulations allowed only things built by designated team builders (including Jadyn, Fidget and Shyla) to be included, so the original plan had to be scrapped. That’s when the team leaders got to work!

Jadyn explained, “Shyla and Fidget, whoa the synergy there! Working with all the Ethnographia people… there was ‘people work,’ ‘word work’ and ‘picture work,’ to boil it down. All essential! We all did a share of each, actually, but Fidget really led the charge on the people-work and Shyla on the word-work, then me on the picture/build work. It was like a dream team.”

In walking us through the design process, Jadyn noted “Given the time pressures to complete the build, I had a very nicely timed hypomanic episode.” In working through the complexities of the build, she envisioned photo collages as a way to represent everyone’s stories. She continued, “I was thinking too, how else to make the photo boards more interesting? I showed my then-flat collages idea to my ‘quadripolar’ friend who suggested photo cubes so it was more 3D.” The term ‘quadripolar’ came from another collaboration Jadyn worked with previously. She explained, “it turned out he has bipolar disorder like I do and we ended up (eep!) collaborating on his kinetic sculpture and he called the finished sculpture ‘Quadripolar’.” What an interesting and positive twist on the creative process.

Clearly Jadyn has been collaborating in creative and productive ways in SL for many years. We’re so grateful that she couldn’t say no to the Ethnographia SL13B project! Thanks, Jadyn, for the time, effort and patience to get it done!

July 14-July 31: Come see Kasimir and Jadyn's homes rezzed! by Tom Boellstorff

From July 14 until July 31 (with a possible extension, we'll see!) Ethnographia Island is proud to temporarily display two beautiful homes designed and built by Kasimir Deimatov and our own fabulous Jadyn Firehawk!

These homes have not been rezzed in Second Life for many years, so it is a real treat to be able to see and experience them. As explained in this article, these homes were designed back in 2010 for a building competition. Kasimir (who is no longer active in Second Life) is a quadriplegic, but together with Jadyn was able to design these amazing homes and win the competition!

Now, as a temporary exhibit both houses have been rezzed on Ethnographia Island. You can walk through them, read the history behind them, and get inspired to do some building of your own!

Thanks to Jadyn for setting up the installation, and to Kasimir for permission to share this wonderful work. Enjoy!

Sharing a Culture of Possibility by Donna Davis

Members of the Ethnographia community had a busy June! They collaborated to build an amazing display at Second Life’s 13th birthday celebration (SL13B). The SL13B Ethnographia exhibit showcased the works of 20 capability-diverse participants in the community. The focus of the project was on the ways in which being in a virtual world has influenced the lives of the participants as people with disabilities.

On Ethnographia Island, our community members are building individually and collaboratively in a range of ways to share their experiences. For the exhibit, they worked together to create a story of their experiences of disability, and specifically the new possibilities virtual worlds can provide for disabled persons.

For 2016, the birthday celebration theme was "the shared adventure." The Ethnographia Island reflected that theme, including opportunities Second Life might provide for disabled persons. In addition, the exhibit was built collaboratively, as a "shared" experience for members of our community. SL13B opened on June 18th and concluded July 3rd. We were located on the "Beguile" sim at SL13B. It was a great place to be, right next to a Welcome Area with a giant ship in the sky! Our neighbors included "Bhutan on the Border," some wonderful SL photographers (photos by TheaDee and KL Photography), the "City of Adventure" exhibit by the Bay City Alliance, and even an alien spaceship (Area 54 ¾)! It really was a testament to the incredibly diverse creativity in Second Life.

We even had a "meet and greet" at the exhibit one day, and several folks walking by dropped in to join our conversation!

Hanging out at the meet & greet during SL13B!

A very cool thing is that at the close of the celebration, we were able to move our entire build to Ethnographia Island! Please stop by the island to learn more. As you wander through, be sure to click on the information icons to learn about the amazing individuals who have so much to teach us about ability. If you’re not able to get by, we’ll be sharing more of their stories with you here each week.

Thanks for sharing the adventure with us!

Exploring viewer development by Donna Davis

After a series of serendipitous events, we may have an opportunity to work with Crista Lopes, the creator of OpenSim and Tom's colleague at UC Irvine, on what we're calling "The Dream Viewer." A “viewer” is the program your computer uses to interact with Second Life. Linden Lab (the company that owns Second Life) makes a viewer, and there are many other viewers out there (the best-known is probably the “Firestorm” viewer). Unfortunately, these viewers are not always easy to use for disabled folks. The “Radegast” viewer is another example that has been used by some disabled persons, particularly those with visual impairments, but it is no longer being developed.

To best understand what a "dream viewer" would look like, we've hosted a series of focus groups in Second Life. The theme for the focus groups was: imagine that someone gave you a million dollars to design the ultimate Second Life viewer for disabled folks. What would it look like (or sound like, or feel like, anything)? What are the most frustrating or limiting features of the current viewers that it would not do? What *would* it do? What are the most important things a viewer could do for specific disabilities (visual impairment, auditory impairment, difficulty using a keyboard or mouse, special needs for social interaction, issues around bright textures or loud sounds, anything)?

The feedback was wonderful and the prospects are exciting. While we don't have a million dollars to develop such a viewer, we at least are beginning to understand what it would look like and are now exploring funding options. More soon!

New neighbors! by Donna Davis

As the new island (Ethnographia II or more affectionately referred to as E2) is up and running, we want to remind and invite you to stop by the new area and meet the new neighbors. There are a number of new builds from new members of the community as well as our first collaborative build underway! The incredibly creative minds of Daisy Gator, Kath McGill and Jadyn Firehawk are working together to bring Daisy's literary work to life! Take a stroll through space as you've never seen it before! We also have our first builds "behind the magic curtain." If moving textures and bright colors are not a problem for you, you may want to take the time to journey through the experience Kath has built and bear witness to the latest SL creation by famed DB Baily.

Also on the new land are offices for Tom and Tredi. We'll be hosting more regular office hours as our class schedules slow down a bit in the very near future. Look for more information soon and please feel free to stop by and chat with us! 

Thank you to all our wonderful community members who are making this such a great experience. See you around the sim!

A new island! by Donna Davis

After just five short months we discovered it was already time to expand our space. We have added Ethnographia II to the land we have in Second Life for a number of reasons. 

First, this means more people can participate. Our original community of 20 parcels filled up very quickly and we started a waiting list. Those people will now be joining us.

It also means we can have three areas on the island! They are: 
- A “standard build” area that will have some basic guidelines on what is visible from the outside of a structure at ground level. In this area skyboxes will still be fine, and anything goes inside a structure within certain limits. Most of the builds already fit these guidelines. This will be a "safe" place for anyone to enjoy without visual elements that can sometimes create sensory overload for individuals with certain disabilities.

- A “behind the magic curtain” area where anything goes even at ground level (still within SL terms for a moderate environment). It’s the chance to offer people the opportunity to “enter the land of Oz” where colors, lights and animations will not be restricted.

- A “collaborative area” with parcels around four times the normal ones, where our residents can build collaboratively! We hope this is an exciting opportunity for so many of our creative builders! More details will be sent to the group shortly.

As always, we invite anyone already in Second Life (SL) to stop by Ethnographia and wander through a land full of extraordinary stories. If you're not in SL and want to learn more, please feel free to email Donna (dzdavis@uoregon.edu) or Tom (tboellst@uci.edu) and we'll be happy to give you a hand!