We're thrilled to have Margaret Corbit joining us as a guest author this July. We asked Margaret (shown right on the Great Wall) to introduce herself:
How did a middle-aged white girl plant ecologist get into virtual worlds? Fair question. I worked at a supercomputing center for 15 years. At the same time that I was writing my thesis on hedgerows as conservation corridors for forest wildflowers, I was working full time at the Cornell Theory Center as the science writer. Then came the Web. And I was launched into visualization and interactivity and an online science book in 1993. Woo Hoo! One of my other lives is that of a graphic artist.
As the Web tsunami flooded us over us and into enterprise, I met Bruce Damer in October 1998 at a Webnet meeting in Toronto, and moved into 3D lock, stock, and barrel. I had already posted VRML worlds in our first Web site and was frustrated with the digital divide (at that time, the disconnectivity of most of the rest of the world). Bruce, playing Digigardener, was demonstrating a world over a phone line. Through the Contact Consortium I learned to play in Blaxxun, Cosmo Worlds, and then began my own projects in Active Worlds. This led to VLearn3D.org, now an archive of five fun years. More recently I have dabbled in SL, participated in some amazing planning projects for Croquet pre-Quack, and sniffed around Multiverse—very exciting to see all these variations on the Metaverse.
I believe that virtual worlds are intrinsically fun. I have also been pegged as a hopeless Pollyanna on more than one occasion. I am still learning about the relationships between games and virtual worlds. I think it’s a continuum. Surprisingly, not all the folks that participate in our programs necessarily want to create games in their worlds, but that is their very first reaction. I was lucky enough to attend one of Ernest Adams’ workshops and to have interacted with Dave Schwarz as he founded the Game Dsign Initiative at Cornell (GDIAC) and Andy Phelps at RIT. I co-teach a Fine Arts course at Cornell, Studio in Space and Time, with photography professor Barry Perlus, and struggle to get these people, who ought to be able to go there, to think beyond the landscape metaphor.
My favorite worlds remain to this day the worlds that emerged from the Art Center College of Design under the guidance of Mike Heim and the Cyberforum. Where is the next artistic guru? Maybe Tobey Crockett will step up….
Right now I am preparing to run a workshop for teams of educators that will introduce them to virtual worlds and to our approach for launching folks into their own creative projects in this medium (called for now the SciFair Model). We have college faculty, middle school educators, graduate and undergraduate students coming to Ithaca for a few days of fun under the virtual sun.
And I have just moved administratively within the University to the office of the Associate Provost for Outreach. I think that says something about the maturing of the medium!
Thanks so much for joining us, Margaret -- we're looking forward to the discussion!