The Magic Circle

Wednesday, 2 February 2011 - 5:00pm6:30pm

Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

The Magic Circle

Realistic Expectations for Virtual Worlds

Timothy Allen

IT Director of Web Technologies, Wharton Research Data Services
University of Pennsylvania
Founder, Second Life Community Convention

Deke Kassabian

Senior Technology Director, Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania

Virtuality holds out the promise of a fantasy world set apart from everyday life by a magic circle of immersive illusion. But those who design and implement virtual-world platforms know how easily the circle can collapse under the pressures of the practical. Tim Allen, cofounder of the Second Life Community Convention, and Deke Kassabian, designer of Penn's campus networks and many key online services, will present a tour of Penn's most ambitious digital projects, describing the trouble spots as well as the major attractions of our virtual campus.

Timothy Allen wrote part of his senior thesis in the mid-1990s on using emerging 3D technology in education. He went on to become an early resident in ActiveWorlds, one of the first Residents of Second Life, the Internet's largest user-created, 3D virtual world community.

With his wife, Jennifer Vatza, he founded the annual Second Life Community Convention and popular virtual shopping destination SLBoutique.com, which has since been acquired by Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life. At Penn's Wharton School, Tim just became IT Director of Web Technologies, where he had been a senior programmer and analyst. Both Tim and Jennifer can also be found hanging out at peregrinesalon.com.

Deke Kassabian is the Senior Technology Director for Networking and Telecommunications at the University of Pennsylvania. His responsibilities include communications technology planning for data, voice, and video networks serving 40,000 users, and the management and direction of a technical staff of 30 full-time IT professionals. Deke has been involved in virtual worlds since 2006, and for the last two years has led the effort to develop the Penn virtual campus in Second life. The Penn virtual campus has been presented to the University EVP and Provost, and the Dean of Admissions. It has also been used by Penn faculty in the Penn Language Center and in Organization Dynamics to support class activities. Deke will talk about challenges and serendipity in creating a flexible virtual campus with traditional and non-traditional learning "spaces". He'll also discuss some of the challenges in supporting advanced uses of these spaces by faculty and staff with limited virtual worlds experience.

Poster image detail: University of Pennsylvania campus, Second Life, courtesy of Timothy Allen.