Reflections from VWBPE 2018 conference day one [15–03–2018]

Day one of the VWBPE 2018 is here, I have my calendar of sessions planned, microphone plugged in and my Firestorm viewer is poised to login. Landing in to a sea of avatars and name tags is a little disorientating to begin with.

The soothing music and the welcome messages from the hosts of the conference soon focus my attention. The ribbon is cut, I get my swag bag of conference goodies and my personal HUD to find my way around and head over to the booth to met up with the others.

Below are my thoughts and reflections on the presentations I attended today at the first day of the Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) 2018 conference in Second Life. A very thought provoking and inspiring day my comments and reflections will be in relation to my own work and projects rather than a summary of the actual session content. If you would like to check out the full session I have included a link to the streamed version of the sessions (apart from the Minecraft session which as far as I know was not streamed today).

Image taken at VWBPE 2018 Opening Ceremony

Identity, literacy, immersion and presence; joining together the building blocks of virtual world learning

An interesting discussion and two part presentation on (1) presence (the sense of feeling in a virtual world), co-presence (the feeling of being in a virtual world with other people and objects) and embodiment and (2) identity.

Presence, copresence and embodiment in virtual places and space raise some fundamental questions about whether or not therapy can be successful and effective in virtual worlds (see Mennecke et al. 2011 for a discussion about a theory of embodied social presence in virtual worlds). If me and a client do not feel connected to the virtual world (presence) or to each other (copresence) or find our avatar lacks representational or identification value can therapy work? Or how long should we expect or delay therapy to begin when we are sensitising, orientating or settling into the environment? There are many other questions and dilemmas for the scope of this reflection. However, counselling practice is based on the ability of the therapist and client to feel at least minimally present to each other in a psychological space (condition of therapy make a minimal and perceivable psychological contact with our client for example). The presenter mentioned a different barrier maybe “for 1/4 people presence and copresence will not be achieved’ and therefore therapy maybe less appealing to those people.

image taken at VWBPE 2018 Identity, literacy, immersion and presence; joining together the building blocks of virtual world learning

There are other ways that presence and copresence can be achieved for example in text chat the client maybe able to feel more present with the therapist that is not necessarily achieved or delayed as they begin the process of self expression and identification with their avatar or the visuality of the virtual space.

The next segment of the key note presentation focused on identity and like the previous topic of presence the topic of identity has relevance to online counselling practice generally and virtual world and Web3D therapy practice and training specifically. To talk of therapy without identity is like carpentry without discussing wood. The notion of identity tourism which is one “the affordances of a virtual world that allows for the trying out of different identities and personalities in a safe way that the real world for some clients cannot” for me this has enormous therapeutic value (see Schultz, 2014 for a discussion of performative embodied identity in virtual worlds).

Attribution: Mark Childs/Gann McGann (Avatar) (2018, March). Identity, literacy, immersion and presence; joining together the building blocks of virtual world learning. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

Minecraft VRevolution: Collaborative Learning

The second session of my day at conference presented an interesting and thought provoking discussion about the uses and limitations of Minecraft in an educational setting. It was interesting to hear about the highly creative, imaginative and collaborative ways in which educators are using, sucessfully Minecraft in their teaching.

[11:09] Serena Offcourse: Although East Coast Miners is not a formal educational setting, there is a lot of learning happening. Guild members teach each other and teach the adults all the time.
[11:09] Serena Offcourse: We have had many successful stories of our young people showing amazing creativity and innovation. They have endless ideas and don’t hesitate to try new things.
[11:09] Serena Offcourse: Currently, we are building a huge amusement park in the creative world. They are making rides, concession stands, and other attractions! [Source: Inworld Session Transcript]

image taken at VWBPE 2018 Minecraft VRevolution: Collaborative Learning

One interesting point from this presentation was the educational use of Discord. I am wondering whether the use of a Discord server alongside the Moodle and the OpenSimulator Virtual World platform as part of MTS Training. I have played Minecraft but found an Open source version called Minetest and selfhost 4 servers running different mods and games.

Conversation with Ebbe Altberg

Ebbe Altberg talking to us over a stream discussed many topics relating to Second Life generally and the educator community in Second Life (SL) more specifically. Below I have included the link to the live stream as there was allot covered but I do not have a presence in SL much of it is not relevant to my own virtual world projects but you may find it interesting to hear what he said.

Image taken at VWBPE 2018 Above the Book with Ebbe Altberg

Attribution: Ebbe Altberg (2018, March). VWBPE 2018 Above the Book with Ebbe Altberg. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

DeDe the transwoman: Cultural Issues & Second Life

Attribution: Dr Rebecca Sisk/Jeckybean Galaxy (Avatar) (2018, March). VWBPE 2018 Above the Book with Ebbe Altberg. Presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference, Sacramento, CA

This by far was the highlight of the conference as it pushes all my professional interests in one. Virtual world education, cultural competence and awareness training and gender (and indirectly sexuality as a further domain of application for simulation based learning for therapists, supervisors and trainers). In this presentation a scripted simulation involving a transwoman presenting at a healthcare facility was developed to explore cultural issues using Second Life as a safe place to explore and develop professional, culturally competent and ethical practice.

[14:10] Jeckybean Galaxy: Therefore one of our motives is to explore a few concepts related to cultural diversity, namely cultural competence and cultural humility. [Source: Inworld Chat Transcript]

Those two concepts stood out to me, namely cultural competence and cultural humility. It was a gentle but familiar reminder of my training in Carl Rogers theory of Person-Centered therapy (Farber et al. 1996; Wilkins, 2010; Tudor and Worrall, 2006) generally and two conditions in particular, empathic understanding (cultural competence) and unconditional positive regard (cultural humility).

Empathic understanding is … “to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy, and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto, as if one were the other person, but without ever losing the ‘as if’ quality” (Rogers cited in Tudor and Worrall, 2006, p. 57).

“words like ‘accepting’, ‘non-judgmental’, ‘prizing’ and ‘’respectful’ are all used to convey something of the qualities implicit in unconditional positive regard” (Tolan, 2003, p. 66)

image taken at VWBPE 2018 DeDe the transwoman: Cultural Issues & Second Life

In terms of both empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard for counsellors the use of simulations could increase the cultural knowledge (see bibliography for examples of possible knowledge not introduced on traditional therapy training courses in the UK), skills and competence of therapists to respond to their clients in a culturally competent way, with cultural humility and empathic understanding.

Through the presentation many questions began to form around the learning and training experiences needed here are a few. How can heterosexual and cisgender therapists learn to empathise with their LGBTQ clients without judgement (see Davies, 1998)? What experiences do therapists need to have to not allow their own cultural biases and assumptions to distort their empathic understanding and non-judgmental acceptance of ways of being in the world that feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar and/or unnatural to them as heterosexual and cisgender people?

The simulation in this presentation gave me an idea of seeing how to create a similar experiences for therapists, their supervisors and their trainers. To open up a dialogue with counselling students about their own perceived and actual competence with sexuality and gender diversity. Being a safe environment, therapists own attitudes towards sexuality and gender can be explored and potential bias in practice could potentially be mitigated (Boysen and Vogel, 2008).

image taken at VWBPE 2018

Closing

I am thankful to Evie Marie for asking me to take part in her exhibition this year. Day one of conference has been an opportunity to attend conference with close friends from Opensim, learn new things and consolidate previous learnt knowledge, present my own educational and practice projects, make new contacts with others in the field as well as seeing people I knew from the MA in Education in Virtual Worlds.

image taken at VWBPE 2018

You can also watch the conference through the live stream on the VWBPE 2018 YouTube channel or via the links on the VWBPE 2018 website. Below are some useful VWBPE 2018 web and social media links.

To attend the conference in Second Life use the following SLURL:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/VWBPE%20Gateway/178/128/38

References

  • Boysen, G., and Vogel, D. (2008) ‘The relationship between level of training, implicit bias, and multicultural competency among counselor trainees’, Training and Education in Professional Psychology, Vol. 2, №2, pp. 103–110.
  • Davies, D. (1998) ‘The six necessary and sufficient conditions applied to working with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual clients’, The Person-Centered Journal, Vol. 5, №2, pp. 111–120.
  • Farber, B., Brink, D., and Raskin, P. (1996) The psychotherapy of Carl Rogers cases and commentaries,’ London, The Guildford Press.
  • Grove, J. (2009) ‘How competent are trainee and newly qualified counsellors to work with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual clients and what do they perceive as their most effective learning experiences ’ Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, Vol. 9, №2, pp. 78–85.
  • Mennecke, B., Triplett, J., Hassall, L., Conde, Z., and Heer, R. (2011) ‘An examination of a theory of embodied social presence in virtual worlds,’ Decision Sciences, Vol. 42, №2, pp. 413–450.
  • Shultz, U. (2014) ‘Performing embodied identity in virtual worlds,’ European Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 23. №1, pp. 84–95.
  • Tolan, J. (2003) ‘Skills in Person-Centered Counselling & Psychotherapy,’ London, Sage Publications.
  • Tudor, K., and Worrall, M. (2006) ‘Advancing theory in therapy; Person-Centered Therapy a clinical philosophy,’ New York, Routledge.
  • Wilkins, P. (2010) ‘Person-Centered Therapy: 100 key points,’ New York, Routledge.

Bibliography

  • Baker, D. (2017) ‘Gender, Sexual, and Relationship Diversity (GSRD): Good Practice across the Counselling Professions 001,’ [PDF] BACP, Available at: http://www.bacp.co.uk/docs/pdf/16237_gender-sexual-relationship-diversity-001.pdf [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
  • Brooks, A. (2015) ‘The right side of history 100 years of LGBTQI activism,’ New York, Cleis Press.
  • Clarke, V., Ellis, S., Peel, E., and Riggs, D. (2010) ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer psychology an introduction’, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Doorn, N. (2011) ‘Digital spaces, material traces: how matter comes to matter in online performances of gender, sexuality and embodiment,’ Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 33, No. 4, 531–547.
  • Hoffman, D. (2017) ‘You and your gender identity a guide to discovery,’ New York, Skyhorse Publishing.
  • Langdridge, D. (2007) ‘Gay affirmative therapy: a theoretical framework and defense’, Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, Vol. 11, №1–2, pp. 27–43.
  • Moon, L. (ed.) (2008) ‘Feeling queer or queer feelings; radical approaches to counselling sex, sexualities, and genders,’ New York, Routledge.
  • Weeks, J. (2016) ‘Coming out the emergence of LGBT identities in Britain from the Nineteenth Century,’ London, Quartet.

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