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The virtual world makes self-development possible

According to a doctoral dissertation, using virtual worlds for learning and self-development require a new understanding of people.

In his dissertation in the field of art education, MA Owen Kelly examines how virtual worlds can be used as learning tools. The research was influenced by the observation that earlier, virtual worlds were often unsuccessful in one way or another.

'As the research progressed, we peeled the layers off this core question until we reached the fundamental question: When we talk about people learning, what exactly do we mean by “people”? says Kelly.

He answers this question by saying that people are stories all the way down. According to Kelly, it is essential to recognise this fact so that virtual worlds can be used as tools for learning, well-being, therapy and personal growth.

'In contrast to common thinking, there is no unchanging, real self that we use as the foundation for building our identity. Instead, a person is a collection of different stories that he/she regularly edits and illustrates again. For example, when we tell someone else about our memories, we change them a little every time. This is how we constantly "reinvent ourselves", explains Kelly.

Virtual meditation spaces and 3D diaries

The dissertation is based on the Marinetta Ombro project carried out at Arcada University of Applied Sciences, during which students and teachers built a digital version of Rosario Island in a Second Life virtual world. The project revealed how people think, feel and act inside synthetic worlds.

Based on the results, Kelly developed prototypes of different miniature virtual worlds, which can be used as tools for self-authorship and development. The virtual worlds were created with the OpenSimulator 3D application platform and intended for individual users. Adults, parents and children each have their own space.

'The aim is to be able to use the virtual worlds that I created as meditation spaces and 3D diaries. They include simple games that serve as oracles by providing users with image and text material to consider.

Public examination of the doctoral dissertation

Mr Kelly will defend his dissertation ”Ambient Learning and Self Authorship” at noon on Friday 28 August 2015 at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Media Centre Lume's Sampo Hall, Hämeentie 135 C, Helsinki. PhD Bryan Alexander, National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education NITLE, will act as the Opponent. The dissertation is available for order from the Aalto University online bookshop shop.aalto.fi. Please send any enquiries to [email protected],or call +358 50 313 7086.

Further information:

Owen Kelly
tel. +358 40 511 5844
[email protected]
Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture

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