Category Archives: Second House of Sweden

Second House of Sweden invades House of Sweden

…and the Second House of Sweden project comes full circle as it takes over a room in the (real-world) House of Sweden in Washington DC. Today, everything is ready — studio unreal has been putting the final touches on the installation, press photos have been taken, and at 7pm tonight (1am Swedish time) the inauguration takes place.

I took some photos of the real-world half of the installation. You can see the whole set on Flickr.

You too can visit the installation just by showing up at Second House of Sweden in Second Life.

House of Sweden Goes Virtu-Real: 8 January – 16 March

Happy 2008! And now back to work experimenting with public diplomacy in virtual worlds…

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I’m currently in Washington DC at the (real) House of Sweden, which houses Sweden’s Embassy to the United States. I’m here because on Tuesday, January 8 we’re inaugurating an art installation at the (real) House of Sweden that exists partly in Second Life. The installation is one of several in “Innovation & Technology”, an aptly named exhibition highlighting Sweden’s tradition of technological innovation that runs until March 16.

Everyone is invited to attend the virtual opening of the installation, “House of Sweden Goes Virtu-Real”, at Second House of Sweden in Second Life. Here is a sneak preview…

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If you’re in the (real) House of Sweden, you’ll approach a glass wall through which you see a continuation of the room in Second Life. There is also an old Ericsson phone there, with which you can make a phone call to the visitors of the room in Second Life.

If you’re in the room at the Second House of Sweden, one side of the room is continued in the real-world embassy. Here too you’ll find a phone, which you can use to call people at the embassy.

The installation was conceived by studio un/real + TEAM, a Stockholm-based architectural collective with roots at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), and funded by the Swedish Institute. You can see some of the team members at work on the installation in the photos above.

The official inauguration is at 19.30 Washington DC time, or 1.30 Swedish time (i.e. early Wednesday), and everyone is invited, but if that time is a bit inconvenient for you, drop by anytime during the day on the 8th, as we’ll be putting the finishing touches on the installation and showing off the exhibition to the press.

Report from the Sweden.se Film Festival

So what did we learn by holding a film festival in Second Life? We got the answers to several questions we had. We even got the answer to a question we hadn’t asked ourselves.

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Here’s what we wanted to learn by holding a two-day festival of Swedish short films: Can you sustain a multi-day event in Second Life? (Will people show up to the second day?) Can you show a half-hour long film in Second Life? (Is the technology mature enough for half-hour films, and is Second Life conducive to this kind of sustained attention on the part of avatars?) Can you generate a meaningful debate on film in this context? And the question we hadn’t asked — What happens when a griefer shows up, intent on disrupting the events?

I’m glad to say that yes, multi-day events are sustainable. The festival was attended on both days, but there was an even bigger audience on the second day, likely due to word of mouth.

Technically, too, a half-hour film is sustainable. Everything held up, and we received no complaints about the quality of the video image. Subtitles were legible (though we wrote a memo to self that they could be a bit larger in the future).

As for film debate — here the audience proved a bit shy:-) But this may be because Second Life residents are not necessarily film buffs, and were instead just there for a good time watching an interesting movie. In any case, as the commentary in the screenshot below shows, members of he audience had no qualms in making their approval known, even if they didn’t have so many questions for the directors and producers.

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Click on image to enlarge

On the first day, just as the film got going, a griefer interrupted the proceedings by having his avatar wear a processor-sapping item of clothing and later by having photos flying around. This is the first time since the opening of Second House of Sweden that we’ve had to deal with a griefer, and it was a good reminder that we need to be vigilant. It took us a while to pin him down and ban him, in part because he managed crash our Second Life clients before we knew what was going on.

Before the next day’s events, it was time to beef up security measures — we simplified the banning process for the entire region, and also learned som tricks for quickly identifying a griefer and ejecting him before his antics become a nuisance. We had no further trouble, while the griefer did us a favour by reminding us to stay on our toes.

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The Sweden.se Short Film Festival in Second Life: Three films, two days, one virtual screen

On 22-23 November 2007, the Second House of Sweden is hosting a series of three critically acclaimed Swedish short films at its amphitheater in the virtual world of Second Life. The producers and directors of the films will be on hand to introduce their work; after each viewing, join them in a discussion of their films.

Anyone in the world with a broadband Internet connection can take part. Here’s the programme:

Thursday, 22 November, 7AM Second Life time (4PM Stockholm time, 11PM Shanghai time):

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Music for one apartment and six drummers (10 minutes — 2001)
Six drummers participate in a well-planned musical attack in the suburbs. As an elderly couple leaves their apartment the drummers take over. On everyday objects they give a concert in four movements: Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom and Living room.
Kostr film

Sweden/Sverige (8 minutes — 2000)
On the Swedish south coast a man is gazing out at sea. He pulls out a compass and finds north. He starts to run. Three days and three nights later he reaches his goal: Treriksröset. He has passed the state of Sweden.
Kostr film

The directors of these two films, Ola Simonsson och Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, will be present at the viewing to discuss the films.

Friday, 23 November, 7AM Second Life time (4PM Stockholm time, 11PM Shanghai time):

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Punkspark (29 minutes — 2007)
Three young punks (the Sex Pistols kind) occupy the garden of an Upper- class family to organize a punk rock music festival…
Audience award for best short story film at the Gothenburg Film Festival, Audience choice for best short film at the Jönköping Film Festival
Stavro Filmproduktion AB

Both the director, Johan Löfstedt, and the producer of Punkspark, Patrik Axén, will be present at the viewing to discuss the film.

How to visit the Second House of Sweden:
First-time users of Second Life: Get a free account at http://www.Sweden.se/secondlife. Download and install the viewer (Windows, Mac or Linux), log on and you will be instantly transported to the Swedish Institute’s island. There, a short orientation course teaches you the basics of navigating Second Life. After about 15 minutes of training, you’ll be ready to join the activities at the Second House of Sweden.

Seasoned users of Second Life: Using the map, search for “Swedish Institute” and teleport there. You can also use this SLurl.

Contact info:
International media:
Susanna Wallgren, susanna.wallgren@si.se, +46 8 453 79 65

Swedish media:
Jenny Hagblom, jenny.hagblom@si.se, +46 8 453 79 22

About the Swedish Institute:
The Swedish Institute (SI) is a public agency that promotes interest in Sweden abroad. SI seeks to establish cooperation and lasting relations with other countries through active communication and cultural, educational and scientific exchanges.

Download this press release as a PDF (3MB)

Swedish Lesson #4: Report

On Monday we had our final Swedish lesson in a series of four that we’ve held over the past six weeks. We already had some great feedback from the first three lessons, and had learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and how we can make it even better. I wasn’t sure if many people would show up for the final lesson; but in fact, we had more than any other previous lesson, and from an amazing range of countries: Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan and Scotland are some that I remember.

I’ll be writing up our findings properly in the coming weeks, but here is a quick preview of my thoughts: There is a lot of demand for Swedish lessons out there from people who don’t have easy access to such lessons; immersive distance learning works, but the learning curve can be steep; it’s important to have structured lessons; and finally, instead of just asking people to show up, a better model may be to have people apply, and then use Second Life as the immersive aural part of a course, complemented by worksheets and video that they can watch at their leisure. But we’ll see — it certainly is promising to be able to reach people who would otherwise never have any “face time” with a live Swedish teacher.

Finally, there was also a film crew from SVT, Swedish television, in the room when the lesson took place. Look out for a report by them next week!

Many thanks again to Lars Larsson (aka “Kvint Larsson”) for his pioneering role as virtual Swedish teacher-)

Linnaeus exhibition opening report

Wow.

It’s difficult to know beforehand what kind of turnout you will have for an event in Second Life. Because one sim/server can only really host a maximum of 60 simultaneous users, there is always the small risk that your event is way oversubscribed. But you also never know until the event starts whether anyone will show up. The hardest part to get right, I’ve found, is getting the word out about an event to the right people, so that you get the ideal group of 50-or-so enthusiastic collaborators.

And that is precisely what we got for the inauguration of the Linnaeus exhibition at the Second House of Sweden last Friday, November 2. I wrote “collaborators”, because a large number of visitors we’re fully dressed in 18th century period costumes, to take part in the costume competition. It was quite a sight to see the Linnaeus garden and room filled with such finery. The pictures do it more justice.

You can see my whole set on Flickr here. There are more shots taken by Linn here.

Another bit of technological finery was on display when we broadcast a 7 minute video interview with Anders Backlund, a lecturer on pharmacognosy at Uppsala University and a Linnaeus expert. Because Anders was on a plane at the time of the inauguration, I recorded a Skype video conversation with him earlier in the day — me in Cairo, he in Uppsala, then shown to everyone in Second Life. It’s a mash-up of existing technologies (I used Ecamm’s Call Recorder) but the overall effect worked really well. All this was broadcast “live” using Wirecast to a Quicktime Streaming Server run by Qbrick.

When the film was over, it was time for the judging of the costumes. Swedish SL builder Kaja Lurra and my SI collaborator Nex Canning and I were the judges, and after a lot of agonizing, we came up with three winners. Congratulations to the first prize winner, Kissowa Kamachi (who got L$20,000) second prize winner Freyja Nemeth (L$15,000) and third prize winner Ran Garrigus (L$10,000)!

Don’t forget, there is a plant-building competition running this whole week, with more prizes.

Carl Linnaeus comes to Second Life on November 2

In his three-hundredth anniversary year, Carl Linnaeus is branching out — into a virtual world.

On Friday, November 2, at 4-5pm Stockholm time (8-9am Second Life time), the Swedish Institute is inaugurating a new permanent exhibit about the famed Swedish scientist at the Second House of Sweden, Sweden’s virtual embassy in Second Life. To kick off the exhibit in style, we’re planning a range of activities.

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About the exhibit:
The exhibit consists of the Linnaeus Room inside the Second House of Sweden, and the Linnaeus Garden, on the archipelago. You can teleport between them.

  • In the room, watch Herbarium Amoris, a photographic tribute to Linnaeus by Swedish photographer Edvard Koinberg. (www.herbariumamoris.se)
  • Pick up a free PDF book about Linnaeus, available in nine languages (a L$2600 value, USD$10)
  • Discuss the scientific question of the week posted on the Linnaeus300.com website.
  • In the garden, enjoy the typical Swedish flowers, each one hyperlinked to more information.

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There are special events planned on Friday, November 2, 2007:

  • Inauguration — Linnaeus garden, 4pm: Director General of the Swedish Institute Olle Wästberg opens the exhibit. Anders Backlund of the Biomedical Centre at Uppsala University — Linnaeus’s alma mater — discusses the relevance of Linnaeus today.
  • Costume contest 4-5pm: Come dressed in your finest 18th-century costumes to be eligible for prizes. Best costume wins $L20,000, with second and third prizes at $L15,000 and $L10,000, respectively. Winners will be announced at 5pm in the Linnaeus Room.
  • Film documentary — all weekend: In the auditorium, watch “Expedition Linnaeus”, a full-length documentary on Linnaeus by the noted Swedish photographer Mattias Klum. The movie will be looped continuously for the duration of the weekend, so you can discuss it with others as you watch it. Film viewings are courtesy of Sandrew Metronome. (Swedish, with English subtitles)
  • The Linnaeus plant-building competition, November 2-9: If you’re a Second Life builder, submit your plant to the garden — the best plants win prizes: First prize L$50,000, with second and third prizes at L$30,000 and L$20,000. Winners will be announced after the contest ends on November 9. (Full contest rules available at the garden.)
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    See you there!

    How to visit the Second House of Sweden:
    First-time users of Second Life: Get a free account at http://www.Sweden.se/secondlife. Download and install the viewer (Windows, Mac or Linux), log on and you will be instantly transported to the Swedish Institute sim. There, a short orientation course teaches you the basics of navigating Second Life. After about 15 minutes, you’ll be ready to join the activities at the Second House of Sweden.

    Seasoned users of Second Life: Using maps, search for “Swedish Institute” and teleport there. You can also use this SLurl.

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    Second House of Sweden: Some metrics

    Several institutions thinking of doing something like the Second House of Sweden have been asking us for metrics. As we’re a public agency, we’re only too happy to oblige, especially if it encourages further projects like this:-)

    Overall, we get between 300 and 400 visitors per day to our two sims. Around 80 people per day register via our branded online registration page www.sweden.se/secondlife; the others teleport in. These numbers are an order of magnitude smaller than the visitor numbers of the websites that the Swedish Institute manages, but such a comparison would be deceptive, for two reasons:

    1. The pool of potential visitors for the Second House of Sweden is limited to Second Life users, and conservative numbers put that figure at around 1 million regular users, vs the 1.25 billion that use the internet.
    2. The experiences of visiting the Second House of Sweden is best compared to visiting a real space, because that is what it is trying to emulate. How many visitors does a real-world cultural center get in a day? What is the cost involved in servicing these visitors? What would the cost be to bring visitors from far-flung places, where there are no such cultural centers, to a real-world cultural center? When these kinds of questions are asked, building a virtual embassy makes eminent sense.

    Several metrics support our conclusion that the embassy makes for a good proxy for a real-world Swedish cultural experience:

    We already know that the users of Second Life are technologically savvy, curious, and future-oriented — that’s sort of a prerequisite for being in Second Life, and it is exactly the target group we believe is most receptive to the message that Sweden is a modern, tolerant, nature-loving country. But we also know that our visitors are incredibly spread out geographically. Look:

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    Furthermore, we also see our visitors spending a much longer time at the embassy than on a conventional website; around three times longer, in fact: (This charts shows average visit length)

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    From these charts, we conclude that it makes good sense to experiment with Second Life. It allows us to pursue immersive and prolonged cultural contacts that have a clear social aspect — the latest example being the free Swedish lessons we are currently giving:

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    Finally, some other stats that may be of use; here’s when most people visit, in Second Life (=California) time:

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    Basically, European evenings are the most popular times to come by.

    Free Swedish lessons: Oct 22, Nov 5

    Join us at the auditorium of Second House of Sweden for free Swedish lessons on October 22 and November 5 — at 4pm Stockholm time.

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    Instructor Kvint Larsson will use voice chat technology and a live video stream to take you through basic conversational Swedish. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions about the Swedish language. The lessons take about an hour.

    October 22’s lessons will take place at 7am Second Life time (4pm Stockholm time). November 5’s lessons will take place at 8am SL time (4pm Stockholm time), because daylight savings time will have ended in Sweden by then. Please calculate your local time accordingly.

    Directions to Second House of Sweden: Second Life is not a physical place but a virtual 3D world that is accessed using a special viewer that you can download. Once logged into Second Life, you can travel to Second House of Sweden, which is on the “Swedish Institute” island. The lessons take place at the auditorium, near the main building.

    To get started in Second Life, get a free account and download the software here. The first time you log in you will land at a special training area near the Second House of Sweden. Expect to spend around half an hour downloading the application and learning to use Second Life, so be sure give yourself enough time before the lessons begin.

    To hear the teacher, you will need to turn on voice chat. You can do this in the preferences window of the Second Life viewer. You also need to have Quicktime installed in order to see the streaming video. If you have iTunes installed you have Quicktime installed. Otherwise, you can download it here.

    Swedish for beginners – next lesson: Oct 9

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    On October 9 at 7am SL time (4pm Stockholm time, 10am New York Time) we’ll be having another installment of our series of free Swedish lessons for beginners. They’ll be held at the auditorium of the Second House of Sweden on the Swedish Institute sim in Second Life. Join instructor Kvint Larsson for a half hour of basic Swedish followed by a period of free-form discussion – for example for questions from people who may already know some Swedish.

    Second Life is not a physical place but a virtual world that anyone with a computer and a broadband internet connection can reach. To take part in the lessons if you have never been in Second Life before, start here. You will be asked to download some software, open a (free) account, and then begin with a tutorial. If you want to attend the lessons, give yourself at least half an hour to download, install and familiarize yourself with the controls.

    Last week’s lesson provided us with some valuable feedback as to what works and what doesn’t. This next lesson will be a lot more structured, as requested by those who attended. See you there!