We have users! I believe these are the first sustained end-user explorations of Croquet worlds anywhere on the planet – and the users themselves did the development of those worlds!
I think the University of Minnesota earned the title of first-use of Croquet over a year ago. Using the Jasmine proof-of-concept, Mark McCahill and his team set up a pre-populated Croquet environment for some exercises in a graduate class in instructional technology for Rhetorics.
Now the University of Wisconsin has a timetable course in Art that is using virtual studios in Croquet to make ideas about critical discourse more concrete. (Ironic!) It is difficult for art students to learn to step outside themselves and see their work as others see it. In this class, students are importing and arranging various aspects of their work as a studio presentation cum ePortfolio. The artists include: influences (as images and Web pages); sketches at various stages to show the evolution of the idea; and the finished product. The artist and their fellow students annotate these with critiques. The application, called “Critiquet”, was funded in part by the university’s Engage program to transform teaching and learning through technology. The class is in progress right now, and I have no pedagogical results to report yet. However, Professor Michael Connors, who developed the class, did demonstrate Critiquet as a possible example of the future of Art Criticism during a panel at the Southern Graphics Council Conference this week.
<%image(20060409-critiquet.jpg|1280|541|A Critiquet Studio)%>
Separately, a group of mostly administrative staff have been meeting informally on campus for about a year to share issues and best practices across university departments. This group, called The Quilters, was asked to share their ideas as a poster and workshop at a campus-wide exhibition called Showcase. A few weeks ago, they heard about Croquet and decided to present their work within a virtual quilt. Since then, members have created their own worlds in which they presented ideas through text, pictures, and Web pages. The portals to these worlds were brought together like panels in a quilt. Visitors come to the common quilt and explore the panels they are interested in, leaving comments and additional material so as to continue weaving the quilt/story/dialog. It’s like a community network of multi-media blogs and wikis. The range of technical skills in this group varied from those who examined the network packets between computers to those who were just learning that alt-b meant to hold down the ‘alt’ key while pressing the ‘b’ key. It is inspiring to see what they were able to produce during their spare time over a couple of weeks. The result is a 3D site far richer than any Web “site” that could have been professionally put together over the same time span. The group was rewarded with a Showcase award for “Most Interactive” presentation. They plan to continue working with Croquet as it develops, perhaps presenting a follow up for next year’s Showcase.
<%image(20060409-quilters.jpg|1267|673|The Common area of the Quilt. The user is about to open the panel into Jim's World.)%>
<%image(20060409-quilt-jim-1.jpg|1101|665|The entrance area of Jim's World.)%>
<%image(20060409-quilt-jim-2.jpg|1096|680|An area of Jim's World in which he has arranged two fully functional Web browsers and a comment board in between.)%>
Both Critiquet and the Quilters used UW’s Dormouse version of Croquet, which is the first to allow users to add things to a space interactively over multiple sessions. These users started with a blank space and populated it with media that they collectively brought in from elsewhere, and which they collectively arranged and annotated.