Starting earlier this year in 2008, the Kira Institute went through a major transformation, beginning with the addition of new board members to the remaining two of the original founding members, Piet Hut and Steven Tainer. The new Kira Board members are Saki Bailey, Stormerne Hunt, Stephanie Smith, Davina Chan, Eiko Ikegami, Robert Magrisso, and Zenon Pylyshyn. These members together represent a diversity of disciplines and backgrounds including: astrophysics, contemplative traditions, cognitive science, psychology, sociology, history, medicine, law, and computer science.
In the later part of August of this year Saki Bailey, the new Kira Treasurer, began to work full time on revamping the Kira Institute to begin the process of applying for grants. Five members: Saki Bailey, Stormerne Hunt, Piet Hut, Stephanie Smith, and Steven Tainer began to meet in Second Life on a weekly basis to discuss the future of the new Kira, to redraft its Mission statement, and to establish its identity as an interdisciplinary institute based in the virtual world. An interdisciplinary institute seemed a natural way to explore the "What else is true?" question in a variety of contexts, and Second Life provided an ideal playful environment in which to engage in this line of inquiry.
After many weeks of deliberation and revision, the Board converged on a new Kira Mission Statement (thanks to Steven Tainer who was central to this Mission rewriting effort.) The new Kira's explorations in science and "science in context" are guided by three principles: pluralism, critical thinking, and playfulness. Kira provides a gentle hand in guiding informal social networks in Second Life to maximize the learning and discovery taking place during "play."
This new mission spawned several new initiatives in addition to its first initiative "Play as Being." The Kira Institute's vision of a virtual interdisciplinary institute is made up of three components: the Kira Virtual Campus, the Kira Cafe and the Kira Science Park. The idea is that the Kira Cafe acts as the social network hub for Campus and Science Park collaborations, the Campus provides infrastructure support, and the Science Park harnesses the resources of the Kira Campus and its collaborations, connecting each with research being conducted in real world science research and education institutions. For more go to current initiatives. Kira Team and Virtual Institute Emerge
As the vision for the new Institute developed the five most active Board Members took on more defined roles within the Virtual Kira Institute (VKI), forming the initial core of the Kira Team.
Piet Hut: Director of the VKI
Steven Tainer: Program Director for VKI Campus
Stormerne Hunt: Virtual Worlds Coordinator and Science Park Exhibits Curator
Stephanie Smith: Kira Cafe Outreach Coordinator
Saki Bailey: Executive Coordinator and Project Manager
By mid October the marvelous Kira Cafe was complete (thanks to our very talented Virtual Worlds Coordinator Storm Hunt), the new Kira website was launched (thanks to creative and energetic Executive Coordinator Saki Bailey), http://www.kira.org/, we began to host events (thanks to the very resourceful Stephanie Smith and Piet Hut), and Kira applied for its first grant, the New Digital Media and Learning Competition.
In this same month we gained three new members to the Kira Team: Robert Knop as Kira Campus's Sciences Faculty Advisor, Ken Brady as Science Park Outreach Representative, and Yuko Wada as our Kira Japan representative. Ken's company Genkii will be the first group in the Kira Science Park working on a potential Intel funded Open Sim collaboration. Below is a brief description about these new team members and what they offer to the Kira Institute.
Robert is currently a Productions Operations Engineer at Linden Labs, the company that created and runs Second Life. He was a Research Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University where, prior to taking up a position with Linden Labs, he taught Physics and Astronomy. Robert draws upon his unique combination of RL teaching experience and SL network connections in providing Kira Campus faculty and participants with academic support and guidance for collaborative projects taking place on the Kira Campus within Second Life.
Ken is CEO of Genkii, a Tokyo-based strategic consultancy focusing on social media and virtual worlds. As a Science Park rep Ken will be responsible for promoting the Kira Science Park to the computer science community. Ken draws upon his substantial tech network which spans both sides of the Pacific in promoting Kira at Conferences in the US, Japan, and China as well as in working together with his partners to assist in the incubation of projects within the Kira Science Park.
Yuko is a two-time Kira Summer School alum, and works as a writer and translator in Tokyo. She got an MA in International Relations from Boston University, and has held various positions as executive in data management and as supervisor for international cultural projects. Yuko will be applying for grants for Kira in Japan and coordinating events and outreach efforts for the weekly Japanese Bar Talk events in the Kira Cafe. So far, board members Piet Hut and Eiko Ikegami have already given lectures in Japanese at these Bar Talks. Yuko has been working to put up a Kira Japan version of our website and is also meeting with Jun Doi, the first "Linden" in Japan from Linden Lab (creators of SL) who is interested in potentially using Kira's virtual institute model to market Second Life to Japanese organizations.
Kira Cafe and How to Get Involved
The Team's activities from September on have primarily centered around the Kira Cafe and its series of events on "science and science in context." These meetings include Kira Alumni Mixers and Happy Hour, Bar Talk Language Evenings in five different languages (Dutch, Japanese, German, Finnish, and French) and Joint Hosted Events. Go to Events for a complete list and specific details on dates and times.
A recent highlight of the Joint Hosted Events was the Kira/MICA (the Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics) event, which took place on October 27th and November 10th. MICA held their "Ask an Astronomer" Q & A sessions featuring MICA Director Curious George, George Djorgovski in real life, Professor of Astronomy at Caltech and Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Computing Research. MICA is also hosting their regular "social hour" on November 5th and November 12th at the Cafe. Click here for Articles.
In addition to these regular events we are in the process of scheduling short talks by individuals (20-30 minutes) on their current research or areas of interest. Kira Board Member Eiko Ikegami just gave a talk on November 12th in Japanese on her paper, Avatars Are For Real: Virtual Communities and Public Spheres.
To find out how you can get into Second Life and attend one of our events or to give a talk click on the Second Life URL on our home page and check out our page on Second Life Basics. If you have any questions or would like to find out how to give a talk please contact Saki Bailey at .
As you can tell we have been growing very fast as an organization in a short amount of time and are continuing to grow. This month we have focused our efforts on applying for grants, hosting groups in the Kira Cafe, hosting exhibits on our Science Park, and continuing construction on the Campus and Science Park sites. We have also been meeting with a representative from Second Nature, Nature magazine's Second Life presence, about exciting prospective Kira/Second Nature collaborations in the near future.