Kira Spring & Summer Newsletter - The Kira Institute
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Kira Spring & Summer Newsletter


Kira Spring & Summer Newsletter

Kira has rapidly evolved, over the last few months, into an even more democratic and decentralized organization, in tune with the more open and porous nature of virtual worlds, especially of Second Life. Specifically, we have formed a Kira team, and we are in the process of switching towards an all-volunteer structure of the Kira Institute.  One trigger for this switch was that we have realized that the funding climate is unfavorable for Second Life based activities. While there is funding available for “bread and butter” philanthropy organizations with an SL presence (third world and urban poverty, life threatening illnesses, and K-12 education) there is little funding for Kira's type of community building activities. Thanks to the kind support of the Kira “Senators”: Barry Hershey, Maxine Anderson, and Piet Hut, we were able to keep fulltime staff in place over this last year, who were critical in establishing a base for Kira's activities in Second Life as well as in guiding the formation of the Kira Team.  Starting this fall, however, we'll embark on our new all-volunteer adventure.


Kira Team

The Kira Team is a group of 16 volunteer members, involved in Kira activities in some capacity either as workshop leaders or as outreach, coordinative, and technical support. The Kira Team began meeting once a week starting at the end of April of this year.  The first project was to clarify the original Kira mission resulting in a new mission, blending the old Kira vision of a “synthesis between involvement and universality,” with its new objective in Second Life to provide programming in the form of workshops, exploring topics in science, technology, art, and the humanities that are useful for society, well informed, and offer fresh perspectives and insights into the nature of human existence.

The goal of the Kira Team in the coming months will be to decide how to promote this new mission and ensure Kira's continued growth of workshop offerings. Click here for more on the Kira Team.


Moving Towards a Volunteer Sustained Organization

Since our last newsletter, Kira has gone through a number of changes, the most recent change being Kira's shift to a completely volunteer run organization. The Kira Team will completely takeover the operations of the Kira Institute in Second Life, with the Kira Board continuing to function as a guidance and oversight body. Many of the Board members are also members of the Kira Team and will continue to actively support its activities on a volunteer basis.

The first Kira Team Chair, starting this week in his new role, is Adams Dubrovna. Adams has been a long time member of Play as Being and hosts a workshop with Kira on Art History, exploring the presentation of art in the virtual world as well as the history of art in the real world.

Adams Dubrovna, as the RL avatar, Donald Beetham, has been an image librarian at Rutgers University for more than 30 years, managing a collection of almost a half million images in various media. Before that he studied architectural history at the University of Pennsylvania, developing an interest in the progression of architectural styles in Anatolia from Byzantine to Seljuk to Ottoman.

We are very lucky to have Adams as our first Kira Team Chairperson. Welcome Adams!


Looking Back on the Highlights of this Year: Kira 12th Birthday Event

On February 24, 2009, the Kira Institute celebrated its 12th birthday with an academic international symposium, "The Future of Virtual Worlds: the Possibilities for Science and Civil Society" conducted in both New York and Tokyo where the Kira Campus in Second Life was shown on a big monitor screen at the Uchida Yoko Tokyo Shinkawa Office.

At the Kira Café , the proceedings of a lively discussion held between Japanese researchers logging in as avatars from the Tokyo forum and the American researchers logging in from New York were displayed on a life-size monitor screen in Tokyo. This first ever publicly open international conference simultaneously connected the virtual-world and the real-world as an experimental endeavor exploring the possibilities of virtual communication. Speakers included Junichi Ushiba, Assistant Professor of Life Information Science at Keio University Department of Engineering on “Neurological Interface and the Virtual Realm” and Eiko Ikegami, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at The New School for Social Research on “Possibilities of Virtual Worlds for Civil Society.” To read more see Kira Japan in the News.

The US event featured a Q&A discussion panel with the Kira Board, a booth circle of Kira events, and field trips from our Science Park to other science related sites.


Continuing Development of Workshop Program

Kira's workshop program continues to flourish, in addition to our four original workshop offerings: Science at Play, Dream Workshop, Philosophical Seminar and Ways of Knowing, we added 7 more workshops this year.  These workshops explore a broad range of topics from science and high tech to economics and comparative law.

Two of these workshops were offered jointly by the Kira Institute and the Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics ( Here they are below in more detail:


Relocatable Labs in the Metaverse: Prospero Frobozz (Rob Knop), Curious George (George Djorgovski), Caledonia Heron( Stephanie Smith), So Ku (Adam Johnson)

ReLaM is a weekly talk forum to learn about leading edge projects taking place in virtual worlds and provides an opportunity to hear about projects and research, ask questions and engage in a dialog with the project innovator.

ReLaM is also a nexus for the speaker community to meet and network with each other. The ReLaM network is a focal point for virtual world leaders to share their experiences and collaborate with each other. The technologies showcased at ReLaM highlight the depth and breadth of the ground breaking work taking place in the virtual world community. ReLam's impressive list of well known speakers were selected and the sessions moderated for the first three months by Piet Hut and the second three months by Stephanie Smith.  Past speakers include: Henrik Bennetsen, Associate Director, Stanford Humanities Lab, Greg Nuyen, CEO of Qwaq, Mic Bowman, Intel, David Levine, IBM's TJ Watson Research Center, Bruce Damer, and Crista Lopez of Open Sim.


Stellar Dynamics:Piet Hut, Rob Knop, George Djorgovski, Adam Johnson

This weekly workshop discusses how to set up N-body simulations in virtual worlds, starting with Second Life, and moving on to OpenSim and other worlds. The wiki will provide a complete open-source description of our algorithms and their implementations, together with elementary introductions to the mathematics and physics of Newtonian gravity, and numerical methods used to solve the differential equations that correspond to Newton's laws. Another aspect of this workshop is a collaborative effort called “AstroSim.” AstroSim stands for Astrophysics Simulations and is a collaborative visualization project in Second Life.  AstroSim comprises a software package that has been produced by Arturo Nakasone and coworkers, from NII, the national Institute of Informatics, in Tokyo, with assistance and feedback from colleagues at NAOJ, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, also in Tokyo, and IAS, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, USA.

The primary objective of the project is the development of a visualization tool within Second Life and in Open Sim, an open source version of Second Life, initially for playing back previous simulations, and ultimately for real-time visualization of simulations running elsewhere.

Additional Programming

Here are some more of the workshops added this year, please click on the links to read more:

Time Workshop: Case Vyper (Adam Frank), Fefonz Quan, Lia Rikugan,  

Quantized Theories of Economics: Quintessential Sorbet

Art History Workshop: Adams Dubrovna (Don Beetham) 

Reality Lab: Vishnu Duranjaya (Rajesh Kasturirangan)

Kira Interdisciplinary Science Seminar: Vic Michilak (Phil Youngblood)

Comparative Law: Genesis Zhangsun (Saki Bailey)


Updates on Other Programs

Group Hosting Update: Spirit of the Senses

Kira continues to host groups that align with its mission of providing quality programming exploring science, technology, art and the humanities. This year we have been honored to host Spirit of the Senses.

Since the summer of 1983 when Thomas Houlon created Spirit of the Senses, this Phoenix based cultural organization has created more than several thousand art, science and cultural experiences called The Salon, which are candid conversations with talents and thinkers on their work and ideas.

Enhancing the salons with the architecture of private homes and spaces, Spirit of the Senses Arts and Cultural Organization provides a means to exchange ideas, question opinions, wonder about new possibilities, learn about our world, and appreciate the visual and performing arts. Members enjoy the art and cultural salon in a relaxed and inviting way in homes and private spaces in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and other Arizona cities.

In addition to the art and cultural salon created in the metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona area, Spirit of the Senses Directors, Thomas Houlon and Patty Barnes offer art, science and cultural salon tours to the New York City area for their members.

Speakers include Adam Frank, Professor of Astrophysics and author of “The Constant Fire,” artists Thoth Jantzen and Jan Northoff, Rita J. King, CEO and Creative Director of Dancing Ink Productions LLC  and many more.


Kira Japan and Kira Japan Language Evenings Update

Kira Japan launched its website in February of this year : and the Kira Japanese branch officially opened at the time of Kira Institute’s 12th birthday celebration in February 2009. Now, Kira Japan is getting ready to start a couple of monthly workshops, which include Japanese language study workshop, Medical education workshop, Reading Club, Japan Sim tour for foreigners. There will be more in coming months.

Since the 12 year Kira celebration, weekly cafe talks in Japanese have been regularly held at the Kira Cafe inviting various specialists. Thanks to the hard work of the Kira Japan Core members, Kira Japan has quickly become known as one of the most intellectually active sites in the Japanese speaking SL world. Topics and speakers at cafe talks include: 'Sign language and SL' by Yumix Writer; 'SL from a viewpoint of an architect' by Terra Zehetbauer; 'Beyond Snow Crash' by Hyo Yoshikawa; 'The Way of the Samurai: a Marshal Artist's View' by Ryuji Racer; 'Pandemic Influenza; what SL can do?' by Naoki Turbo.  In addition, RB Lemon, a medical doctor in RL has been also conducting a monthly 'Medical Education Workshop' while a Japanese Sim tour has been organized for foreign SL users.

The Japanese language evenings are at Kira Cafe every Tuesday 6:00AM (SLT)

The Virtual Kira Japan Team

Eiko Ikegami (Kiremimi Tigerpaw in SL): Kira Japan Representative

Yuko Wada (Almond Andel in SL) : Kira Japan Executive Coordinator

Rina Yamada (Rianna Demina in SL) : Kira Japan Webmaster

Michio Ozaki (Panda Kidd in SL) : Kira Japan General Program Director

Richiko Beppu (marube Oh in SL) : Kira Japan Academic Program Director

Piet Hut( Pema Pera in SL) : Kira President (ex officio)


Play as Being (PaB) Update

Theme Meetings

Starting last November Piet Hut/Pema Pera and Steven Tainer/Stim Morane engaged in a series of talks on the concept of “Being” and the PreHistory of PaB. Since the beginning of this year the Guardians initiated a series of dialogues with one another on a variety of themes including: Dreams, the nature of Knowledge, No Self, “Appreciation and Being,” and “One and Many” comparing Islam with “Being” to name just a few of those sessions. Please see PaB Theme Sessions for complete list.


28 Guardians Milemarker: A letter from Piet Hut/Pema Pera to the Guardians!

Thanks to Dakini (Rhode,) Play as Being has reached its first major milestone: to populate the 28 sessions each week with 28 different guardians, so that nobody has to take care of more than 1 session each week, as the goc (guardian-on-call).

This is wonderful news. We have had this goal in front of us, ever since the guardian system was started, almost exactly a year ago; see the PaB Chronicles (

Thank you, Dakini, first for providing PaB with the place in SL where it all began, your tea house in Rieul, a year ago, and now for letting us reach our milestone with your kind offer to take the last open weekly slot!

And thank you, all other 26 of you who play a goc role, week after week, to keep PaB running as a place to meet every 6 hours.

And thank you too, all other guardians: your help of taking over the role of goc, when one of the regular gocs can't make it, is another essential ingredient in keeping PaB running so smoothly!

Congratulations to all of us!!!

PaB Chronicles and 1 Year Anniversary

Play as Being had its one year anniversary on April 1st, 2009 with a marathon starting 2 weeks before where many PaB members attempted to attend every single one of the four meetings a day in that time period.  Sleep deprived and immersed in Play as Being, the participants arrived on the 1st to a completed "PaB Chronicles," a project undertaken by Adams Rubble and Corvuscorva Nightfire.  Here is a brief snipped from this stunning 13 chapter chronicle.

"How does one write a history about the wind or the warmth of the sun on the body?  Every day PaB looks much the same. There are four sessions six hours apart. Like the wind, people come and go, different groupings of people. There are large groups and small groups and sometimes no groups. There is the ebbing and flowing of energy like cloudy and sunny days. At times Pema has thrown out a challenge to stir us up and it generates shared energy and we find ourselves all excitedly talking about our common experiences. Other times energy has come from one or more of us getting stirred up and describing our own surprising experiences. Sometimes others can relate to our experience, sometime not, but always to the passion of reaching out to that which we do not see, or we think we do not see."

Fore more see PaB Chronicles.

Play as Being Retreat at the end of August

Piet Hut, assisted by Steven Tainer is offering a five-day retreat at Pema Osel Ling ( between August 24-28 2009 for Play as Being participants. While founded by a Tibetan Buddhist group, the retreat center itself hosts groups oriented along any kind of different philosophical, humanistic, and spiritual angle. We will take up some of the main themes that we have explored online in Second Life, centered around appreciation, integration of contemplative practice, and mindfulness in an intensive manner through 20-30 minute sitting meditations and group discussions. For more information on Piet and Steven and retreat details please see the Play as Being Five Day Retreat page.  This retreat is still open for PaB participants.  Please get in touch with Saki Bailey, Program Manager for more details at  

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