Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making dead historians come alive as chatbots in OpenSimulator 1

One of the fundamental design problems of educational games is the embedding of school content that would not disrupt the game play. To embed history content in my Philippine History game project I am going to explore the use of chatbot avatars. My plan is to use the Radegast Metaverse client for this purpose. OpenSimulator does have code for NPCbots but it does not work in the current ( version and I don't want to rollback my server.

I am going to try to create three chatbots for my demo of the concept. Three historians from the Spanish Colonial era, namely Antonio de Morga, Francisco Baranera, and Jose Burniol. De Morga was a liuetenant general of the Philippines in the 1595-1598. He wrote the book Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609) wherein he wrote about early colonial rule of the Philippines and more importantly a description of our ancestors at the time in a chapter. Rizal annotated and republished his work in the 1800s.

Baranera and Burniol are Jesuit priests who wrote history textbooks for Ateneo Municipal. Baranera wrote Compedio de la Historia de Filipinas (1884) while Burniol wrote A History of the Philippines for Class Use (1912). The former was during a time when Spain ruled the Phillipines while the latter was after Spain's defeat by the Americans.

From my reading of Rizal's curriculum in Ateneo and UST, it appears that Philippine history is taught only in Secondary school i.e. Ateneo Municipal and not in the university.

Why do I find it interesting to sample old history books (and by Spaniards even)? Well I grew up with history textbooks written by Filipinos. And most of these books were from a nationalist perspective. Almost all of them start justifying the need for a new history book written by Filipinos and for Filipinos. But I was wondering why? What was wrong with the histories written by the colonizers. What was this bias and prejudice that I heard so much about in these books? Just like any sources in history, these books are products of their time. I think students will benefit a lot from comparing these books from different periods of Spanish rule of the Philippines, with those from the American era, and the era of the Republic. It would be great to see how the historical context affect the histories themselves. What is the difference between a winner's history from a loser's perspective? What is the difference between Baranera and Burniol? I think there are  more questions about history and historiography that we can generate through a comparative approach to the study of Philippine history books.

Of course reading one history book is difficult enough, why not bring all the authors in class and interview them about their histories? This is what I will use chatter bots for. To achieve this plan, the first step is to create an avatar. Here is my interpretation of de Morga.

compare with a painting of de Morga....:-)

Unfortunately I do not have paintings of Baranera and Burniol, so I'll just use some generic (to me at least) European looking teachers for them.

Next post will be about how the chat went... I'll need to hit the books and work on aiml files.

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