A Second Helping of Second Life

So, like mentioned in class, let’s talk Ideal vs. Reality:

The Ideal

As I’ve heard it described and have read, the assets that SL brings to pedagogy seem to be focused mostly on accessibility. Ideally speaking, SL lets a student from half a world away have the same experience as a student sitting in their dorm room on campus, if the class is taught within second life. Infrastructure exists to facilitate reasonably educative environments, such as projectors with slide shows, lecture venues, and even large-scale object manipulation for the purpose of displays.

Additionally, Second Life allows, at least theoretically, for robust object creation, limited only by how far the creators are willing to go. A history course could, for example, use dozens of small models on a miniature ocean, timed to move independently in set patterns to explain fleet movements in the Pacific in World War II. Or you could visit a recreation of the Apollo 11 landing site (someplace I’ve been).

The ultimate goal of Pedagogy in SL is to attempt engagement on a level of technological sophistication. I believe what must fundamentally be the ideal is that this is the precursor to future digital environments, so get on board now. Even if it’s only half-realized now, being here now will mean better things later.

The Reality

Tumbleweeds. A lot of tumble weeds.

As we saw in class, and I hope some of you might yet get to experience for yourselves, there’s a lot left to be desired in a professional and pedagogical sense in SL.

Most desirable? People. I had thought I would go through several other virtual campuses in SL, showing everyone what they look like, but the truth is, you saw all you needed to see at Wolverine Island. Every one of the schools I went to was a ghost town, with myself the only inhabitant. It was almost a post-apocalyptic feeling, as if I woke up to find the world intact, but all the inhabitants gone. The nice seating areas on Wolverine Island for the classes that don’t seem to be held made me feel very lonely – the exact opposite of what should be the goal of as socially derived of an environment as SL should be. This extended to a handful of other sites I went to in SL – museums, public art spaces, colleges, municipalities, memorials – all of them empty.

The fact of the matter is that the people are the only real component missing in-world, if you strip away the mundane technical issues, at least in the not strictly-social realm. Without fellow digital denizens, your presence there is just a waste of time.

I’d be interested to read in other blog posts what else strikes people about Second Life, mostly on a professional/pedagogical sense. I came out pretty strong in class against my own technology I’d Facilitated. I’d love to see someone else take up the gauntlet and show me I’m being too hasty.

Admittedly, the night clearly wasn’t a total wash. When else can you say “I saw Daffy Duck bumping and grinding Bugs Bunny in class tonight” other than where Second Life is concerned?

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2 Comments

  1. I also went to a couple of universities and museums in SL and came away feeling a little lonely. It made me appreciate real life more, and the fact that doing things in real life (first life?) aren't nearly as hard as in SL. (Except flying…that I wish I could do in real life!) I did talk with one person, but it felt really disjointed. When having a conversation in real life, we can read each others facial expressions and read body language, which we can't really do in SL effectively. When having a conversation in a chat room (do they still have those?) you see even less (none really) of the person so the flow of conversation is even more difficult. So I guess there's a hierarchy of "ease of conversation"…chat rooms are the hardest, then SL, then real life. I wish I could come up with something really positive to say about SL, but right now it feels disjointed.

    Reply

  2. It's ok that you couldn't think of anything positive to say – I didn't really expect a throng of people to take up the challenge.I'll try to post my own silver lining to SL – I think it'll be a rather large footnote in the history of our inevitable Matrix/Holodeck styled total immersion simulations. After all, you can't deny the level of work and detail available to SL users. While I think the clumsy interfaces do it no favors, I think even the most eloquently designed simulated environment would suffer the same setbacks SL does if it persisted in the format it does. The medium becomes extremely visible after hours online, but this is true of any virtual space I've been in yet, be it SL, There, WoW, City of Heroes, Star Wars Galaxies, etc on down to Ultima Online.Until I am purely incapable of telling the difference, the difference will drive me away eventually.

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