Alright, alright. So I have seen “Second Life” in a bunch of academic, peer-reviewed articles in reference to supporting learning activities. As in, “the post graduate course used a range of social media technologies including Facebook, Delicious, blogs, wikis, and Second Life (a virtual world) to support a variety of learning activities” (Dabbagh, 2012). So I figure, okay, in the interest of higher education, let’s see what this is all about.
Oh my goodness gracious.
It’s like my beloved video game Myst had a baby. Or a bunch of babies. And then they all became programmers and started writing themselves. (For those born after 1990, Myst is an early puzzle game that provided hours of obsession for those who wanted a virtual world experience with awesome graphics – but no bloodshed, guns, or zombies.)
Second Life was born at Linden Labs, a cyber tank specializing in creating virtual experiences. Although they’ve got a mysterious “Project Sansar” brewing that is slated to herald the next-generation of virtual creation, Second Life is currently the “internet’s largest user-generated 3-d world.” I’ve only just begun to explore this strange new world and I can see the obsession. Who doesn’t want to fly around an island and chat up people nearby? Apparently you can listen to music, buy and sell goods, and converse with people from all over the globe.
I gave myself five minutes of playing and then cut myself off. (I have spent hours playing Myst I, II, III, IV, and V and I know how quickly one can enter the wormhole.) However, out of curiosity, I googled screenshots to see what further adventures the world might hold. Most of the images that I found were sexual: a Second Life Batman with an erect penis, avatars having sex with each other, avatars dressed in gear that would make a music festival blush. Apparently, Second Life is an excellent forum for all kinds of fantasy. I also found a number of interesting images showing real-life photos of users with their uncannily twin like avatars. This world, no doubt, has become much more than just a game to many of its players.
But how one turns Second Life into a learning experience, I have to yet to discover. That exploration might require more than five minutes of screen time to find out.
I will tread cautiously. And bring a timer.
Dabbagh, N. & Kitsantas, A. (2011). Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. Internet and Higher Education (15), 3-8. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002
Image courtesy of Creative Commons.