Saturday, March 03, 2007

Getting Into Second Life

We are finally "into Second Life."

I am an associate professor in Instructional Technology at the University of Northern Iowa. I must admit that I have "fiddled" with Second Life for about 6 months. This means that I have ventured onto Second Life and then retreated. Not because I couldn't "do" SL. It was because I saw the incredible attraction of the site and realized that this spot could consume a GREAT DEAL of my time.

Recently, our whole division decided to approach Second Life and explore it as a venue for delivering/exploring/experiencing instruction and learning. On Thursday, all six of us went on-line together and explored various spots. An interesting aspect of this process was that 5 of us were sitting together in a classroom at the university while I sat at home and explored it from a distance spot. I could have gone into school as well, but thought it would be fun to be the "distant explorer." We also integrated Skype so that I was part of the oral discussion that ensued.

We had our Techie guy kind of leading us but each of us had done some previous exploration or had friends who had suggested places to explore.

Presently, we are exploring what it would take to create a learning center in SL. We want to see what it would cost to get "enough" land. We need to find out how to create each of these buildings. We are discussing sharing spots with other institutions.

I have met a number of people/avatars on SL. It is another accessible market for friends/colleagues/potential students that will change our lives. Communication is the main motivator for progress. Consider the evolution of communication. Bell developed the telephone in 1875. This provided individual voice communication. Marconi and a number of other inventors across the globe developed radio broadcasting in the 1880s. This provided a broadcasting of information over large distances. The basics for television also began in the 1880s but the video communicator didn't become common in households until 1950s.

The Internet was made accessible to the public in the early 1980s. It became commercial in 1985. The Internet had a crude interface that Dante himself couldn't have conceived. But it was actively used because it provided a person - to - person seemingly immediate connection that could connect throughout the world. In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee created the basics for the World Wide Web (Wikipedia says that he used a NEXTcube as its first server.) The WWW provided a graphic interface for the Internet as well as a relatively simple way for folks to publish and share their ideas for all of the world to enjoy.

This progression went from 1-to-1 voice (phone), 1-to-many voice (radio - corporate controlled), 1-to-many video (Television - corporate controlled), 1-to-1 text (email), 1-to-many text (listservs), 1-to-many graphic (websites - personally controlled), 1-to-many video (YouTube et al - personally controlled). Now we have the wonderful virtual world (like Second Life) where we can have 1-to-1 connections but I can walk through places that are of interest to me and meet other people who have similar interests. This will expand my personal network and help me build communities that are not geographically limited.

As I wrote this short and simplified history of communication, I realized that there are many aspects that I have left untouched. The evolution of audience can also be followed here. Directed audience as with a phone call. The expanded audience that is only limited by access to a receiver (radio or TV) or channel (cable TV).

The important aspect that I am trying to portray here is that we are social animals. Communication is what will always push a technology into acceptance. Since we can't teleport to other places in the world and universe (ala Star Trek), working within a virtual world can provide close second where we can experience and create desired realities.