Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Intro to Second Life and Art Education

You have probably heard of Second Life, but you may be surprised to learn about the magnitude and scope of  this rapidly growing 3-D virtual world. The 2 million residents of Second Life (SL), represented "in-world" by customizable avatars, can buy land, construct buildings, run businesses, and communicate using text or voice. Created in 2003, this multi-user virtual environment (MUVE)  offers just about any activity or service that you can imagine in our "real world." There are daily live concerts and performances, shopping malls, role playing sites, international embassies, dance clubs, art galleries, and sex shops. Among the more intriguing developments for teaching and learning in the arts is the rapid growth of sites within SL devoted to education, art, and librarianship. Many universities are purchasing SL properties and offering courses and other resources to their students and the public. An example is Vassar College's virtual recreation of the Sistine Chapel, which allows the viewer to experience the interior of the chapel in the context of space. To visit, one is first prompted to create a free (basic) SL account, then link to the "sURL" that transports users to the site. A growing number of museums have also created an SL presence, such as the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden's Old Masters Picture Gallery of the Dresden State Art Collections.  Visitors who are unable to travel to Dresden can view the 750 permanent pieces of the collection in a true-to-scale clone of the museum.  But Second Life does not lack controversy and criticism.  Educational administrators are expressing growing concerns about ethics and legal liabilities.  Others long for more innovative and revolutionary ways to articulate space and display visual works, which would not be bound by the limitations of real life physics and practices, nor simply replicate real world places.  The tools are in their infancy - much like film mimicked theater in its early days, these virtual worlds are largely expressed with real-world conventions.  It will be fascinating to see how they develop in the coming years.


Mr. S said...

I realize your post is from over a year ago - surprise no comments. I am glad I found it and want to thank you for information provided. It has helped me a great deal in my thinking about 2nd Life.

Elaine Paul said...

Thanks for the nice comment, Mr. S. I am glad you found it helpful.