A programming professor on our campus is writing his dissertation on Second Life so the Professional Development Committee offered a luncheon for him to introduce it to any faculty or staff member who might want to have a peek.
It's interesting to sit with a group of 25 people who are new to or haven't really heard of Second Life before: what they ask, what they find funny. Perhaps what I find most interesting is just how funny they find it. How they find the fact that there is prostitution in 2nd life funny. That "newbies" being ostracized or exploited is funny.
I wish I could say that they found it funny "odd". But it seemed to me, and I emphasize "seemed", that they found it funny "ha ha".
What exactly is it that's funny?
Is it just new? Is it the avatars that you can make into almost anything you want what causes them to laugh? That notion that their sense of physcial self can be altered or self created?
I am still new to Second Life and I am still trying to figure out what I think of it. I am still awed by it. I read a lot about it, I play in it, I try to think creatively about it. But I also spend a lot of time trying to think critically about it. And that's what I felt was missing from this presentation. It was just a show and tell and people just looked on and laughed.
Need I say that I wanted a whole lot more?
And that got me thinking about how technology is presented. What are the implications of throwing technology like this at people? Often times, people are so concerned with "keeping up" or "adapting" that I wonder if they defer their critiques and considerations of it. This is a dangerous place to be in, especially with so many technologies being introduced, one might never have the time to critically examine the place of the technology in their lives or the impact of the technology on society. There is no decision making, just complacency.
I am advocate for play. I am an advocate for experimentation. But I think there is a lot of effort to include people in something without giving them the tools to evaluate it. Second Life offers a great many opportunities to a wide variety of people with a wide variety of purposes. But there are also a number of issues it presents that warrant examination.
As the technologically literate or experienced bring people into this world, we have a responsibility to those that believe us or trust us to show them more than one side of the coin. In the academic world, as Second Life, and other technologies, take root, should libraries be working with faculty and the institution to shape the presentation of these new and exciting worlds. How do we create a culture of adaptability that emphasizes critical examination? And how do we do that without putting a damper on the thread of exploration and play?