Con-Fusion about education in Second Life

Incorrect thinking: just because a campus region is empty of other avatars doesn't necessarily mean it is "abandoned" (image: UWA campus, Second Life)

Incorrect thinking: just because a campus region in Second Life is empty of other avatars doesn’t necessarily mean it is “abandoned” (image: part of the UWA campus, Second Life)

Second Life (with a nod to the Lab’s Project Sansar) has enjoyed some reasonably good press of late. We’ve seen articles in the likes of Xconomy.com. Variety Online, Re/code, Gamasutra – good golly, Miss Molly, even Moviepilot is getting in on the act.

However, there will still be pieces out there which reflect poorly on matters. Not so much where Second Life is concerned, but on their authors. Such is the case with

We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life.

Patrick Hogan: writing to underline a preconception

Patrick Hogan: writing to underline a preconception?

As one might expect from such a title, this isn’t a reasoned discussion of the whys and wherefores, both good and bad, on the use of Second Life for educational purposes. There is no mention of the work of universities such as Texas A&M, as featured in episode #19 of The Drax Files World Makers, or that of the University of Western Australia. There is no highlighting of the struggle schools, colleges and universities faced as a result of the axing of the education discount or the resurgence of interest following its re-introduction; indeed Mr. Hogan demonstrates he’s not even aware there is an educational discount.

Similarly, no insights are given into how the platform has been used to assist with medical training among nurses and surgeons alike.  There is no pointer to the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) run by the  Universidad de San Martín de Porres (USMP) in Perú, now in its third year, which helps Spanish-speaking educators get started with Second Life simply because it is in demand as a platform for education, and so on.

Nor, frankly should we expect there to be any such discussion, because Mr. Hogan doesn’t appear to be so much interested in Second Life as he does about underlining his own misconceptions about the platform which, like his opening comments, seem to be firmly rooted in 2007.

So does this mean we should ignore what he has to say? No, not at all. Looking through his other articles, Mr. Hogan seems to prefer to skim his subjects with the aim of offering something of a lighter look. As such, he may well be open to gaining a little more educated about this particular topic.

Certainly, and with a view to addressing the readership of the piece, its subjective nature and the misconceptions evident within it should be corrected, starting with the false premise of the piece itself (an “empty” region is in no way indicative of it having been “abandoned”).

These arre not the educational uses of virtual worlds Mr. hogan was looking for...

These are not the educational uses of virtual worlds Mr. Hogan was looking for…

Of course, had he really been interested in his subject, Mr. Hogan could have contacted the Lab, asked a few questions, received some pointers towards various education-related organisations and communities, and been on his way and filling his little corner of Fusion with relevant observations, positive or negative.

But he didn’t. He preferred the lazy route, walking the same, tired furrow that’s all too familiar and boring. His article even manages the obligatory reference to porn that is considered de rigueur for such pieces (check the title byline).

That he does opt to walk this line is really to his detriment, rather than it being any reflection on those who use Second Life or the platform itself.

21 thoughts on “Con-Fusion about education in Second Life

  1. draxtor™ (@draxtor)

    I said it on various occasions: this is more than anything such a failure of media and how commercial [advertisement based] journalism on and offline operates & fails to do what journalism is supposed to do: inform the public! Yes, you can say “COme on Drax, why do you take that stuff so seriously, this is some badly written exploitative thingie that people forget by the time they have a second cup of coffee!”. I would say no: this stuff cements stereotypes and widely held opinions about SL, look at the Twitter response to that article. This type of “parachute” journalism is having a corrosive effect and must be challenged: in comments and tweets and letters to the editor!

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  2. Paypabak Writer

    I believe Mayo Clinic has been operating successfully for close to five years in SL. I love Drax’s “parachute” journalism. Sometime you wish the chute hadn’t opened, but alas, falling in SL, no matter from how far up, is not fatal.

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  3. Maya Rosenstar

    Well, for me it tells two things.

    It’s a long road until SL gets out of its 2007-2009 “fame”.
    Nowadays people are even more confused about what is SL, what to do there (cf the author complains about campuses looking too cliche or not enough).

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    1. Inara Pey Post author

      SL will never live down the reputation(s) is has in the past gained, sadly. However, as the articles I pointed to (and other pieces such as Cecilia D’Anastasio’s very excellent Avatar IRL, it is possible to move beyond the stereotypes. The real problem in this day and age, is that many don’t want to make the effort. Regurgitation is the rule, rather than research.

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      1. Bernhard Drax

        I disagree a bit with the reputation = there seems to be good direction with the media as you aee stating yourself, positive, nuanced articles, acknowledging successes while not glossing over issues.

        I also have to add that I meet people everyday who for whatever reason have NO opinion of SL, they do not remember the hype, they do not recall the “scandals”.

        I liken this to a politician getting caught in a highway restroom but 10 years later can easily run on a “I AM A FAMILY MAN” platform because people’s attention span is sooooo low…
        Now THAT is where Linden Lab can really focus and boldly go where they MUST go!

        Having said that: the media echo chamber is REAL and won’t stop regurgitating as long as it gets them clicks….

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        1. Inara Pey Post author

          “Having said that: the media echo chamber is REAL and won’t stop regurgitating as long as it gets them clicks….”

          Which is precisely my point about SL never living past reputations down – because there will always be those continue to take an easily-grabbed Google spade and throw the familiar weak stories at the screen over and again. They are the focus of my comment, not the world at large – with regards to whom I’m in agreement with you (and have said so myself) in that they are indifferent enough to SL for a number of reasons such that they haven’t formed any opinion.

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          1. Bernhard Drax

            I agree of course Inara as I agree with pretty much everything you say🙂 I do believe that if we collectively [and smartly] push back against the echo chamber & their minions we can reclaim our narrative! Small steps against a big machine yes of course but it must be done, it is our collective responsibility as residents of this wonderful world!

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            1. Inara Pey Post author

              Focus on the Kevins among the minions. The Norberts will always be out there & won’t be dissuaded😉 .

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              1. Bernhard Drax

                I do not watch Hollywood movies [anymore if I don’t have to] but since I am not blind I have seen little yellow thingies with goggles on posters. I am sure this may be a reference to these?

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                1. Inara Pey Post author

                  I wondered if the reference might be vague. You need to see the first 20 seconds of the original Minions movie trailer…

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  4. John

    I bet this “reporter” probably went to the SL Destinations guide and did not even check out other institutions who may not even be listed in the SL Destinations Guide. It is of course easily to focus on the negative for a reaction instead of the positives. Great article Inara, glad I could help you out!

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    1. Inara Pey Post author

      Many thanks for the pointer🙂 . I had a lot more to say – including the fact that the article does demonstrate some of the fundamental weaknesses within SL – such as the Destination Guide, for the reason you mention, and the fact that to get anything near a clearer view of all that goes on in SL in any particular area does require hand-holding of one sort or another. However, I opted to focus down on the main points I wanted to make.

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  5. Ciaran Laval

    The only real area I have any sympathy with the Patrick Hogan is regarding empty locations. If you’re not familiar with Second Life and you go somewhere, it’s not an unreasonable expectation that other people might be there.

    Having said that, I’m not sure that the middle of August is the best time to be visiting educational institutions and expecting them to be heavily populated.

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  6. aevallegalicia

    I’ve come across quite a few of these articles that have somehow been accepted by publication, even though it’s pretty clear that the authors are clueless about the subject matter. Just goes to show that the publishers are also fairly clueless (otherwise, these “parachute journalists” wouldn’t see the light of day).

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    1. Bernhard Drax

      I am not sure that they are clueless, I think the editors of these publications are simply concerned with getting clicks and therefore greenlight any pitch that has a ring to it or resonates with something that seems to be working for their competitors. SL is such an easy target so in that regard!

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. aevallegalicia

        Point taken, at least in some cases. I’ve seen far too many articles printed in academic venues, though, that had the editorial board been involved in virtual world platforms, they would have seen the word “NOOB” screaming from the report that they approved for publication.

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