Second Life COVID-19: a Digital Cultures survey

Tom Boellstorff and his digital alter ego, Tom Bukowski (image: Steve Zylius / UCI): launching a new study in Second Life

In June of this year, I wrote about Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in Second Life), a Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) who has a long history of engagement with, and the study of, virtual worlds and environments, who was then launching a new study, The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission (see: Second Life & COVID-19: a Digital Cultures study – call for participants).

This work, supported by National Science Foundation, in part grew out of a broader study Tom and his students had been conducting into the role of virtual environments and applications and their impact on those using them (see: Studying digital cultures in Second Life, June 2020), and which itself had suffered disruption during the pandemic, forcing Tom and his students to turn to digital tools.

The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission has involved to platforms: Animal Crossing and Second Life – with the latter being used for a series of open discussions among Tom and his students and Second Life residents interested in attending.

As we know, this pandemic has been reshaping on-line interaction; as many have noted, what we call “social distancing” is really physical distancing, and because of it, an unprecedented number of people have been socialising on-line, in new ways and for new purposes. A better understanding of these new digital cultures will have consequences for COVID prevention: successful physical distancing will rely on new forms of social closeness on-line. It will also have consequences for everything from work and education to climate change.

– Professor Tom Boellstorf, discussing The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures
in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission
, July 2020

Those meetings are still on-going at the UCI Irvine’s Anteater Island every Thursday at 10:00 SLT, however, on November 14th, Tom dropped me a line asking me to help in encouraging Second Life users to also participate in an on-line survey that also forms a part of the study. Unfortunately, an on-going family situation in the physical world prevented me for actually noting Tom’s request – so my apologies to him and his team for my tardiness in only writing about it at this point in time.

The survey should take around 10-15 minutes to complete, and is given the following purpose / description:

We are studying what people are doing in Second Life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic [to gain a] better understanding this might provide innovative strategies for preventing viral transmission by forging new forms of social closeness in the context of physical distancing. It might also help us better respond to the transformed social lives we are all destined to encounter. We would love to learn about your experiences!

From The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission survey

It is not an anonymous survey – you will be asked to give your avatar name and an e-mail address – but none of the questions are deeply intrusive, and focus on activities and interactions through Second Life.

Anteater Island  (landing point) – the location for the weekly discussions

Second Life residents who would like to complete the survey can do so here.

You can also learn more about the study to the website.

Links to Tom Boellstorff in this Blog

SLurl Details

Second Life & COVID-19: a Digital Cultures study – call for participants

Tom Boellstorff and his digital alter ego, Tom Bukowski (image: Steve Zylius / UCI): launching a new study in Second Life

Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in Second Life) is a name that frequently pops-up in these pages. A Professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), Tom has a long association Second Life as a part of his research – which has in the past produced two books – Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, (Princeton University Press, 2008), and Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (Princeton University Press, 2012). Most recently, I covered the transfer of his classes at UCI from the physical classroom to Second Life (see Tom Boellstorff: teaching digital culture in Second Life) and the result of that effort (see: Studying digital cultures in Second Life).

On Thursday, July 9th, 2020, Tom will be initiating a new round of weekly discussions on the subject of digital interactions and the impact of the SARS-CoV-2  / Covid-19 pandemic – and he is seeking the input of Second Life residents.

These discussion sessions form the core of a new study Tom is running, supported by the National Science Foundation, and which he explains thus:

The title of the study is The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission, and it is intended to examine the role of virtual cultures in the prevention of COVID-19 transmission.

As we know, this pandemic has been reshaping on-line interaction; as many have noted, what we call “social distancing” is really physical distancing, and because of it, an unprecedented number of people have been socialising on-line, in new ways and for new purposes. A better understanding of these new digital cultures will have consequences for COVID prevention: successful physical distancing will rely on new forms of social closeness on-line. It will also have consequences for everything from work and education to climate change.

– Professor Tom Boellstorff

Anteater Island: landing point

Central to the project is the examination of the implications of virtual worlds for new digital cultures, and a drive to answer questions such as how do such shared spaces using directed interactions through avatars transform things like intimacy, collaboration, the formation and extension of friendships, and help to expand cultural and social understanding / engagement.

Answers to questions like these might provide innovative strategies for preventing viral transmission, by forging new forms of social closeness in the context of physical distancing. It will also help us better respond to the transformed social lives we are all destined to encounter in the wake of COVID-19.

– Professor Tom Boellstorff

Sessions will be held every Thursday (unless otherwise stated) starting at 10:00am SLT at Anteater Commons, the central social area within Anteater Island. The series will open with a discussion on the subject of distance itself, with the session’s introductory notes stating:

One phrase we have learned since the beginning of the pandemic is “social distancing.” But as many have noted, this really means “physical distancing”; new social intimacies are forming on-line. How are they different from our on-line interactions before COVID-19?

And what does “distance” mean anyway? From its beginnings, the internet has been a technology to reduce distance. How is “distance” in Second Life different from “distance” on Facebook, Zoom, or email? How do we experience distance and closeness in Second Life, and how might this transform what we mean by “social distancing?”

Second life residents who would like to participate in the study are invited to join Tom and his research assistants on Anteater Island. Those attending should note:

  • Session are planned to last one hour, and will be held in Voice and local chat.
    • There is no requirement for attendees to use Voice if they do wish to, comments in local chat are acceptable.
    • However, attendee should have Voice enabled so they can hear all that is being said.
  • As this is part of a formal study, sessions will be recorded and text transcripts saved to help with the production of notes, etc., after each session. Screen shots may also be taken during sessions.
  • If any names, etc., of attendees are to be subsequently used in publication, permission to use names (avatar or personal name) will be sought. Those who are quoted will have the option of reviewing any statements they made  to ensure they are happy with their use.
  • The usual Second Life Community Standards / Terms of Service rules apply regarding use of language, avoidance of harassment, rudeness, etc.

I hope to be at least least some of the discussions, and may also be reporting on them and other aspects of the study through these pages.

Links to Tom Boellstorff in this Blog

SLurl Details

Studying digital cultures in Second Life

Anteater Island

Earlier this month, I wrote about Professor Tom Boellstorff, and his move to teaching his course from the state-of-the-art Anteater Learning Pavilion at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and into Second Life, as a result of the university’s desire to move classes on-line due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic (see: Tom Boellstorff: teaching digital culture in Second Life).

As noted in that article, Tom has been teaching a course entitled Digital Cultures (Anthropology 128C), utilising facilities he constructed at Anteater Island, where the students could study collectively and in working groups and also relax and socialise if they so wished.

Around 35 students participated in the course, and as a part of their work, they split into six research groups each one of which selected a specific aspect of digital culture they wished to study. Two of the groups focused on dating apps, one group studied ranking in League of Legends; one group studied the use of TikTok for education; one group studied fashion influencers on Instagram; and one group studied social interactions through virtual spaces an video games, using Animal Crossing as a reference point.

On Tuesday, June 9th, 2020, the six groups were at Anteater island, where they presented the results of their work. I was one of several Second Life users invited to attend the session (as well as it being generally open to all), and I hopped over in advance of the presentation to take a quiet look at the work and chat with Tom and the students.

Professor Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in SL) on the right, with student HannahUrban

Needless to say, it was an incredibly challenging quarter for everyone. Learning Second Life was a challenge for them (we also used Zoom), but of course the big thing was all of the difficulties due to the pandemic, from friends and family losing jobs, to working from their homes or apartments, to the isolation and dislocation. Then on top of that is now the George Floyd protests, in which many of the students have been taking a creative and active role.

So they are exhausted beyond belief, but also have done amazing work. We were originally going to have a room on campus where the groups could show off their research to anyone who wanted to come see. That can’t happen, so we’re doing it in Second Life instead!

– Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in Second Life) commenting on the course
and the move to using virtual / on-line tool sets

Student Michael Shaneman from “Group 5” studying socialisation via virtual spaces and video games, setting up his group’s presentation area.

The students I chatted all indicated they found the experience of using Second Life (none were already familiar with it) to be positive, if at times a little frustrating. Part of the latter was due to the need to look outside of the platform for some collaborative tools such as Google Docs, and part of it was down to UCI mandating the use of Zoom, which encouraged some students to step back from using SL, despite Zoom’s own lack of capabilities, such as break-out rooms.

The presentations themselves were conducted by the students in voice, using web media through a main board, with some of the groups also providing additional infographic boards in their presentation areas. Within each group, students took turns in introducing their project before walking through their methodologies – including direct interview with subject matter specialists, Q&A sessions with users and observational methodologies and then moving on to discuss their findings.

Some of the latter proved interesting. Those studying influencers, for example, noted that while followers tended to be aware they were being manipulated into potentially making a purchase, they nevertheless tended to more actively engage with an influencer and one another to form more of a community when the influencer would be more authentic in their views, outlook and appearance- and this has in turn started to alter how sponsors and brands respond to / use influencers.

Presenting findings in-world

Similarly, the group studying TikTok highlighted the fact that while it is a recent application intended for entertainment, it has taken root among “informal” educators – those wishing to pass on information / offer a means to impart information  – due to its exceptional ease of use and its brevity of video length, the latter of which encourages a precise focus on a subject / message, whilst making the information easy to digest on the part of watchers. They also noted that the platform’s unique approach to interaction and feedback had also served to increase its popularity.

For me, the study looking at virtual spaces and video games as a means of social interaction was the most fascinating. Framed in terms of the pandemic, it really underlines the extent to which perceptions are being changed in terms of how video games with social aspects and virtual spaces can offer beneficial ways for direct, positive interaction between friends and between family members forced apart by the needs of physical distancing, helping to potentially open a new era of communication / interaction.

What was particularly impressive about this entire process is just how well it appears to have worked. From initial need to move to on-line teaching, through the creation of Anteater Island without overly disrupting the students work, through to enabling the study groups to function and bring together a set of engaging and informative presentations, the entire process itself is perhaps a case study in the making – and as I’ve noted, Tom has plans for just that, and I hope to be able to bring word on it in due course.

In the meantime, Anteater Island will remain open for visitors for the next several months, and the students have been invited to add more material if they wish. For those so interested in education in SL, it’s a worthwhile visit, as is following the links below.

My thanks to Tom for keeping me informed on things, and my congratulations to all the students involved in these studies.

Group Presentations

Tom Boellstorff: teaching digital culture in Second Life

Tom Boellstorff and his digital alter ego, Tom Bukowski (image: Steve Zylius / UCI)

Professor Tom Boellstorff is someone I’ve oft written about in these pages. Known as Tom Bukowski  in Second Life, he is a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), and has a long association with the platform as he has, and continues, to engage a range of studies both on his own and in collaboration with Donna Davis (Tredi Felisimo in-world), a digital ethnographer at the University of Oregon.

Tom’s involvement with Second Life goes back to 2004, and has carried out numerous studies in-world that have resulted in a range of publications including Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human (Princeton University Press, 2008), the result of two years fieldwork in Second Life, living among and observing its residents in exactly the same way anthropologists traditionally have done to learn about cultures and social groups in the so-called real world. He has also co-authored Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (Princeton University Press, 2012) a concise, comprehensive, and practical guide for students, teachers, designers, and scholars interested in using ethnographic methods to study on-line virtual worlds, including both game and non-game environments. Alongside of Donna, he co-curates and operates Ethnographia Island, about which I first wrote in 2016 (see: Exploring disability, new cultures and self in a virtual realm), and which later became the subject of a segment of The Drax Files World Makers video series.

My own contact with Tom started in 2013, as a result of my learning about and covering the story of Fran Swenson (Fran Serenade in Second Life – see: Of Parkinson’s, Second Life and a story worth reading), and with whom both Tom and Donna worked. Since then, I’ve tried to follow Tom’s work – albeit not always successfully, so I’d like to extend my thanks to Luca (lucagrabcr), co-founder of the Virtual Existence Society, for tweeting about Tom’s latest project (so to speak): bringing his classroom and students directly into Second Life as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Anteater Island: landing point

As reported in the UCI News by Lilibeth Garcia, because social / physical distancing prevents him from teaching in his usual environment – an auditorium located in UCI’s state-of-the-art Anteater Learning Pavilion – Tom has created Anteater Island within Second Life, a place that allows him to continue to teach his course, Digital Cultures (Anthropology 128C), directly to his students without fear or risk of possible infection.

UCI’s digital cultures class is a rare sight these days, with unmasked students sitting together, often shoulder to shoulder, in a large venue and listening attentively as anthropology professor Tom Boellstorff presents a slide show. But the pre-coronavirus-style format isn’t flouting any social distancing guidelines. The class takes place in Second Life – a 3D virtual world that allows users to create communities and interact with each other – and the instructor and students are avatars.

– from Anteater Island, UCI News, June 1st, 2020

Anteater Island: the auditorium

Tom made the move to using Second Life as UCI sought to moving its teaching activities on-line as a result of the pandemic. Thanks to his long association with the platform, and while his colleagues were doubtless looking at potential options for moving their classes entirely on-line, Tom was able to capture the essence of the collaborative working spaces offered within the physical Anteater Pavilion as used by his students and replicate their capabilities within Second Life without having to confine himself to the traditional view of learning spaces as bricks-and-mortar structures.

Within the region, learning spaces are located around the coastline, offering a primary lecture auditorium, meeting areas for each student team, a display area where students will eventually display their work, and an office where he can be reached. Towards the centre of the island lies a social space where students can relax, chat and even dance, while a primary landing point providing an introduction to the island for students, and some basic notes on viewer use.

Given the course is about digital cultures, the approach of using Second Life is not only practical in terms of overcoming the issues of social / physical distancing, it is actually a potential enhancement to the course. After all, how better to get students thinking about digital cultures and how they impact / reflect / alter people’s lives, than by actually placing them within a digital environment where they can experience things first-hand, both through their own involvement in, and reaction to, the environment and through observation of their fellow students.

Anteater Island: central social area

Hence why, perhaps, Tom has also included three fun fair rides – roller coaster, sky drop and bumper cars – for students to try, as well as offering sandbox building space in the sky above the island. All of these allow students to both relax and have fun outside class time, and also experience some of the interactive appeal of virtual environments.

In a time when, thanks to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, our relationship with, and use of, on-line capabilities for communication, contact, learning and more, are being subject to so much re-evaluation, Tom notes that virtual spaces are especially deserving of greater understanding and study.

We need to get away from talking about the physical world as the real world. On-line sociality is a set of cultures that can be just as real as what is in the physical world … Virtual space gives you a sense of shared space that you don’t get with a phone call. Zoom fatigue is an interesting aspect, because I find engaging through an avatar less stressful than Zoom. There’s something lost with having an avatar, but there’s also something gained.

– Professor Tom Boellstorff, UCI

Hopefully, this is something we’ll be able to witness, as Tom plans to lead studies himself, with the assistance of a further grant from the National Science Foundation. Certainly, it’s something I hope to be able to report on in the future.

Links to Tom Boellstorff

Medical Centre granted $3.5 million to study diabetes education in Second Life

Draxtor Despres pointed me towards Second Life shows new promise as virtual forum for diabetes education, an article written by Nidhi Subbaraman for the technical section of the Boston Globe’s on-line edition.

In it, Ms Subbaraman reports on a Boston Medical Centre trial which utilised Second Life to help diabetes sufferers better manage their condition, and which has paved the way for an even more in-depth examination of the use of virtual world environments in matters of personal healthcare.

Nidhi Subbaraman writing in the Boston Globe about Diabetes studies using Second Life
Nidhi Subbaraman writing in the Boston Globe about diabetes studies using Second Life

The trial was initiated by  2009 by Dr. Suzanne Mitchell, a family physician at Boston Medical Centre and assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. The intent was to investigate whether and how virtual group sessions held in Second Life might help diabetes sufferers made changes to their eating habits and lifestyles to better manage their illness.

In particular, the trial involved African-American women, many from low-income families and / or holding down busy jobs. This demographic was specifically targeted because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office indicates that a quarter of African-American women over age 55 have type 2 diabetes, which is a significantly high percentage.

Half of the study participants attended hospital classes to help them cope with their condition, the other half were provided with computers and modems and shown how to access Second Life and attend classes in-world. As Ms. Subbabaman notes:

Some days the virtual group “met” at the Second Life BMC classroom, but the group also took field trips into the on-line world. Once, the course leaders led a session on diet and explained how slow, mindful eating was one way to control portions and manage diet. The participants found that when their avatars sat down to eat at the cafeteria location, their utensils moved very slowly, echoing the lesson. Another time the group met at an exercise facility within Second Life, where participants could try out the treadmill or exercise bikes, or take a swim.

Not only did the trial reveal the participants attending virtual activities faired at least as well as those attending regular hospital classes, it also showed that they formed friendships and their own support network, swapping recipes, and trying to encourage friends to join them in-world as well. Most interestingly of all, the study suggested that those participating in the virtual aspect of the study reported exercising more than the group that met in class, suggesting the virtual experience might result in lasting lifestyle changes.

This isn’t the first time that activities in Second Life and virtual environments like it have been shown to have a positive impact on people’s lifestyle choices. In 2012, for example, I reported on a study led by Dr. Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz at the University of Missouri which showed that people who have a strong sense of self-presence with their avatar enjoy an improved self-image and took better care of themselves health-wise, and tended to enjoy better relationships with others.

Dr. Suzanne Mitchell
Dr. Suzanne Mitchell

However, as Ms. Subbabaman reports, the work carried out by Dr. Mitchell and her colleagues has now resulted in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) awarding them a US $3.5 million grant to finance a further 5-year study into how the use of Second Life can help people diagnosed with diabetes better manage their condition.

“We know that in order to actively participate as partners in healthcare, patients with diabetes need self-management support,” Dr. Mitchell said in a BMC press release announcing the grant and the study. “What is remarkable about this study is we’ll be educating and interacting with some of the patients, and they’ll be interacting with each other, all through group visits in a virtual world.”

As with the initial trial, participants will be placed in either the control group (classroom education) or asked to join Second Life. Those involved in the Second life element of the study will not only be monitored to see how participation in in-world group session helps them better understand their condition, but also how the relationship with their avatar in general has an impact on their self-care and willingness to undertake lifestyle changes.

In this Dr. Mitchell and her colleagues are very keen to chart what is called the “Proteus Effect”. This is a term coined by Nick Yee in his 2014 book, The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us– and How They Don’t to define the increasingly complex relationship we have with our digital Doppelgängers, and how it can have a profound and often positive effect on us (also see my article from January 2014).

The Proteus Effect was very much in evidence during the original BCM trial, and was also the effect noted by Dr. Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz’s study, so Dr. Mitchell is keen to explore how deeply it may affect and benefit people afflicted with diabetes.

Currently, it is estimated that some 387 million people globally live with diabetes, and the World Health Organisation estimates that the disease could be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030. given this, studies like the one announced by Dr. Mitchell and her colleagues could offer important new insights into the ways and means by which virtual world environments could encourage better self-management for the disease.

What’s more, it is possible the results of this study could be applicable to helping people better manage a range of long-term illnesses and conditions for themselves and alongside of medical support.  As such, it will be interesting to see how this study progresses, and I very much hope that I’ll be able to carry further updates on the study in the future.

Further Reading

Don’t forget that 2015 marks the first Team Diabetes season in Second Life, raising money in support of  the American Diabetes Association. In particular, November 2015 will see the Art in Hats event, which will lead up to World Diabetes Day. on November 14th. I’ll have up-to-date news on activities occurring throughout Art in Hats in due course.

Luxembourg 1867: exploring virtual history in Second Life

The Virtual Pfaffenthal; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrThe Virtual Pfaffenthal, July 2015 (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Currently featured in the Editor’s Picks section of the Destination Guide, The Virtual Pfaffenthal is interesting mix of role-play environment and historical project which crosses over into the real world.

The project – run by the 1867 group founded by Hauptmann Weydert (Weydert), comprises 8 regions, with Pfaffenthal Vauban and Kirchberg being the most developed, although there is much evidence of construction work going on in the other regions. Kirchberg is actually the home of Fort Thüngen, which has been in operation in SL since 2012, and as such may be familiar to some SL residents.

The Virtual Pfaffenthal; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrThe Virtual Pfaffenthal, July 2015 (Flickr)

Eventually, the regions will offer a reproduction of the fortress city of Luxembourg as it appeared in the 19th Century, offering a period role-play focused on a specific point in the city’s history, as the introductory note card explains:

In spring 1867, Luxembourg is a complex military fortress, the ultimate result of a construction that took hundreds of years, a city occupied by a Prussian garrison. The Grand Duchy is an ‘autonomous’ country  and member of the Zollverein, the customs union established by Prussia. The attempt of  Napoleon III to buy the land from the Grand Duke King William the first, creates tensions among the population, trouble spreads throughout  the capital  and the country. The great nations send their secret agents and mobilize their troops, Bismarck intervenes …

However, there is another purpose to the project, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph of this article: it forms an interactive exhibit at the Luxembourg City History Museum, where visitors can come in-world and explore the virtual Luxembourg of 1867 using the Oculus Rift.

At the museum, PCs have been set-up which can be used, with guidance from staff, to directly access The Virtual Pfaffenthal. “We have two PCs set-up right now,” Weydert informed me when we met in-world to discuss the project as he prepared to host a group of visitors at the museum. “One has an Oculus HMD, the other uses a big screen. A further  Oculus Rift set up is to follow shortly.”

Visitors use prepared avatars, complete with period dress, to explore the city, guided by a young boy, Steft who tells them the history of the City from both his perspective and that of 1867.

The Virtual Pfaffenthal; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrVisitors at the City History Museum, Luxembourg, can enter The Virtual Pfaffenthal using prepared avatars such as Jang and Ammy Ecker, above, enjoying a dance on the street, to music by Steft, the virtual guide, in the background

“This has actually be quite a challenge,” Weydert confides in me as we chatted and strolled along the cobbled streets. “We didn’t want people finding themselves accidentally undressing the avatars or teleporting themselves off somewhere, so we’ve had to turn off a number of functions in the viewer.”

Not only are visitors able to time-travel in this way, and witness how Second Life can be used as an immersive experience, Weydert also offers museum visitors the museum the opportunity to learn more about Second Life itself. “I run open workshops on certain days,” he explains, “where folks can learn to create their own avatar, find out more about SL, and then continue their explorations and involvement from home. We also encourage School classes to register for the workshops, so they can learn more about Luxembourg’s history interactively.”

This aspect of the project is something of an extension of activities started at Fort Thüngen. For the last few years, this has been the focal point for workshops on virtual environments  involving the general public and schools, with sessions hosted at the Fortress Museum in Luxembourg in association with the Luxembourg National Museum of History and Art.

The Virtual Pfaffenthal; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrFort Thüngen, Kirchberg, has been in operation since 2012 as a workshop for virtual activities since 2012, and is now a part of the wider regions making up the 1867 project

The educational element of the project is of keen interest to the team, which they’d like to expand. “We want to include schools and other institutions,” Weydert told me, after a slight distraction as he assisted a visitor at the museum. “Such as classes having avatars their students can use to participate [in-world] the whole term.”

So far, the 1867 group has been run on a closed basis, but with the museum element now running, Weydert and his team are keen to open out the venture to include other residents, and grow it as an ongoing venture in Second Life.

“1867 invites residents, artists, 3D builders and graphic artists, scripters, animators, educators and other social actors to come and join us,” he says. “We want to build a community where people can come, enjoy themselves, and in the process learn from history and contribute to our growth.”

The Virtual Pfaffenthal; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrThe Virtual Pfaffenthal, July 2015 (Flickr)

Those that do engage with the community are offered free housing within the project – although they are obviously asked to keep to the period. Those interested are invited to explore the regions and  contact Hauptmann Weydert if they’d like to become a part of the group.

Beyond this, the 1867 group are also considering some pretty far-reaching plans, such as a series filmed entirely in-world within the project spaces together with a supporting comic book, in what Weydert refers to as a transmedia project aimed at engaging students and those interested in history and in discovering more about virtual worlds.

The Virtual Pfaffenthal, July 2015 (Flickr)

For my part, I spent a pleasant afternoon wandering the streets of Pfaffenthal, feeling at home in a free period costume provided to visitors from SL, and encountering a number of the residents along the way. It would be intriguing and interesting to experience The Virtual Pfaffenthal via a HMD, but I’ll content myself with future visits to see how things progress.

My only real disappointment in visiting was seeing the number of people who simply could not be bothered to read – or disregarded  – the request that they wear period costumes prior to leaving the arrival area. Considering perfectly good free outfits are clearly and readily available (you have to walk past them to reach the doors), this struck me as a shame.

SLurl and Additional Links