I’m on a couple of learning curves at the moment. The gentler one of them is Google Wave (more of that in a later post). The other, steeper curve, is Second Life. Both of them have reminded me of what it’s like to be a new learner, unsure of the next step, wary of making silly mistakes.
So how am I learning? I’m learning with others, and in Second Life I’ve been lucky to connect with a community that really welcomes new learners. The only stupid n0ob questions here are the ones that remain unasked. So, thanks for the warm welcome Second Lifers and Jokaydians, it’s been an eye opening couple of months.
I’m relatively new to Second Life, only really getting involved during the Jokaydia Unconference at the end of September. Since then I’ve taken a few opportunities to join the Jokaydian community to further my Second Life experience and step a few rungs up the newbie ladder.
A couple of weeks ago I followed a tweet from @jokay and joined a Jokaydian foray, via Second Life, into Story Quest. We met on the beach, geared up with backpacks and wal(k)ing sticks and, after watching the introductory video, we were transported by Marty Snowpaw to our destination.
On arrival it was immediately obvious that this was a carefully crafted world. The lighting, objects and ambient sounds all combined to create an immersive experience (even on my lowly laptop) that drew me in straight away.
The underlying narrative was intriguing. The story appeared to revolve around a recently deceased man and presented itself, to me, as an interactive biographical puzzle. Who was this man Uncle D? What had happened to him? Plot elements and Easter Eggs were tantalizingly revealed as I explored (under the able mentorship of Jennette Forager). I discovered references to “The Scarlet Letter” and I couldn’t help but read underneath it, seeing HIV/AIDS as the 21st Century badge of community shame. Was this Uncle D’s story? There were hints of sickness, of debilitating illness, of euthanasia. Where was the story headed?
I know I could have discovered more if I wasn’t still learning the tools and I have a feeling the whole experience had much, much more to offer; a biographical narrative unfolding in tiny slices, equal measures of entertainment, education, mystery, wonder and enlightenment. It was a powerful virtual experience, with a genuine emotive connection, made all the more real by the participants, writers and designers. It just may be that virtual worlds are evolving into the next iteration of the narrative genre. I wanted to dig deeper, but unkind timezones precluded further exploration and I was subsequently left with many questions unanswered. Were the characters real or fictional? Was this the story of an individual or a shaken cocktail of many?
As a novice in Second Life I’m still a bit of a lurker, listening rather than speaking, observing instead of participating, but if ever there was an experience to engage people in virtual worlds or virtual learning environments, this would surely draw them in. Thinking with my teacher head- how much more powerful is a story that can be co-experienced with peers at a personal pace, with discoverable details that promote thinking, dialogue and multilogue between students?
All I know is that I’m going back, to discover more, to find the next clue, to read the next chapter, to know what happened, to complete the quest.