Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Get a (second) life

Last month's discussion on Second Life led by Sheila and Ridvan raised some fascinating questions (and not just "Why would anyone want to do washing up in Second Life?").  Sheila, for example, compared meeting an academic colleague in Edinburgh with meetings with the same colleague in Second Life.

I'm sure studies are already being done on the matter, but I'd like to know what gets lost in Second Life meetings, and what is gained.  Sharing a physical space with someone obviously overcomes problems with different time zones, but how significant is it that the meeting occurs in an environment over which neither party has much control?  If one person wants a hot room and the other a cold room, this would be achievable in Second Life.

How sensitive are people about their avatars?  I presume that many features of an avatar can be changed.  If so, can they be discussed without embarrassment so that potential causes of distraction can be removed?  In real life, requests to modify distracting elements of behaviour or appearance are unlikely to be conducive to harmonious meetings.

The discussion at our next meeting (13 October) will be led by the legendary Nigel Ford, author of over 100 books and papers that bridge (or should that be Ford) the gaps between information studies, education, artificial intelligence, and probably lots of things of which I'm unaware.

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