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September 16, 2007


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peter naegele

The Chronicle constantly plays both sides of the fence on this issue. There's an article in the issue coming out on the 21st which includes an article regarding the use of SL in the classroom.

Prokofy Neva

I think it's good that this very thoughtful and articulate piece got some very prominent expose. There's far too much dismissal of the problem of griefing and harassment, first by the makers of Second Life itself, Linden Lab, and then by their cheerleaders among the tekkie set. Oh, of course Bugeja goes way over the top with his concerns, which are probably a product of lack of familiarity with Second Life, and the actually rather full set of land tools that can mitigate a lot of griefing and control the experience for groups like classrooms.

Still, he is absolutely right to raise the issue of crime and liability for litigation -- this never gets enough really serious thought, and is too easily dismissed by those waving away bad actors and their disruptive actions merely because they are online and pixelated.

While he may be blinkered in not having kept up with the official blog or the host of third-party blogs flogging the issue of crime and punishment (like mine), it's normal in that he is a normal guy at a normal university asking the common-sense questions. We need more people like him to come at Second Life and kick the tires, as it is entirely too precious and entierly too swathed by its fanboyz and dependent tech media and corporate-sponsored blogs.

The real issue Bugeja is addressing is how the university can maintain its liberal, critical environment against the pressures of the rampant extremist ideologies gaining amplification and viral spread through social media and the SL platform. His concern, I gather, isn't just that students see all kinds of offensive racist and abusive and hateful content, but that it corrodes their minds and souls and makes it impossible to pass on the values of liberal Western civilization. And rather than screaming FUD and Luddite, more people should be worried about this than are.

Alan Levine

Well-placed comments, Bryan. The author did elaborate on several points to the SLED listserv (SL Educators) citing the difficulty of being comprehensive in the limited word count available... for the PRINT version (a whole other thread for perhaps a Chronicle 2.0 might be to ask why the limits of print publication extend to the web??).

As a sidebar, we are hopefully ready soon to share the results of a survey we did of 200+ SL educators in May. On the question of negative experiences, one of the common responses was in the area of harassment and a desire to feel "safer" from attacks.

What was even more interesting was when we split by gender, it was evenly distributed. I am not in any way advocating any sort of policing or systemic monitoring, but it is worth noting that a common shared concerned -- in a virtual world where you cannot be physically harmed -- is feeling safe and free from virtual harm.

This will play out more as it seems the participants in SL are nudging over the line from the early innovators (Prokofy's fanboyz) who are/were a lot more comfortable in thw wild wild virtual west.


What made me sad when I read Bugeja's piece was that people considering the use of SL for education will read it and think this guy has any idea what he's talking about. As you rightly point out, much better and more useful criticism has been written elsewhere. His article was filled with fear, half-truths, and a shocking unwillingness to consider any of a number of possible solutions for the problems he sees. The title itself, "A Second Look at Second Life," is misleading - this is not the work of someone who was an enthusiast and then discovered SL's flaws. It seems Bugeja feared SL from the first time he laid eyes on it. I had to respond with my own blogpost, and I'm glad you did too.

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