The Virtual Life

14 Mar

Second Life classroom in the LMVU Psychology Department

When you hear the word “Avatar” what do you think of? Most people would picture the blue James Cameron creation and one of the most popular Halloween costume this year. However, for a growing number of tech-savvy Internet pioneers, they know it as something much more.

Dr. Richard Gilbert, a professor of psychology at LMU, is an expert on the study of virtual worlds and spoke to our class the other day on the science of Second Life. Though many mistake this online virtual world as a video game, Gilbert insists that Second Life is more of a culture than anything else. In fact, were Second Life an actual physical nation, it would have enough landmass to be considered a part of the United Nations. Now that’s a little more impressive than the Sims.

Second Life is even beginning to change the way people do every day tasks. Gilbert and colleagues are working on developing LMVU (Loyola Marymount Virtual University), where students would log into Second Life and use their Avatars (the users’ virtual representations of themselves) to attend class in the virtual world. Lectures would be streamed live through the simulated projector in the classroom and would be just like you were in a normal classroom.

But does this kind of virtual interaction really replace the atmosphere of being inside a real classroom? I think that the technology that Second Life offers, though revolutionary and a close second to the actual experience of being inside an actual classroom, will never be fully able to replace the student-professor interaction that can only come from being in the same room at the same time.

As open-minded I am to advancing technology, I don’t know that the virtual world is a replacement for the human interaction that comes from being in a classroom. I think that society has become too reliant on technology in the first place. I hate to admit it, but there are occasional days where if I didn’t have to go to class, the only human interaction I would have would be via the Internet or cell phone. While this type of technology may be useful for classes of large lecture halls, I think that the most influential lessons can only arise from in-class discussion between professor and students.

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2 Responses to “The Virtual Life”

  1. Professor McDonnell March 14, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    But what if a virtual classroom allows you to interact with students in remote places, whom you couldn’t access otherwise?

  2. binnakim March 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    I agree. I think people nowadays are too dependent on technology. I’m not saying I don’t because I do – it’s just sad how there are many times where tech gadgets run our lives for us.

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