Today I did some exploring and research into universities that still have their sim worlds online. I was sort of hoping I would be able to find one that had some signs of life. I had read an article about the University of Western Australia leaving the sim after many years ( http://uwainsl.blogspot.com.au/) and also this article about touring abandoned universities by Patrick Hogan (http://fusion.net/story/181901/we-took-a-tour-of-the-abandoned-college-campuses-of-second-life/) and I got to thinking about whether they were all university ghost towns or not….Turns out, they mostly are. It was a thoroughly disheartening and lonely experience.
(Update: After I wrote this…THIS incredibly wonderful news came out on the UWA blog…http://uwainsl.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/uwa-sims-saved-through-31st-july-2017.html )
The most lively university campus was Harvard which I visited after reading this post (http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2016/09/harvard-berkman-second-life.html). There were 4 people (including me) in the sandbox. I am not sure what any of them were doing, I didn’t see any rezzing or building going on. I did a tour of the whole campus and met an Avatar (the movie) Ikran who did NOT want to be flown no matter how many times I jumped on him like he was a trampoline.
Then I got cheeky, thinking about squatting and building and how awesome it would be to have a little house at Harvard….turns out they have an auto return on items. So while I was learning to build a very blocky couch right near the abandoned admin building, my little prim house went POOF! Right back into my inventory. And so my hopes of being an eternal student resident at the second life campus of Harvard were dashed.
I visited one campus where I met someone in an empty classroom who just liked to go there for the “quietitude”. He said I was the first person he had seen there in 3 months. It was an incredibly well set out university with a set for making films, art gallery, classrooms ready to be lectured in with full facilities for a slideshow or PowerPoint. Another university I went to, I met a very strange fellow who thought to follow me around spamming me with hugs whenever I paused, which quite frankly got annoying and a little creepy so I teleported out of there quite quickly and didn’t get to see a whole lot. One campus had the best white trash set up in the forest I had ever seen, complete with trailer and backed up toilet.
One of the hardest ones for me to visit and bear witness to was the Southern Cross University campus. It was stripped bare, only a few chairs here and there in an otherwise barren landscape as a reminder that once great things were done here, and great minds thought together here. I had been reading through papers written by SCU academics on trials they had conducted on Second Life, what they had learnt and what they had achieved. What they did was inspiring and thought provoking but I was two years too late.
Mostly though, the campuses were beautiful and waiting. Waiting for the classes to come back. Waiting for the academics and people to come back, like a school let out for summer vacation that goes on and on. Outdated notices were still on signs proclaiming admissions procedures for 2009 or class timetables for a different year past. Relics of an era of such hope and promise and…creativity in education.
I ended my tour at a place I found on one of my very first days in Second life about a month ago now, because I needed it. I needed to be somewhere that still held that hope and promise and vision. Somewhere that had just recently come back with a bang and a whoop….it was UTSA Tejano Tech. If you only go one place, visit one academic institution or art gallery in Second life, go there. Go there and leave them a note. And then go to their blog (https://utsa-sl.blogspot.com.au/) and leave them a comment there too. Tell them they have an incredible vision and you are cheering them on. Let their people counter count you so they can show their statistics to other academics who are dreaming their dreams of a virtual learning platform and say, “It CAN be done. This dream is NOT over.”
Berkman and Sandbox (Harvard)
Ball State University
University of Derby
University of Western Australia
New World News