Second Life has definitely unique characteristic when compared with other web spaces. What comes to mind first is the materialization of the one’s profile through an avatar – a more “tangible” shape of the self. In many other web 2.0 scenarios, such as blogs, wikis, podcast, social network sites, etc., one’s digital identity is mainly established by text or voice recordings. Then there are also some real time communication tools which contribute to the development of one’s identity online. Nevertheless, one’s presence in SL is a little bit different as it is embodied in the form of an avatar. It adds a quite different meaning to individual and collective activity online, as it evokes a different feeling of the self.
I think SL can potentially bring some freshness to the online education sphere, as a new space to re-think identity and sense of community through Avatars.
It is also powerful in the way it augments creativity, and I would even say it may help decrease inhibition among shier individuals. In SL anonymity is in general terms accepted and there seems to be a bigger effort to tolerate “the difference”. Hierarchy is also less perceptible here too. And to be honest, I think that is what SL is all about.
Some of my concerns about this environment are related with the still technical issues and requirements. They might be somehow discouraging for the less eager to enter their second life. Once you kind of know your way around, the technical glitches will not be that relevant. The problem is to get them started, especially the less young generations.
The new generations will enter so they are getting the “training” they need.
Our current audience still need a helping hand.
In that sense, and the way I see it, the moderator will have a crucial role in phase 1 – Access and Motivation. Some “holding-hands” might have to be done to get everyone on board. A lot of experimental activities which can tie in well with the social activities, in order to get them going and keep up the motivation. I use to say the “Dynamization” of the space is an investment which will bear fruits in the end. It is necessary to keep the “troops” motivated and provide them with the know-how, and confidence, to succeed.
In SL, I perceive these 2 stages will take longer than in other online spaces. There is a lot more of groundwork to be done in SL than in blogs or wikis, for instance.
I am now co-moderating an online workshop about blogging for educators. Our audience are newbies. Some of them are experimenting the web as web 2.0 for the first time. It is not easy when everything is online and when you aer dealing with people from all continents and the most different time Zones. Yet, there is always at least one moderator online ready to give an helping –hand. We skype to give personalized support, we answered questions posed through email, which are answered through the same via and thus shared with the rest of the group. I have seen people who could hardly attach a file to an email develop a wonderful digital identity. Knowing there will be someone out there to provide them with support has give them that confidence. They have exceeded their own expectations.
just my 2 cents!