Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Heroic Journey

Among the builds that Literature Alive! still operates, the Archetypal Cave is among the list of the living. Visitors can learn about archetypal literary theory and the quest of the hero. In a classroom, it is an engaging and interactive lab full of hunts and student-created content. Alone, however, it is a pretty dish with stale candy....pretty to look at, but a little dusty.

In Second Life, this seems to be the norm. There are lots of pretty dishes. There are lots of fabulous places that are chalk full of content but are empty, abandoned, and, well, virtually dusty. Even my most favorite builds are empty when I take people to visit them...they have, somehow, lost their magic, their wonder, their passion...

Right now, Eloise and I are finishing a how-to chapter on building a viable workspace. This comes at a time when we have lost more than 50% of our donated land because the owners have given up. What can I possibly tell businesses about Second Life when we are holding on to Literature Alive! by a simple thread? Should we pack it in? The thought has occurred to me on more than a few occasions.

But then I think about those wandering avatars. The ones that get tired of the hair of the week hunts and lucky chairs and type "Poe" into the search box. They will find the Literature Alive! Edgar Allan Poe House of Usher plot hosted by AJ Kelton and Montclair State University. Or, if they type "literature" they will find the Literature Alive! group that was formed for 3 people and now is home to a few hundred. They can find Dante's Inferno in a simple search and learn about Italian and literary history. These are the reasons why packing it in is not an option. As a teaching professor, the mission was always to get students to love literature. The goal wasn't to be the most popular professor, but to be the professor that sparked interest and cultivated a little flame

The virtual dream was the same. I started Literature Alive! alone as an alternative to the crappy content that can be found in SL. Literature Alive! would have died without the scripting genius of Eloise Pasteur, and since she came on board, we have celebrated all sorts of successes for over 2 years now. The students that have gone through, most notably Daliah Carter, have become proficient communicators. Daliah is such a success adult learner gone from sewing factory worker to newspaper editor. She never planned to be a writer., but Second Life gave her a chance to write publicly. It is for the the Daliahs of the world that we need to keep on track.

That said, we do need some fresh air; we to open the windows in our virtual world and kick out the rugs. Once the light cracks through the dust, we can see what it is that makes us love virtual worlds. Eloise and I have been kicking up the rugs, and underneath the dust, we are finding the gems that have made us strong. The content, the builds, and the documentation have all been strong since the first prim was raised in the name of Literature Alive! While things might be dusty, the is solid. There is no structural damage. There has been no weathering.

Jean-Claude Bradley (SL Horace Moody) is donating some of the land at Drexel Island to Literature Alive! In real life, Jean-Claude is one of the most inspirational people I know, but he has now become that open window of fresh air for my virtual life. Literature Alive! is organic, much like the chemistry he teaches, and it relies on constant care, examination, and experimentation. Alone, the structures are just molecules, but adding the chemistry of intellect and passion will be the air that is much needed for us to stay successful in SL. What makes SL the tool of choice is its ability to connect people together - the collaboration of many for the sole purpose of educating others.

OK, so we have let ourselves get dusty. There are always Pledge and Old English. We need to grab our rags and polish and get to work. It is time for Spring Cleaning!

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