A message I sent to the Second Life in Education Mailing list today:
I was just listening to the latest Radio Lab episode, which summed up a great deal of what I’d argue Second Life has to offer academic communication: the tools to create interactive, powerful, immersive and engaging narrative out of scholarly ideas and works. In this podcast, Robert Krulwich talks about the long conflict between “popular” means of communication and the sciences, and how that stand-off between them has resulted in the dramatic gulf between the ivory tower and everyone else. He links it directly to the power of the anti-evolution front springing forth from the US and spreading out over the world, because the anti-evolution front has an excellent *story* to tell, while science has agreed that story is not useful, is “play”, and science must be “work” and “fact” rather than metaphor and play.
At the same time I’m currently reading Julian Dibbell‘s excellent book Play Money, which underscores the odd divide western culture places between work and play, even when it becomes startlingly clear that productive work and play are by no means seperate entities.
So this podcast brings together these ideas; metaphor, story, and “play” have a valid place even in academic/scientific communication. Play and metaphor doesn’t cheapen or simplify ideas; it merely makes their implications strike us at deeper levels than mere facts. They are the driving mechanism for facts, perhaps. The means to deliver information.
And really, since language is really just a derivative of song, how is metaphor any less frivilous a means than singing?
Second Life, and and any other constructivist worlds that have appeared before and will appear in future, provides the tools to communicate concepts and ideas in a different, more emmersive way. In a way more like play, more like story, with a strong metaphor. I think this is crucially valuable.