SLIS Students and Professors Start “Second Lives”

Students and professors met Monday, Sept. 28, to play with avatars in the virtual world Second Life, but it wasn’t just for fun.

SLIS is involved in a pilot program with the International Writing Program (IWP) and Information Technology Services (ITS) that pairs writers with LIS students.

SLIS Director, Jim Elmborg, mimics his avatar
during a Second Life demonstration.

The students will help create avatars, or virtual characters, and run them during live readings in October.

Once they get an island in Second Life, organizers hope to create an online community to supplement the IWP. The 2009 Virtual Writing Project is being funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department.

What is Second Life?

Second Life is a 3D world where users socialize, run businesses and network using their avatars, which can be customized by each user.

Users can use voice or text chat, animate their avatars and buy “lindens”; the currency of Second Life (although many options are free). The avatars can teleport to different locations. One of those will be the site of the IWP “island”.

“Librarians have been very interested in Second Life because a lot of things we do translate well into Second Life,” SLIS Director, Jim Elmborg, said.

A few examples he listed included space management, networking and educational programming.

A Virtual Future

Second year SLIS student, Angela Murillo, is helping with the project as part of her digital library fellowship.

“I’ve been having a blast with it so far,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of cool people in Second Life.”

Murillo says she thinks the Second Life project has long term implications for the Writing Program.

Since 50,000 people are generally logged in at different times all over the world, she thinks the “island” could help the international writers establish a presence.

Screenshots courtesy of secondlife.com
above: aerial view of Iowa Island

Other virtual venues being used as part of the Virtual Writing Project include Skype and Illuminate.

Helping with the IWP Second Life

First year SLIS students, Nikki Dudley and Christine Hansen,
create avatars as practice for the IWP Second Life project.

If you would like to get involved, contact Angela Murillo at her uiowa email, or friend her avatar, “Angelita Eiren”.

Second Life will be installed in most computers the Computer Classroom and the Colab.