This morning at Braken Library on Ball State's campus there was a technology fair that took up most of the first floor. The latest and greatest gadgets were displayed and demonstrated for the public, and there were a lot of freebies. I wandered through while on a study break and saw one booth in particular that I should mention.
If you've read my blog from the beginning, you no doubt understand that I'm something of a baby neanderthal when it comes to new technology. I prefer to read books that have been printed on paper, and video games etc. do not come instinctively to me as they do to a lot of my friends. The booth I'm talking about here had a large screen monitor set up for people to come by and play with a program called Second Life.
For those of you who know what Second Life is, you'll be astonished to learn that I myself have an account. (It's been inactive for 6 months, but that's beside the point.) Last semester I participated in an immersive learning seminar that took Second Life as its primary resource to try to discover how people create an identity online. As the technology gets better, people are able to duplicate reality much more accurately. If you know how to use the technology, you can create an avatar that looks, talks, and gestures like a real person.
If you're like me, you can't figure out how to walk or change your own clothes, which put me at a slight disadvantage when conducting interviews as my avatar. I eventually got the hang of most of it, but the subtleties of waving, nodding my head, and sitting down gracefully were, for me, not possible. I anticipate that the next generation, if they grow up playing such technology based games, will all know keystrokes as second nature.
Second Life, along with Facebook and Myspace is a social networking tool, as well as an outlet for people who want to escape their real lives. Even though I hated using it, I can appreciate its potential value to connect people from around the world. Many language classes have started logging on to participate in real time chats with native speakers, and I think this is the next best thing to traveling.