Why I don’t like Second Life (by Jacqueline Goulbourne)

Imagine a world where you can make a cartoon avatar of yourself and do whatever you like in an international community of English speakers.

Well, it already exists, in Taiwan where I have spent most of my career teaching,  it's called ‘World of Warcraft‘ and the mission of almost every parent of teenagers there to wrest their kids off of it!  But imagine if something similar existed, primarily for education, business and sex.  That exists too and I’m fairly certain that it’s nothing we’d really want to get students involved in.

I’m sure many of you disagree and are using Second Life in your practice to good effect, so my intent is not to disrespect your work, but to explain the problems I have with Second Life and other such virtual worlds.

I first experimented with Second Life in 2003 when friends of mine had set up an experimental teacher training space.  I didn’t really get interested.  More recently I came across Second Life in a wee teacher training course I’m doing.  I fought against my inherent tendency to not engage with things that don’t resonate with me and decided to ‘join in’ and not be such a negative Nancy.  Although I have an aversion to ‘virtual worlds’ and to speaking through machines in any way (I don’t use telephones) I put this aside in order to try and retrieve any babies in this bathwater.

I Googled up Second Life and was met with this screen:

[screenshot from https://join.secondlife.com/ ]

The user sees this screen with avatars that can be chosen.  Your avatar can be customised later on but I immediately took real exception to the prototype avatars that were presented for customisation.  These include a slightly scary rabbit, a robot and lots of white kids who clearly resembled extras from a 90s vampire film.  The only black woman present is wearing a short dress with a flower in her hair and high heeled shoes - a very different aesthetic to the white women presented.  One of the men has a shirt open to show rippling pecs but generally, the male figures are covered up.  For me, it doesn’t represent an acceptable aesthetic to present to students in my care, particularly young women.

There are two strands to my  misgivings: firstly the absence of ethnic diversity and secondly, the overt sexualisation of young women, in the Second Life avatar choices.   As a teacher joining in, I tried to choose an avatar that could represent my self without making myself ridiculous.  I’m 37, pretty fat, greying, and generally get dressed in the dark.  My choices ranged from avatars that mostly looked like a 14 year old version on myself: pale skinned, bone thin, and dressed in black with lots of eyeliner and it seemed undignified and self-abasing. 

I’m not scarred by the experience. But then I’m a confident, English-speaking adult.  I can articulate why I don’t want to be this 1990 version of myself and tried to change it.  Can we expect young, perhaps not so good at English students to raise their own misgivings to their educators or will they simply go along with what the teacher, or the authority wants them to do?  Thinking back to my time teaching junior high school girls in Taiwan, none of those prototype avatars is of Han Chinese or any other Taiwanese ethnicities.

What’s the message here?

White people (and the token African American) own English. You are different. Go get yourself a white identity to join our English-speaking world!

OK, yes, you can choose to brown/yellow/black up later if you want to, but that’s not the standard issue human in this community.

Don’t we want our students to come and sit at the table as equals? To join the English-speaking communities that they are passionate about?

In my Real Life classes, every kid is a beautiful prototype of the individual they want to become as they are: be they fat or thin, with braces, wearing unsexy clothes - with a wonderful inheritance of Chinese ethnicity, not something to be tagged on later, once they have chosen their ‘core’ avatar.

Am I over-thinking this?

Perhaps, but if we use these tools in the classroom, we are also raising the question of who ‘owns’ English.  We have to ask who funds a lot of these communities and to what business or political ends?  To promote ELT as a British, Australian, White American/European activity?  Why?

Is that congruent with our principles, desirable for our personal teaching contexts?

Cartoon images hurt as much as photographic images.

As a teacher I’m rarely didactic and I know I can’t change the world, but I am absolutely committed to making every child  in my care feel like they can be whoever they want to be and that includes valuing and celebrating every child’s individuality and identity and not promoting certain images as a norm within an educational context.

Jackie has been a teacher for 15 years, around the world,
but mostly in Taiwan.

29 Responses to “Why I don’t like Second Life (by Jacqueline Goulbourne)”

    March 07, 2012

    Thank you so much, Jackie. I really enjoyed this piece and I'm honored to have it here on my page.

    I agree with you entirely on the race issue and personally would continue the questions on 2nd Life's suitability in the classroom by namely asking if the teaching organizations that use it do any form of vetting with regard to the teachers they hire.

    In most countries there are systems in place to protect children and young adults from the sexually deviant - are these measures in place in this virtual world?

  • Seth Dickens says:
    March 07, 2012

    Hey there Jackie,

    Although I don't necessarily agree that Second Life is unsuitable for teaching because of the kinda-artificial nature of the communication there (I think that all sorts of different types of tools and apps can be use; things like second life can give impetus to shier students to actually speak in class, for example.) I definitely agree that they have got the whole body image thing wrong here though. It's one thing trying to appeal to teenagers, but completely another to reinforce body stereotypes, race and gender roles.

    In the experience I've had working with teenagers, these issues are at a critical mass in their mindset, and as you say, it doesn't need "authority figures" like us to go stomping around carelessly trampling on the issue. There are some great sites like Glogster which do a brilliant job of appealing to teenagers (and all the gaudy rubbish that they seem to enjoy :-) ) without the teacher needing to worry that they are accidentally promoting the typical media image of "what you should look like."

    I personally feel that as language teachers, and therefore by extension also cross-cultural teachers, it's within our role to be as supportive, open-minded and nurturing as possible, and also to try and encourage our students to be the same towards themselves and their classmates.

    The screenshot you posted above from Second Life in an educational context isn't quite right. Perhaps Linden Labs made a mistake when shutting down the teen grid.

    Great article Jackie, the first in a while to prompt me to comment, thanks for a thought-provoking start to the day.


  • Fran Lo says:
    March 07, 2012

    Thanks for your thorough analysis of the sexual and racial stereotyping in Second Life. You've reminded me of a Whoopie Goldberg sketch, where she is a little girl who wraps a blouse around her hair so she can pretend to be white and blond.

  • Vanish says:
    March 07, 2012

    as someone who's been in SL for >5 years now I can agree with some of your points, which is why a lot of educators have been moving to an open-sourced version of SL in the last few years, called Open Simulator. It allows anyone to run a SL environment on their (or their school's) network and control the environment (up to the choice of starter avatars) in any way they wish.

  • BryonyfromBritain says:
    March 07, 2012

    I've been a regular resident of Second Life since 2007.
    That screenshot is of the starter avatars that are offered to new residents until they get better, more realistic ones in-world.
    They're created by Linden staff, most of whom don't bother entering the world.

    Second Life is a world created by the residents, who live in many different countries worldwide, all of whom are 16 or over. They also speak Japanese, Korean, French, Portuguese and many other languages.

    There is an Adult zone but that can only be accessed by residents who've submitted ID on the official website and been verified.

    If you haven't done that, your avatar is blocked from the Adult/sexual areas.

    I see a wide range of residents all the time. Any resident can change their avatar into a form they prefer and there are skins available in every skin colour you might see in real life. There are many shops offering skins, hairstyles and clothing. The creators and designers are from a wide range of backgrounds and races and the choice is amazing as a result. You don't even have to be human if you don't want to! Visit Grendel's Children and get a weird and wonderful non-human avatar for free or for pennies!

    There are many, many wonderful places to explore and many interesting things to do.

    It's clear that this writer didn't spend very long at all in Second Life and didn't really bother to look for the wide diversity that genuine residents see every day.

    There are universities using Second Life as well as places helping people with disabilities, among many others.
    Second Life is a platform not a game and really is what you make of it.

    This lady is clearly biased against Second Life and virtual worlds and allowed that to prevent her seeing the real Second Life.
    That's a great shame.

  • Mera says:
    March 07, 2012

    Sorry I have problems taking a person who cant even use a phone serious. Bah, its 2012. Second Life is like society in general. Beauty sells. Linden Lab is a company who wants to make money. Deal with it.

    Virtual worlds are excellent for education and you are free to use your imagination and create your avie in whatever way you want.

    To demand that a company that has to make a profit should stand on the barricades for womens lib is a bit childish. We cant change one company only, we have to change the society first.

    Second Life is a wonderful place for a lot of people who are a bit shy irl or live a bit isolated. Or for people who just wants to be creative and loves to build in 3D or chat or whatever. For me its an exellent way to practise english as I´m from Sweden.

    You dont like it, fine. Second Life is NOT for everybody. And please refrain from having predudices about sex and stuff in Second Life.

    Second Life are like the real life society, we have all kinds of people, even people interested in sex (omg!). But most of us are ordinary people who wants to have a bit of relaxation from the daily real life and finds the TV boring.

    Second Life or virtual worlds are a lot more stimulating to use than just watch TV. I learn something new almost every day. I have seen studies that confirms Virtual world users are more social than the common populace irl.

    Im also afraid that most of us "Avatar drivers" are a bit more intelligent than the common populace as the world is more techically challenging than watching TV. Chew on that for a moment :)


  • Fos Dagger says:
    March 07, 2012

    @BryonyfromBritain: As of the last time I checked Linden Lab had removed all restrictions on "verifying" an Adult account, it is now just a check-box. (Yes, I am an adult style.)

    However you would have to enable access to Adult content manually, after sign up. But you no longer need any form of ID.

  • Lelani Carver says:
    March 07, 2012

    Hello Jackie,
    What a terrific post! Your point is completely valid and speaks to something I've struggled with for years as an otherwise happy, well adjusted Second Life resident. Ironically, Asian influences are popular in architecture, fashion, and decor inworld, but even so female Asian roles are too sexualized. ANY female form is likely to be hyper-feminine; don't even get me started about the people with the Prim Breasts Of Ludicrous Proportions.

    You are right, there needs to be more international diversity and cultural sensitivity in the default avatar set. Or there needs to be an educator/business track for new signups, but Linden Labs has lost credibility after they cancelled the discounts for educators and non-profits.

    I cannot blame you for feeling this way. I'm now used to seeing myself with an hourglass figure, and now it's a shock when I encounter someone with a more realistic shape (stocky, heavy, or pear-shaped the way I am in real life). But the point is, it shouldn't be a shock.

  • Skylar Smythe says:
    March 07, 2012

    I think your comment is a valid one. There could and should be a couple starter avatars that look more like the average joe than supermodel escapee's from the last Twilight movie.

    Another issue is finding business clothes in the Second Life Marketplace.

    Having done some machinima for a healthcare non-profit it was difficult to source some looks that were average, normal and not overtly sexual.

    There are many reasons and types of engagement that inspire people to creative different looking avatars. My avatar somewhat represents my facial appearance and height but she has a way better body. Why? Because the esthetic is one that I aspire to. Ultimately however a "pretty" avatar takes you only so far. The deeper engagement socially happens on the intellectual level.

    I've has some amazing debates and conversations dressed as a massively large beautiful asian dragon. And frequently I pick an avatar like that one to explore that virtual world because it is non-sexual.

    People go in there to work. To educate and be educated. To network (freelancers) and some people go in there to find romantic or platonic connections. In some ways being an attractive avatar can make it easier to approach someone... it get's attention. Then personality, intelligence and charisma take over.

    For your level of engagement... you are absolutely right. There should be a couple more options. But once you have created your default avatar you can make those modifications. Google SL Marketplace for access to our "online shopping" to see the variety of ages, ethnicities and other options available in pre-made avatar packages.

    Skylar Smythe is a hot avatar. But somewhere on the grid is an avatar named Escape Afterthought... who looks a hell of a lot like Lori. :) Wee bit round through the hips and a jiggly stomach. A bit of a double chin and short black hair with too much eye make up.

    And she still had some great conversations too.

    Lori S.
    Aka: Skylar Smythe

  • Mera says:
    March 07, 2012

    Of course I wish every nationality, more than 1000 in the real world, could have their own start avatar in SL. And also people in wheel chair, old people, people with 1 leg etc etc. But that is not going to happen. When I joined there was 1 male and 1 female to choose from. Maybee that is to prefer....

    I think maybee we have to be realistic here...

    Best regards// Mera

  • Nber Medici says:
    March 07, 2012

    If you were in SL in 2003, then you were either a Beta account or a VERY early adopter. I joined SL in Feb of 2004 and at that time would never have used SL for education. I believe that has changed to a great extent.

  • Donavan Vicha says:
    March 07, 2012

    A closer look at the screen would show that there are a wider variety of choices than the Vampires shown. Appearances can bias us terribly but that's one of the fascinating aspects of SL. Tolerance of differences is highly valued among residents. Unless you radically change your avatar from a "starter," you will be looked at as a newcomer and treated accordingly, encouraged to change. Once you have changed, you will be regarded apart from any stereotypes but for what you have to offer.

    In your first life, I am sure there are people who see you exactly as you have described yourself and treat you in a prejudicail manner. In SL, your mask of an avatar levels the playing ground and you are judged on what you have to contribute. It's liberating. It's all a matter of perspective, but most importantly, it's all about immersion and letting go of preconceived notions.

  • Anne Hodgson says:
    March 07, 2012

    Nice one. I'm also not so keen on the looks my avatar had to try on for size before I felt more or less like it was my own - albeit a 15-year old idealized version of me. It#s generally very funny to meet people in real life that you met in SL before. Especially with a degree of heightened awareness for pressure on girls and boys to be skinny and sexy, I'd prefer less overt styling.

    But actually what bothers me far more about the aesthetics of SL is the fact that there is hardly any expression on the avatar's faces. I just can't get into it if I can't look m counterpart in the eye. So long live video conferencing for teaching English.

  • Aki Shichiroji says:
    March 07, 2012

    To be fair, there are a wide variety of ethnically diverse avatars offered. A quick browse-thru the avatar listing shows not only black or white people, but many people in between. Generic business-folk of many ethnicities are included, alongside folks in casual, ethnic, anime, fantasy, scifi, western and victorian dress- and that's just the human section. Did you check out the animal, vehicle or robot sections?

    Your screenshot only happens to take a small random sample of the avatars being offered from the sign-up page, which in itself doesn't even include the vast array of other avatars that have also been developed for use on start-up.

  • Pussycat Catnap says:
    March 07, 2012

    The starter avatars you see on that screen were -NOT- created by the company behind Second Life as some comments suggest, but partly by a user of Second Life who was hired for the task of revising the old list.

    Partly, as that is the story for the human ones. The older set were, if you can imagine it, even more 'white only' in look and tone. The non-humans are new, and I do not know if the story behind them is publicly known.

    There are actually several screens and a menu of sorts to switch between for picking an initial look. It appears the list in that screenshot is showing random - and came up with mostly fill ins from the vampire list.

    The other humans are a bit more varied - but still mostly white. There is maybe one African male. The tanned person in the shot above is at best Polynesian, but if you were to log into Second Life after making that choice you'd look at yourself and likely see a white with a tan. There is a matching male to it also - and not in the above screenshot. He's dressed a bit like an American college student with an engineering major. Not hip, but not too geeky either.

    I can be a mistake to draw too many conclusions about Second Life from just one screenshot of one screen in a slew of selection screens for starter avatars...

    BUT, many of the conclusions drawn are not far off base from the inworld perspective.

    The community in Second Life is -too- white... To the point that many non-whites in Second Life have in past years been known to adopt white avatars in order to avoid harassment...

    In the past year we've seen an explosion of African avatars for people to choose from. Possibly brought on by the inclusion of one or two Africans among the starter choices. By also by bloggers and commentators such as myself being very vocal on this issue.

    Oddly I live perhaps 3 miles from the offices of the company running Second Life - in one of the most diverse racially mingled communities in the world. So I don't know what has made Second Life the way it is...

    As for sexualization of the females in those avatars - those choices in that screenshot are pretty freaking tame compared to walking in any shopping mall in the USA and looking at both the teens walking by as well as the billboards in the shops they shop in...

    Then again the demographic of Second Life is people in their 30s and 40s, with only a handful outside this range...

    However, going into Second Life... and if not careful, one can end up in some locations that are quite explicit.

    It turns out that one of the very active communities in Second Life is a BDSM community. They do present a visual that is often very hostile to women. But over time they've mostly learned to keep themselves to areas rated as 'adult only'.

    You can keep things sane for student groups by keeping to a 'general' rated area. They still, if of college age, possess the ability to go and find the other content... but for the most part if you're staying in a 'general' rated area - any of the bad examples mentioned above would get the violator a permanent ban from the service.

    And really... the above is still more tame than what your students will find in any other part of life.

    Once in Second Life, it is quite easy to find new looks for an avatar that range from the amazingly over-sexualized, to the downright tame, to even the spiritual. There are even quite a few churches in SL (one even built by me).

    Makers of goods for customizing your avatar in Second Life are generally the other users of Second Life - so the character and quality varies by the tastes of those folks. I've found plenty of everyday themed fashions for my avatar, with very little trouble.

    In past it was very difficult for me to get a non-white avatar, but at present I've collected a number of African looks, and know where I could get Native American designs as well (several tribal groups and non-tribal natives are in Second Life, self included).

  • Pussycat Catnap says:
    March 08, 2012

    I'd cut a detailed list of examples of 'explicit content' when I realized they were too much and painting the wrong light - plus the comments here are limited to 4096 characters and I tend to babble past that easily.

    I could very easily bring up a large list of tame, general, youth friendly, women friendly, international friendly, and racial diversity friendly locations in Second Life. They are numerous.

    It looks like my avatar from gmail here is an old cat - cartoon animals are quite a popular avatar choice too, and the screenshot of a random selection just happened to hit on that rabbit with the red eyes. Which by the way, is a brown rabbit - so personally would be the choice I'd want to feel 'comfortable in my skin' as it were... (And of course part of being Rastafarian is a recognition of challenging value-assumptions about appearance - a spooky look would be ideal to me).

    When my Second Life avatar originally started transitioning from the original white skin I was stuck choosing over to progressively darker shades - people willing to talk to me in Second Life started evaporating quickly. I did soon become one of the more outspoken folks in Second Life on forums and blogs about issues of race - but the cold shoulders picked up before I started calling folks out.

    And you can read blogs like this one:

    That show that the service's customers are a lot less internationally minded than you'd expect...

    So your Taiwanese students... they'd be facing issues way beyond that of sexualization of avatars. Personally as part of a younger generation, I think the sexualization of the avatars would be least of their concerns. The realization that all those English speakers in the world don't want anything to do with them even once they learn English - that's a much tougher pill to swallow.

    Then again SL's users are older, children of the 70s - who still tend to think 'getting past race' means the world should act more white (assimilation) rather than more diverse as younger folks accept (multiculturalism).

  • Mera says:
    March 08, 2012

    I like to add, my closest neighbours in Second Life is a mosque and a church so no hanky panky at my place :O)

  • Tyson Seburn says:
    March 09, 2012

    Hi there,

    You've written a very enlightening view on the racial issues surrounding the avatars of Second Life--a view that I had really considered much before even though I've also had misgivings about Second Life.

    Personally, I've had only a few interactions using SL, mostly in relation to after-parties to virtual conferences I've attended. It all seemed so pointless, like watching a bunch of outdated graphics dance around aimlessly to even more outdated techno music. I think this, like my more recent exposure to text-reconstruction tasks in platforms where little has changed since the mid-90s. This tends to turn me off more than anything. Why would any student, in the worlds of online gaming or nearly realistic sim games, have any face validity in something that gives the impression of teachers attempting to be cool.

    Granted, I have little experience of SL for actual educational purposes--I wish I would have that type of exposure, so I could more accurately assess its educational applications, but I don't and really don't wish to.

    Yes, negative Nancy here who judges based on appearance, but when there are many other tools available that have that slick quality also, why bother?

    Maybe I'll open my mind if those I respect shout out its amazing virtues, but so far, there's been little push from any direction.

    Funny, I was just talking about this today with a couple of colleagues too and we all wondered if SL was really just a European venture. Few of us in Canada had even heard of it, let alone tried it out.

  • Mera says:
    March 09, 2012

    Tyson; Dancing?? Who´s dancing? Not me and not many of my friends. You got the wrong picture from that short visit im afrad.

    And regarding the "racial issue" im sure If SL started in Africa, Japan or Iran - most of the avies and "game mentality" would have been coloured from that. Im not sure its much more complicated than we are animals of habit.

    Still it´s nothing wrong to point it out, but it doesnt hurt to be more open minded about Second Life either. you cant judge it by your superficial visits.

    I know it´s "Politically correct" to jump on it but so it was to jump on coloured people once in history... A predudice is always a predudice.

    (God im tired of myself commenting now! Stopping now. :O)

  • Heike Philp says:
    March 12, 2012

    Interesting discussion! Thank you Karenne for inviting Jacqueline to write about Second Life.
    It has suprised me though, because I wouldn't even dare to judge a language learning book by looking at the cover of the book,hehe.
    I just imagined you turning down reading the fairy tale 'The Beauty and the Beast' with your students because of the offputting images on the book. *Smiles*
    Sorry, didnt mean to be sarcastic but Jacquelin is right in saying that Second Life is an adults world.
    But may I introduce myself, I am the owner of EduNation which hosts a community of language educators who are quite confident that Second Life is a great environment for lanugage learning. Amongst our community of 27 residents, there are 6 universities, 3 research organisations on CALL (Computer Associated Language Learning), 2language teachers associations and language schools and freelance language teachers.
    We have recently put in a lot of effort to attach the island of the British Computer Socity to our islands (EduNation islands) who want to teach French to British children in Second Life. They have to undergo a lot of security measures to allow kids from the age of 13 on their islands. For example, even though our status is 'General' and there is no sexual content allowed on our islands (we even remove cuddly couple poses on a couch), we have to have a island between our islands and the island of the BCS to keep the children from entering Second Life as such. James from the BCS says that they are preparing the island for a society of about 1000 schools in the South of England.
    Prior to the island being prepared for the teens(which we look forward to very much and I am looking for schools in Germany and worldwide to start telecollaboration) the British French teacher Helen Myers, who started to get BCS interested, used to have Second Life run on a projector in the school and she logged herself into Second Life and then went to the French communities to talk to the French people using voice and then have the kids ask questions in French.
    Helen presented her experience at several conferences advocating her love for this 3D world and relating how the students loved interacting with French speakers at a distance.

    We, the community of language educators have been involved in creating videos for language learners and perhaps if you see the results of our workshop called MachinEVO, then you would agree that there is beautiful potential to use this world for language learning.
    Please check out http://machinevo.pbworks.com and pls go to the last week, week 5 and check out the 17 videos which language teachers created with Italian, Spanish and English for beginners and for intermediate content to give you an impression about this beautiful world.
    Here is the link to the page with the videos http://tinyurl.com/machinevoresults

    An author for technical English books got so excited about MachinEVO that she is now talking to Pearson about producing videos for Engineers but she also has many ideas to use the Lindenlab robots and other avatars to produce language learning videos using robots and other fun shakes avis.

    Enjoy reading and watching the videos. Let me know what you think. I would be happy to welcome you on EduNation to show you around and to show you the some 100 holodecks with various themes which Prof Randall Sadler of the University of Illinois created to provide settings for language learning. These settings include a bus stop, a library, a restaurant etc. on mouseclick which immerse the teachers and their students in these scenes to encourage a conversation.

    Hope to see you inworld.:))

    rgds Heike Philp

    March 12, 2012


    Thank you so much for joining in this discussion and providing us so much more "real" data and information.

    It has helped greatly because while I am sincerely grateful for all of the other posters, with a few exceptions, I didn't feel like my own core question (are there security checks on "teachers" to protect the children and vulnerable adults?)

    On the other hand, Jackie's core dilemma is on the question of race and cultural identity along with body type - and I wonder if you might be able to take her questions on to your colleagues, prior to the 1000 schools being added, so that perhaps steps can be taken to address those incredibly important issues?

    While I have gleaned that it is possible to change avatar once inworld, this is not the point, something that is so fundamental to one's beingness should be available from the front page.

    Not all people (teens or otherwise) want to look like Barbie and Ken dolls - for some of us, these are not attractive ideals.

    Furthermore, my readings last night revolved around the Guided Construction of Knowledge (1995) and in this book, Mercer, discusses research done on participation in classrooms - aside from the fact that teachers tend to interact more with boys than with girls, they also found that teachers have fewer interactions with black children over white.

    Education (in world or real world) "never takes place in a social or cultural vacuum" and "teachers and students don't leave their personal and social identities outside the classroom door" (p47).

    Thanks so much again for your contributions!

  • Tyson says:
    March 12, 2012

    Mera, as I said, everytime I've been in SL (e.g. after the VRT) it was for the conference's 'after party', at which of course people are expected to gather in a specific area where there is music playing and all the avatars are generally dancing while chats happen.

    Although I accept that my three or four visits into SL weren't for particularly educational purposes, it still does nothing for the graphic interface.

    March 12, 2012

    Hi @Vanish,

    Thanks for the information about the alternative opensource virtual world.

    Very interesting.

    Hi @Mera and @Pussycat

    It is really difficult to not have prejudices against the BDSM "perves" there because they are there and they are in your face - and even upon new entry, they can attempt to encroach and intimidate - it's a real issue to battle against if one wants to teach there.

    Being a sexual deviant is a lifestyle choice but unfortunately as life and conversation is often made up of one party attempting to influence another party, it's a "lifestyle choice" that most educators try to remove from the classroom equation.

    Personally as an educator, I see no reason to set up a school in the Red Light District unless I decided that I want to teach prostitutes and pimps. I see nothing wrong with doing that activity and I believe they have as much right to education as does anyone else. But were I to open up a school in a seedier part of town, in Real Life, then I certainly wouldn't invite the young or the vulnerable to take classes alongside them. Perhaps that's petty-minded but perhaps it's just logical.

    March 12, 2012

    Hi Tyson,

    My understanding of SL is that it's a very US American platform (which is where the BDSM crowd initiated but is now global, I think) ... but perhaps with the push from the British Council and with Heike's European project, Avalon, it has become more well known in education and ELT circles (feel free to correct my facts, anyone, this is based on what I've heard only)?

    Also I think the UK based Language Lab have done some very interesting Business English work there.

    March 12, 2012


    Thanks so much for sharing that link to the blog post on being a black woman in S/L - that was really interesting and disturbing.

    I am attaching your link again here - as I think it important to read:

    The Skin You're In

    For those teaching "In World" I would also be tempted to suggest taking this blog post in class for discussion, and/or trying it out and keeping a blog journal regarding skin colour. (A nice activity one perhaps could never do in real life)...

  • Jacqueline G. says:
    March 14, 2012

    Thanks for all the positive and interesting comments that were made related to cultural identity in virtual worlds. Great to hear some other viewpoints.

  • Learn English with Gary says:
    December 09, 2012

    I will definitely agree that you are over thinking this entire thing.

    I've used Second Life (SL) before and I didn't like it either but my reasons are a lot different from yours. I didn't look at superficial things like race, color, creed, ethnicity, etc... like you did. Instead I looked at it as a technological stepping stone.

    SL is a relatively early attempt at this type of technology. As you may have noticed the graphics are horrible by today's standards and even the character movement is pathetic.

    I don't think the creators of SL put a lot of thought into ethnic and gender diversity when they created it. I think they were more focused on creating a virtual world with a ton of flexibility. When you look at the game's real life and robust economy and the ability to do just about anything in SL I think it really stands out and shines in this respect.

    I think the mere fact that ESL instruction has found its way into the game is a tremendous testament to that aforementioned flexibility.

    As for teaching ESL via Second Life I don't think it is a very good platform but it gets a Gold Star for the move in the right direction. We just have to wait for the technology to catch up.

  • idiomático says:
    May 15, 2013

    When you teach a language or any other subject, you have to teach good values. Second life doesn't seem to be the right tool for both purposes.

  • Mike says:
    March 26, 2014

    Good post. I can't help wondering though if those avatars did actually help Linden's revenue and business.


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