Saturday, June 8, 2013

Nosy People

I've spoken here many times about the "Facebookers" you meet in Second know, those whose first question to you is "A/S/L?" (Age, Sex, Location.)  Second Life is, to me and to many others, an alternative to Real Life, and we don't really want to share this sort of RL information, at least not with people we've only just met.

Today I came across what I can only describe as an "official" sort of Facebooker.

My friend Daniel Voyager posted in his blog about a University of Arkansas survey, which was offering participants a fee of $L500.  I'm always interested in both making a little extra money, and in legitimate academic research efforts involving SL, so I signed up and awaited further instructions.

Then I got an email from the survey lead, Andy Evans, asking for my race and gender.  He claimed that the professor overseeing the survey required this data for "a fine-grained analysis."  Even more disturbing, for the first time the purpose of the survey was clearly stated:  " examine the qualifications of different professors in Second Life and to evaluate them on measures of competence, legitimacy, and interpersonal skills."

My crap detector went on high alert.  What do someone's RL race and gender have to do with one's teaching ability?  Even in Real Life, let alone SL, this is clear evidence of a discriminatory mindset.

And what do Real Life credentials have to do with anything in SL?  Here, it's ability that counts, not whatever certificates you have on your wall or the initials you put after your name.

I am proud to be a professor at Caledon Oxbridge University.  COU is, of course, not to be compared to a RL college or university.  At COU, the "curriculum" is entirely about Second Life.  We teach people how to build in SL, how to buy land in SL, or how to take great pictures in SL.  We don't teach math, sciences, languages, history, or any of the subjects you would expect to find in a "real" school.  Nevertheless, the principles of good teaching apply to what we do.

My fellow professors are men and women...and also wind-up dolls, cute tiny bunnies, and humanoid creatures with cat ears, muzzles, and tails.  How they look in SL, and how they may look in RL, has absolutely no bearing on their qualifications to teach.

And, although COU teaches SL subjects, that applies to RL subjects as well.  You can take classes in Second Life on history, anatomy, or English as a second language.  Those classes won't show up on any RL transcript or count toward a degree...but they do impart knowledge, and if the teacher knows her subject and knows how to teach it, the course is worthwhile.

You might think that I am being defensive because I have no teaching experience or credentials in Real Life...but you would be mistaken.  I have taught graduate level courses in contracting and management subjects.  At one point, I held a position roughly equivalent to assistant principal at a small, specialized trade school.

Mr. Evans, you may take your survey, fold it until it is all sharp corners, and shove it up your supervising Ph.D's posterior.  It will probably do more good that way than any other.


  1. One other thing I was annoyed about their race and gender question were the selections. "Native American" wasn't included, nor could you type it in. They're leading people in the direction they want the survey to go, I think.

  2. Sounds like the questioner doesn't understand SL very well!