Dr. Anthony Curtis organized craft fair in cyberspace
A craft fair featuring the works of teens in the virtual reality world Second Life was produced during the 2007 Fall Semester by Dr. Anthony Curtis (Mass Communication).
The best entries constructed by teens ages 13-17 were judged in a dozen categories: apparel, avatars, transportation, physics and chemistry, decorative arts, flora and fauna, large structures, furniture, minutiae, textures and tools, lights and lighting, machinima, sound and video media, and scripts. There also were awards for most colorful entry, most popular entry, and best of show.
"The quality of their objects was extraordinary," Dr. Curtis reported.
Hilary Mason, professor of computer science and new media at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., and a popular speaker at the Teen Second Life College Fair in October, spoke at the craft fair about building and scripting. Her avatar on the teen grid is Lyra Timeless. Mason also was part of the judging team along with a proficient teen builder named Storm, Connecticut school teacher Majenna Jewell (TSL name) and Dr. Curtis. (Teen avatars' last names are not reported here to protect their privacy.)
Teen Second Life (TSL) is part of the popular, realistic, 3-D Internet experience developed on the Internet by the San Francisco company, Linden Lab. Residents in both the teen and adult areas of Second Life shape their world and make it unique through building and scripting.
Scripting is the writing of simple computer programs in Second Life's proprietary Linden Scripting Language which make objects do things. LSL is similar to the "C" computer language.
The craft fair was held on an island owned by Eye4You Alliance, a partnership between the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, the largest public library system in the Carolinas, and the Alliance Library System of 250 Illinois public libraries.
All persons attending the fair received free Teen Second Life Craft Fair t-shirts designed by Dr. Curtis. There were cash prizes for the winners in each category (in Linden dollars or "L")" L$100 for first, L$50 for second, L$25 for third. Most colorful won L$200, most popular won L$400, and Best in show won L$500.
"A very generous teen made the cash prizes possible," Dr. Curtis acknowledged. Linden dollars are valued at about $4 U.S. per L$1,000. The winners also received gold medals made by Dr. Curtis.
Best of show went to a would-be astronaut who displayed intricate large-scale models of NASA rockets and a space shuttle. Most popular was a playable replica of a piano from the ragtime era.
The idea for the event came from Dr. Curtis' interaction with the teens.
"My inspiration for the craft fair came from two 14-year-olds I met the first day I visited TSL back in October before the college fair where UNCP had an information booth," Dr. Curtis explained. "Alianora and Sean told me they were bored because there were no planned events that day. When I looked into the schedule of planned activities for teens, I realized they needed additional adult facilitation of constructive projects.
"I noticed most of the teens are very adept at building and scripting. In fact, they like it so much they seem to be doing it all the time," he said.
"As in the adult side of Second Life -- what they call the main grid -- the world on the teen grid is shaped by its residents," Dr. Curtis said. "When I saw they had constructed a lot of cool stuff I thought of a craft fair to show off their best works."
The craft fair was advertised to all teens with the slogan "Show Up and Show Off."
"Teens are in a separate area of Second Life away from adults. Only teens and Linden staff are allowed there," Dr. Curtis explained. "The adult and teen areas don't intermingle."
Occasionally, Linden Lab sends in teachers for special educational projects. The fact that adults were present was made clear to each teen as they entered the craft fair.
"It's only after a thorough background check that so-called 'approved adults' may go to Teen Second Life," he said. "Linden Lab does this to make it a safe and pleasant place for young people to be.
"Typically, in the Teen Second Life world I have seen highly motivated, curious, engaged young people," Dr. Curtis said.
The craft fair will be held again next year. In the meantime, Dr. Curtis has been invited back to the teen area to help stage other events.
NASA has a large installation on the Eye4You Island, he pointed out. It includes rocket and shuttle launch pad simulations and a space station replica.
"Teen Second Life is an international gathering place. In real life, the teens in the space discussions will be from the U.S., Europe, Japan and really all over the world," he said.
Adults who are permitted to launch avatars on the teen grid must create separate persons for TSL because they are not allowed to move back and forth between the adult and teen grids. Once on the teen grid, the avatar is there forever under current Linden Lab rules.
Dr. Curtis' avatar on the teen grid is Dreyfus Dryke, while his avatar on the adult grid is Stone Semyorka.