UNCP journalism students research Second Life
By Amanda Hickey
UNCP has joined major colleges and universities in another world: Second Life (SL).
Dr. Anthony Curtis, professor in the Department of Mass Communication, introduced the 13 members of his JRN-410 Online Journalism class to Second Life at the beginning of the spring semester.
Second Life is a sprawling simulation that is growing rapidly and is inhabited today by more than 5 million people worldwide.
The students recreated their Brave News World magazine as part of the class for publication on the web as well as on Second Life.
Photo by Chris Frease, third from right
Each student in Online Journalism created an avatar reporter that poses in front of a virtual Old Main in Second Life. The students wrote 39 articles about the sprawling SL simulation to be published in the course’s Brave News World online magazine for the real world.
The Brave News World online magazine is in its third year, but this is the first year that the magazine has focused on a virtual world, according to Curtis.
"The students enthusiastically climbed what for some of them was a steep learning curve into the SL world. After a period of exploring for familiarization, they identified article ideas covering several unusual and interesting areas of social, cultural, political and commercial life,” Curtis said.
Junior Dan Kelly is currently researching games in SL.
"The last thing I expected [when I signed up for Online Journalism] was to get a glimpse into the future of human interaction, which is exactly what SL is,” Kelly said. “I've discovered that there are many creative people in the world and SL gives them a unique medium to work with.”
Students in the class have learned that while there are many differences there are also similarities between real life (RL) and SL journalism.
"It is fairly easy to find interesting places to research, but it can be difficult to get a hold of people,” Kelly said.
Senior Camron Rawls, who is researching SL charities, also had difficulty contacting sources.
"In RL, I hear about a story [and] I go and get the interview. In SL, I have to wait for the people to be online,” Rawls said.
This year, Brave News World will contain 39 feature stories and numerous photos.
"Even as they dig up and report stories from SL, the same students have learned how to prepare what now has become a traditional website for their magazine,” Curtis said.
The magazine will also be circulated in SL in “newspaper-style vending boxes,” according to Curtis.
Senior Rachelle Milbank is hoping to improve her portfolio with her SL articles.
“I think it's beneficial to use this class as a way to expand web skills and I never thought I would be interested in writing for the web until taking this class,” Milbank said. Articles she has written for class already have attracted the interest of an SL publisher.
The course has placed UNCP at the technological forefront.
“This project has put UNCP in the forefront of academic technology alongside such major universities in SL as Penn State, Ohio State, Indiana University, Harvard, Stanford and more than 100 other universities and colleges,” Curtis said.
"I'm planning to deliver other courses there in the future and working to establish a UNCP outpost in SL’s campus region," he said.