Students get virtual lecture

The students in one class on Friday were witness to a not-so-typical kind of lecture titled “Beyond Second Life: An exploration of the extended virtual world landscape.”

The speaker, Aldon Hynes, an ex-tech manager from Wall Street, a self-proclaimed “tech junkie” and business editor for the Second Life News Network, spoke to students represented by his Second Life avatar, Aldon Huffhines.

Owned and maintained by American company Linden Lab, Second Life is an online, 3-D virtual world where residents create the content and shape the environment. Users make their own avatars, build their own houses and use Linden dollars (which can be exchanged into U.S. dollars) to purchase anything from eye colors to land. People can interact with other avatars via text, or by voice through the use of a microphone.

Although he has spoken often about Second Life in person, this was Hynes’ first time delivering a presentation within the Second Life realm.

Yifeng Hu, assistant professor of communication studies, orchestrated the lecture after meeting Hynes through a Second Life educator mailing list. The lecture was held on the College’s personal island within Second Life, rented by Hu, in a newly built virtual castle. This was Hu’s second speech via the virtual world of Second Life, a program Hu has integrated into her Introduction to Communication Studies class.

Hynes’ presentation, which he dubbed a “mixed reality conference,” revolved around the financial markets and media environment of Second Life, as well as other types of virtual worlds besides Second Life.

Hynes responded to questions dictated by students in a general chat box in Second Life.

“I didn’t realize there were so many Web sites to further aid you in the virtual world,” Catherine Cosentino, junior communication studies major, said. “This is our second speech and I’m so impressed that we can hold a class with someone miles and miles away from us.”

Hynes does not see Second Life fading away any time soon.

He said, “It is believed that by 2012, 80 percent of active Internet users will be involved in a virtual world.”