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Virtual Worlds and Society

8:00 Seminar

This course will continue the study of "What is a Good Society" from PACS 1 in the context of online virtual worlds. We will explore four types of virtual worlds (social, educational, entertainment, artistic), the social structures common in these worlds, and the impacts of virtual worlds on education, family, economy, and culture. This course will extend students' understanding of Chapter Two (Family and Civil Society) topics from Pacific Seminar I, while focusing on the question, "Are virtual worlds good for society?" Each student will develop their own argument-driven research paper that synthesizes class discussions, readings and other written sources, while arguing either for or against the use of virtual worlds in contemporary culture. We will begin by exploring the virtual world Second Life (www.secondlife.com) and its many uses today. A few class periods will be conducted virtually in Second Life using Pacific's in-world island. Students will then select their own online virtual world and perform an ethnographic study exploring the types of societal behaviors that are typical of this world. During the remainder of the term, examples of virtual worlds from each of the four types (social, educational, entertainment, artistic) will be presented and discussed. Students will gain experience developing their own virtual worlds in teams using the programming environment Alice (www.alice.com). This course will help students develop their skills in critical thinking, written and oral communication, and collaboration with their peers on group assignments.