Use of Secondlife in WS780/COMS780 Feminist Research Methods (summer 2007)

Hp explains

What purposes does the use of Secondlife serve in our class?

• To force acquisition of a new type of literacy: Even those of us who may be familiar with multi-user online formats haven’t necessarily so much as tried Secondlife before. There are levels of literacy that we are forced to learn, from basic mechanics to manners, to function at all in-world. After that, we’re each learning new types of literacy that are particular to our areas of interest, whether that be social norms or clothing sales. Since this class is research-focused, it’s forcing us to be aware of and work within these norms, even as we look at them as researchers. This double consciousness is definitely a part of feminist research.
• To disorient us: After all, it’s harder in many ways for one to look at an environment as a researcher if it’s one with which we are completely familiar. This environment is new to most of us in the class, causing us to approach it for the first time with research in mind.
• To give us laboratory space: SL is functioning as a space where we can look at and participate in the kinds of social mechanics and research functions that we’re looking at theoretically through our readings.
• To force us to apply feminist modes of work in research: Online research gives one a degree of distance from those one is researching at first. However, through our readings and online work, we’re all confronted with somewhat of a loss of distance between us and our “subjects” online. After all, we’re each just another avi. This enables us to wrestle with feminist theories of research in a slightly less confrontational setting than IRL; however, SL is challenging in a different way, due to the fluidity of almost everything in this world, including us.

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