Library offers ?second? chance at life

By By , Staff Writer and By , Staff Writer

By Jake Hibbard, Staff Writer

If students are bored with their own lives, the Marriott Library is hoping they’ll go online and get a new one.

Since spring 2007, the library has owned an “island” in Second Life, a virtual online world. Second Life, which launched in 2003, might best be described as “The Sims on steroids,” said Matt Irsik, head of U Computer Media Services.

Second Life users create an online character, called an avatar, and can explore the online world by traveling to millions of different specialized islands within it. Although the library spends about $2,000 in membership fees on the island each year, Ross said the price is worth exploring how the technology could potentially benefit the U, including hosting art events and classes.

Irsik and other CMS employees were showing off “Marriott Library Island” on Thursday at the real-life library, in the new virtual art gallery that was added in the recently completed expansion.

People often hear about Second Life and think it’s just another online game, said Thomas Ferrill, a CMS employee. Actually, it is basically what its name says8212;just like life, except online, he said.

Users can network and meet other people much like on Facebook. They can also research almost any topic, watch live concerts and even attend college classes, Irsik said. Last spring, the U fine arts department used the island to broadcast a live performance called “InterPlay: An Artonomy,” said Mary Ross, the library spokeswoman.

Irsik said he hopes the U will continue to use Second Life for broadcasting more events and will eventually offer classes through it. More than 300 universities and colleges worldwide have held online classes or conducted research through Second Life, according to an article in the magazine Government Technology.

Irsik said online classes are better when they are done through Second Life, compared to other options for online schooling, because students can watch an instructor, either live or through a previously recorded session, while sitting in a virtual classroom. They can even interact with other students in the class via text or voice chat.

Also, because everyone is an avatar, class discussions are more open than in real life, he said.

“(Second Life online classes) allow for more free-flowing conversation without the fear of being politically correct (because) you can’t see if someone in the class is 60 or (disabled) like in a real classroom,” he said.

Christopher Creveling, a freshman in mechanical engineering, said he had never heard of Second Life, but thought taking a class through the virtual world would be interesting.

“It would definitely be a different experience than any other online class,” Creveling said.

Attending classes as a created avatar, however, would be strange, he said.

“It’s kind of like hiding yourself from society,” he said.

[email protected]chronicle.utah.edu

Richard Payson/The Daily Utah Chronicle

Matt Irsik from Campus Media Services explains to guests how Second Life works and about the virtual Marriott Library.