Something Wicked This Way Come

by Alphaville Herald on 06/11/08 at 11:25 pm

by Fiend Ludwig

In a sum-up of the 20008 Second Life Community Convention (SLCC), Eric Reuters reported that “notably absent from the conference were any real-world businesses from outside the virtual worlds industry,” but that “the breakout star of SLCC was the burgeoning virtual world educational community.”

As the platform matures, Second Life is proving to be a ground-breaking and innovative way to not sell stuff but teach stuff. One of the most compelling examples of this is Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters (SLURL). As accurately described in the press release, it “brings Shakespeare’s world renowned and extraordinarily influential play Macbeth into a virtual worlds environment.” And is a “timely use of pop culture as an adaptive bridge between classic texts and new media technology.”

Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters

The brainchild of Dr. Angela Thomas (Anya Ixchel in SL), a senior lecturer in English and Arts Education at the University of Sydney, the project is a stunning the example of the combination of imaginative and evocative building and thoughtful (and though-provoking) multi-layered educational content disguised as a wickedly creepy interactive carnival ride. She says “it took me 3 or 4 hours to do the initial designs, and then 6 months to make it.”

Thomas continues, “I didn’t make it of course. I am good at ideas, but actually getting them into practice is really tough. [It was] totally a team effort.” In fact, it was built pro bono over 8 weeks by the New Media Consortium, led by Larry Johnson (Larry Pixel), and builders Chris Holden (CJ Carnot) and Beth Satchjen (Stella Costello). She collaborated with Producer Kate RIchards (Nini Dubrovna) and Director Kereen Ely-Harper (Dorothy Porta). Funding was also provided by the Australia Council, the Australian government’s arts funding and advisory body.

On the island you are wholly immersed in the look, feel, sound, and text of Macbeth. The clever layout of the props leads you sequentially to a series of interactive ‘scenes’, each designed to elucidate a facet of the play. Your path follows that of Macbeth’s as he descends into murder and madness. Along the way there are notecards that give the visitor/student/teacher a range of discussion points, references, and activities relating to the current scene, and the whole project is accompanied by a very comprehensive wiki.

Inside the Castle

This rich educational component, linked with the carefully detailed design of each scene, allows for wide range of user experience; from quick survey to in-depth learning (and teaching) event. And so far, the sim is racking up some pretty impressive traffic numbers. Thomas reports 4000-5000 visits per day on weekends and 700-800 per day during the week.

A visit to Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters unlocks creaking gates though which to venture and excites the cauldron of imagination. It inspired me to re-read Macbeth, which I have not read since high school English class. Surely this, and other similar projects that will inevitably follow, is future for virtual spaces like Second Life. Education, inspiration, invention. Opening doors and showing the way forward.

Just like the Witches.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks!

The Witches

Fiend Ludwig also writes for First Person : Second Life

13 Responses to “Something Wicked This Way Come”

  1. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Nov 6th, 2008

    High school education guarantees that 90% of people will be thoroughly done with Shakespeare – you can only get so much entertainment from something once you’ve spent five years analyzing his every play to shit and written ten pages of babble about why Juliet is dominant over Romeo and why King Lea-ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZzzz….

    Throw me the Phantom of the Opera and I’ll be interested, for atleast 10 minutes.

  2. Rott

    Nov 7th, 2008

    “High school education guarantees that 90% of people will be thoroughly done with Shakespeare”

    i have to agree. Also, why is it always shakespeare? We have an incredible amont of plays and works of literature and high school , and the virtual world too it seems, have a fetish for this guy. you are doing something wrong when people come out o fhigh school and dont really like shakespeare. I understand trying to get you r students to understand a great playwriter, but cmon. there’s more to the world, just like there is more to the world than second life.

  3. IntLibber Brautigan

    Nov 7th, 2008

    Actually, the only reason there were few corporate reps there was because the organizing committee had nobody working on bringing them there and getting their sponsorship like previous years committees had. Last year, one of Anshe Chung’s staff had done a great job doing it, but was not involved in this years effort. Many of the business representatives that were there were very dismayed at how it was organized.

  4. Witness X

    Nov 7th, 2008

    I was going to post some scathing remark about Alyx’s amazing lack of culture, depth, emotional maturity or intelligence, but – well, when he keeps standing up like that and demonstrating how good he is at peeing his pants ..

    .. it just takes all the fun out of it.

  5. Jahar Aabye

    Nov 7th, 2008

    As for “Why Shakespeare?” The answer is because his plays cover such a wide range of human thought and emotions, not to mention all the deadly sins. His use of language was unique and unmatched by any other since. And of course, most people fail to realize how many “modern” movies and TV shows and books and such are written that base their plots essentially from his works.

    The only other literary comparison, in terms of being widely read, would be Agatha Christie. I can’t think of any film or TV comparisons, though.

    I’m glad to see the Herald actually reporting on adult, mature topics that don’t include the term “yiff” or “poseball.”

  6. Sigmund Leominster

    Nov 7th, 2008

    Shakespeare? Bah humbug! I left school many many years ago and for some peculiar reason Shakespeare is still being churned out to students as both a fetishized example of “real” literature and a rite of passage. He’s hard to read, long winded, and wrote his stuff hundreds of years ago in a variation of English that is painfully archaic. Why in God’s name do schools continue with this policy of trying to teach uninterested students to read someone whose style will never be seen outside of… well, Shakespeare!

    His greatest contribution – other than demonstrating that being prolific can pay off eventually – is that he articulated, all be it obscurely to modern ears, many of the basic themes and challenges of human existence. Harold Bloom once wrote that even Freud’s entire school of psychoanalysis was a retelling of Shakespeare, which is why Freud was wont to write about Shakespearean themes.

    Now, if you really want to force some old stuff on kids, grab a copy of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” that’s translated into English and written in an almost-prose manner. My personal fave is Horace Gregory’s translation but that’s just me.

    If anyone wants to create a sim full of lust, violence, gore, duplicity, beastiality, incest, rape, and murder, forget Billy Shakes and just go for Ovid! Hell, I’m surprised Ovid isn’t higher on the list of Christian Fundamentalists’ “Books written by Satan” list. Now here’s a guy who not only had a big nose (Publius Ovidius Naso – the “naso” is right) but was happy to poke it into every aspect of human behavior, deviant or otherwise. Shakespeare was happy to dig into Ovid for his plays: “Romeo and Juliet” is just a re-working of the “Pyramus and Thisbe” story, and the Pyramus and Thisbe story pops up in “Twelfth Night.” Oh, and Prospero sounds like Ovid’s Medea when he says “this rough magic I now abjure.”

    I say leave Shakespeare to the academics, bring Ovid to the kids, and build Ovidean sims to showcase the highs and lows of the human condition! And what would be a more apposite place to retell Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” than Second Life!!

  7. Darien Caldwell

    Nov 7th, 2008

    Educators like Shakespeare because his works are Free and Open Source. ;) More modern works are not, so they don’t want to use them.

  8. Razrcut Brooks

    Nov 7th, 2008

    Alyx concisely iterated the thoughts of many.

    Most (not all) people who like Shakespeare like the IDEA of being “cultured”. They want their inner circle of friends to be impressed.

    Comments that CUT,

  9. Hiro Pendragon

    Nov 8th, 2008

    This appears better than Arden, and probably at a fraction of the cost.

  10. GreenLantern Excelsior

    Nov 8th, 2008

    “In a sum-up of the 20008 Second Life Community Convention (SLCC)…”

    Although Second Life is somewhat popular, I doubt they will be holding the SLCC that far in the future. Besides, it’s a leap year.

  11. Fiend Ludwig

    Nov 8th, 2008

    @ GreenLantern Excelsior – want to be my copy editor? Good catch. Of course this should read 2008. FL

  12. Fred Levitt

    Nov 9th, 2008

    I love Agatha Christie. Way better then stuffy Shakespeare.

  13. Archie Lukas

    Nov 13th, 2008

    In a sum-up of the 20008 Second Life Community Convention

    Only another 18,000 years to wait then…..?

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