States of Play

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POSTED: December 4, 2006

In the kind of ideal world where you could do everything that you wanted, even if they were apparently contradictory, one of the things I would have been doing over the weekend is attending the State of Play conference in New York. Since the conference is organised by Ted Castronova and is limited to 60 invited attendees, then it would have to be that kind of ideal world, because in this world I doubt if any of the sixty attendees have the slightest interest in who I am or what I think.

One of the less interesting issues debated was the role of law in “virtual worlds”. Indiana University professor Joshua Fairfield said that “governance in virtual world already in place and it’s the real world governance”. Rutgers law professor Greg Lastowka added that “the law doesn’t distinguish between the real and virtual”.

This is uninteresting (to me) because it seems to be merely stating the obvious, in that it is recognising that a “virtual world” is not a geographical place in the sense that New York is, and can no more be separated from the participants’ real lives than a game of Risk.

I would like to have been at the educational session though, which was described in advance thusly:

What’s the deal with virtual worlds within education, and within learning more generally? Some suggest replicating the physical classroom within virtual worlds, but this approach is beset with all sorts of problems. Alternatively we can build entire worlds that are constructed solely to teach certain principles, but this is hardly sustainable. Learning certainly happens in these worlds, but what type of learning happens, is it valuable, and does it change any of our assumptions about learning generally? And what happens if we discover that play is the best way to learn?

I am working on developing a fully fledged pedagogy for our work in Second Life, which will become my thesis paper for the ePedagogy Masters, and I suspect that it will turn out that play is the best way to learn, if we understand learning to refer to a life-long accumulation and updating of knowledge and skills, of the kind that Alvin Toffler (for one) was discussing more than a decade ago.

I suspect that it will also turn out that John Holt was born fifty years too soon. On the other hand maybe everybody is born fifty years too soon.

Dave (“Dave Cutlass”) Cutlass would have had something to say about that (if he hadn’t been born fifty years too soon).

Later that same day:

There is a long post about the educational session at State of Play in video vidi visum.