My partner, Jamie, was in a center-court box last night watching Sharapova trounce Vinci and Roddick fight his way past Gimelstob. I, of course, gave up my seat to make last minute changes in the syllabi for my two grad seminars this semester: Introduction to Interactive Communication and Virtual Worlds.
Introduction to Interactive Communication
This seminar is designed to provide a foundation for the MS in Interactive Communication program, introducing the theory and practice of interactive communication, and establishing the organizational and research skills demanded by the field. As a field of study and as a profession, interactive communication is only just emerging, and there is no clear fixed tradition or discipline. There is, however, a collection of ideas about what interactive communication means, and how it works. Our focus during the semester will be on engaging these ideas, providing each student with a broad idea of how to take apart social and interactive systems, how to reassemble them in more effective ways, and how to track the current state of the art in interactive technologies.
Throughout the semester, we will be touching on the meaning of interactive communication and the deeper questions of why things work the way they do. We will also be looking at how to uncover the current trends, and predict opportunities for yourself and your organization. We will not be spending as much time on the practical elements of production technique, or on structured approaches to managing such production in an organization, as these are treated in more detail in later coursework. As a survey, we are interested in the big questions, and how to integrate a broad set of ideas into a useful group of conceptual relationships for each student.
Over the last year or so, there has been a great deal of attention paid to a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) called Second Life; a period of media hype that is slowly coming to a close. Despite the seeming fifteen minutes of fame enjoyed by Second Life, it remains an outstanding example of a genre of social computing that has a long history, and is likely to have a long future. Virtual environments are here to stay, and there is an opportunity right now for communication professionals who are able to understand and work within these environments. Those businesses and individuals who are using Second Life today are acquiring a set of concepts and skills that are likely to be applicable to similar environments well into the future.
This seminar is designed as a practical introduction to MUVEs, with a special focus on Second Life, which will be at once the place where we work, and one of our objects of study. We will be reading some of the theory surrounding MUVEs, as well as more practical literature. By the end of the semester, participants in the seminar should be not only competent residents and creators in Second Life, but understand the social and business dynamics of virtual worlds, and be able to plan and execute a substantial project in-world.