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All this talk about Salons and blogs got me thinking about the role of virtual worlds in all of this. Ultimately, most of the learning that occurs in virtual worlds is informal and social in nature; people from different cultures and backgrounds with a common goal, idea, etc. get together and talk. Apart from the fact that you are interacting with an avatar as an avatar, the interaction itself is very similar to everyday learning in RL. In the same way that Salons of the enlightenment were dubbed “informal universities for women,” virtual worlds are well poised to become “informal universities for everyone.”
For example, I am always amazed to meet people in SL who have learned English solely by interacting and communicating with others in the virtual environment. Also, many artists in SL have no formal art training in RL or even consider themselves to be artists in RL. I have also found that virtual world communities can act as communities of practice, where an expert scripter will volunteer his/her expertize to other members of the group by teaching them new skills and/or by directly contributing to their project. What is interesting, and highly relevant, in my opinion, to the objective of this blog, is how our virtual identities bleed into RL to transform our RL cognitive structures. While the face of the Salon of yore has drastically changed, the concept has not. As social creatures, we continue to seek understanding and knowledge through informal, social means. What do you all think? How do you think you all learn in and from virtual worlds?