Professors Charlie Nesson of Harvard Law School and his daughter, Rebecca Nesson, a computer scientist and instructor at Harvard Extension School, are giving a course this fall called Law in the Court of Public Opinion that will be taught in part at least within the virtual world of Second Life and by their online avatars.
The course description says this:
If we do say so ourselves, the course will be unlike any that has ever been taught. It is a course in persuasive, empathic argument in the Internet space. Throughout the course we will be studying many different media technologies to understand how their inherent characteristics and modes of distribution affect the arguments that are made using them. Students will be immersed in this study through project-based assignments in which they will be using these technologies to make their own arguments.
The Nessons put together a video talking about the course and showing their virtual Doppelgaengers in action:
Even cooler is the fact that anyone with an internet connection can get access to the course materials and may also be able to participate in the course in a limited way. Check the “at large” page of the course site for instructions, which should be coming soon. The course begins September 10.
Kooky? yes. Even a bit hokey. Likely to fail? yes. But. This is what the academy should be working on. This is an interesting and exciting use of technology. This is a rebuke to all the law profs whose technical ability extends to the use of email. Get with it, law schools, or get left so far behind by your students that you'll approach the vanishing point.
And librarians… imagine a Second Life in which people learn how to use libraries…