Angela Winand studies Second Life as an educational tool
Assistant Professor of African-American Studies Angela Winand admits the virtual world created by the computer program Second Life can be addictive, but it is also educational.
Winand started studying Second Life as an extension of her research on images of African American women in film and literature. The program allows users to create an avatar of any race or gender to represent them in a virtual world.
“One of the possibilities that comes out of that experience is recognizing how people interact with you differently based on race or gender,” said Winand.
Winand often finds people switch their race or gender to experience how they are treated differently. She hopes to use Second Life as a tool in the classroom to show her students the difference.
“It is a great example of what you can do with Second Life in terms of educating people,” said Winand.
Second Life allows users to travel to different worlds and experience the culture. One of Winand’s favorite worlds is a re-creation of Nigeria, which teaches visitors about the history of the slave trade.
“The fact that it is a virtual world means that people from all over the country are logging in and creating a second life for themselves, but it’s even broader than that because there are people from different countries that come into the world,” she said.
She believes the program is especially beneficial to UIS students, because not everyone has the ability to travel.
“I think it’s great for this campus. It has a lot of potential here, because it is a small town and we’re kind of isolated,” she said.
Winand often uses her personal avatar in class and even has a blog in the virtual world where she talks about her research into African American culture.