31 October 2007

My costume these days

The Berkman Center at Harvard is offering an unusual course this semester through the Extension School on Virtual Worlds. We are nearly halfway through, and unlike almost every other academic experience I’ve ever had, this one just keeps getting more and more fun. In the first half of the course we have read Neal Stephenson, Yochai Benkler, Larry Lessig, and Julian Dibbell, created Second Life avatars, attended Burning Life, created a class wiki, visited LambdaMOO, built little games using Scratch, met for class in Second Life every other week, and gotten our hands dirty building Second Life objects. I’d read Snow Crash, of course, but of the other things all were new to me except LambdaMOO.

Recognize me? I’m the redhead on the left, the one exposing her soft underbelly. (Gotta make an extra effort to cover your midriff in Second Life.) As a sop to realism, I gave myself a big bum, but altering appearance in SL is quite an art, and on the less technical side: you would not believe the pressure to look good in a virtual world! I’m wearing the pre-packaged freebie skin of a woman twenty years younger—pure Stephenson “Brandy.”

Below is our classroom, with the professor, Rebecca Nesson, at the front demonstrating a little pig she built. If you’re interested in Second Life, or virtual worlds altogether, the class is open to “at-large” participation—no tuition necessary.

We’ve been talking in class about the “aggregation of willing energy,” or how to persuade people to join you in your virtual projects and enterprises. It’s one of the problems of blogging, of course; you build it, and... maybe they come.

If you have come, you’ve likely come for knitting content. I don’t have much today, but I do have my knitting corner to show you, and to tell you about the addition to it, which is an antique lamp from Oklahoma.

It belonged to my school friend Martha, who was also from Oklahoma. Like this lamp, she was both elegant and somewhat forceful. Martha, a very fit and healthy woman my age, had a sudden and devastating stroke in July. She never really regained consciousness before dying two weeks ago.

A few years ago, Martha took a job in Barcelona and stayed there for two years. When she returned, we somehow didn’t see much of each other until this July, when one of us proposed breakfast. We had the best visit I ever had with her, in no small part due to the fact that Martha had fallen in love and was, I found, utterly transformed. She was a lovely, wonderful person before. Now she was a lovely, wonderful person radiating joy. I left our breakfast on a pink cloud, and couldn’t wait to tell my own boyfriend all about her good fortune. When she was stricken so soon afterward, and when it became apparent that recovery was unlikely, I was so, so grateful that I had had that little time with her—it was just so purely delightful.

And now I have Martha's grandparents’ lamp, because her sister and her boyfriend kindly gave it to me. It has the place of honor next to the comfy chair. The chair I’ll be knitting in probably every day for the rest of my life. I will be glad to have a little of Martha with me.

1 comment:

Alayne said...

Oh Max - what a lovely post.