Cynthia Davidson, Stony Brook University
A magical scene in "Ode," a region in Second Life
For those who still wonder what the “practical” point of incorporating avatar-based culture into ePortfolio learning, one needs to look no further than the work done by Avatrian. Billed on their website as “a group of artists, engineers, generalists, specialists, realists & dreamers” whose “cumulative professional background spans the fields of Computer Science, Architecture, Economics, Interior Design, Medicine, International Relations, and Graphic Arts," Avatrian offers “start to finish start-to-finish management of small to large-scale projects, such as building out an entire island or creating a large event for many participants” including such services as virtual content creation, urban build, terraformation, clothing and accessory design, machinima production, avatar customization, LSL programming, and in the extended services tab, website development, graphic arts design, in-world research, virtual land purchasing assistance, systems integration, and project management.. The website offers a “contact us” page with info for a California and a Cebu, Phillipines offices, each accompanied by an interactive Google map that, if clicked, provides a real-time map of the real-world intersection and the opportunity to map directions from one’s location. An online portfolio of the group’s latest projects includes BioBreeds (scripted breedable virtual dogs with real-time care needs and lifespans), University of Central Florida’s virtual voting center (a training space for employees, volunteers, and voters), MoonWorld (a NASA-funded lunar simulation project), the Medaverse (a project dedicated to creating simulations embedded in medical websites), Alameda County (a virtual polling place), RMB City (a four-sim social experiment), the Winter Playground of KINSA (the Kid’s Safety Internet Alliance, a non-profit NGO), Leviathan of Parsonstown (a virtual reconstruction of the famous telescope), Snougle (the 3-dimensional representation of a web comic based on “quirky humor inspired by animals, plants, and life” in Second Life), the Medieval Corridor (a series of historical and fantasy-inspired armors), the Terrain Factory (ready to launch terraforming for sims and estates in virtual worlds based on real geographies), and the Evolution Chamber (customized avatar production for clients who want avatars that look remarkably like their real selves). A feature of the Avatrian website is an array of blogs that offer articles, news, and photos about the group’s activities. The group’s work is displayed throughout Second Life, Blue Mars, Open Simulator (Open Sim) , and Entropia Universe.
Although it is unclear as to what the Avatrian group recoups for their services, it is likely to be substantial given the high-profile nature of some of their clients—even in the scaled-down economies of virtual worlds. Perhaps more importantly, what we are seeing here is a new type of business venture that crosses professional disciplines—of necessity—and hinges on the concept of remediation. To not prepare the current generation of students for the possibilities that virtual literacy, when integrated successfully with other older forms of literacy, provides for them would be irresponsible, and the virtual ePortfolio project would be a step taken in right direction.