Using Second Life for Political Simulation – Prof. Quinn Mecham

Second Life
Technologies Used: Second Life; Blogs, Wikis.
Political Science 103: Intro to Comparative Politics
Number of Students: 50
Objectives: “Provide a political simulation experience for my students, and conduct an experiment to determine if it was possible to create a virtual state in which people would actively participate.”

Summary of Poster Session: Quinn Mecham and Alex Russo (a student from his course) demonstrated how they used Second Life as one of their tools to simulate how political parties and governments form.  Students had avatars (simulated characters) in Second Life that could interact with each other and campaign, form parties, propose legislation, and experience how politics play out.  A blog and wiki connected to their virtual space was also used to allow proposals to be vetted.

Actual Learning Outcomes: “Students learned the effects of different types of electoral systems on political outcomes.  They also learned how to test their own political ideology, form political parties, create political platforms, choose between competing parties, draft and vote on legislation.”

Conclusions and Reflections: “While some students were averse to using the technology, many were active participants in the simulation and enjoyed it very much.  I believe that the simulation greatly enriched students’ understanding of different types of democracy than what is found in the United States.   I am not yet convinced that second life is the best possible platform for this experiment, but it was the best platform we could find without developing our own from scratch.”

Caveats to Colleagues: “It is largely a positive experience, but requires high levels of support and faculty investment to make it work successfully.”

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