Your eyes scan the Winter Study course descriptions for 2010. You are reading them now. You stop at this one: “Virtual Realities….Students will read a series of short stories on VR themes (artificial reality, metafiction, etc.) by authors like Philip K. Dick, Stanislaw Lem, Kelly Link, and Aramaki Yoshio, and then construct their own simulacra or copies of the stories as a mode of commentary or criticism. In the first half of the course, these simulacra will be written texts: parodies, meta-fictional criticism, or essays that reproduce the devices of the stories themselves. During these first two weeks we will also be learning to build simulations in the massively multi-user online world called Second Life, and in the latter part of the course, the class will enter this world and construct a virtual playground for a new kind criticism and a new kind of storytelling….” Oh God, you think, a virtual WSP. And yet critical analysis is already a type of virtual reality, a superimposed landscape of interpretation. And here you are, a virtual adult leading an artificial life in a fairy tale college–how much simulation can one person stand? Unless, unless, these competing distortions can compound or negate each other, and leave you grounded in a hyper-reality that is realer than real. No books, no mechanical essays, no nothing (but still a significant amount of interesting, challenging work). By the end, maybe you won’t even have to show up, except as fake avatars in Second Life.
The Class: Format: wsp project
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on attendance, preparation, 2-3 writing assignments, and a project in Second Life
Extra Info: Meeting time mornings, three times a week for 2-hour sessions (including some virtual meetings in Second Life itself), with additional reading, writing, and Second Life lab work totaling 20 more hours each week
Extra Info 2: Paul Park is the author of numerous science fiction novels and short stories. He regularly teaches courses in the English department
Enrollment Preferences: preference given to students with a demonstrated interest in the material
Materials/Lab Fee: cost to student $40