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July 14, 2007

Innovator Profile: Prof. Elizabeth Townsend-Gard and Rachel Goda

In spring 2007, Prof. Elizabeth Townsend-Gard (visiting at Seattle U. at the time, now at Tulane; also a Stanford Center for Internet & Society Fellow) used the virtual world Second Life to teach concepts and principles of property to her 1L class. With the assistance of then-2L Rachel Goda, Prof. Townsend-Gard used Second Life as a foil for our real-world experience, exploiting the similarities and differences between our daily physical experience of property and the strange (for newbs, at least) virtual one to shake up assumptions about ownership.

I had this vision... it just struck me that [Second Life] is a really great way to teach property -- that you would have this notion that you're coming from the feudal world, we're in the market world and we are quickly going into the future, into a virtual property world, and wouldn't it be interesting to take 100 1L students into Second Life and see how much modern property law you could find in Second Life. And so I told Rachel this madcap idea, and she said, "I'll help! This sounds great! I would love to do this!"

(Podcast and links after the break.)

"All property is made up," notes Prof. Townsend-Gard, and students came to understand how our property laws came into being through a combination of the laws of physics and custom. (For example, Second Life obviates the need for laws regarding misplaced property because it is coded to return your items to you after a set period of time -- a "law of physics" absent in our real world).

I had the pleasure of interviewing both Prof. Townsend-Gard and Ms. Goda yesterday, and I am offering the audio recording of that conversation for this podcast edition of the LSI blog:

  1. Introductions and an overview of the class
  2. Why virtuality matters and what it means for tomorrow's lawyers
  3. Advice for other teachers who want to use Second Life

Prof. Townsend-Gard blogged her class's experience, or more accurately, posted student work. The blog nicely illustrates the creative and collaborative capacity of law students in the form of video presentations. (I would note that all of the pedagogical value of podcasting applies to these efforts). Several aspects of these presentations could well be expanded to become serious contributions to the study of virtual worlds. Appropriately, Prof. Townsend-Gard also blogged her experience at Terra Nova, the leading blog of virtual world studies:  April 2, April 4, April 23, April 24, April 26. The April 23 post is particularly interesting, as many students who participated in this experimental class submitted comments.

- Gene Koo

July 14, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink


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