May 19, 2008
Dumbledore for a Day: The Things You Can Do in Second Life

dumbledore 1.jpg

A while back, I shared with readers of my blog my experiences in Teen Second Life, thanks to an organization called Global Kids. I recently wrote a follow-up post that I wanted to share with C3 blog readers.

I've gotten a chance to work more closely with Barry Joseph, Rafi Santos, and others from the Global Kids organization over the past year or so and each encounter has left me even more impressed with their respect for their young participants and their imaginative use of virtual worlds to focus young people on issues impacting the real world.

Some of you may have seen the virtual documentary they produced on the Ugandan child soldiers, for example, or may be aware of their excellent advice on the educational use of Second Life.

Well, they invited me back for a return engagement -- what they billed as the Hogwarts Dance Party of Good and Evil -- this time focused around Harry Potter fandom and what it may tell us about the new media literacies. There's an extensive discussion of Harry Potter in Convergence Culture and ever since, I've found myself speaking to Harry Potter fan conventions -- including the Witching Hour in Salem, Phoenix Rising in New Orleans, and the upcoming Portus in Dallas. I am also featured in the documentary, We Are Wizards, which is currently making its way on the festival circuit.

dumbledore 2.jpg

For this event, a teen designer, Sylver Bu, developed a perfect melding of my own iconic persona and that of Dumbledore, the Wizard. As wizards go, I was not particularly skilled -- in part because I use Second Life so infrequently and because I am clumsy in my off-line persona too, so I muffed my dramatic entrance, but I got much more comfortable as the event went along. Barry Joseph, who conducted the interview, dressed up in a dragon avatar for the festivities.

The interview segment was enhanced by periodic trips to the dance floor -- this time to boogey to Wizard Rock recordings, most of which had some broad social message. The selections were chosen for Global Kids by USC's own Suzanne Scott, who is completing a dissertation which deals in part with Harry Potter fan music production and distribution. Our discussion ranged from the basics of fan culture to the particular ways that groups like the HP Alliance have used J.K. Rowling's world as a starting point for social and political activism, the ways Wizard Rock exploits social network technology,the current legal battles around the Harry Potter Lexicon, and the global nature of contemporary fan culture. For Rafi's account of the event, see this blog post.

Global Kids has posted a full recording of the event for anyone who wants to relive the experience:

And this is an edited highlights video which mostly focuses on the Wizard Rock dance: