Creativity in Second Life -- Nettrice R. Gaskins

Creativity in Second Life
Massachusetts College of Art & Design, Continuing Education
Jun 12-Jul 24
Thursdays 7:35-9:35pm EST, Summer 2008
Instructor: Nettrice R. GaskinsCourse Description | Prerequisites | Contact | Syllabus | Links | Course Wiki | At-Large

Course Description

This unique course will give insights into how the virtual 3D world is being used to create, promote, and exhibit art and how artists and educators are encouraging collaboration through design, social networking, and virtual art making and display. Case studies will be explored as well as providing a list of "dos and don'ts" for 3D worlds. An emphasis will be placed on creating a virtual presence, building things, and uploading images, visual literacy, and media in Second Life. The activities will culminate in a virtual art gallery and exhibition.

This is an ideal course for artists interested in exploring emerging technologies. Each week will include face-to-face and online sessions, in Second Life (students may also meet solely online).

Students will be required to register basic (free) membership accounts through Second Life, download and have access to Second Life outside of class time. Click >HERE< to download the Second Life application.

The following hardware and software is REQUIRED to run Second Life successfully:

  • Internet connection: Cable or DSL
  • Computer processor: 1.6GHz
  • Computer memory: 512MB RAM or better
  • Video/Graphics Card: nVidia GeForce FX 5600, GeForce 6600, or ATI Radeon 9600, X600, or better

There are two terms or concepts to consider for this course. The first is creativity and the second is metaverse. We'll start with the latter and explore how SL, as a "metaverse", encourages creativity.

The metaverse is a fictional virtual world, described in Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional space that uses the metaphor of the real world. The word metaverse is a compound of the words "meta" and "universe". ~ wikipedia

Second Life or SL is a 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using voice and text chat. SL is a meeting place and marketplace for communities of artists. SL has a flourishing economy and millions of users doing everything from teaching and taking classes to visiting museums to running galleries. We will use Second Life as our classroom and laboratory. After a facilitated introduction, we'll examine models for virtual exhibition, education and activism. Work for the course will be largely project-based. In the first half of the class students will learn how SL is used to create things and visit various virtual art projects. In the second half of the course students will work collaboratively to create a virtual art gallery.

The course will meet in a non-traditional way. We will have weekly synchronous class meetings in our virtual classroom on Boga Island in Second Life. These synchronous meetings are required class meetings, so you must be available to attend them in order to enroll in this class.


There are two important prerequisites for this course. First, you must have access to a computer where you can install and run Second Life. Test this out before you begin the class. Second, you must be available for the weekly meetings in Second Life. These meetings take place at a specific time and attendance at these meetings is required and will contribute to your grade. If you know that you will have to miss more than one of these meetings it is not advisable to take the course.

The recommended book for this course is

Contact Info

The instructor can be reached using the course email account

Class Schedule

With few exceptions, the class will meet virtually on Boga Island in Second Life for all students. The time for the Second Life meetings will be the same: 7:35-9:35pm EST. If you need an accomodation on these meeting times due to time zones or other work requirements, please email the instructor. There will be 6-7 of these required meetings in Second Life. Attendance at these meetings does count towards the class grade. Each student is allowed to miss one of the required meetings without any penalty to his/her grade. Please be sure that you can attend these meetings before registering for the course. The dates of these meetings are as follows:

June 19
June 26
July 3
July 10
July 17
July 24

Office Hours:

Office hours are per request on Boga Island in Second Life. Please come to these office hours to talk about the course material, get help on homework, or just to hang out with your classmates and the at-large participants.

If you need help at other times it is always available by email to If you'd like to make an appointment to meet with the instructor in person send an email to to arrange it. For distance students the instructor can arrange virtual meetings, chat sessions, or phone calls.


The course will be graded using a point system. The total points available in the course sum to 100. Journal/blog/wiki writing will be assigned weekly after reading, viewing or listening to assignments. The journaling may take the form of any media: writing/text, video, audio, web sites, still photography etc. so long as they can be shared with the class electronically via the Internet. Throughout the course of the semester, you must have a minimum of three journal entries that will include a final presentation.

  • Blog/Research (10 points)
  • Blog/Final Presentation* (20 points total)
    • Research/plan: 5 points
    • First draft: 5 points
    • Final draft: 10 points
  • Attendance at virtual class meetings: 30 points -- 5 points for each attendance
  • Completion of Midterm Project: 20 points
  • Completion of Final Project: 20 points

All homework assignments will be due at 12:00 noon EST on Wednesdays (with some exceptions). All homework must be submitted via the individual student's blog.

* Students will be encouraged to set up a personal blog for this course using any service they choose. Send blog urls/links to instructor after the first session. Students will document their progress via their blog.

Late Work Policy

Late work will be accepted up to one week after the due date of the assignment. Assignments turned in within 1 week of the due date will lose 2-5 points depending on the assignment. Assignments turned in after one week of the due date will lose 10 points or half credit. No assignments will be accepted more than 2 weeks late.

One assignment may be turned in late (within 1 week of the due date) without penalty during the semester.

Extension Policy

Extensions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances such as illness or other unexpected obstacle to completion of work. Extensions must be requested in writing to the course email account BEFORE the due date of the assignment. No extensions will be granted after the due date for an assignment has passed.

At-Large Participation

Second Life provides much more than just a virtual classroom for our class, it is also a vibrant virtual community with many residents interested in learning and sharing their knowledge. In order to promote the opportunity for free access to higher education and to gain the benefit of the support of the community for our enrolled students, we invite the Second Life community to participate in our class as at-large participants. Guests SL artists and at-large participants are invited to join our sessions to discuss the issues raised in the course. We hope that in return for sharing access to the course materials the at-large participants will be willing to serve as resources for the enrolled students in the class throughout the semester. At-large participants will not be able to turn in homework in the course, receive feedback on work for the course, or receive credit or a grade for the course. These are the privileges of the enrolled students that come from their official enrollment and payment for the course. In the event that at-large participants are disruptive, or harassing the instructor and students they will be banned from the virtual classroom space and access will be restricted to students and invited guests ONLY.


Second Life

Course Second Life Location

Course Wiki Homepage




weeks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Week 1: Introduction to Art in Second Life-- June 12

In this facilitated session we'll discuss the idea of art in the metaverse (virtual reality) and get acquainted with the specific virtual art experience presented by Second Life. What can we imagine as a possible virtual art reality? The dreams of writers like Neal Stephenson have to a large extent been realized in some virtual reality technologies that are available today. What other types of virtual realities might we dream up? What can we do with the technology that hasn't yet been done? And, of course, we'll take a look at Second Life, figure out how to get in there and get start moving around. You will meet your fellow classmates, learn the basics of how to move and interact in Second Life. Finally, I'll send you out into the world to complete a hands-on homework assignment in which you'll see the sights and get aquainted with the society.



Week 2: Building Objects I -- June 19

This week we'll get our hands the 3D virtual world. We'll meet in Second Life on Boga Island and work on getting acquainted with the environment. We'll have a class discussion about the topics from the previous week's lecture. We will explore the internal SL building system. Highly flexible building tools allow manipulation of geometric primitives in a simple interface. Stretch these “prims” into new shapes, change their texture and physical qualities, link them to other prims. From this easy-to-learn process, create objects of all kinds and sizes.

Building in Second Life is very visual. It's all done with geometric-shaped building blocks, called "prims," which are short for "primitives." Everything in Second Life is built using prims. ~ Information Week



Week 3: Building Objects II -- June 26

We will continue with building basic objects in Second Life. This week we'll import .jpegs and other standard graphic files into the Second Life world to texture the objects you create. We will also explore collaborative creation by constructing the same object(s) with several other Residents (at different times, or simultaneously).

Installation art uses sculptural materials and other media to modify the way a particular space is experienced. Installation art is not necessarily confined to gallery spaces and can be any material intervention in everyday public or private spaces.

Installation art incorporates almost any media to create an experience in a particular environment. Materials used in contemporary installation art range from everyday and natural materials to new media such as video, sound, performance, computers and the internet. Some installations are site-specific in that they are designed to only exist in the space for which they were created. ~ wikipedia

It is important to remember that almost anything is possible in the virtual world, so try to construct an Second Life art experience that is impossible to create in real life.



Week 4 -- Scripting Objects -- July 3

We we learn the basics of Linden Scripting Langage, an internal, event-driven, C/Java-style language which allows you to control object and avatar behavior, up to and including mini-games and other complex programs.

Linden Scripting Language, or LSL, is the programming language used by residents of Second Life, a virtual world by Linden Lab. LSL scripts can control the behavior of in-world objects. ~ wikipedia

Please have no fear...I will be giving you all sample scripts to modify and learn from. You will add a script to one or more objects in your mini art installation.



Week 5: Independent Project -- July 10

This week we will discuss a collaborative art installation, or exhibition in SL. You will work both independently and as a group using what you have learned in Second Life and submit plans for your contribution to the final project/presentation.

Today, collaboration art has been established as a style of art; It is not limited to the conventional art form but is attracting artists of various genres, who are actively producing works in various forms. Some artists let the viewers touch and play interactively with their works. Others use their bodies as a means of expression in the form of performance. Still others exhibit their works not in a museum but in a natural environment or on the street. ~ Collaboration Art



Week 6: Studio Session -- July 17

This week you will continue working in Second Life and complete a virtual art installation, or exhibition.


  • TBD


Week 7: Final Presentation/Exhibition -- July 24

Previous course activities culminate in a final SL art exhibitions. Students will present on what they've learned and contributed via a live, SL session and on their personal blogs/wikispace pages. Guest artists and at large participants will be invited to join students in this last session of the course.


  • Student blogs and wikispace pages.