Following my visit to Arizona State’s CompuGirls (see previous post), I continued my quest for signs of feminism in Second Life (SL) and found a virtual treasure: Minerva (10, 10, 29), the SL home of Ohio State’s Department of Women’s Studies.
I arrived on a stony shore with splashing waves in front of University Hall, a replica of OSU’s own iconic hall – at least the façade is. The interior houses the Ada Byron Lovelace Library, which contains a wonderful collection of feminist websites (at the end of this post I provide a sample).
A browser search did not reveal that such a library actually exists on the OSU campus; however, I did learn that Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and Anna Isabella Byron, was a 19th century English writer sometimes called the “World’s First Computer Programmer” due to her work on Charles Babbage’s early computer. How lovely! to have a digital SL library bearing her name. I also learned that OSU’s Science & Engineering Library featured her in a 2009 display; a list of Ada Lovelace resources are available on the display’s website.
The inside and back side of University Hall have a charming SLesque feel with colorful open spaces, especially on the second floor where I sat on a sofa with a cup of tea looking out on the campus.
The Minerva Island website says that the hall and library are always open to the public – as is the rest of the island except for the beach side during class sessions. The website also notes that the first course held entirely on Minerva began in January 2008, a course called Gender, Sex, and Power, which, I think, is still offered there, based on seeing a student exhibit dated Autumn 2011.
Slideshow boards that I saw in classroom areas suggested that a course or unit on women’s history is now or has recently occurred. In any case, there are enough classrooms – all open air or underwater – for three or four courses or discussion sections to be offered at any one time.
On the island’s teaching and learning beach side, near the freebie store and a circle of pose stands, are student exhibits on a variety of feminist topics. One of the most unique exhibits (which may or may not be a student product) offered the experience of wearing a hijab, burqa, and/or chador and included a video of a dialogue between a young Muslim woman resisting the hijab and a veiled woman presenting reasons why she should wear it.
The island holds other opportunities for interactive experiences. For example, a “Social Construction of Gender” activity is available in several places. It’s about the gendering of pose balls for sitting. A notecard presents a series of questions: Which of the eight pose balls are typically designated female? which male? What can we make of the differences in seating postures? How does it feel to sit in one posture rather than another? and so on. Very interesting, intellectually engaging, and certainly relevant to an avatar’s experience.
Another activity I enjoyed was purely for fun: playing a set of drums in a running series of sequences. The patterns you are to imitate are simple enough at first but grow in complexity. It’s hard to explain, so you’d have to try it. Perhaps you have, but this drumming game was new to me.
As it turns out, I was on Minerva Island back in early December for a fascinating talk on “Women of Palestine and Israel,” given by Alexjo Magic, a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace. The talk was held at Minerva’s amphitheater; and several of the visuals from her presentation are still there, which provided the aha moment: “I’ve been here!” What I didn’t know then that I know now is how much there is to Minerva. Nor did I know that Minerva, in conjunction with the AAUW (American Association of University Women), occasionally presents lectures, readings, workshops, and concerts on the island.
AAUW has, in fact, considerable presence on the island. It has posters in several places and has a building of its own next to University Hall. The SL home site of AAUW is at the Aloft Nonprofit Commons (196, 32, 25).
Exploring Minerva and learning more about its Women’s Studies program was a great pleasure. I look forward to discovering other SL sites that, as an AAUW sign at the Nonprofit Commons says, are “breaking through barriers for women and girls.”
Sampler of Resources Found in the Ada Byron Lovelace Library
International Museum of Women: http://www.imow.org/home/index
Suppressed History Archives: real women, global vision: http://www.suppressedhistories.net/
Feminist Majority Foundation: Equality around the world: http://feminist.org/
On the Issues: A Magazine of Feminist, Progressive Thinking: http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/2012winter/index.php
The Political Voices of Women, “A List of 500+ Women Political Bloggers”: http://politicsanew.com/list-of-200-women-political-bloggers/
There’s also a notecard on the library table under the “Connect” poster that contains a list of Women’s History SL sites. Click the illustration of a woman holding up a Peugot bicycle.
And tucked away in the student exhibit beach area is a notecard that provides information on the SL Left Unity Feminist Network. Find the poster that says “Touch for a Free Survival Kit.”