[SLED] Conference: Women's Community in Second Life

S Collingwood collingwood.7 at osu.edu
Fri Oct 10 09:42:09 PDT 2008

Virtual Praxis: A Conference on Women's Community in Second Life

Saturday, November 15, 2008

To be held on Minerva, the teaching and research space in Second Life 
maintained by The Department of Women's Studies, Ohio State 

As teachers, librarians, artists, health care workers, and as 
volunteers in the many charitable and activist organizations of 
Second Life, women are a very visible element of our virtual 
community. The number of women's groups and community centers is 
increasing, supported by an informal network of committed 
individuals. Those who come here out of curiosity often find 
themselves involved in these community activities, and those who came 
for professional reasons often find that their interests have widened 
and diversified as they have come into contact with Second Life 
society. Is what we do here just relaxation, a metaphor for what we 
do in real life, or do our Second Life activities have importance for 
our home communities and for society in general?

Virtual Concerts in the Park

Linda Rogers (Second Life: Kate Miranda)
Executive Director
Toronto Philharmonia

There was a time when orchestras wanted to reach out to new 
audiences, they would go out and play in public parks or shopping 
malls. These days people are increasingly gathering on the internet 
and in virtual reality to play and shop. As an arts administrator I 
have been curious about the possibilities of audience development 
within Second Life. Who are the musicians that are active in Second 
Life? Why are they performing there? And who makes up the audience?

Virtual Praxis: In the Director's Chair

Phylis Johnson, Ph.D. (SL: Sonicity Fitzroy)
Associate Professor & Interim Chair, Department of Radio-Television
Southern Illinois University

This paper looks at women involved in the creation, production, and 
distribution of news and entertainment content, and provides a wide 
scan of their contributions in-world. This content is created for and 
distributed to radio streams and news and entertainment cable 
services, and printed in magazines and newspapers in Second Life. The 
discussion specifically investigates the role of "media" women in SL 
content creation, and the potential impact on the larger media 
industry. SL users, internationally, are becoming notable media 
makers, and HBO featured the first documentary produced inside this 
digital community in early 2008. This paper attempts to create a 
portrait of an emerging woman producer who resides in this hall of 
media mirrors, and subsequently considers how much originality is 
realistically possible during construction in this parallel mediated 

The Women of Chilbo

Chris Collins (Second Life: Fleep Tuque)
Instructional & Research Computing, University of Cincinnati

Chilbo is a community of artists, architects, educators, musicians, 
parents, hobbyists, students, and people from around the world who 
share a common vision that our interactions and experiences in 
virtual worlds can have a positive impact on our real world and our 
real lives. The Chilbo sim in Second Life is the cultural center of 
our community, but neither physical nor virtual location limits our 
ability to collaborate and share resources with one another.

A Village of our Own
Leta Hendricks, MA, MS (Second Life: Tamu Oh)
Librarian, The Ohio State University

"A Village of our Own" is a discussion of womanist resources 
available in Second Life. The Discussion will include a review of 
Second Life contacts, landmarks, and other womanist sources.

Gender and Race in Ultra-Conservative Groups in Second Life
Randolph Hollingsworth, Ph.D. (Second Life: Bella Yan)
Assistant Provost, University of Kentucky

My presentation will focus on the role of female avatars in racist 
right-wing groups in Second Life. Why would a right-wing group choose 
to use Second Life for communication and outreach - and especially in 
regards to women? Katherine Blee's Inside Organized Racism (2002) 
states that women are heavily sought after by American hate groups, 
making up half of all new recruits. Second Life is ideal for 
imagining and practicing gender and race, and ultra-conservative 
groups have found land, groups and events in Second Life that match 
their needs. There is a clear connection between some white power, 
nationalist websites and groups in Second Life. Individuals 
identified in fascist discussion groups and MySpace profiles 
sometimes post their Second Life avatar names. Portraits of female 
avatars participating in right-wing groups in SL will be described. 
Attendees will be given a party favors bag with hyperlinks to 
important rightwing groups' websites and SL landmarks to interesting 
sites. Attendees may wish to be teleported to one particular site to 
see and discuss the symbolic structures present. In this session, as 
Ingeborg Reichle wrote in her 2004 essay "Remaking Eden," 
(Cyberfeminism. Next Protocols): "the observer is no longer merely an 
observer, but rather becomes a participant." The presenter will 
facilitate a short discussion on the role of gender and race in 
rightwing groups in Second Life.

Performing Virtual Women's Community
Lea Popielinski (Second Life: Lette Ponnier / Laertes Parx)
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Women's Studies
The Ohio State University

This paper will explore the ways in which the concept of "women" in 
Second Life shapes the building of women's homosocial environments 
within SL through an examination of the concept in terms of gender 
performance. The facility of constructing an SL avatar that is, by 
conventional definitions of sex and gender, incongruent with one's 
physical body, is enough to place such concepts as "women's 
community" in tension. This paper will explore the meaning of the 
phrase "women's community" through the concept of performativity as 
it is understood through the work of Judith Butler. I will argue that 
the physical sex of SL users is filtered through the SL medium to 
obligate avatars in presumptively all-female spaces to perform 
"women's community." The creation of "women's communities" in SL is a 
practice in referentiality wherein tropes that take their meaning in 
users' understanding of women's community come to be recognized and 
reiterated in the virtual context, but with a latent awareness that 
gender performance takes precedence over physical sex in the creation 
of such spaces. One SL space I particularly wish to examine is the 
Joyous Harmonious Park, formerly known as the Baths of Sisterhood, a 
women-only relaxation park with a history that seems to involve 
several characteristics stereotypically associated with the creation 
and dissolution of women's spaces.

Panel discussion: Is Second Life a welcoming space for women?

As educators, business people, community activists, artists and 
musicians, women make a strong contribution to Second Life society. 
According to the last published metrics from Linden Lab, 40% of user 
hours in Second Life are spent by people who self-report as female. 
While their achievements are to be seen everywhere in our virtual 
world, the energy and creativity of women in our community may face 
obstacles. Although no formal studies have been published, there is 
anecdotal evidence of harassment and intimidation. This panel will be 
one of the first attempts to assess the problem, beginning with a 
discussion our own personal experiences.

Dr. Sharon Collingwood

Department of Women's Studies
Ohio State University
286 University Hall
230 North Oval Mall
Columbus, Ohio 43210-1311

Second Life:  Ellie Brewster
Visit Minerva Island in Second Life 

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