Pikes Peak Community College Joins Second Life Debating

Recently I have been using the language of building "machines" that "do things" as a metaphor for most everything happening intellectually around me. After the Denver Nationals hosted by Regis and The University of Denver I referred to the growing BP national circuit in the US as a machine that we are excited and thrilled to build, yet we are not quite sure of all the functions. What features are being built in that we can't or won't notice?

Second Life debating is similar to me. After the great debate on the 20th, last night I was invited to offer some comments on a debate held by Pikes Peak Community College Students on their virtual campus. I think it was an excellent demonstration of the potential of Second Life and debate, as none of us in the room had met before, and we were thousands of miles apart. Even so, the debate went on fine, and I could comfortably listen and take notes from my (soon to be under renovations) office.

The topic was "Women professors make better teachers than male professors." Pretty interesting potential there. The format was a modified L-D format with shortened speeches and some built in prep time for questions. A pretty good beginner format I must say. I thought it worked well to create a debate that was not intimidating or overwhelming for brand new debaters.

I find myself less interested, or perhaps less distracted by the technical elements of Second Life debating the more I do it. I attended a lot more to the debate itself, which became much more a debate about whether women and men have measurable or distinct differences rather than about whether one is a better sort of teacher than the other. I think that the elements were there to have that debate, but everyone became bogged down in information. This is why I always paradoxically say the less information the better the debate.

Also I think that LD and other such formats attempt to run away from debate about larger ideas, ideology, goals and principles. The debate tends to condense around smaller matters of statistical validity, source verification, and the collision of facts. A larger frame really helps make the information presented "do something" to or for the minds of the audience.

But the statistics and fact-based approach has benefits in a format that is disembodied. No clear way outside of vocal variety to indicate passion or conviction. The bodies are not vibrant. There is a connection lost to the aesthetic dimension of debating.

This debate helped me think about a hybrid Second Life format that captures the conviction and big-picture sensibility of BP/public debating along with the hard evidence nature of LD and Policy debating. Both are not well suited as they are for Second Life and need some adjustment for the virtual world. I hope to think about this more as I have an upcoming project - I've been invited to work on how to transition a High School CX debate format into Second Life. The biggest challenge there is the demand for shared documents during the debate. How can you normalize this in the Second Life environment?

The first of many questions, I'm sure.