The Second Second Life Debate in Review

Not the biggest crowd, but who cares? The debate was fantastic, and as soon as I figure out how to edit the video I will post it.

I really think this debate pushes the idea of virtual debating to the next level for a few reasons.

First, the debate occurred without much call or attending to the strange format. Several speakers did start their speech with "Can everyone hear me?" which wouldn't happen in a normal competitive debate because of the presence of body language/feedback from embodied interlocutors makes it unnecessary. Second Life avatars have the same blank, blinking stare of a reanimated corpse no matter if someone is at the keyboard or not. It's an uneasy environment in which to engage in something so embodied, so engaged, and so immediate. There's a disconnect that debaters must overcome to feel comfortable arguing in this environment.

Again, just like the last Second Life debate, I really enjoyed the banter in the chat window occurring parallel to the actual verbal debate. I think it's fascinating how the audience and other members have a commentary on the live debate going on in a form that doesn't interrupt and doesn't mess with the debate as its happening. It's sort of like the commentary you would have in your head during a debate (when you split yourself into two people) or that old fashioned good time of passing the paper back and forth in the final round giving your thoughts on the debate that, of course, you should have been in.

Pedagogically it allows a teacher to do "simultaneous translation" of a debate in progress for new students. I think this is the most exciting and coolest idea related to the parallel chat feature. This will make Second Life workshops have an advantage, or at least something unique, over real life workshops. For a while I have thought of Second Life debate training as a stop-gap or a place holder, something you do because you can't do the "better" thing.

Finally the technology of Second Life is just better. The new updates since last February really made the avatars smoother and more interesting. The sound was better and the lag was non-existent. I am really interested in doing some debate training in Second Life now due to this realization.

I also think there's something here for those who suffer from communication apprehension. They are not their real selves, so self-disclosure and risk plummet when they have to give a presentation or do a debate in Second Life.

I think the next Second Life debate will push things forward by making these events more regular and expected in the SL community as well as the debate community. With the right publicity (like we had last time) I think we will be able to normalize virtual debate for many people. But what me must be careful of is not advocating this as a replacement for debating tournaments. We must be very clear that this augments the debate experience, and makes it accessible for those that cannot or do not want to travel to tournaments.