Friday, December 17, 2010

History from textbooks and history in a virtual world

Building the virtual library made me realize certain things about teaching history in a virtual world such as OpenSimulator.

This first is that in building a library of virtual books one has to consider the role of the player. The student as student would have access to all sources of information. If the game world has a Spanish era theme then even books published after that era will be available to the student. On the other hand the student as role player would have different virtual books available to them depending on what roles they play. If they play the role of a 19th century student then they would have access to censored books because at the time the friars were censoring publication.  Social class played will also be a factor in what books one possess. Ilustrados like Jose Rizal would have a private library. The new labor/white collar class of Andres Bonifacio will also have book collections. The general masses probably only has access to religious books like the Pasyon and popular literature like poems, romances etc. Underground or revolutionary material will not appear in libraries but would generaly be hidden. We can generalize this condition to all sources of information even word of mouth because the Spaniards have spies and according to some historians the abuse of the confession.

Place would then be related to sources of information. Censored books in school, private libraries in bahay na bato, religious material in bahay kubo, and propaganda/revolutionary material in hiding places.

The way history is unfolded to the student in a virtual world differs then to that in a textbook. The textbook (taught in lock step method) follows a linear path. The focus is on plot and characters or if in a social scientific way on concepts. The student is given a digest of the readings of the historian. This provides a god like knowledge of history wherein the student is witness to the public and private events. The actions, motivations, and musings of historical actors.

In a virtual world, parallel narratives may occur. And players may not know what is happening in the next room, or the next region. A good network will allow players to be updated with what is going on in the other room. He/she can chat with other players and find out what is happening in world.

And like in the real world, players who are not in the right place at the right time in the network will find themselves baffled when the game map (or the world) is changed or updated by the devs. The ground may literally be pulled under their feet as new terraforms are built. In real life ordinary people unconcerned with historical changes go through their ordinary business then they wake up next day without a job, a house and a pension. History (events beyond their comprehension and control) whacks them in the face.

Jesus said, "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."

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