Sunday, May 12, 2013

Commencement 2013: The Avatars Walk!

University of Richmond, Richmond, VA.
Location: Robins Center, University of Richmond

image credit: Boston Public Library at Flickr

I have reflected here before on the temporary and invented community that a college campus provides.

Today, my last group to use Second Life for an entire semester graduated. As a commencement marshal, I got to be up near the stage to help seat, direct, and congratulate our newest alumni. It's bittersweet to see them leave, as they were curious and interested students.

When I took my favorite walk of the year, from the ceremony back to my office to hang up my cap and gown, I thought about how time passes.  Today was wistful and perfect day, with light cloud, cool breezes, but warm-enough sun to remind us it is Spring in Virginia, the best time of all here. One colleague nearing retirement said to me "the years pass at first like telephone poles from a car window, then the pickets of a fence, then railroad ties."

As is always the case, the campus is boisterous near the basketball gym where the thousands of parents, staff, and students gather after the last diploma has been conferred. My walk in my academic robes takes me, in stages, further and further from those happy sounds and into the clear light of a quiet May afternoon. Soon the brick buildings--our campus looks like Hogwarts--loom in the clear daylight as if they'd been there for centuries.  Eventually all sounds, save those of Nature, are muted.

It's a ritual I never miss each year.

Next month, I'm going to return to my own alma mater's 30th reunion, partly because of the mark the education there left on me.

Thirty years!

Yes, in time in all becomes a blur. I suspect we'll all look back on the early days of virtual worlds that way, too, and say "that only seems like yesterday!" Moreover, I hope my students recall the strange experience of exploring SL as a possible future for communications, as they struggled to master the art of writing in academic settings.

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