I found the note that SJU was going to hold a debate in SL underwhelming at first.
This week Stephen Llano, the director of debate at St. John’s University, in New York, announced what is billed as the first tournament debate held in Second Life. It will take place on February 4 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time in the university’s virtual campus (shown below).
But, as The Chronicle points out, the event will test how effective debate modeled on face to face exchange works when mediated by SL:
College debate matches can be physically intense — with participants rattling off arguments at top speed and gesturing dramatically. So it will be interesting to see if a debate contest can work in Second Life, the virtual world.
What they find might inform our ideas about how lectures, student exchanges, and even guide-on-the-side mentoring work in SL.
My sense is that the debaters will adapt their vocal delivery to the 2D cartoon world, and I’d bet they’ll find that the appearance of the avatar is going to be pretty significant to the effectiveness of the argument. It’s not just canned gestures here. Gender, wardrobe, hair, height and weight and body shape are all rhetorical affordances in SL.