layer hidden off the screen
UCSB English Department Home UCSB English Department Home UCSB English Department Home
About TranscriptionsCurriculumResearchResourcesEvents
About Transcriptions Instructional Improvement Proposal, 2007



  1. Historical Context
  2. Current & Future Context
  3. Proposal:
      » EDKB-Wiki
      » "Second Life"    Instructional Space
  4. Estimated Impact on Courses & Assessment
  5. Budget and Timeline

Appendix: Letters of Support (not included in this online version)

Works Cited

  • Date: February 20, 2007

  • To: Ronald W. Tobin, Assoc. Vice Chancellor Academic Programs

  • From: Profs. Alan Liu and Rita Raley, Co-Directors of English Department Literature & Culture of Information Specialization (Transcriptions Project)

  • Re: Proposal for Instructional Improvement Grant

Transcriptions Funding Proposals

Abstract: Web 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative

The Transcriptions Project on Literature and the Culture of Information in the English Department (and its associated Literature and Culture of Information undergraduate specialization [LCI]) are seeking an Instructional Improvement grant for an undergraduate pedagogy development initiative that will add significant, new "Web 2.0" capabilities to the instructional resources it has previously created for the English Department. Broadly defined, Web 2.0 refers to trends in online information architectures that promote social-networked, user-created content--for example, blogs, wikis, "folksonomical" tagging sites, and "massively multiplayer" virtual environments.[1] Transcriptions/LCI requests funding to extend the online English Department Knowledge Base into a wiki (EDKB-Wiki) and to create an instruction space in the Second Life online virtual world (Second Life Instructional Space). The combined effect will be to expand use of the department's online instructional resources and to enable new kinds of instructional activities (including shared meetings with classes at other universities).

The Web 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative will be staffed by graduate student assistants supervised by Professors Alan Liu and Rita Raley, who have in the past overseen development teams funded by Instructional Development, UC Office of the President, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Much of the work would be done in Summer through Fall 2007, with follow-up development and assessment in Winter 2007 and Spring 2007.

The initiative will be used immediately by at least 12 Transcriptions/LCI undergraduate classes in academic year 2007-2008,with growing numbers in succeeding years as the resources developed by Transcriptions are adopted by courses run by the other "centers" in the English Department (the Early Modern Center; the American Cultures and Global Contexts Center). Alan Liu, who has been designated the chair of the English Department's Undergraduate Committee for 2007-2008, also has overall responsibility for ensuring that the benefits of the Web 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative are spread widely in the department.

Transcriptions and the English Department will contribute significant cost-sharing to this initiative, committing TA-support, equipment, technology assistance, and the fees for the Second Life world for a minimum of three years.

1. Historical Context

Beginning in 1998 when it received a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (supplemented by College of Letters & Science and Instructional Improvement funding), the Transcriptions Project has led the English Department in developing information technology both as a facilitating instrument of teaching and as a topic to study in its own right in relation to older humanistic media (oral, written, print).

The characteristic pattern of development has been for Transcriptions to innovate the use of a new technology; present that technology to instructors and students in colloquia; and then to help the other technology-intensive "centers" resident in the English Department create their own resources (the Early Modern Center and the American Cultures and Global Contexts Center).

As a result, the UCSB English Department is now recognized as one of the nation's leaders in humanities computing. Major projects relevant to instruction that have been accomplished from 1998 to the present include the following:

  • Transcriptions Project ("Transcriptions: Literary History and the Culture of Information"): a research and curricular initiative in which multiple faculty and graduate students design courses, research materials, colloquia, and online resources devoted to the thoughtful implementation of digital technology in the humanities.

  • Literature and Culture of Information (LCI) Undergraduate Specialization: a curricular specialization within the English major in which students take at least four upper-division LCI courses from an average of 6-8 offered each year. LCI courses also enroll other English majors as well as a wide spectrum of students from other disciplines. Recently, the LCI has expanded into lower-division courses with the addition of 6 English 10LC courses each year. The course, which students can take to fulfill the prerequisite for the English major, is an introduction to literary analysis that also introduces students to methods of studying new forms of literature produced in visual and digital media. LCI courses require students to learn to produce resources for the Internet (e.g., through Web-authoring assignments).

  • English Department Coursebuilder Initiative: Transcriptions completed for the English Department a Coursebuilder Web-site creation system now being used by many of our instructors by itself or in tandem with Moodle. A Coursebuilder Adoption Initiative widened the use of the system in the department through instructor workshops, research-assistant support, and the completion of documentation for the system.

  • English Department Web Site and Database: one of the nation's earliest content-rich, database-driven humanities department Web sites. The site is a database-to-Web system (using SQL Server as the backend) that allows instructors and staff to update content dynamically through Web forms.

  • English Department Knowledge Base (EDKB): An extension of the English Department Web site designed to house shared instructional resources, including syllabi for courses, teaching materials and assignments, and a variety of resources for both instructors and students (e.g, instructional guides, the department's TA handbook, etc.)

  • Early Modern Center Image Gallery: a database-driven gallery of online study images of art, architecture, and manuscript facsimiles from roughly 1580 to 1800 (restricted by password to instructional use). The Image Gallery allows instructors to use Web forms to build sequential or parallel "slide shows." It is also searchable and browseable in multiple ways, and includes textual annotation.

  • Related Digital Initiatives: The English Department is the home of Voice of the Shuttle, one of the oldest and best-known humanities portals and of the English Ballad Archive, a major archival digitization project funded by the NEH. The Department is also the home of the University of California Transliteracies Project (a UC Multi-campus Research Group [MRG] headquartered at UCSB), as well as previously of the Digital Cultures Project MRG.

2. Current & Future Context

The most significant development in the last year is that Transcriptions/LCI has taken a stake in so-called "Web 2.0" technologies. This means that it has committed to the premise that blogs, wikis, social networking, and online simulation environments (including not just "massively multiplayer online gaming" but general purpose virtual worlds such as Second Life) can add significant value to academic instruction. All these technologies in the extended Web 2.0 family revolve around the notion that the true potential of "knowledge work" is unleashed when large numbers of users are allowed to "add value" collaboratively to pooled data resources that can be progressively altered, added to, or otherwise evolved through the Web with little prior technical knowledge. In the case of such well known, general-public examples as Wikipedia, this model has been remarkably successful, but also has been plagued with notable problems (demonstrated in the various Wikipedia controversies of the past year concerning "edit wars, "vandalism, and so on). But the model is much less problematic in a classroom community made up of an instructor and her or his students, all of whom are known to each other. In such a constrained, quasi-trust community, more of the advantages--and less of the problems--of Web 2.0 come to the fore.[2]

English 194 Wiki

Beginning in 2005-6, Transcriptions/LCI experimented with classroom wikis not just to present course materials but--true to the two-way nature of Web 2.0--to serve as the platform for student research. Examples include Alan Liu's English 194 and Jeremy Douglass's and Kim Knight's instances of English 10LC. In Liu's English 194 in Spring 2006, for example, students used the wiki (driven by a local instance of the MediaWiki open source software that underlies Wikipedia) to post their research, edit each other's work, create glossary definitions, accumulate a shared bibliography, and "publish" the whole ensemble to the public prefaced by inventive introduction pages. In addition, students created their own "bio" pages for the class wiki--a task that led to a surprising surge in student engagement with the course. This was now "their" course, not just the instructor's. 

Similarly, in 2006-7, Transcriptions/LCI is beginning to experiment with the well-known online simulation environment, Second Life, which allows users to add content by building not just their personal avatars (representations of themselves) but also property, buildings, spaces, props, and other virtual objects--all with the aim of extending the range of social interaction and knowledge exchange than can occur online. Second Life is now used widely not only by the general public but increasingly by business and educational institutions to host virtual meetings, walk-throughs, performances, exhibitions, and other events. A significant number of major universities elsewhere (e.g., Harvard, Duke, UCLA) are beginning to develop classroom and library presences in Second Life. (See "Capsule Summary: Second Life" below.) In Spring 2007, Rita Raley's course English 146CC, "Literature of Technology: The Culture of the Copy," is conducting the first UCSB English Department class meeting in the Second Life environment.

Other Web 2.0 technologies have also been integrated into Transcriptions/LCI technology, including adapted uses of the WordPress blog-platform (or content management system) for course sites.

All of the above experimentation has been "rolled out" by Transcriptions/LCI with sufficient support to ensure that it does not also "roll over" department members. Transcriptions/LCI provides TA/RA services for instructors as well as regular drop-in support hours in its technology studio in the English Department (South Hall 2509). In addition, it regularly disseminates information about pedagogical innovations through workshops and colloquia. For example, on June 8, 2006, it presented to interested faculty and students an overview of Web 2.0 for the classroom. Topics included:

Similarly, on May 11, 2006, Transcriptions presented a colloquium on Second Life, supplemented by secondary readings on the topic.

3. Proposal

Transcriptions/LCI is asking for an Instructional Improvement grant for a Web 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative. The proposal includes two parts:

(A.) EDKB-Wiki: Migration and Extension of the Instructional English Department Knowledge Base (EDKB) to a Wiki:

Rationale for EDKB-Wiki:

English Department Knowledge Base (EDKB) In 2003-2005, Transcriptions led the English Department in expanding the variety and amount of its shared online instructional materials in a branch of the Department Web site called the English Department Knowledge Base (EDKB). Materials currently in the EDKB include syllabi, teaching notes, glossaries, historical guides, writing guides, and other resources for commonly taught courses. Part of the EDKB is available to instructors only, while other parts are accessible to students. The general goal of the EDKB is to make resources created for one course available for use where they are needed in other courses. Thus for example, a repository of annotated links or a bibliography of criticism designed for English 146EN (Contemporary Experimental Narratives) is now available to English21 (Introduction to Narrative), and vice versa. So, too (to take another example), all instructors in the department now have access to an evolving archive of primary materials organized by author and topic (examples include "Caribbean Poetry," "T.S. Eliot," and "William Gibson").

The technology now housing the EDKB combines static Web pages (created through Dreamweaver) and dynamic database-to-Web pages (resident within Alan Liu's custom-designed Voice of the Shuttle system). While quite advanced when this technology was originally created, it has limitations (endemic to all "Web 1.0" information architectures) that affect the use of the system. In particular, content-creation for the EDKB in its present implementation is de facto restricted to instructors and students who have the technical skills (knowledge of HTML, knowledge of FTP and how/where information is stored) needed to post materials easily. (Staff support for such work is not practical both because of limited office staffing and because staff usually are not trained in the research and pedagogy methods that would allow them to adapt course materials for the Web without extensive faculty supervision.)

To unleash the potential of the EDKB to a wider pool of instructors and courses--and to amplify the resources available in it in the now classic pattern of "Web 2.0"--Transcriptions/LCI proposes to migrate the EDKB to the open source MediaWiki application (familiar to most users as the wiki that drives Wikipedia). Because editing in this environment requires far less technical knowledge on the part of users (who place content in pre-defined templates, link content with a simplified set of tags, and collaborate on multiple documents with the safety-net of a version-tracking system), it will allow many more courses to participate. The end-goal of the EDKB-Wiki is to allow a larger number of instructors and their students in the department to contribute to shared instructional resources.

Capsule Summary: Wikis
    The most engaging attribute of a wiki is that it is an open repository of content.  In the most liberal instance of a wiki, anyone may read the content, free of charge, and anyone may contribute articles, regardless of their credentials.  To facilitate this, wikis are designed using web 2.0 logics and technologies that encourage a wide base of users and contributors.  The most fundamental of these logics is "simplicity."  A contributor need not know any advanced  scripting languages in order to become a fully functional contributor to a wiki.  Instead, the user adds content via a text editor with simple formatting buttons.  The interface does not greatly differ from that of most word processing programs.  Thus, users are able to adapt to writing in the wiki with an insubstantial learning curve.  For instance, instructors in the UCSB English Department, such as Alan Liu, Jeremy Douglass, and Kim Knight, have used wikis in various ways to facilitate courses, even with the most technologically inexperienced students.  

    Moreover, wikis are often lauded as a simple platform for collaboration.  Once a contributor writes an article, any other user may revise or expand upon it.  Thus the entire user community benefits from the diverse body of contributors.  It is true that this causes occasional problems in large scale wikis, such as Wikipedia.  However, on a smaller scale, in a user community where the readers and contributors are all known, the types of problems experienced by Wikipedia are unlikely to occur.  On the off chance that editorial challenges or vandalism should take place, there are several administrative options available for solving these issues.  Wikis save what is known as a "version history" that allows administrators to roll back any changes to a previous version of the document. Articles can also be restricted or locked to prevent abuse.  

    In addition to simplicity, wikis draw upon the web 2.0 logic of "folksonomy."  Rather than having a software program with a predetermined taxonomic structure, a wiki allows its users to determine the organizational strategy that makes the most sense for them.  Contributors add articles and may categorize them according to user-created "tags."  For example, a lesson plan on reading Romantic era poetry, may be multiply-categorized as "lesson plan," "poetry," "close reading," "Wordsworth," and the names of any other authors included.  Other users may add tags to articles as they see fit.  Having content that is organized in a multi-valent way and according to a user-determined "folksonomy" eases the search process and results in serendipitous searching in which users may encounter useful articles that they were not originally seeking.  In other words, it increases the use value of the wiki.

    Combining ease of use, the potential for collaboration, and multiple options for organization, wikis provide both readers and contributors with an efficient and user-friendly tool to manage large repositories of content.  The structure of a wiki lends itself to multiple users collaboratively managing a dynamic database of collective content.

Plan for EDKB-WIKI:

"Transcriptions/LCI will establish a locally-controlled instance of the open-source MediaWiki application on the English Department's Linux server. (This server was acquired last year to allow the department to begin taking advantage of open-source applications. It currently houses several existing instances of MediaWiki used for particular courses.) Editing on the EDKB-Wiki will be restricted to department instructors and--in specific cases--students taking courses or assisting instructors. (Establishing permissions for students to help with specific parts of the site as opposed to others may require setting up two interlinked instances of MediaWiki.) Specific development plans for the EDKB-Wiki include:

  1. Migrate existing EDKB content. During development of the new EDKB-Wiki, existing content in the EDKB will be migrated to the new platform and integrated into the wiki structure.
  2. Develop new content. New content will be added, including lesson plans, assignment descriptions, guideline statements regarding the instructional use of new technologies. For example, an especially high-value task for Transcriptions/LCI is to put online in the EDKB-Wiki the repository of teaching materials accrued from the new English 10LC courses taught in the past two years. After the initial development period, new content will continue to be added on a quarterly basis by individual instructors, who will no longer dependent on one or two technically elite gatekeepers to collect and add material.
  3. Tag content. Content will be categorized using multiple organizational tags to facilitate easy access.
  4. Add commentary to EDKB-Wiki materials. Commentary will be added to high-value assignments and syllabi, recording the experience of instructors, indicating variants that have been tried, and outlining future experiments that might be tried.
  5. Create FAQ and Q&A spaces in the EDKB-Wiki. Portions of the wiki will be set up to facilitate communication between instructors, students, and department staff. FAQ: a "frequently asked questions" section will answer questions often posed by instructors (e.g., "How do I approve eGrades prepared by my teaching assistants?") and students (e.g., "what courses are still open this quarter?") Q&A: a more informal, ad hoc Q&A forum will facilitate the ongoing collective discussion of instruction in the department. For example, discussions of course planning, administration, and enrollment policies may be significantly improved if the department's faculty Undergraduate Committee can post issues it is considering to solicit feedback from other instructors and from students.
  6. Create shared glossary of literary terms. A portion of the wiki will be set up as a common glossary of literary terms to which instructors and students working on a supervised assignment can contribute. For instance, a term such as "close reading" might be collaboratively defined and then evolved by subsequent classes. A starter set of frequently used terms will seed the glossary. Existing syllabi and assignments in the EDKB will be hyperlinked to the common glossary.
  7. Create shared bibliography. A high-value task is to add course bibliographies to the EDKB-Wiki so that instructors designing a new course can see at a glance what other instructors in the area have taught. The bibliography will be annotated/linked so that included works are associated with syllabi and assignments held elsewhere in the EDKB-Wiki. A secondary function of the shared bibliography will be to serve as a convenient style-guide for students learning how to create footnotes or bibliographies (especially in the case of references to online works requiring new forms of citation).

(B.) "Second Life" Instructional Space: Establishment of a Classroom Space and Adjoining Gallery/Performance Space in an Online Virtual Environment

Rationale for Second Life Instructional Space:

Transcriptions/LCI has researched the increasingly prevalent use of the Second Life online virtual world for academic instruction and has consulted with faculty and experts at other universities knowledgeable in this area. (See "Capsule Summary: Second Life"). Based on this investigation, Transcriptions/LCI instructors feel that Second Life has the capability not just to augment their courses about the relation between literature and "new media" (in regard to which Second Life is itself a topic) but to open up entirely new kinds of instruction wedded to new topics.

In particular, Transcriptions/LCI envisions using Second Life as the most practical, low-cost way to enable new kinds of shared, interdisciplinary classroom activities that break down the barrier between the standard literary (and humanities) method of "interpretation" and such dominant methods of knowledge in other disciplines as "experiment," "model,""map,""survey," "interview," "game theory," "simulation," "prototype," and so on.  All of the above named methods increasingly converge today in digital methods and media, and it is the special mission of Transcriptions/LCI courses in the next several years to exploit digital technology to give humanities students exposure to that convergence, one that stands to benefit them as they prepare for a future in which humanities graduates increasingly collaborate with other disciplines. Thus a significant number of Transcriptions/LCI courses in 2007-2008 are either focused thematically on the relation of literary works to other kinds of works (and literary interpretation to other kinds of research) or include assignments that require students to make such an interdisciplinary connection--e.g., by not just interpreting a literary work but also investigating it according to at least one other paradigm of research (creating a GIS-based map, role-playing a scene in an online world, creating a simulation, etc.)

Second Life is the most practical networked digital technology capable of creating a "world" in which such paradigm-bending instructional activities can occur through digital simulation. In this regard, "practical" has a double sense that is advantageous. On the one hand, Second Life makes it doable for humanities instructors and students (even the most technologically inclined of whom usually lack advanced programming skills) to take advantage of an advanced simulation environment. But, on the other hand, Second Life is not simply an off-the-shelf, take-it-as-it-is environment. Instead, it affords users considerable power to be practitioners themselves, building, designing, and exchanging.

In addition, Transcriptions/LCI instructors are excited about one other unprecedented kind of instructional activity enabled by Second Life: collaborating with undergraduate courses at other institutions by means of a limited number of common meetings held each quarter in the simulation environment. Toward this goal, Transcriptions/LCI has agreements-in-principle with members of the faculty at Duke University and at UCLA to partner their courses with ours through Second Life in 2007-2008 (see details below; see also "Appendix: Letters of Support.")

Capsule Summary: Second Life

Second Life is one of the most widely used of the general-purpose Internet-based, immersive, 3D, and highly scalable (massively multi-user) "virtual worlds" where users can create an avatar (a visual, mobile representation of themselves), create richly rendered spaces and objects, and interact with each other as well as with various media sources (e.g., videos). (Such virtual worlds are general-purpose relatives of the more specialized "massively multiplayer online gaming" [MMOG] environments devoted to collaborative computer gaming.) In early February 2007, there were 30,000 concurrent users of Second Life, out of a total of approximately 100,000 active accounts. (There were two million active or inactive accounts in all in December 2006). [3]

One of the key features of Second Life is akin to that of Web 2.0 in general: it allows users to add value to the world and, uniquely, to take an ownership stake in such added value (both in terms of collective use of shared resources and individual ownership of artifacts/sites).

The combination of a critical mass of users and the above mentioned features has in the past year brought not just individual members of the public but major for-profit and non-profit institutions into Second Life, where they purchase property and build resources for public use or for internal meetings and training workshops. Currently, for example, the following institutions have either established or are building presences in Second Life: Adidas Reebok, American Cancer Society, BBC Radio 1, Creative Commons, Dell, Disney, IBM, MTV, Reuters, Starwood Hotels, Sun Microsystems, Toyota, Wells Fargo. [4]

Harvard Law School Second Life classroom Importantly, approximately 70 educational institutions have moved into Second Life. The following institutions, for example, have built facilities or held classes in the virtual environment that are managed by program units, individual faculty, or both: UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Harvard Law School, Stanford U., Duke U., NYU, Pennsylvania State U., Trinity U., U. Texas at Austin, U. Wisconsin at Madison, Seton Hall U., Rochester Institute of Technology, and Ohio U. Some of these examples are discussed in the 2007 Horizon Report released by The New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE. Another source with special expertise on the UC system is a forthcoming story in UCLA Magazine by Jack Feuer (an advance description of which Feuer sent to Transcriptions/LCI with selected examples and citations). [5]

The 2007 Horizon Report summarizes the educational rationale for using Second Life (and similar virtual online environments) as follows.  The statement is worth excerpting at length:

            Virtual worlds can be used to create very effective learning spaces. Since they are generalized rather than contextual, they are applicable to almost all disciplines. Settings can be created to pertain to any subject or area of study; locations and artifacts can be as realistic and detailed, or as generic and undefined as desired. 3D construction tools allow easy visualization of physical objects and materials, even those normally occurring at cosmic or nano scales.

            The social aspects of virtual worlds are also useful for educational purposes. These worlds lend themselves to role playing and scenario building, allowing learners to temporarily assume the responsibilities of an astronomer, chemist, or engineer without incurring real-world consequences. Researchers and ethnographers have ventured into worlds like Second Life to interview and study the inhabitants.  New art forms are emerging in these spaces that take advantage of the unique possibilities for expression available in them. Machinima filmmaking using virtual world settings and avatar actors is just one example; new forms of sculpture, painting, and architecture are also evolving. . . .

            A sampling of applications of virtual worlds across disciplines includes the following:

            * Expand understanding of cultural and societal experiences.  Many virtual worlds offer an opportunity for students to create as well as observe their surroundings. A literature course at the University of Texas at Austin forwards its goal for students to engage in discovery learning and gain deeper understanding of world literature by extending a study of world architectural styles into Second Life. Students create their own buildings that reflect styles they have studied, enabling them to carry their experience of world literature into a virtual world.

            * Experiment with new art forms. Virtual worlds lend themselves to creative work, blending flat texture design with more sculptural three-dimensional forms. The Otis College of Art and Design has built a gallery, sculpture garden, and meeting space in Second Life, where students and faculty can exhibit work that stretches their creativity in painting, sculpture, fashion design, cinematography, interactive displays, and other media.

            * Stage theatrical productions.  All of the activities that are part of real-world theatrical productions have counterparts in virtual worlds: costume design, set design, scriptwriting, choreography, acting, and directing all contribute to a virtual play as to a real one.  Productions from murder mysteries to westerns have been staged in Second Life.

            * Learn through simulations and role-playing. Simulated problem-solving activities can be planned in custom settings like a hospital room, a power plant, or even an entire town.  Students can become doctors, patients, journalists, or anyone else as they work to accomplish goals within the simulated environment. A few proof-of-concept simulations have opened the door to a host of these activities, and many are now in development.

Particularly elaborate educational sites in Second Life include the simulation of a real world room at the Harvard Law School where students are taught argument skills. (See the video of the Harvard Law School Second Life room on YouTube at Another elaborate project was created by the New Media Consortium to house

a virtual campus . . . that includes a library, museum, planetarium, auditorium, classrooms, and a welcome center.  In the fall of 2006, the community affiliated with the campus had grown to nearly 1000 educators. . . .  Plans included a machinma school and a life sciences center.  The NMC has hosted several events on the virtual campus including IBM's Global Innovation jam, a Howard Rheingold keynote speech, and an Second Life artists event. [6]

Less elaborate educational sites created or managed by individual faculty (or small-scale program units) include the classroom built by Professor Timothy Lenoir's Fall 2006 course at Duke University.  (See Lenoir's letter in "Appendix: Letters of Support" as well as the pictures he sent to Transcriptions/LCI, below.)

Beyond the virtual classroom, there is also an entire "world" to explore within Second Life, with all of the wonder and disorientation that implies. It is not uncommon for English speakers to find themselves in the minority, engaging with the avatars of people for whom English is a second or even third language. Students who have already been thinking about the problem of "Global English" (including minority languages, cultural imperialism, and the emergence of new idiolects such as "Spanglish" and "Hindlish") will be particularly engaged by an immersive environment in which text messaging is multi-lingual and abbreviated, somewhat like the uses of language common to SMS and chat settings, yet also "foreign." As we know, that encounter with difference or strangeness is a particularly powerful educational moment. Other topics for discussion that are raised by a virtual environment such as Second Life include global citizenship; race and gender performance; community; and market economies. 

    Instructors, students, and others create avatars, navigate, and interact in Second Life using free accounts and a free client program on their computer. It is important to stress that the program is remarkably easy to use, the introductory tutorial brief and informative, and the interface familiar to users accustomed to basic pie and windows menus.  To organize a virtual class session, the instructor sends the "slurl" (the Second Life URL) to the students over email; this allows them to navigate directly to the appointed space. They follow the link and are presented with the kind of basic membership screen that one encounters for nearly every community online.  After choosing a user name and password, students are given the option of editing the appearance of their avatars; they can do so or they can choose to continue in the guise of one of the default characters. Basic movement would no doubt be intuitive for a UCSB audience and certainly so for anyone who has ever played a video game: the left arrow moves the avatar left and movements such as "sit here" are available from the pie menu.  Moreover, the help menu in Second Life is extensive and, as one would expect from an open-source program, there are a number of wikis where users discuss everything from the most basic questions of navigation to details of code (these wikis are especially useful for programmers and artists creating objects in the virtual world). 

Although the basic accounts the students would create are free, a paid subscription is necessary to buy "property" on which to build an architectural site.  Property is then priced by square area. A subscription is $72 annually; and a 2,049 square-meter parcel adequate for a small-scale instructional site is $180 annually. [Transcriptions/LCI and the UCSB English Department is committing to a minimum of three years of this combined standing cost as well as to providing computers in its facilities with the Second Life client program pre-installed and supported by Transcriptions TAs. (See proposal details below.)]

Plan for Second Life Instructional Space:

While instructors and students in Transcriptions/LCI courses will eventually be involved in designing objects and activities in the Second Life instructional space, advance work will need to be done to develop the basic UCSB English Department site in that space, create supporting (help) resources, and train users. Transcriptions/LCI thus proposes the following plan (N.B.: development tasks and training in the first year will be funded by the Instructional Development grant, while purchase, maintenance, and ordinary or continuing training/support will be funded by Transcriptions/LCI and the English Department):

  1. Subscribe to Second Life and purchase property. A tenured faculty member in Transcriptions/LCI (either Alan Liu or Rita Raley, the latter of whom will likely be officially tenured as of July 1, 2007) will subscribe to Second Life at the "Premium Annual" rate of $72/year, which allows the member to purchase property in the virtual world. The faculty member will then acquire 2,049 square meters of property at $180/year. (These standing fees will be funded by Transcriptions/LCI and the English Department for a minimum of three years--a time period chosen to allow for assessing results as well as evaluating evolving technologies.) The faculty member in whose name the Second Life property is deeded will sign a document entailing the property to a successor in the English Department in the eventuality that he or she leaves the university.

  2. Build a classroom space. With the aid of graduate student research-assistance hours funded by the Instructional Improvement grant, Transcriptions/LCI will design and build a classroom space on its virtual property using the building tools/methods in Second Life. Most of this construction will be done from scratch so as to avoid needing to purchase virtual materials or structures from other users and businesses in the Second Life world, which has its own economy (based on "Linden dollars," which are tradeable for real-world currency). However, any purchases of necessary materials, props, or structures will be funded by Transcriptions/LCI and the English Department.
         Though the exact design of the classroom space has not been decided, it will certainly not be a replica of the English Department 's existing South Hall classrooms, many of which students in a recent survey faulted for being underfunded, under-designed, and under-equipped by comparison with posher digs elsewhere on campus. Instead, the classroom space will possibly blur the boundary between indoors and outdoors--e.g., a quiet garden spot or neo-Greek amphitheater. The design of the space will likely continuously evolve through feedback from instructors and students. The 2,049 square meters of total property will also be enough to bud a second, alternative virtual classroom in the future if needed.

  3. Build a gallery/performance space. With the aid of graduate student research-assistance hours funded by the Instructional Improvement grant, Transcriptions/LCI will design and build a gallery/performance wing adjoining its main classroom space. The purpose of this wing is to allow students in courses to set up installations, exhibit assignments, show materials, perform scenes (e.g., role-playing of literary works), etc. The design of this space will be "loft"-like so that it can serve many, flexible purposes. The space will also be large enough so that it can house temporary interior structures (e.g., a student model of William Wordsworth's Dove Cottage).

  4. Develop course protocols and assignments that utilize Second Life. With the aid of graduate student research-assistance hours funded by the Instructional Improvement grant, Transcriptions/LCI will develop a "starter set" of standard social protocols and course assignments that take advantage of the Second Life classroom space. "Social protocols" means, for example, "Do we raise our hands to talk as in a normal classroom? Do we have to sit, or can we walk around (and even fly)?" Through a series of initial trial sessions with student volunteers, Transcriptions/LCI instructors and RAs will establish some "do's and don'ts" for the conduct of a class-meeting in Second Life.  And in regard to course assignments: Transcriptions/LCI instructors working with RAs will initially seed the enterprise with a small, but richly detailed set of example assignments. For instance, what is both desirable and doable (during a quarter) in assigning students the task of mounting a performance of a Shakespeare scene in Second Life? or in creating an installation showing a setting in a novel? or in creating an abstract tableau "representing" an Imagist poem or Gertrude Stein sentence?

  5. Develop procedures for streaming video lectures during a class session in Second Life. In the past, faculty involved with Transcriptions/LCI have invited guest speakers, usually writers and artists working with new media, to discuss their work with students either in a chat session or through such applications as NetMeeting. (Photographs documenting one such web conference with award-winning author Talan Memmott are available on the Transcriptions/LCI website.) The limitations of a chat setting for a guest lecture are abundant, since chat works best one-on-one and has difficulty with flexible one-to-many and many-to-one exchanges. Experience has also shown NetMeeting to have severe constraints: it is not cross-platform; the quality of the video and audio is unsatisfying; and student participation is limited. The most significant drawback of a web conference of this sort is that participants cannot easily signal their desire to speak, which makes group conversation awkward and less productive than it might otherwise be. (More advanced remote conference solutions designed for business are priced beyond the means of the university; and the English Department, like most humanities departments, does not have ready access to remote conferencing, multicast, and other solutions available elsewhere on campus.)  Within Second Life, Transcriptions/LCI would be able to stream video and audio, which would greatly enhance presentations by remote guest speakers. So, too, students' engagement would be enhanced by their ability to communicate through the body language of their avatars.

  6. Arrange itineraries for virtual "field trips" to expose students to literary, art, and other cultural works on display in the broader Second Life world. Just as one would arrange for a class trip to a museum, gallery, or archive (for example, one Transcriptions/LCI instructor, Carol Braun Pasternack, regularly arranges for student visits to the Huntington Library as part of a "Scroll to Screen" class on the relation of early manuscript culture to contemporary Internet culture), it is possible to arrange for a class trip to a virtual museum or any other location in the expansive world of Second Life, where some of the most interesting contemporary writers, artists, architects, and other makers or interpreters of culture have set up shop.  For instance, the definitive database of art and technology, <>, regularly sponsors artist "exhibits" in Second Life. As just one example, the new media artist team behind 0100101110101101.ORG recently showed a work entitled, "13 Most Beautiful Avatars," at the Second Life Ars Virtua gallery. Virtual "field trips" conducted by Transcriptions/LCI would lead students to such culturally significant sites as well as many others relevant to Transcriptions/LCI courses.  A high priority is thus to develop a starter set of itineraries for UCSB students through culturally significant locations in Second Life (a tour of sites, arranged with annotations).

  7. Develop collaboration arrangements with courses at other institutions. With the aid of graduate student research-assistance hours funded by the Instructional Improvement grant, Transcriptions/LCI will arrange cross-institutional class meetings in Second Life. To date, Transcriptions/LCI has secured agreements-in-principle for such collaboration in 2007-2008 with Professor Timothy Lenoir (Kimberly Jenkins Chair for New Technologies and Society at Duke University) and Professor Francis Steen (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, UCLA). (See "Appendix: Letters of Support.") Similar collaboration is likely in future years with Professor N. Katherine Hayles (Professor of English and Design/MediaArts, UCLA), who Transcriptions/LCI has approached but who will not be teaching an undergraduate course until 2008-2009.
          In 2007-2008, for example, likely courses in which students will "meet" the classes of Professors Lenoir and Steen include Alan Liu's English 149VR, "Literary Imagination versus Virtual Reality"; Rita Raley's English 146CC, "Literature of Technology: The Culture of the Copy" (an updated version of the Spring 2007 course will be taught in 2007-2008); William Warner's English 149MC, "Media Culture," Rita Raley's English 197, "Media Materialities"; Rita Raley's Freshman Seminar, "Gaming Studies"; and several of the six offerings of English 10LC (the lower-division course supervised by Transcriptions/LCI). The description of Liu's English149VR indicates the fit: "This is a course that reexamines the nature and function of literature by comparing it to new kinds of imaginative experience available through today's digital media. How does literary experience work in an imaginative work of fiction or a poem? How does such imaginative experience compare to the way a computer simulation, game, or virtual reality environment affects the user? Students will be encouraged to create, or write about, projects that reflect on the relation between literature and virtual reality on the basis of concrete cases--e.g., by comparing a novel to a computer game, playing the 'game' of literary interpretation called the Ivanhoe Game, playing an 'interactive fiction,' building a simulation in the NetLogo program, participating in the Second Life virtual world,etc." (See "Estimated Impact on Courses and Assessment" below.)

  8. Develop support materials and training sessions. Graduate student research-assistance hours funded by the Instructional Improvement grant will also be channeled into creating a set of supporting documents and (in the first year) training workshops to acclimate instructors and students to Second Life. (Note: Instructional Improvement funds would be dedicated on a once-only basis to the initial creation of support apparatus. Normal and continuing support is budgeted to Transcriptions/LCI and the English Department, which provide a TA position each quarter.)  Transcriptions/LCI has a successful history of creating such support materials and workshops. For example, it created a suite of how-to materials for Web authoring when the World Wide Web was still relatively new; and it continually provides introductions and workshops in basic Web authoring. 

4. Estimated Impact on Courses & Assessment

The following Transcriptions/LCI courses will immediately benefit in 2007-2008 from theWeb 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative (including both the EDKB-Wiki andSecond Life Instructional Space components) described above:

  • English 122 (large lecture course on "Narratives of War," which includes a unit on war gaming)
  • English 146CC (38-student course on "Literature of Technology: The Culture of the Copy")
  • English 149VR (38-student, 6-unit course with lab section on "Literary Imagination versus Virtual Reality"
  • English 149MC (38-student, 5-unit, 5 hour per week course)
  • English 194 (15-student workshop course on "Literature Plus," i.e., the relation between literary interpretation and paradigms of research in other disciplines)
  • Freshman seminar (course on "Game Studies")
  • Six courses in the English 10LC series. (English 10LC is a variant of the English 10 lower-division prerequisite for the English major.  Supervised by Transcriptions/LCI, 10LC is designed to extend the theme of "introduction of literary interpretation" to "introduction to the interpretation of literature in relation to other media.")

Altogether, the minimum immediate impact during the first year of the Web 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative will be 12 courses reaching approximately 358 students, with the possibility that other Transcriptions/LCI courses will also be involved.

This impact will increase in succeeding years, not just because more Transcriptions/LCI courses will be affected, but because--based on history--Transcriptions/LCI innovations in instructional technology have a lasting impact on other courses in the English Department, including both those in the department's other "centers" (the Early Modern Center and the American Cultures and Global Contexts Center) and in the department's curriculum generally. (See "History and Context" above.) It is also an advantage that Alan Liu will be stepping into the post of chair of the English Department's Undergraduate Committee in 2007-2008, since this will additionally allow the innovations of Transcriptions/LCI to be presented to instructors and students through the regular channels of the department (e.g., undergraduate committee meetings, department meetings, meetings with the student-run English Club, the online English Department listserv, etc.) alongside other curricular business.

In light of the robust collaboration that Transcriptions/LCI has had during the past decade with such other foci of "new media" research and teaching at UCSB as Art, Media Arts and Technology, Film and Media Studies, Political Science, Communication Studies, and Center for Information Technology and the Humanities, it is anticipated that the Web 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative will also have broader impact at UCSB.  This is especially true because Transcriptions/LCI is a regular participant in the Ph.D. Emphasis in Technology and Society on campus, which bridges between Engineering, Computer Science, Political Science, Sociology, Education, Communication, Film and New Media Studies, and English.  The gateway seminar in this Ph.D. emphasis (the most recent instance of which in Fall 2006 was taught by Transcriptions/LCI member Alan Liu) serves as the premier cross-disciplinary propagator of ideas about "new media" to "early adopters" at UCSB.

Assessment will be conducted in the first year through a survey of students and instructors, leading up to a discussion of the surveys and in particular of the Second Life instructional space at a Transcriptions/LCI Film.Literature.Software (FLS) colloquium in May or June 2008.  The FLS event series normally brings together instructors, graduate students, and undergraduate students from multiple classes to discuss a work of art or an innovative piece of software.  For the assessment event focused on Second Life, Transcriptions/LCI would also invite faculty and graduate students from Communication, Education, Sociology, Political Science, and Computer Science.  In addition, it may be possible to present the results of the first year's use of the Second Life instructional space to the members of the Technology and Society Ph.D. Emphasis gateway seminar (described above), in which Transcriptions/LCI faculty and graduate students regularly participate.

5. Budget and Timeline
Budget and Timeline Spreadsheet (see explanation below):

Budget & Timeline

Explanation of Budget:

Transcriptions/LCI is requesting a total of $15,138 from Instructional Development for work on both the EDKB-Wiki and Second Life Instructional Space portions of its Web 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative.  All the requested funds are for research assistant hours, with other costs (including standing or continuing costs) funded by Transcriptions/LCI and the English Department.  The research assistant hours are staged along a one-year timeline such that the bulk of the development work will occur in summer through fall 2007 through close collaboration between graduate student assistants and Professors Alan Liu and Rita Raley.  Due to the strength of the English Department in the field of humanities computing, there is a good pool of qualified graduate students who would be able to serve as RAs.  In addition, Transcriptions/LCI hopes also to hire a student from Art or Media Arts & Technology for some of the research hours devoted to the Second Life Instructional Space.

Support to Continue Benefits of Project Beyond Period of Initial Development:

After the initial development year, Transcriptions/LCI will continue working on the EDKB-Wiki and broadening its use among English Department faculty and students at large.  As discussed above, Transcriptions/LCI has an excellent track record in supporting its innovations and disseminating them to other centers and courses in the department.  This continuing support is implemented through the services of the Transcriptions/LCI teaching assistant, who each quarter conducts multiple workshops and holds drop-in support hours available to all department instructors and students.  The Transcriptions/LCI Film.Literature.Software series of events has also been an effective forum for sharing new developments with other members of the department and with other departments.

In regard to the Second Life instructional space (as detailed above), Transcriptions/LCI and the English Department are also committing to a minimum of three years of the standing costs of Second Life (the fees and rent needed to build a site in the virtual world; instructors and students use the space for free).  The Department intends to continue supporting the Second Life instructional space beyond three years, though at that time it will want to assess what technological alternatives have emerged in the meantime.

For both the EDKB-Wiki and the Second Life instructional space, Transcriptions/LCI and the English Department are providing significant, continuing technology support.  The department will host the WikiMedia program on its servers and commit part of the time of its staff server administrator to keeping the program patched and up to date.  Instructor and student use of the wiki and of Second Life will be supported through the computers in the Transcriptions/LCI computer lab (South Hall 2509) and in the English Department's multimedia classroom (South Hall 1415).  In addition, the English Department is at its own expense currently installing wireless networking in its portions of South Hall.  Wireless will significantly broaden the use of the EDKB-Wiki and Second Life instructional space, since it allows users to work on their own laptops in the classroom as desired without needing to rely on the availability of one of the department's classroom computers.

Appendix: Letters of Support

The text of the letters of support has been removed from the public, online version of this proposal (see the hard copy proposal for full text of the letters). Letters from:

  • Professor Timothy Lenoir (Kimberly Jenkins Chair for New Technologies and Society at Duke University), 12 February 2007
  • Professor Francis Steen (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, UCLA), 14 February 2007
  • Jack Feuer (Editor, UCLA Magazine) 13 February 2007

Works Cited

  • C/Net  "Universities Register for Virtual Future." CNetNetworks, Inc.  7 February 2007.  Accessed 14 February 2007.<>
  • Feuer, Jack.  Letter on the instructional use of Second Life.  Email to Alan Liu.  13 February 2007. [This letter is attached above in "Appendix: Letters of Support."  The letter is confidential to the evaluators of the Transcriptions/LCI Instructional Improvement Grant Proposal.]
  • Liu, Alan.  "Knowedge 2.0? The Relation of the Universityto Web 2.0."  "Creating and Consuming Culture in the Digital Age" lecture series. Virginia Commonwealth University. 16 November 2006. [paper; also presented at Stanford University, UC Irvine, University of Nebraska at Lincoln]
  • ________.  The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Nesson, Charles.  Video of his Harvard Law School course in Second Life.  Accessed 13 February 2007.<>
  • New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. 2007 Horizon Report.  The New Media Consortium: 2007.  Accessed 14 February 2007.<>
  • O'Reilly, Tim. "What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software." 30 September 2005.  O'ReillyMedia,Inc.  Accessed 8 September 2006.  <>
  • Raley, Rita.  Tactical Media. Forthcoming in "Electronic Mediations" series.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Second Life.  Home page.  2007.  Linden Research, Inc.  Accessed 16 February 2007.  < >
  • Wikipedia.  "Businesses and Organizations in Second Life."  Accessed 14 February 2007.  <>
  • ________.  "Second Life."  Accessed 14 February 2007.  <>

URLs of Transcriptions/LCI or
English Department Online Projects Cited


  1. For an influential definition of "Web 2.0," see Tim O'Reilly, "What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software," 30 September 2005, O'Reilly Media, Inc., accessed 8 September 2006, < news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html>

  2. Transcriptions/LCI is attempting to approach Web 2.0 with critical awareness rather than wide-eyed enthusiasm.  Research by Alan Liu and Rita Raley (see Works Cited) complements the present Web 2.0 Pedagogy Initiative proposal by placing recent "new media" developments in social, cultural, economic, and educational perspective.  Especially relevant is the sequence of presentations that Liu has given since 2006 at a number of institutions on "Knowledge 2.0? The Relation of the University to Web 2.0."

  3. Wikipedia, "Second Life," 14 February 2007.  (See Works Cited.)

  4. Wikipedia, "Businesses and Organizations in Second Life," 14 February 2007.

  5. See also C/Net, "Universities Register for Virtual Future," 7 February 2007.  Feuer's letter to Transcriptions/LCI is attached below in Appendix: Supporting Letters. (Feuer's letter is confidential to the evaluators of the Transcriptions/LCI Instructional Improvement Grant proposal, since his story on Second Life will not be appearing in UCLA Magazine until April 2007.)

  6. Wikipedia, "Businesses and Organizations in Second Life."  14 February 2007.

Click to format the
page for projection.
Click to return to the
default page view.