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If you learn about a culture … and your behavior changes in Second Life while you’re interacting with another culture, when you leave the virtual world these processes stay with you,” says Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab in Palo Alto, Calif.
At the Dubai Women’s College, professors saw an opportunity to use Second Life to connect students with the world outside their tiny Arabian Gulf state. As a virtual orientation, the group visited a Second Life re-creation of Darfur and made an online pilgrimage to Mecca. Most notably, they met regularly with a group of Korean students in computer renditions of each other’s campuses to practice English and learn about one another’s culture.
The US State Department has begun exploring Second Life as a means to introduce people to American culture. Last year, it organized an eight-hour jazz concert that stretched across time zones. Next year, officials may work with Ohio University to coordinate tours of a virtual art exhibit led by the artist’s avatar. Already, several other countries, including Sweden and Estonia, have built cultural embassies in the online world.
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