Monday, July 22, 2013

Southern Illinois University & UWA Collab - The Sonic Lab

A partnership has been launched in the virtual world of Second Life between Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) & UWA on the sim Virlantis, where an educational themed experiment has been set up for the creation of sound and animation content, with its long-term goal being the development of animated film and online media that serves at-risk learning communities.  Jay Jay Jegathesan founder of UWA's virtual world presence  helped make this partnership possible.

The immediate goals for  Dr. Phylis Johnson, Professor of Sound and New Media (SIUC) and her colleagues were to create an immersive environment - the Sonic Lab - for teaching sound online historically and culturally as art and practice.   For that purpose, a multi-layer sound lab was constructed to help students develop critical listening skills, by virtually tuning into the modern origins of music and learning to appreciate the sonic environment, now and then, that contributes to our daily soundscapes.  The virtual classroom experience leads students through time, place - and sound. The Sonic Lab connects students to the sounds of the past, present and future. They enter the virtual world via a medieval realm soaked with layered sounds ignited by one's presence and touch. Visitors acoustically engage into a soundscape rich with nature's lush greens and harbor sounds, and perhaps stop into the local tavern for a chat and music. Their travels take them to modern times, from Ragtime's Scott Joplin, to experimental masters Edgard Varèse and John Cage, to those they have influenced, Reich, Zappa, The Beatles, Hendrix, Ramones, Riot Grrrls, and New York's alternative scene. The sound installation was funded by a course development grant awarded by SIUC's Distance Education program for Summer 2013. 

This goal has been realized with strong support from Belinda Barnes, Lowe Runo and Kara Trapdoor, and the environment that was created was opened to the public on the 22nd of July 2013. 


The longer term plan  calls for the development of virtual media studies and production. This collaboration is expected to be a three year experiment in the design of an open-ended, accessible and collaborative animation platform that focuses on outcome based learning for at-risk communities.  Part of the process involves assisting educators with some production basics: character and story/curriculum development, original sound composition, set construction, to motion capture animation that can be imported and exported between virtual platforms.   The idea is to help educators participate and lead in the virtual media making process and develop creative and relevant animation (and mixed reality) content targeting youth from communities that lack resources and skills.  Of course, whenever possible, the target audience will participate in content development and production.   

Ultimately, educators (and students) would be encouraged to contribute animated film and other virtual media forms to an archival web site of shared content, techniques, and program reviews.  A pilot series will be created to demonstrate the process.   Themes addressed include social justice, collaboration, diversity representation in all its forms, and science/technology.
The goal is to open up the diversity of voices, from all locales, from South Chicago to South India to Western Australia, and so forth. Critical are representation of characters/voices pertaining to gender, ethnicity, disability, and socio-economic level. 



  1. This impressive educational sim makes learning fun! It's rich in music and sound history with some wonderful immersive features. The sim is a great combination of Highlands, jungle, Sonic Labs 1 & 2, city soundscape, and space station filled with sites and sounds, that combined with the educational features makes for a fun time exploring too.

  2. thanks Kara for all your efforts in making this come into being!