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Construction Zone

Last spring a posse of urban-planners-in-training at Tufts entered a parallel universe. Their leader, Justin Hollander, an assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, believes they were the first physical design class ever to convene in Second Life, the online world where 8 million or so inhabitants are building malls, casinos, vacation homes, and much more.

Hollander’s students were charged with developing a plan for some vacant land near Boston’s Forest Hills MBTA train station. That land had been recreated for them on a Second Life island called UEPP Tufts, and by the end of the term, they had come up with a design for it that included a community center, new housing, and a large, airy plaza. The best part was that anyone who wanted to could poke around among these spiffy improvements. Hollander says classes in Second Life have their drawbacks, among them persistent technical glitches. But he says his students had opportunities that would not have been possible otherwise. “Any time of the day or night they could go into Second Life and look at each other’s work.”

You too can visit the virtual construction site. Log on to secondlife.com and download the Second Life application. Then create an “avatar” for yourself—a fictional alter ego capable of navigating the Second Life reality—and send it to the island UEPP Tufts.

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