Today we are going to Dubai, the centre of the world, to which increasing numbers of tourists and business people are coming. How do you prepare the nationals of a very conservative society with fairly strict gender separation for these intercultural encounters? Canadian, Mark Karstad, instructional designer at Dubai Women’s College for five years, decided to develop virtual fieldtrips to the USA, South Korea and Darfur amongst others through the virtual world of Second Life. The whole show is given over to exploring some of the many issues raised by this decision.
Very few of the students at Dubai Women’s College take advantage of offers of foreign trips such as attending a trade conference in China. Mark Karstad, former instructional designer at the university, tried out the idea of virtual field trips using the online world Second Life. This enabled him to take his students to a range of safe destinations such as Islam Online and Darfur. It also enabled him to collaborate with a college in South Korea and the USA to enable virtual meetings with the students where for example the students came dressed in their national costumes.
In Second Life an avatar, a sort of cartoon character, represents you as you move and interact in the online world. You choose what this avatar looks like and how it is dressed. How would the students of DWC choose to represent themselves? The answer was without their abayas and in the designer clothes which they wear underneath. As Mark describes it, bling, meaning ostentatious jewellery.
As a male employee in the women’s college Mark describes some of the norms he had to adhere to such as never coming into physical contact with the students, not even bumping into them on the stairs. He also describes how the students needed to have a chance to put on their abayas and shaylas before he entered the classroom. This meant that he had to knock and pause for word that it was safe for him to enter the room.
So long! Stay tuned.
The host of this show is:Anne Fox
Editor: Peter Kron
The next show will be coming to you on 8 August from Dr. Laurent Borgmann in Germany.