SWIP in cyberspace

It’s been a big week for the Society for Women in Philosophy, Cyberspace Division. First Sally Haslanger set up a Facebook group for SWIP, and now Anne Jacobson is offering SWIP the use of her virtual office in Second Life. She writes:

Apparently some companies use it for training sessions; I’ve been to a conference and seen a pretty good photography exhibit. I have met up with people (my avatar has talked to theirs with my words); that’s as good as instant messaging. Presumably, everyone with a microphone can talk to or at others. If SWIP were interested, we could get together avatars from Europe and North American to discuss having a conference or starting an online journal, for example. And a feminist presence in Second Life would be a good thing, I think.

I’m extremely ignorant of what can be done with these technologies, and I’m hoping some of you may be more knowledgeable. What does Facebook give us that we don’t get through having web pages? An easy way to find other SWIP members? More? And what about Second Life? Is the virtual office basically a chat room? What can be done with these, either in terms of philosophy or activism? What has been done? I know that there are some actual university courses being offered in second life– what do these get someone that they can’t get by more traditional online learning? I know there are also political groups in Second Life. Is there a feminist presence? With SWIP, of course, there are further complications. It’s a Society for *Women* in Philosophy, and I don’t think non-women members are allowed in any divisions. All-women spaces already raise lots of issues regarding sex and gender identity when decisions have to be made about who is a woman. But in Second Life, as I understand it, anyone can have a woman avatar. What do we do about membership there? Another thought, given Second Life flexibility regarding gender, is that it could be used (to some limited extent) to help men learn what it’s like to be a woman, and to help women learn what it’s like to be a man. (Apparently, it’s been successfully used to help show trainee psychiatrists what schizophrenia feels like.) All thoughts very welcome. As I said, I’m totally out of my depth on this stuff.