Where once was Harvard . . .

. . . now is a crumbling virtual ruin.

It seems as if the wonderful Second Life replica of Ames Courtroom in Austin Hall at Harvard Law School is being dismantled on Berkman Island. Brick by brick, it is disappearing. When I went there today, it looked like a bleak, decaying urban landscape: a hotrod car parked out front, a fire burning inside where the fireplace used to be, and a helicopter abandoned where the students used to attend class. And the only avatar around, appropriately perhaps, was a ghost of an avatar asleep on the steps.

And the amphitheater is going away as well, with just an open meadow left where all the seating used to be. That’s where we all used to sit and listen to live-streamed lectures from Harvard. Back when there was a university here! How sad to see a grand institution crumbling into virtual ruin. But, there’s good news: the trees around Berkman Island are fall-colored, so apparently somebody is doing something. Maybe it is being transformed and not abandoned?

Sob! All of this is heartbreaking for me. I consider Harvard my first real home in Second Life. It was here at Harvard Law School in 2006 where I first heard of virtual worlds at all. I was sitting in on classes with the “at large” community in the historic CyberOne law class conducted by Harvard’s Extension School jointly with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Lectures were live-streamed into Second Life, and many of us gathered to listen in the amphitheater here, right in front of Austin Hall.

Where has it all gone? I’ve scoured the Berkman Blog and found nothing. It’s true that there has not been much activity going on at Berkman Island for quite awhile — just a few luncheons live-streamed from the Berkman Center. But I still used to come by faithfully and hang out in the sandbox, hoping to find a meeting or a class that I could sit in on. And then one day I saw legendary Professor Charlie Nesson’s virtual Vespa parked outside Austin Hall. But he was nowhere around. I e-mailed him and Harvard Law School at the time, but the e-mail I received back said only that things were being “scaled back.” Btw, if you want to know why Charlie Nesson, aka the Dean of Cyberspace,  is “legendary,” check out the youtube video here entitled “Harvard Prof. Charles Nesson Is Insane” about the CyberOne class. Hahahahaha. The good ol’ days. (Keep in mind that all of  that video is history, long gone and over. Don’t expect to find that class offered to the at-large community now.)

I’ll e-mail some people and let you all know the scoop as soon as I find it out. And meanwhile, if anyone reading this knows where Harvard has gone, will you please ask it to come home? And please also leave a comment here.

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