To take advantage of this globally accessible online showcase, the University of Florida (UF) Digital Worlds Institute assembled an interdisciplinary team of staff and students to create an interactive presence for UF on Second Life’s Information Island.
Thanks to today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, the ability to transcend traditional boundaries over the Internet is increasingly being utilized for not only social and business purposes but for educational advancement as well. Realizing this, the online world of Second Life hosted a virtual College Fair on November 16, 2008 that gave colleges and universities around the world the opportunity to promote their digital programs in a single shared virtual venue.
This College Fair allotted each of the participating institutions a parcel of virtual real estate for a “booth” to display its digital media program. To take advantage of this globally accessible online showcase, the University of Florida (UF) Digital Worlds Institute assembled an interdisciplinary team of staff and students to create an interactive presence for UF on Second Life’s Information Island.
Creating the booth for the College Fair required the same kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that fuels Digital Worlds’ research and development projects, and underlies the philosophy of its Master of Arts in Digital Arts and Sciences (DAS) degree.
The Digital Worlds (DW) team members came from diverse academic backgrounds and experiences, yet were able to work together effectively over the course of just a few weeks to create the interactive virtual booth, which featured video-on-demand and interactive posters.
The first team member was Lisa Hope, DW’s Digital Media Specialist, a UF graduate with a B.S. in Journalism and Communications, specializing in Online Media. Her passion for writing and moviemaking led her to pursue interactive digital media; and her background in marketing and production, news and graphic design, and web-based media made her an ideal candidate for her position at Digital Worlds.
In contrast, Christian Tassin, Project Manager at DW, has a B.A. in English Literature and a M.S. in Entrepreneurship from the Warrington College of Business. Tassin was attracted to the development of new technologies and how they evolve from university labs to marketable products. Before coming to DW, he wrote a business plan as part of a program called Integrated Technology Venture (ITV), where business and engineering students, professors, and industry professionals created a virtual company around patented UF inventions. A recommendation from his ITV mentor led to his present position at Digital Worlds.
Mr. Gabriel Munoz-Calene is a second-year law student at UF with a B.A. from NYU, where he participated in the study "Video as a Tool for Social Change." He has great enthusiasm for digital video and virtual content and is also very interested in the use of digital media tools to provide a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. His summer job with DW was extended into this school year as he continues to assist with research and the development of digital content.
Leading the design of the UF booth was Joshua Javaheri, who has also worked as a professional video game developer at Ignition Entertainment Studios in Gainesville. His strong interest in interactive technologies provided the catalyst that propelled him to pursue a career in computer entertainment and sciences. He is currently a fifth-year DAS Engineering major who became involved with DW while working on his senior project: UF's First Virtual Campus Environment.
All four team members actually view their differences as an advantage that allows them to specialize in various aspects of a project, while at the same time applying their diverse skillsets to a common result, in this case the UF booth at the College Fair. To them, interdisciplinary teams tend to create an exciting environment full of dynamic feedback. Chris Tassin put it best when he said, “Peers from different disciplines help you to gain new insights or expose you to new experiences that you may not have even known about. People from divergent backgrounds can look at a problem from different perspectives and work together to create a better solution than one that could have been generated by a group of like-minded people.”
Whether bridging the boundaries between academic disciplines, classrooms, continents or cultures, the UF Digital Worlds Institute remains dedicated to providing students an interdisciplinary platform upon which they can build their own career paths into the 21st Century.