Track: Best Practices Showcase

Title Cocoon Lives Again Virtually: Epic Dreams of The Golden Years
Author(s): Phylis Johnson
Moderator(s):Shon Charisma
Date Saturday, March 17 09:00
Location: Rockcliffe Rotunda
Abstract In 1985, Ron Howard received accolades for the science fiction classic Cocoon about a group of senior citizens that encounter alien powers, consequently making them feel alive and young again.   For many, Second Life is such a cocoon, a place for them to rediscover vigor and explore life with new energy, while retaining their wisdom and perspective from their life’s experiences.  Many of those who build, design and you might say rule Second Life are retirees and those that are willing to take on new challenges and technologies.  Forget about those stereotypes of “old” people.   Virtual worlds might just be that fountain of youth for the seniors who thrive on thinking young, having still goals to conquer, no longer for earthly treasures, but for a sense of self-actualization and contribution to the future.   The baby boomers were set in front of the television and now they are a part of the audio-visual immersive experience, as if they have walked in to their television set with a mindset to turn their dreams and ideas into realities.  Bradbury, Postman, McLuhan, and others have speculated on the role of media in the future.  I argue that virtual worlds are not only a wonderful resource for contemplating and archiving the past, but for envisioning the future through the lens of those who have lived through the recent past. Media is not merely a passive experience; it is truly active and engaged, full of discussion and activity, and social networking that comes natural to the older, skilled communicator.   Yet, there is an awareness that virtual worlds are targeted toward younger audiences increasingly, although a significant number of the active participants are over 40.   The corporate push is to bring in younger audiences, yet the baby boomers will remain a viable audience for years to come, and significant contributors of these new worlds.  They have the historical perspective to understand the potential of technologies, for they grew up as the technologies matured and evolved.   One of the biggest problems of relying on membership statistics is that older people occasionally (or more often than not) lie about their age to seem younger than they are, in an effort to appear, what they think is, relevant to younger participants.    This paper is a call to acknowledge the strong base of middle-aged active participants, who have risen out of their cocoons, to dream, build, and envision a new future – and to prove once and for all – learning is always life-long.  This presentation will showcase contributions of some of these “cocooners.”      Phylis Johnson, PhD (Sonicity Fitzroy, SL), professor of sound and new media studies in the Department of Radio-Television at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL (USA), is the author of four books, including Second Life, Media and the Other Society (Peter Lang, 2010) and Machinima: The Art and Practice of Virtual Filmmaking (McFarland, 2012).  Her next project, Moving Sound: The Cultural History of the Car Radio, connects the radio to the road, technologies and mobility (Peter Lang, 2014).  She has published and presented in numerous journals, internationally and has more than 20 years of professional media experience. Dr. Johnson is also a journalist and media maker in Second Life, and teaches regularly inside the virtual world.  She is also the chief strategic officer for Lowe Runo Productions, LLC, a machinima and full-service media company. 
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Bio(s): Phylis Johnson: Phylis Johnson, PhD (Sonicity Fitzroy, SL), professor of sound and new media studies in the Department of Radio-Television at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL (USA), is the author of four books, including Second Life, Media and the Other Society (Peter Lang, 2010) and Machinima: The Art and Practice of Virtual Filmmaking (McFarland, March 2012).  Her next project, Moving Sound: The Cultural History of the Car Radio, connects the radio to the road, technologies and mobility (Peter Lang, 2014).  She has published and presented in numerous journals, internationally and has more than 20 years of professional media experience. Dr. Johnson is also a journalist and media maker in Second Life, and teaches regularly inside the virtual world.  She is also the chief strategic officer for Lowe Runo Productions, LLC, a machinima and full-service media company. 

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