Second China allows for virtual culture training

A team of University of Florida computer engineers have used the online world Second Life to create a virtual Chinese city that users can “visit” to simulate Chinese cultural experiences. The goal of Second China, as it is called, is to allow diplomats to gain experience interacting with Chinese nationals in typical settings such as business meetings.

Second China seeks to enhance the Chinese culture training that Americans receive before embarking to China so that they can hit the ground running once they arrive. Unlike other areas of Second Life in which all of the avatars are controlled by an actual human being, Second China has computer controlled avatars with whom you can interact. This ensures that all visitors to Second China will have similar experiences which allows for a more reliable training environment.

The project was supported by a $1.25 million dollar federal grant, so your tax dollars are truly at work here. My company offers culture training for employees who will be working overseas and I have both attended and facilitated some of those sessions. I think they more than adequately prepare people for local customs and social mores. I can’t imagine myself sitting at my computer, logging into Second China and attending a virtual meeting. That just seems foreign to me. Get it? Yeah, well, this idea seems about as good as that joke.

Rather than interact with some creepy avatar in a virtual meeting (aren’t real business meetings torturous enough?), I’d rather speak with peers who have been to China and seek their advice before traveling over there. Or I could read a book about conducting business there. Those just seem like more appealing uses of my time.

Can a virtual world help simulate cultural experiences? Maybe. But I’ll just grab some dim sum in Chinatown and call it a day. Thanks anyways.

Source: Science Daily