SFU’s Second Life property celebrates Robbie Burns

February 5, 2009

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Fans of Robbie Burns celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Scottish bard’s birth around the world on Jan. 25. They even celebrated in a virtual world, thanks to a collaboration between the SFU Centre for Scottish Studies and the Learning and Instructional Development Centre (LIDC). The two groups created a memorial to Burns on SFU’s property in Second Life, a popular 3-D online community. On Burns’ birthday a wreath was laid at the foot of the statue while lines from one of his poems were recited.

Second Life allows people to create virtual avatars that can interact with each other, buy property, erect buildings and engage in other activities. The site has millions of registered users, and many educational institutions have set up virtual campuses where students, faculty and staff can meet or visitors can learn more about the institution.

SFU’s Second Life property, Centrocity, was initially developed by Interactive Arts and Technology students and modeled after the Central City campus in Surrey.

Jason Toal, an experience designer with LIDC, says Centrocity is not only used for special events such as the Burns celebration but also for developing and testing virtual education experiences.

The Centre for Scottish Studies is hoping to build on the event by holding a contest to create a more contemporary memorial for Burns in Second Life. "Statues, busts and portraits often represent Burns as a nostalgic relic of the nineteenth century," says director Leith Davis. "We’re looking for a more contemporary image to convey the fact that Burns’ messages regarding respect for nature, universal brotherhood (and, by extension, sisterhood) and the uplifting power of the human spirit have never been more relevant."

The deadline for entry is April 1, 2009. The winning design will be awarded $300 and will appear in Second Life on SFU’s island during Tartan Week (April 6-10). For more details or to submit an entry, contact Leith Davis at


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