The Georgian House
The Georgian House was a course in English social history which sought to use role play in an eighteenth-century aristocratic London town house. Its aim was to evaluate Second Life’s™ potential to deepen students’ appreciation of the differences between their own social and cultural world and that of people living in the eighteenth century.
At the beginning of the semester students were allocated a randomly-selected role within the household. Roles reflected a typical aristocratic household of the day, from scullery and kitchen maids, the butler and the Lord and Lady of the house. Students were encouraged to consider such questions as what was it like to be a
- scullery maid
- Duke or Duchess
What did it mean to be born into a highly stratified social order so different to our own?
To what extent did one’s birth determine one’s life and why?
How differently to us did eighteenth-century people negotiate the world?
How did people behave to one another in this social order and why?
Such questions inspired the use of the Georgian House: a course grounded upon the use of Second Life™ in history education as a role play site within the house and its environs.
In the first weeks of semester each student was allocated a role, or character, and room or rooms within the household, depending upon their character’s social rank. The first half of the semester provided students with the necessary historical knowledge to enable them to perform the role play effectively. Lectures, tutorials and readings informed students about the social, cultural and political landscape of eighteenth-century England. Students also conducted extensive research into their allocated role and wrote a comprehensive ‘back story’ for their character as part of the assessment regime. They also completed workshops in order to familiarise themselves with the virtual environment and customise their avatars.
The second six weeks of tutorials comprised the formal role play element of the course. Each week students logged into Second Life™ and role played a pre-determined situation within or near the house ‘in character’. They responded to a different situation each week, having carefully considered it implications for their own character. Situations included hosting a full dinner for his Lordship’s parliamentary colleagues and the illness and then funeral for the duke’s four-year-old son.