JMU To Hold Valley's First Virtual Fashion Show

From: Public Affairs

James Madison University will host the first virtual fashion show in the Shenandoah Valley, via the online world of Second Life. Members of JMU’s Second Life community will take to the runway with avatars to model the latest virtual fashions.

The event will take place at 4 p.m., Dec. 3 on JMU’s Second Life campus. Second Life is a 3-D, computer-based simulated environment where users interact using avatars, graphical representatives of the users’ online personalities.

JMU’s Second Life campus allows students and faculty to interact with one another and members of the global community without the constraints of physical location. Many universities throughout the world, including Harvard and Princeton, are using Second Life for educational purposes.

In an effort to introduce local and global community members to JMU’s virtual campus, its members will hold an open house, with a virtual fashion show as its premiere event. Avatars of JMU faculty, staff and students will model clothing in the traditional catwalk fashion, using a runway created by JMU staff member Jeremy Hawkins, assistant director of the Festival Conference and Student Center. Attendees can then “buy” the clothes the models are wearing for free, although clothing in Second Life often brings real currency.

“We are using a business model and employing a marketing event to publicize our virtual campus, which has some real-life applications," said Toni Mehling, communications director for JMU’s College of Business and one of the organizers of the virtual open house. "This event is a perfect example of how JMU members are collaborating and using technology to educate our students, empower our faculty and staff and connect with our global community.”

Tackling such an event in the real world would cost in the thousands of dollars, Mehling said. By hosting the event virtually, the event costs nothing more than a few hours of electronic design work.

“This online world allows us to tackle projects and provide experiences to our campus community and beyond that would not be possible in the physical reality," Mehling said. "Our business students could easily learn and practice business principles in this type of setting, and the reality is that some companies—such as Adidas and IBM—are doing just that."

During the open house, visitors can tour the JMU Psychology Museum under construction and visit the JMU Student Union and Wilson Hall, among other campus buildings. Those interested can download and join Second Life for free at www.secondlife.com.

To read more about JMU's presence in Second Life, check out the May 2009 issue of Madison Scholar.

For more information, contact Mehling at (540) 568-5169 or mehlintd@jmu.edu, or Bill Wyatt in the JMU Office of Public Affairs at (540) 568-4908 or wyattwj@jmu.edu.

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December 1, 2009