Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maternity units in Second Life

I have had a look around Second Life at the various different maternity cum birthing units to see how our work compares. When you do a search in Second Life and Google for maternity/birthing centers/units you will find that there are a number of results. Here are a few I have visited over the last couple of days.

Dreamscapes Maternity Center

The Dreamscapes Maternity Center is quite medicalised but it did give me a sense of what can be achieved in terms of animations and objects.

Here I am using an animation, ready to catch a baby. There are also animations for the birthing mother, and support partner.

Looking at the baby resusitaire.

Jungle Baby Birth Center

The Jungle Baby Birth Center is quite different and great fun.

There is a pool where you can give birth. I tried to be the birthing mother but nearly drowned in the rock pool. But I loved the fairies and elves that flew around keeping me company.

I am just not sure this environment would be considered 'appropriate' for teaching students by the serious amongst us, but I loved it.

Rock a Bye Babies Maternity Clinic and Birthing Center
The Rock a Bye Babies Maternity Clinic and Birthing Center seemed to be focused mostly on selling pregnancies, babies and baby regalia.

For the life of me, I cannot imagine why anyone would want to be pregnant and have a baby in Second Life. However, what it is really important for me to remember is that for many people, Second Life is a game and they have a completely different take on it compared to me, who looks at it mostly as a teaching tool.

TLC Babies Maternity Pediatric Clinic
The TLC Babies Maternity Pediatric Clinic has a similar feel to Rock a Bye Babies.

I had a chat with the owners of two of the maternity centers. They do big business selling baby regalia to people and having 'births' on their premises.

One of the owners had a medical background in real life but did not give out advice for real life situations because of the issue of litigation.

I asked one owner if women wanted natural birth in Second Life because they were unable to do so in real life, but she had the sense that that was not the case. It's a research project just crying to be carried out - anyone fancy funding me to do it!

All in all, I was pleased to see that our birth unit was dissimilar to the others that I visited, which will hopefully help it stand out in Second Life. It looks very different because it is not a commercial endeavor. And of course, it's purpose is very different. Nevertheless, I enjoyed talking to people I met and I think it would be very interesting to involve them in future research, looking at how people view birth in Second Life from a consumers' point of view, as opposed to an education perspective.

Do you use Second Life as a game? Have you ever had a virtual pregnancy and birth. If so, why? And how was your experience of virtual pregnancy and birth?


catkins_in_nz said...

Nice post Sarah. I think some people find Second Life a way of experiencing things that they are unable to experience in real life - I wonder how much of that prompts pregnancy and birth in SL? I agree it is a fascinating area and when we wear our purely educators hat we tend to have rather a narrow view of the world!
I was interested in what you said about the elves and fairies flying around - even though I know its not reasonable to expect to give birth for real in that circumstance! :) I would have loved my birthing experiences to have 'felt' as though there were magical beings in the air - rather than the ubiquitous hospital smell, arrogant medical staff (well it was over 30 yrs ago!) and the smell of over cooked veggies!
It occured to me that one useful way for your students to interact with the BU is to get them to suggest their own 'ideal' - and send them off to explore some of the ones you have found as well as the one we are building :)

Sarah Stewart said...

I really like that idea, Claire, of getting students to have a search around to find their ideal birthing environment in SL. It brings me back to a conversation we had about birth environmentnearly a year ago- that we shouldn't be replicating real life, but looking for something completely different.

In my lesson planI have the students comparing the birth unit with what they see in 'real life'- I think sending them to look in SL is a great add on to that-thanks for the idea.

catkins_in_nz said...

Wow! yes Sarah - I just went back and re-read that posting - seems we may have lost something along the way :( - although we have gained other things :) led Cider and I to an interesting discussion about rooms and spaces.....why do birthing units have to be rectangular, sharp edged places....why not rounded and more womb-like - better acoustics as well as softer visually.....I wondered if you were aware of some of the designs by Roger Dean? You might like to have a look at his architecture here -
Interesting thoughts :)

Leigh Blackall said...

Great post Sarah, and nice ideas coming through in the discussion Claire. I really like what Claire says in relation to magical surrounds for birth. It highlights just how restricted we are in thinking about birth. I guess having hospital environs as a base plate standard from which the Birthing Unit research worked from, very much limited just how far the research and recommendations could go in terms of an ideal birthing space.

Your post reveals to us just how far SL could push that research and conceptualization further still.. of course we always knew it would, and as you point out Sarah, the variety of spaces available in SL provides you with a great opportunity for a lesson plan to do just that.. have birth professionals explore a more fantastic dimension to their subject area. Lordy knows the health sector could use some creative stimulation.. see Illich.

Another thing I might mention, a discussion I had with Deb when we were photographing objects at the hospital.. that the depth in which the Birthing Unit project considers the impact that environment has on birth has a lot to offer the consideration of the impact that environment has on learning. Basically, apply the same research question that was used for birth, but for learning.

Looking at the corridors and rooms that make up your average tertiary learning institution, its little wonder so many people have difficulty effectively teaching and learning in those spaces!

So another potential outcome from this project is that it might lead to considering that question for learning spaces.. what are ideal environments for learning? Or what are the criteria for better learning spaces?

And finally, I think this post is a good element for use in the stage 2 context statement that informs the stage 2 learning designs. We have at least one design in the works as a result.. the lesson plan to explore the dimensions proposed in virtual birthing spaces and use them to discuss the limitations of real birthing spaces.

Sarah Stewart said...

@Clare The design of the virtual birth unit is based on the Birth Unit Design Principles, but I have to admit, having looked at Roger Deans's work, I agree we could have been a little more innovative than we have been.

But having said that, much of how a birth unit works depends on a philosophy, as opposed to physical environment. What we are doing is a pilot - we can live and learn and try different things next time!

@Leigh The other thing we must remember is one element of this project (as far as Deb & I are concerned) is testing the BUD design principles. Much as a 'fantastical' birth place is great fun in SL and good to explore as a concept, we would not be able to have fairies and such like in a real situation.

But I would agree I am the least imaginative person I know, so being challenged both in terms of my practice as a midwife and also as an educator is a great thing - if that is an outcome of the project, then that is fantastic. I must admit I was surprised how much I enjoyed the fairies in the Jungle birth unit - it has certainly got me thinking.

As an aside, I agree about health professional being unimaginative - but you've got to see things from our point of view. We're so bogged down with responsibility, long hours, complex learning we haven;t got the time or energy to be imaginative. How would you suggest we address this, Leigh?

I'm loving this conversation - you guys are really getting me thinking!

michael said...

Hi Sarah
I really enjoyed reading your post - some useful reflections that will help the evaluation research. I found the contrast between the different SL environments very interesting. The Jungle experience sounds fun!I don't recall elves and fairies at my sons' births - but being an anxious father, I may not have noticed them...

Sarah Stewart said...

I really enjoyed the Jungle maternity unit because it stretched my thinking about birth environment in Second Life ie why not have an environment that is fantastical in a way that would be completely impossible in Real Life?

The problem for me emerged last week when I prepared to take students there...I couldn't find the has 'gone'. This is one of the problems with Second Life - some places are transient depending on funding etc.

Anonymous said...

I have gone through the virtual Pregnacy and its amazing. I loved the whole experience, and would recomend it to anyone. I had my baby at Rock a Bye clinic, they are an amazing set of staff and medrical professionals in RL.

starla00 said...

I have a question for ppl on here . how long should u wait to have a baby on second life? i am 7 weeks now is that to soon?

Sarah Stewart said...

It's totally up to you, Starla...whatever suits you...