Thursday, 6 February 2014

Terra Incognita - the creation and death of an island on second life

(Patricia -Daniels blogspot 2013)

Lindsay Mckeown Orwin -was the co creator of Terra Incognita (TI)  on "Second Life". TI  formed part of her research for her Phd (2011).  She makes very little reference to the project on her own personal website (Orwin, 2014) and it feels as though once the Phd was completed, she lost interest in TI. It seemed to have become someone else's responsibility and eventually closed down in Jan 2014.

TIs focus centred on Personal Development and its links with Reg Revans' Action Learning Sets. Her island enabled practitioners to meet and problem solve in small groups. The island had the capacity to enable breakaway syndicate groups that could reconvene in larger plenaries.(Seely Brown (2008) p20, Wikieducator (2013)). 

"The focus of the study is What are the social and technical possibilities of using a 3d environment for action learning. So the study is about the methodology of action learning in an online mode, and how you can use 3d environments to enhance that..." (Kick-ass Edublog, 2010) 

TI also illustrates Dewey's "knowing by doing" thesis and communities of practice (Cited in Seely Brown, 2008, p20).

Have any more papers been written about the project since the Seely Brown and Adler's paper was published? 
There seems to be a dearth of focused articles or journals on the project and none by TI's creator (other than her PHd). Kick-ass Edublog has published a transcript of a podcast interview with Orwin. Patricia Daniels (H817 student 2013) has created a blog with images of the defunct island. There appear to be a number of conference papers with contributions from Orwin.

The future of virtual action learning sets?
There is no evidence of any successors to Terra Incognita, although the second life island is still 'up for rent'

I think the project has great potential but suspect that the issue is persuading non second-life users to experience action learning in a virtual world. Action learning in the real world is a popular tool used by many organisations....perhaps with the growth of remote teams it might be something that could be ressurected, as a virtual tool, in the future.

Although my research yielded little on the Orwin front, I did find more information on educational projects and Second Life  than I was expecting. Clearly, there is a lot of educational activity occurring in this virtual world, not only simulation activity but also games as well as genuine debate. So, on reflection my efforts were not entirely wasted.......

Dean, P. (2014) [Online] Available from  Accessed 06 Feb 2014

Orwin, M. L. (2014) [Online] Available from:

Orwin, L. (2011)Affordances of Virtual Worlds forProfessional Development conducted using Action Learning, University of South Queensland, Available from: Accessed 06 Feb 2014

Seely Brown, J. and Adler, R. (2008) ‘Minds on fire: open education, the long tail and learning 2.0’, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 16–32; also available online at (last accessed 29 July 2013) 


  1. It's really interesting that we both researched the same project and have some crossover material, but took a different stance on it. I find this with my students, they all have the same TMA question but each assignment is totally individual - it's great. I enjoyed researching this, so it's good to read your take on it too. Amanda HV

  2. I was checking up on the history of Terra incognita when I came across this :) After a couple of months I was in a position to reopen the region and thankfully though it was offline, Linden Lab had not deleted it. I renamed the region Ferny Nook a year ago and now operate it primarily as a park land themed residential and light commercial region. It has public spaces at ground level and I may in future allow it to be used for educational events as I have many venues and have left an event space at ground level (where the large oak tree is) that takes a 80 m x 80 m venue. Please feel free to visit anytime, here is the SLurl for the landing point:
    Patricia (SL: Tori Landau and Ferny Nook)