Daily Archive for Monday, August 13th, 2007

recommendation for Ken Stalter

To Whom IT may Concern:

Ken Stalter is a remarkable man, truly individual, truly pursuing his own sense of the good. He has distinguished himself in his work with me and has completely won my respect.

Ken is passionate about ideas. He loves to think about the meanings behind
everyday actions. He thinks about ways one ought to live, how to use intellect to live life. He loves law, and has been finding his passion realized in the work and social environment of law school. He is a learner, open to new ways of thinking. He finds excitement in translating new idea into real change.

Here is part of Ken’s post-mortem on my Winter Evidence Class, 2007. I had divided classtime into two segments, an initial two-week segment intense study of the rules of evidence that was examined and graded, and a following one-week segment in cyber advocacy that was pass/fail, and in which I introduced my students to virtual reality.


Hi, Professor Nesson. What follows are a few of the thoughts that have
been inspired in me over the past few weeks.

I’d like to start out by saying that for me, the bifurcated approach
struck precisely the right balance. I’m not sure it would work well in
a fall/spring semester length course, but I it felt really good for a
three week term. I like grades in general and like the
competitiveness, so I felt like that need was fulfilled by the first
two weeks of class. Then I got to enjoy a dessert of sorts in the
Second Life trial experience. It felt like a space to be a little more
bold and creative.

I had been on Second Life only briefly before this class. After
reading about it in the news in October, I got an account and logged on
for about 20 minutes. I didn’t touch it again until this January.
After I found out we would be using it for the class, I decided to get
more acquainted with it. I traveled to the Berkman area and started
exploring. [This refers to Berkman Island in Second Life where the
Berkman Center has created a virtual Austin Hall and surrounding campus.]
One thing led to another and since then, I’ve spent many
hours in the game learning its mechanics, meeting people, developing my
avatar and building objects.

The reason I became so excited about Second Life and the mock trial was
the fact that it was the tearing down of a division that is usually
pretty rigid in my life. Law is my career and my educational endeavor,
playing video games is one of my pastimes, one which I typically use as
an escape from other parts of my life. Yet suddenly this division
melted away and I found the opportunity to use a video game to engage
with the law. Thus the experience was one that combined two of my
interests and was completely novel. I really enjoyed it.

I would really like to see this idea go further and I’m putting out
feelers in the Second Life world to see what the potential for in-world
dispute resolution is. This is something I’m going to continue playing
with even now that the class has come to an end.

Yet I also agree with you, Professor, when you say that the Second Life
mock trial is–ultimately–trivial. Before the class began and in the
early meetings, I was skeptical of your approach. I was concerned that
you would be someone who was inordinately excited about new media as
educational tools and had perhaps lost your grounding. It turns out
that that was not the case. I came away with the impression that while
you appreciate the novelty and the potential of these devices, your
primary concern, or one of your primary concerns, is helping us to
develop as good lawyers and as good people. And that is, in the end,
what matters.

In many ways, the class felt more similar to classes I took in pursuit
of my undergraduate degree in theater than it did to other law school
classes. Many courses here are reflective in the sense that they
engage how we position our agendas with respect to a legal doctrine.
They ask, should we oppose/promote this? How should we do so? And so
on. This evidence course seemed take that reflective quality to
another level and seemed to ask, what is the role of our emotions in
how we position ourselves? What is the role of identity? What is the
relationship between our internal struggles and our external ones? That
was very refreshing.

For example, the other day, somewhat in the middle of the discussion of
Odysseus’ killing of the suitors, you called our attention to the idea
of recursive loops. For whatever reason, the discussion turned away
from it, but I made a connection that I’ve been thinking a lot about
since. I realized that hatred is a recursive loop. If you hate
someone who’s hurt you, your pain increases because the feeling of
hatred is an unpleasant one. Then the rage flares up even more in
response to the increased pain, fueling further hatred. It feeds upon
itself. This is a fresh idea to me and I imagine I’ll continue
thinking about it for some time. I’m not sure I can yet speak to it’s
full importance.

[snip]

The more I read about Second Life, the more I appreciate the variety of
uses people are putting the game to and the way the experiences they
have in Second Life can influence their first lives. I’ve read about
the experiences of white users playing as black avatars, protests
against French nationalist movements, doctors using Second Life to
recreate the experience of living with schizophrenia and much more.
I’m beginning to suspect we may need to back off from our evaluation of
what we did there as trivial. It might be a seed planted that will
grow into a forest. Who knows what the potential of online law will be
as we dig deeper into this thing called the twenty-first century?

Again the Second Life experience can be best described in Hamlet’s
words. Like the players Hamlet uses to route his usurping uncle,
playing Second Life is “to hold, as it twere, the mirror up to nature.”

Ken Stalter
1/20/07

Ken followed up by taking my spring class, CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion, and help organize and execute a mock trial of a real dispute in Second Life:
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/cyberone/wiki/Cybertrial_Post-Mortem

I warmly recommend Ken Stalter.