After reading Beyond the Blogosphere: information and its Children by Aaron Barlow and Robert Leston, which I filled with post-it notes commenting on the digital revolution and how it has changed libraries, educations, and our lives, I thought it would be cool to ask the authors to discuss the book —virtually. Both authors quickly replied to my email agreeing to attend a virtual world discussion in Second Life, which would be sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries Virtual World Interest Group (which I am leading for 2012-2013).
The “sense of presence”, made possible within virtual worlds, provided a personal epiphany during the conversation among the dozen or so participants in the audience. As we discussed the importance of “taking a break from our digital gadgets” and “turning off our technology”- how crucial it is to balance the physical and the virtual -I suddenly found it ironic. During that portion of the discussion, something occurred to me. Here we were, talking “anti-technology”, inside a 3D immersive environment while sitting at our computers! I realized, however, that I actually was interacting with others discussing something meaningful, in fact something I am passionate about, even though I was in a virtual mode rather than a physical one. In other words, I was not escaping something by pausing real life to use a technology device; instead, I was “in the moment”. This illuminates an advantage of virtual worlds over the flat online digital mediums: texting, email, FB, Twitter, and other social media and distance learning platforms.
The stimulating conversation covered digital citizenship, the “singularity”, the problems created by ever-increasing personalization on the Internet, the fact that students google everything first, and other difficulties we now face due to the exponential growth of technological change.
Aaron Barlow and Robert Leston were terrific guests at the Community Virtual Library and I feel as if I actually met them. (Didn’t I?) They predicted the convergence of the physical and the virtual (through augmented reality such as Google glasses) by stating “First, media converged so that it all could be delivered through the computer. Soon the physical world will also be delivered by the virtual one” (page 19). This convergence (beyond the blogosphere) brings chaos as we (insert librarians, humans, or whatever here) can no longer catalog the vast amount of information we create. Although this discussion illuminated enormous problems we face today as librarians and educators, the experience was extremely positive due to the camaraderie experienced and the feeling that “we are all in this together”.