Conversation in the Digital Age (Part One)

I just finished reading Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation which was chock full of truisms and presents a challenge to all of us to consider how we communicate. She makes a case for setting limits on technology tools, particularly our phones, and taking a good look at the value and importance of real voices and human eye contact in face to face conversation. Turkle believes students today lack empathy for others because our constant connectivity in digital spaces reduces friendship to a “performance” rather than a relationship.

In addition to the preference of texting over talking and the performance of “an edited life” on social media, young people are bombarded by information all around them and have grown up in a state of distraction. Television increasingly brings us BREAKING NEWS with a constant crawl on non-related topics scrolling across the screen and dramatic special effects hyping what is suppose to inform us.

Breaking News

Breaking News

Not only are we now comfortable with constant distraction, we consider nonstop interruption a normal state of affairs as our devices ding and beep in our pockets. Turkle says, “We forget how unusual this has become, that many young people are growing up without ever having experienced unbroken conversations either at the dinner table or when they take a walk with parents or friends. For them, phones have always come along” p. 16.

phones

Are you concerned about the effects of mobile devices and where global digital participatory culture is heading? Do you feel like you have a handle on balancing your “digital double” (Turkle’s term for our online selves)?

The ideas in Turkle’s latest book are worthy of our attention. Stay tuned for part two and more discussion on this critical topic.

Photos from https://www.flickr.com/photos/rubbercat/208330144/in/photostream/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/clanlife/6369791755

Search is Changing

How we search for information is becoming more and more personalized. The personal dashboards we create on our devices make access to information easy and convenient, but how many of us realize the personal responsibility we now have to choose wisely each day, each moment?

Yes, information literacy has become a critical personal skill. “Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.” We hear it all around us. The likes and follows grow like giant sea monsters in the ocean of information chaos. Sure, we all love Google- but do we understand the responsibility is on each of us to evaluate what has been specifically given to us through algorithms of data? Do we really care?

As learners and citizens, we are all in this together. Come on, Google, give me the best answers for everyone. Not the best answers based on who you think I am. Of course, there are other search engines, but we all use google as a verb.

For those concerned about the future of information literacy, consider including information professionals in your personal learning network. You will need them. Thanks to Sheila Webber for sharing this slideshow by Phil Bradley.

Dickens Project in a Virtual World Opens Dec. 12

Issued: November 7, 2015
PRESS RELEASE
IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACTS
Caledonia Skytower, Seanchai Library
thedede@comcast.net
THE DICKENS PROJECT Returns
to Benefit
The Community Virtual Library in Second Life

Dickens Poster from Seanchai in SL
Bradley University, Second Life – A popular festival, first presented in 2012 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of author Charles Dickens’ birth, is returning to Second Life this December in a limited form, to benefit The Community Virtual Library. The festival is presented free to all Second Life Residents and donations will be accepted for the Community Virtual Library: a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, connecting residents with information resources, reference services and serving as a networking tool for information resource professionals.

The nine day festival will open on December 12th, centering on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, presenting the novella in a variety of adaptations (including unabridged), in sections and in its entirety. The work is presented at different times to make the live readings accessible to residents from different parts of the world. Other works from within the author’s vast canon are featured and interactive information on the times and work of Charles Dickens can be explored.

Seanchai Library will produce the 2015 edition of The Dickens Project, presenting nearly fifteen hours of live readings between December 12 and 20th, and holding a dance and music event “Fezziwig’s Ball” on Saturday, December 19th. The final event, a marathon “All Read” presentation of A Christmas Carol performed by a relay team of Seanchai Staff, is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, December 20th. The final event schedule for The Dickens Project will be released in early December.

In 1843 Charles Dickens prefaced his about-to-be classic tale with these words: “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.” He began the novella in October, and it went on to become the most successful book of the 1843 holiday season, selling six thousand copies by Christmas and continuing to be popular into the new year.

Dickens set out to weave a story of humanity, kindness, and benevolence which he had failed to do with under-selling Martin Chuzzlewitt. He would do so “without browbeating or scolding, or mounting a soap box.” His book centers itself upon Christmas, but aside from the title and the timing of the tale, is not a religious tract. The story centers on the transformation of a single soul from miserly rigidity, to generous compassion. Dickens did something entirely unheard of foe an author of his stature in his time: he self published to book. He hired and supervised the illustration, oversaw the book design and consulted on the advertising. His publishers Chapman and Hall, who had demurred on the project, served only as his printers and received a fixed fee from every book sold.

The 2015 edition of The Dickens Project will take place in the Community Virtual Library’s exhibit space in it s home on the Bradley University Sim.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bradley%20University/31/171/24
It will also be accessible from Seanchai Library’s parcel immediately to the east.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bradley%20University/100/209/28

Seanchai Library (Shanna-key, which means “Storyteller” in Irish.) was founded in March of 2008 in Second Life. Thousands of stories, and hundreds of authors later, the program remains dedicated to promoting the power of stories to transform and inspire through live voice presentations: “We bring stories of all kinds to life, in Second Life.”

War and Peace: Reflection on Literature in the Digital Age -Part 2

The reward of reading War and Peace was much more than being able say I got through it.  The reward of reading is always the experience of deep thought.  Having viewed both a movie version and a made-for-TV version, I had an idea of the overall story, but a reader not only has the creative privilege of designing the sets, the costumes, and actors, the reader gets to contemplate the philosophical concepts embedded throughout. And War and Peace certainly is chock full of philosophical meanderings.  What does it mean to exist as a human?  What is power and what is free will?  What are truth, beauty or love?  Did God design it all? This book is so much more than the story.

The story of War and Peace is basically a love story, which surprised me! Although there are vivid battle scenes of the War of 1812, descriptions of society a hundred years before Downton Abbey (and the production values I created in my mind were ever so lovely), and financial ruin during times of duress, the overarching theme is love.  The characters desperately seek the meaning of life through encounters with power, money problems, death, and the contemplation of free will. Spoiler ALERT! Love, it turns out, is the ultimate meaning. The Beatles were right! Love is all you need.

loveisall

But it really isn’t that simple.  Stating that love is the answer is like showing a picture of water and talking about how water is necessary for life.  You have to drink it to experience it.  You have to go through the journey for yourself. The experience of reading War and Peace is a far cry from the type of reading we get on the web as we scroll frantically through tidbits of thought. The experience has become a part of me, unlike the countless photos, memes, and comments delivered throughout every day through “disposable” media.

A book is a container of thought. Mental nourishment is as important as physical nourishment.  Your grandmother knew that you are what you eat. Now I am sounding like a librarian!  Everyone should read.

Well, that too isn’t really that simple.  I agree with Nicholas Carr’s suggestion (the reason I read War and Peace as stated in Part 1) that our brains are changing due to our constant connection to the Internet.  I recognize it in my own life and the lives of those around me- always leaving the present moment to check in online with our devices.  Maybe I should summarize by saying, all you need is love, a good book, and an effort to unplug occasionally. War and Peace exemplified all three and, in Part 3, I just may share an example or two.

 

War and Peace: Reflection on Literature in the Digital Age -Part 1

I just finished reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  For real.  I guess last night when I read the final page, it was a bit like reaching the top of the print version of Mount Everest. Having accomplished this literary feat, I certainly have enough material floating around in my head to reflect upon in more than one blog post. You may never read this novel, but feel free to join me and reflect on what it meant, what it means, and what it may mean in the future.

450px-War_and_Peace_book

The first question is: Why?

Why read War and Peace, the historical fiction novel written way back in 1869, which is often referenced whenever we speak of something super long and boring?

I simply decided to read War and Peace before it is too late.  I will explain.

Back in 2011, I happened upon Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains and his insights validated my own feelings that I was losing a grip on how to deeply focus.  We still read as much as we ever did, but in little snippets of skimming blogs and posts and scrolling through content on our mobile devices.

Several references about our lack of ability to read and absorb long passages of text were made by Nicholas Carr.  Bruce Friedman, a medical school faculty pathologist at the University of Michigan, is quoted in The Shallows, stating, “I can’t read War and Peace anymore.  I’ve lost the ability to do that.  Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it. (Carr, 2011, p.7)”  (Are you still with me? You have passed the three or four paragraph mark. I dare you to finish this blog post.  And you don’t have to read War and Peace- I promise.)

Carr also quotes Clay Shirky, digital media scholar at NYU, suggesting in a 2008 blog post, “No one reads War and Peace.  It’s too long, and not so interesting (Carr, 2011, p.111).” He goes on to explain long novels of the past are not worth the time invested and “were just a side-effect of living in an environment of impoverished access”.

Today, we have access to live information on a global scale at our fingertips and in our pockets.  We can view millions and millions of youtube videos, instagram photos, tweets, and memes created by people all over the globe. Are we really “information rich”? Carr raised this question with the warning that thoughtful people may “…slip comfortably into the permanent state of distractedness that defines online life” (p. 112). In 2011, I took that warning very seriously and I still do.

So, I read War and Peace.  And it was truly worth the effort.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – if you finished this post- and I’ll reflect on what it’s all about.

 

 

Retiring into Virtual Reality

What does a librarian do after working for 25 years in a beautiful school library?  One cannot simply walk away from information literacy.  The future of mankind depends upon it!

For nearly a decade, this blog has focused on the intersection of information literacy and global digital participatory culture (where students now live).  Futurists, such as Thomas Frey, often make fascinating predictions; however, nobody really knows what libraries and digital culture will look like in ten years.  One prediction is the rise in virtual reality tools like Oculus Rift, which I was able to experience this week thanks to my colleague from the University of Washington, Suzette Lewis and her talented computer programmer son, Matthew.

 

Valibrarian tries Oculus Rift

Suzette and Matthew are working on a research project in Oculus Rift to explore how 3D immersion with a headset and body motions differs from “flat computer screen” 3D worlds.  I was invited, along with another graduate from the University of Washington’s Certificate in Virtual Worlds, to preview the project and found it simply amazing, although I was surprised the motion of movement in Oculus Rift made me dizzy!  What!? I love roller coasters but his was totally different.  Since I was motivated to master the movements, I was moving my arms wildly and found myself falling off a high platform into water.  The graphics (created by Matthew in Unity) were amazingly realistic.

Moving in Oculus Rift

What does virtual reality have to do with information literacy and education? Consider how technology has impacted learning in the past five years.  My school library was transformed from a primarily print-based environment to a digital world of iPads and apps in just two years.  This rapid change is likely to continue in all areas of life- particularly social life as mobile devices continue to promise “connectivity” with our friends and family.  Facebook has teamed up with Oculus Rift to make shared virtual events (concerts, a child’s birthday party, or anything one can imagine) possible.  The educational potential might allow students to experience history, math, literature, art, or any other area of academics through virtual reality.

Having worked in virtual worlds for over 8 years, this concept is certainly not new to me.  In fact, immersive learning experiences (such as the Anne Frank MOOC or the Summer in Berlin Simulation) are already possible in virtual worlds without a headset.  The difference is the use of body movements rather than a keyboard and mouse.  The potential for experiences of a variety of purposes is obvious; however, one might consider the actual concept of “reality”. What actually is reality?  Is reality what is happening around us in the concrete world or what is happening within the mind?

Just as in the physical world, we have choices to make every day.  Where do we want to spend our time and place our attention?  What books do we want to read and what other media formats do we pursue?  VR will bring more possibilities which will exemplify the personal responsibility required of digital citizens. Yes, it comes down to information literacy once again.

 

Leaving the Library (a poem)

Leaving the Library

Three metaphors abide inside this space:
Life’s blood, a garden, and a treasure box.
Like blood, these books bring life within this place;
Thought circulating hands, pages, talks.
As stories link our present, future, past
Connecting everything and everyone
A tiny thread, a membrane holds steadfast
The wall twixt knowledge and oblivion.
Old dusty books are dead ’til opened up
Awakening the life within the seed
And *words devoid of thought an empty cup
No nourishment, as plant is choked by weed
A garden cultivated over years
The harvest? readers, wide-eyed wonder, awe
And meaning grasped through giggles, glints of tears.
The paradox? Imagine Shangri-La
Discovery of universal truth
Treasures of the future and days long gone
Shared, pondered, passed from aged hands to youth
Time forges. The librarian moves on.

 

By Valerie Hill upon retirement from 20 years in a library
*Lev Vygotsky

library25

We are All Librarians Now

We are all photographers. Download some apps and use Instagram.

We are all moviemakers. Kindergarteners use iMovie.

We are all journalists. Get a blog and a content curation tool.

We are all librarians. Organize it, people!

But it isn’t as easy as we thought…not even for me (a 20+yr career librarian).

Today, as I curated content on Scoopit (so easy- just click the button), an article on MOOCs didn’t post into my MOOC topic but posted in a different topic. Ask yourself- Who has time to go back and fix that?

With a free content curation account, I have three topics: The Future of Libraries, A Librarian’s MOOC Scrapscoop, and Transliteracy: Physical, Augmented and Virtual Worlds. Suggestions for my topics come up (depending on the search terms I place in each). Why would my click on an article suggested for MOOCs appear in my Future of Libraries topic stream? Who knows or is even the least bit interested? But I am reminded of the careful details necessary for cataloging information. Every detail matters so that the correct information is given to the information seeker who deserves accuracy.

Nobody cares anymore! (I think or I worry.)
The convenience of one click content curation tops the years I spent learning in library school. And what tops that? How many “likes” did you get? This type of thinking encourages disposable media.

Thanks for listening to my rant. I need to talk to an old newspaper guy who remembers what the world once was. I would like to live in a world where people care about accuracy and authority more than what they personally have to say at the moment.

Poem Challenge

Twitter poem challenge

Twitter poem challenge

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Life: a journey of change mixed in a bowl
A bowl of flour stirred and gently kneaded
Turning to cement, milestones stop the clock
Like words capturing the day and the night
Milestones, glimpses of meaning in the lamp
Day follows night follows day on we go

We stare like a deer in awe of the light
In awe of the glimpse- the lamp in the dark
We gasp at the glimpse, gone ever so soon
Grasping at the bowl, the flour, the cement
Kneading and needing we must form the dough
We must find the meaning and make our mark

Leave some gift behind before we can grieve
This fleeting moment, never lost- believe

Ready Player One: a Sci-Fi Virtual World Futuristic Novel

Cline, E. (2011). Ready player one. New York: Crown Publishers.

readyplayerone

What a romp! With tons of references to 80s culture and the historical background of videogames, Ernest Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE captures the feeling of virtual reality. Anyone who has spent time in virtual worlds as an avatar will easily envision Parzival (Wade Watts) and cheer him on his quest for Halliday’s egg through virtual and physical peril. The novel will soon be seen on the big screen, with the screenwriter for the Xmen at the helm.

Young adult readers will appreciate the theme of collaborative teamwork as Parzival’s friends outwit the corporate geeks called “the Sixers”. Some of the futuristic innovations, such as the flicksync (where a player is inside a simulation of a movie) or the simulation of specific towns and buildings may be not that far away with virtual reality applications like Oculus Rift.

Yet these same tech savvy young people may get a warning about the openness of digital life and digital footprints. When Parzival enters a high level of the game, his friends begin giving him tips for his maneuvers. He interrupts with, “How could you possibly know all this?”
“Because we can see them,” Shoto said. “Everyone logged into the OASIS right now can see them. They can see you, too.” Cline, 2011 p354

Live videofeed and live simultaneous virtual experiences are already a part of our lives. The setting for READY PLAYER ONE puts us in a future where more of life is spent in virtual space than in physical space and most people prefer it that way. The year is 2044. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, young people are rushing toward life in digital culture and some of us (even those of us with experience in virtual worlds) hope an appreciation for the beauty of this physical earth lives on. It’s enough to make me want to “go green!”