Imagine! Balancing Your Physical and Virtual Life (Tip #2)

I wonder….
What the world will be like in ten years?
What does it feel like to fly like a bird?

 We have a changing relationship with “wonderment” (my daughter recently told me).  Not long ago, we used to start a sentence with, “I wonder…” while we just sat not knowing and wondered for awhile.  Now, we start a sentence that way and seconds later, we ask Google.  Are we losing our ability to wonder?  To sit and ponder in awe?

 Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge”; yet, in today’s age of information, we expect instant access to answers.  We hand out Ipads to kindergarteners in the hope that they can learn and create better than ever, yet perhaps we are robbing them of wonder and creativity by providing creative apps and instant answers.

 

BALANCE TIP #2 Spend time imagining

Deep thought requires wonder- not answers. Doesn’t critical inquiry drive knowledge toward wisdom much more than a list of facts?  Voltaire said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers”.   If we lose the ability to “hold on” to a question and only value having answers…

 I wonder what will become of us?

Imagine image at https://www.flickr.com/photos/glynlowe/15015843722

Stories and Art in 3D: Wander the Watercolours

Artists and writers have new media opportunities to explore with digital tools.  For example, artist CK (Creakay Ballyhoo in the virtual world of Second Life) created watercolour (spelled that way in her part of the world!) paintings in 3D to illustrate a story presented in a virtual world.  Read the story of a little girl on a watercolour wander.

A group of educators, the Virtual Pioneers, take virtual field trips to simulations in Second Life.  A recent trip allowed the pioneers to wander through CK’s story paintings.  This machinima shows the educators inside A Watercolour Wander.

The Virtual Pioneers  are an open group, welcoming others to come along on virtual adventures.  Through collaboration with groups like this, the Community Virtual Library strives to connect virtual communities with high quality simulations.  This machinima illustrates how the future of libraries and the future of education may include mixed reality and amazing new ways to enter art, history, and all subjects for all learners.  Learning will never be the same.

What’s the big deal with Information Literacy?

We all love the convenience of looking for answers immediately and having “google” in our pockets. My dad, in his eighties, said, “People don’t really need to know anything anymore because they can just google it.” What a wise statement from a pre-Internet veteran. We have digital assistants on our devices to help us remember important things and manage our time. We are free of the burdon of having to remember small things and instead access and share information nonstop on a global scale.

A generation of citizens is emerging who have never known life without a networked mobile device with instant access to information. With that convenience comes the sacrifice of time to reflect and the guarantee of accuracy and quality of the hits we receive.

AbeLINCOLNinfolit

An information literacy colleague, Esther Grassian, advocates the need for Information Literacy and explains why it is a big deal. Information literacy is not simply an academic term– it is an understanding of our current culture in networked society.

A friend posted an insightful quote on Facebook which I noticed had been liked and shared by many but without any attribution to a creator. I asked if she knew the source and she replied, “People share these things all the time now and nobody ever really knows where they came from.” I find it perplexing that this smart and tech-savvy young woman would simply shrug off intellectual property with a “Who knows? Who cares?” attitude.

In BEYOND THE BLOGOSPHERE by Aaron Barlow, we are given the image of the Internet as a “book of sand” in which nobody knows the origin of ideas. They are washed out to sea and scattered along the beach.

If we really don’t care about information literacy in the future, there will be a high price to pay. Idiocracy might be a concept too difficult for the citizens of the future to comprehend. The fear of artificial intelligence evolving into consciousness pales in comparison to the glimpse of human beings shrugging off any desire to acquire knowledge simply because easy access and quick apps have made it irrelevant.

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

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.

 

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.

Information Infatuation: Big Data is Big Daddy

The concept of algorithms providing us all with instant information access is fairly common since we all rely daily on Google. For the past few years, I have come across predictions about Big Data changing our lives from experts in the field of information technology, such as The Horizon Report.

I just finished reading Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier which provided an overview of the pros and cons of our “continuing infatuation with data” (Wall Street Journal). My biggest take-away is a phrase which was repeated throughout the book– we are no longer seeking causation as much as correlation. In other words, it doesn’t really matter why things are a certain way — just what they are! As an information professional I am struggling with that statement and several other ideas in Big Data.

bigdata

Benefits
Anyone who has ordered books through Amazon realizes that “Amazon knows what I like!” Recommendations for titles through Amazon can be amazing and enlightening. So too, other sales companies can access our preferences and bring just what we want to us –instead of making us search for things. On a snow day (teachers love those!), I spent some time searching Zappos.com for a pair boots. Shortly after that, I noticed boots kept coming up on my web searches on many different computers. Google, Amazon, Zappos, and all the web companies are already utilized big data and collecting our personal preferences. This can be a time-saving convenience.

Consequences & Disadvantages

The authors of Big Data are concerned that algorithms can predict behaviors. An example is the father who was shocked that a company was sending his teenage daughter coupons for diapers and baby products only to find out that she was indeed expecting a baby! The company had access to big data before the girl’s father was told. These predictions might also be shared with law enforcement agencies to give them a “heads up” about potential criminals. This raises questions about privacy because a person cannot be arrested for a crime that has not yet been committed.

Big data is changing mathematical statistics and may bring about the “demise of the expert” (page 139). One human being’s intuition and a lifetime of wisdom cannot compete with millions of algorithms. In fact, the idea that correlation is more important than causation could bring (in the words of the authors) the end of theory (page 70). We live in an age that values convenience more than quality and “settling for good enough” trumps our “obsessing over accuracy” (page 191). The authors believe that “big data is transforming many aspects of our lives and ways of thinking” (page 192).

As a librarian, I value personal privacy and respect for intellectual freedom. When I read about eBooks capturing massive amounts of data on readers’ preferences- how long they spend on a page and how they highlight or take notes in a book (page 114), I was appalled at how readily we give up our privacy as readers. I don’t think the average person realizes that big data has already taken much of our privacy away.

Mayer-Schonberger & Cukier state, “If big data teaches us anything, it is that just acting better, making improvements–without deeper understanding–is often good enough”. This clashes with my educator’s philosophy and pedalogical paradigm of critical thinking and information literacy. “Good enough” is not the goal in education. The goal is excellence. Perhaps this book is slanted toward commercial business rather than education, but the changes big data will bring are on a global scale and impact all fields.

Because my research has been in virtual worlds and because education is rapidly integrating technology at all age levels, I am concerned about big data’s role in participatory global digital culture (where my students now live). The authors of Big Data believe “What we are able to collect and process will always be just a tiny fraction of the information that exists in the world. It can only be a simulacrum of reality, like the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave”. Virtual worlds can and must provide high quality “simulacrum” and settling for less is not something I am willing to hold as acceptable. Weeding out the millions of data hits that are “not so desirable” is the challenge of information literacy each of us now faces.

Mayer-Schonberger, V. and Kenneth Cukier(2013). Big Data. New York: W.W. Mariner.

Post-Modern Me

I keep running into the term post-modernism and I think it applies to us all.  Life as a 21st century educator (building a PLN, participating in Web 2.0, and constantly striving toward best practices of learning in global participatory digital culture) is a fascinating, yet paradoxical adventure. We now live in an era of metaliteracy, metadata, and perhaps “metalife”.   We no longer plant, harvest, and cook our food, like The Little Red Hen, because we enjoy our modern conveniences.  Yet, we are busier than ever “growing” our networks and “creating/curating” our content.

 

What powerful tools we have to connect on a global scale!  I have colleagues in Greece, Australia, Great Britain and all over the globe.  Some have actual met me physically and some have not.  Does it matter?  In a long ago era (think prior to the Internet), it mattered.  To meet someone meant to look into their eyes, to see the lines of age and experience or the wide-eyed innocence of youth.  That meeting was the opportunity to get a sense of one’s physical presence.  But today, perhaps the digital presence supercedes the physical one.  As digital devices have become top priority for communication, our metaselves have become “us”.  I don’t mean to sound like a dark futurist or a stuffy academic philosopher.  Maybe I am just a rambling librarian who wants to hang onto something physical like a book (and you can read tons of articles about why you would want to!  Ebooks are never really owned- only licensed temporarily).

 

What is interesting is how we pick and choose our personal/professional learning networks (or our online communities for those outside of education) as though we are critically evaluating people as data.  A century ago, the number of people we encountered, whether brilliant, annoying, or comical, was limited.  Today, we have a flood of information and a flood participants in our incoming stream of networked applications. Today, we can not only curate and critically evaluate information topics, we can curate the people who share the content.

 

I do think we need to remember one thing.  People are more important than data.  Behind these words, your words, your online curation, your tweets, and behind every keyboard- is a person.  A living person is more than algorithms of interests, more than big data.  Maybe, if I take a break and breathe deeply, I will allow serendipity to occur and life to be simply lived.  To be alive is miraculous and the funny thing is… just when I think I am grasping the concept of post-modernism- I learn that post-modernism is over.  We are entering post– post-modernism.  That doesn’t scare me.  I am getting used to not understanding life.
scoopit
 

 

 

Zings, smiles, and frowns: The Circle (a reflective review)

The idea of participation (expressing our own opinions and sharing our perspectives) is highly regarded in global digital culture.  For the past decade, I have felt uneasy about this “over sharing” of personal life and the blurry line that now exists for most of us– the line between our personal and professional lives.  This blog is full of reflection on that personal/professional journey, a journey from the traditional role of a librarian in a “physical world” to an information literacy professional in a virtual world (where we all now live whether we have avatars or not).

Social Media compels you to JOIN and SHARE

It is no secret that I really “dislike” Facebook.  (Note: these views are my own and not the views of my employer which is stated in the fine print of this blog somewhere.) The disadvantages have always outweighed the advantages for me.  Yet, as webmaster/social media person for my school, I am required to maintain the social media sites currently used: both Facebook and Twitter as well as the school website, apps, and many accounts currently popular.  All information professionals surely understand that social media in networked culture must be utilized today because user-generated content and content curation through social media are the main channels of communication.  We all realize that the traditional hierarchy of information has toppled.

The additional responsibility of social media person has been a fascinating, perhaps unsettling experience.  I used the word “uneasy” earlier to express this feeling.  This week, while reading Dave Eggers novel The Circle, that uneasy feeling was expressed through a frightening vision of a future where personal privacy no longer exists and networked community (sharing is caring) becomes more important than anything else.

Consider your ONLINE IDENTITY

My professional journey required me to create an online identity.  The role of the “physical librarian in a physical room of physical books” is over.  I saw it coming a decade ago and I moved on ahead.  I consider myself a virtual pioneer and I realize I have created digital footprints.  Now, my students and my grandchild (just a baby) also have digital footprints because they have been born into global participatory digital culture.

This transition from physical to digital culture happened very quickly.  Most people have not considered the consequences.  I recently had a conversation about social media and mentioned some of my concerns with Facebook.  My colleague said, “I just don’t take it that seriously.”  For those who consider social networks simply a fun, light-hearted experience, The Circle may be interpreted as complete fantasy.  For those mandated to use social media for professional reasons, the book is downright scary.

The Circle (a novel by Dave Eggars)

The Circle is a thought provoking novel set in a dystopian future where social media has crossed the line. The word that stood out to me in Eggars novel, is transparency. I chose to be transparent online (never anonymous) because I use the Internet as an information professional.  My personal life has nothing to do with what I post online.  Yet, as an information professional using online communication tools, I saw myself in The Circle.

What do we do when we wake up each day?  We check our smart phones for “zings” and tweets and posts and messages and emails and follows and links and scoops and updates and on and on.  The media constantly tells us “your input is important”.  “We want to hear from you!”  We want your zings, your smiles, your frowns.

My heart tells me to unplug.  I value individual privacy. Yet, I live in global participatory digital culture as an information professional.  My students and my own grandchild are plugged in.

 

I shall persevere.