In Defense of Virtual Worlds

A colleague sent an email expressing concern over posts criticizing librarians for “still being involved in Second Life“.

I replied by email and she suggested I share.

I wrote:

“The ability to “fly” in virtual worlds? That’s nothing! A generation of video gamers now considers gaming a literary genre (and many are cinematic and well-researched). Virtual worlds are not video games- but this evolution of literacy changes everything. The argument that the majority of mainstream culture uses Facebook is ridiculous. The majority of mainstream culture also values convenience over quality, triviality over authority or accuracy, and self-absorbed “packaging” of our personal lives over anything meaningful.

This conversation is not about Second Life, but about virtual worlds….and they are not going away. My physical library is only half of what I do. We all have both physical and virtual lives (after the digital revolution and the toppling of the information hierarchy). The question is whether to spend my virtual life in a flat, narcissistic, space where popular culture and cute photos are streamed nonstop or seek out interesting, intelligent people on a global scale who can help me move toward a better future for this post-physical world. You all understand that…..and that is enough for me.”

Yes, I also read Roy Tennant’s blogpost when ALA closed an island in Second Life. I did not reply, mainly out of respect for this esteemed colleague. I have credited Roy Tennant as the first library professional that I heard state that in our information world today, “convenience trumps quality”. His statement was a turning point for me. I began to see a different kind of information-seeking behavior in my physical library. I began to actively explore digital literacy and changing formats.

I understand that SL is not the “be all end all” of education or libraries. Virtual worlds are just one piece of information literacy. I am humbled by the amazing colleagues I have worked with in virtual worlds and I am proud of the huge amount of effort it took to earn a PhD on the topic (not to boast because I understand I am just one small person contributing one tiny piece of the research on the future of information literacy). I have worked very hard to understand how to separate my “personal” perspective from my professional contribution to my field. My experience includes organizing five virtual world exhibits, numerous presentations, discussions, learning machinima, and networking on a global scale. I could not have accomplished any of those experiences in my physical library- even through using webinars and other distance learning tools (of which I am familiar). Second Life is only one company, which happened to provide a great array of tools for early adopters of virtual worlds. Having explored many other virtual worlds, for many other purposes (business, military, medicine, and so on), I certainly am not attached to one in particular. Slamming Second Life is not offensive to me, but putting down librarians?! Whew…don’t get me started.

For more information on my dissertation topic, I will be presenting an overview on Nov. 18th in Second Life. For information on other virtual worlds, contact me. Meanwhile, I return to my awesome physical library where I struggle to teach critical inquiry to students who want to play apps and interact on mobile devices.

Libraries, Librarians, Literacy- the L Words

“It may be that the great age of libraries is waning, but I am here to tell you that the great age of librarians is just beginning. It’s up to you to decide if you want to be a part of it.” ~T. Scott Plutchak

I have used this quote perhaps more than any other over the past five years when writing or speaking about the future of education and information. As the digital revolution changes education and society, physical libraries and physical books are no longer at the top of the information hierarchy. My role, however, is as relevant as it was in the days of “books” and I am beginning to think it may be even more critical. Information literacy includes so much more than reading and writing.

Plutchak, T. Scott. 2007. The Librarian: Fantastic Adventures in the Digital World. Serials, 20(2), 87-91.

Global Information Literacy: a Panel Discussion

Organizing a panel of speakers, experts in information literacy, around the global was an exciting challenge for me and I feel honored to have worked with them. On Oct. 21, 2012, five countries were represented on a panel in the virtual world of Second Life: the UK, Poland, Chile, Greece, and the USA. Hearing that we all share the same problems (changing formats, nomenclature, and revolutionary changes) was amazing and the colleagiality made us feel that it truly is a “small world”.

My Greek colleague, Stylianos, captured the event on livestream.

The panel was jointly sponsored by the ALA Association of College and Research Librarians Virtual World Interest Group and the Center for Information Literacy Research. Over 20 people attended in the virtual world ( as well as those who viewed the livestream). Attending the live presentation provided a sense of global connectivity because many of us were using instant chat, text chat, and snapping photographs (which can be viewed in an Animoto video).

International Information Literacy in a Virtual World

As convener of the Association of College and Research Libraries Virtual World Interest Group, I am excited about an upcoming event which is jointly sponsored by ACRL VWIG and CILR (the Center for Information Literacy Research based in the UK). The two groups have worked together to discuss information literacy on a global scale. How is literacy changing and how are information literacy specialists teaching 21st century skills to students?

Sunday, October 21st from 12 noon to 1 pm SLT (Pacific Time USA)

InfoLit iSchool in Second Life

International Information Literacy Panelists
Sheila Webber (Sheila Yoshikawa in SL), Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Information Studies, University of Sheffield – UK (British IL Associations)
Ewa Rozkosz-Poland – Saba Pearl in SL (Polish IL Association)
Elvira Saurina (Mariae Habana in SL) -, Sistema de Bibliotecas. Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile Santiago de Chile
Stylianos Mystakidis (Sylianos Mystakidis in SL)- E-learning & Virtual Worlds Specialist at the Library & Information Center of the University of Patras, Greece
Valerie Hill – (Valibrarian Gregg in SL) LISD Library Media Specialist, Adjunct Instructor, TWU School of Library and Information Studies- USA (AASL 21st Century Standards Information Literacy)

Emerging Tech Trends and the “Trough of Disillusionment”!

Learning to maneuver in a virtual world is a daunting task for many people and the “steep learning curve” has been touted numerous times.  I am honored and humbled to be in the company of high-tech cutting edge librarians- who not only conquered this “steep learning curve” in one virtual world, but are gridhopping between worlds!

Jokaydia Lifelong Learning Library 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ALA Association of College and Research Librarians Virtual World Interest Group organized an event on Jokaydia Grid, which is a virtual world based on open-source code (similar to Second Life).  Jokay, the owner of Jokaydia, graciously agreed to help our group and Barbara Janson, builder of the Lifelong Learning Library in 3D, led a virtual world tour.  Fifteen brave pioneers attended– juggling three worlds (the physical world on computers, Second Life as a starting point, and Jokaydia as a destination).

With current trends in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, the rise in mobile apps, and an interest in augmented reality, keeping up with technology can be quite a challenge.  Virtual worlds, according to the Gartner Hype Cycle, are emerging from the trough of disillusionment!  Librarians were some of the earliest adopters and have persevered through that trough while juggling other emerging trends that impact information professions. 

 

ACRL Virtual World Interest Group Event Invitation

The ALA Association of College & Research Libraries Virtual World Interest Group is sponsoring a gridhop. You are invited to join us! You may pass this invitation to other interested individuals.

ACRL gridhop to Jokaydia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WIIFM: “What’s in it for me?”

You may be familiar with the current discussion of virtual worlds beyond Second Life. Educators and librarians are exploring numerous virtual worlds as a platform for information delivery, immersive learning, global collaboration and professional development. Attending this event may help you expand your knowledge and skills in virtual worlds as well as network with other professionals. The goal of the ACLR Virtual World Interest Group is to explore and share virtual worlds with professionals in libraries, education, and other fields.

Here are the details…..

You are invited to our monthly ACRL Virtual Worlds Interest Group meeting which will be a gridhopping event to a different virtual world. Library builder, Barbara Janson (Avatar: Barbarathelibrarian Magic), will lead our tour.

Name of Event: GridHop to Lifelong Learning Library in Jokaydia ( a virtual world library visit)

Lifelong Learning Library in a virtual world

Date: Sunday, Sept. 23 11am SLT

Where: Meet at the Community Virtual Library in Second Life
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Info%20Island/13/84/24

Before the meeting, it is suggested that you download the Imprudence Viewer to use for our trip to Jokaydia at
http://wiki.kokuaviewer.org/wiki/Imprudence:Downloads

You could also sign up and create your JokaydiaGrid avatar at

http://www.jokaydiagrid.com/

You may want to use the same name as your Second Life avatar, so you will be recognized! Further instructions accessing the grid in Imprudences are as follows:

Click on Grid Manager and choose “jokaydiagrid”.

(You can click on Add New Grid if needed.)
Grid info should look like the following:

Banned Books Week 2012 Celebrate Intellectual Freedom

One of the core values of librarianship, which many of us may take for granted, is intellectual freedom. Each year, the American Library Association promotes Banned Books Week in an effort to advocate awareness of the importance of freedom to read and express ourselves.

A panel discussion on Intellectual Freedom will be held in Second Life at the Community Virtual Library Exhibition Area on Monday, October 1st at 5pm Pacific Time.

 

Seeing Past the Transitional Moment

There’s a question for you at the bottom of this post.

The Transitional Moment

This phrase (by Cathy N. Davidson) captures my life over the past five years. Both my library and my profession (librarian, information architect, media specialist, whatever) are in the transitional moment.  Many of us are diligently searching for ways to embrace 21st century information literacy skills to help others cope with what I call the “toppled hierarchy of information”.  Numerous recent professional books mirror the dystopian fiction (so popular with YA readers) through dark and foreboding predictions about the future of education, learning, and our changing humanity (see my recommendation list).

I just finished Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson and was pleasantly surprised by the more hopeful outlook on the exponential evolution of technology or the “singularity”.  I could write a 20 page-blog post as I flip through the tons of post-it notes I used to highlight fascinating tidbits in this text. Realizing nobody reads 20 page blog-posts, I will share a sample quote and a question for colleagues.

 

Davidson says, “We are both adopting new information technologies all the time and being alarmed by them, even wondering if they are causing us harm, exceeding our human capacities” (p. 16).  I sense anxiety when I discuss the digital revolution with educators because participatory culture no longer values expertise and uniformity.  Crowdsourcing places difference, collective wisdom, and diversity at the top of the value list (p. 65).  How does it make educators feel to hear that the knowledge and expertise acquired over years in the profession is no longer highly valued?  So, I ask myself – how do I cope? Answer: I cope with the closing of “the Gutenberg parentheses” by striving to adapt, evolve, and become information flexible.  I seek the ability to let go of formats and collide with others to learn adaptive skills.  In the new hierarchy, the law may be “survival of the information literacy fittest”.

 

The Science of Attention

 

Davidson brings together the topics of the changing hierarchy of information, participatory culture, and current brain research on the science of attention.  Her idea that we are always selectively paying attention to something (and NOT paying attention to something else) is a simple yet enlightening truth. She includes a checklist for teaching 21st century literacies, including: attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness and many more (p. 297).

 

A Question/Concern

 

A critical concept for the future of learning (included on Davidson’s checklist) is Critical Consumption of Information.   Without gatekeepers to verify accuracy, authority, credibility, and standards for ethical and aesthetically pleasing content, it can be difficult to find the cream of the crop (which used to be housed physically in a library) and to teach students to evaluate content.  Many people, in my opinion, simply do not care. I see them intrigued by the novelty and ease of sharing user-generated content through social media tools.  Sharing through social media is fun (nothing wrong with fun and I totally agree that all learning should be fun), however; social media often promotes a trivial , narcissistic, entertainment focused culture.  I totally agree with Davidson’s positive perspective on the future of teaching and learning. That being said, does anyone agree that the flood of images, videos, and witticisms we face daily can bury the best content under a mound of mediocre mud?  How do we promote tools for spraying off the mud and uncovering high quality resources when there are so many adorable cupcakes to be photographed and pinned? Awwwww…

 

The Internet Needs a Librarian

People are beginning to recognize the fact that the world of Internet Connectivity is not exactly the utopia we dreamed of in the 1990s.  In fact, the dangers of personalization by “algorithm gatekeepers” is now causing some of us to be anxious about our filter bubbles. (See Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” in this TED talk.)

 

Personalization

Eli Pariser is making a great point about personalization; however, I notice he calls the gatekeepers of the old information hierarchy “editors”.  I believe a better term for the professionals who are trained in information access, storage and retrieval would be “librarians”.  In fact, the checklist he pulls up looks like something I learned in library school.  Imagine a world where people actually realized there are core values of librarianship that could benefit them. What a concept! 

 

I am not blaming Mr. Pariser for ignoring librarians in the connection between relevant, nonbiased, high quality information and the lack thereof online.  I merely remind us all that some people are specifically trained to acquire high quality, diverse, challenging, thought provoking resources and those people are called librarians.  Unfortunately, the perception of sitting at a circulation desk with a stamp pad is stuck in the minds of many who just didn’t realize how a library is made in the first place.  But, the Internet was not made by librarians and has no caretaker who is trained to provide the best. 

 Content Curation

Today-  everyone can be a librarian, an author, a journalist, a newscaster, a musician, an artist, an actor…or whatever online.  Content curation sites are sprouting up like weeds.  And speaking of weeds, librarians are trained to “weed” the library with the goal of helping the “living organism [Ranganathan]” maintain a healthy circulatory system.  There is no weeding of the Internet.  It is more like a garbage dump than a garden.

Sites like Scoop-it, are so popular now, educators are providing content creation lessons for students and businesses are utilizing them.

 

 

 The point is to help others navigate through the sea of chaos!  So, we should think about what we are adding to a topic or how we are helping others weed out the nonsense and cultivate the best content.  In other words, we really are all librarians now!  But I still say, “the Internet needs a librarian”.

Scan, post, scroll, click- STOP here!

Where will my eyes stop for a moment to truly focus?


On what do I give my undivided attention?
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “Time is money”; however, I propose a change in the old adage. How about, “Attention is money”?

Attention is valuable in the information age because we are bombarded with information in multiple formats. Instead of seeking out what to see or hear, information is knocking down our front door every day– each time we plug-in. And, today’s youth are always plugged-in. Most people under 30 years of age (and some older- how about you?) reach for a smart phone and access the virtual world before getting out of bed each morning. Or perhaps they put on Google goggles or whatever new app is available by the time I hit the “submit” button for this blog post.

 

Back in the glory days of the book, some of the quickest learners were admired for their speed reading abilities. Today, after the digital revolution, we scan through Internet pages while multitasking on our digital devices, focusing for only a number of seconds on most pages.

Now, after the Gutenberg parenthesis has closed, the quickest learners may not be those able to speed read, but those able to
s–l–o–w–d–o–w–n and truly focus deeply.

 

“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” ~ John Naisbitt

The quest for knowledge (and ultimately wisdom) requires perseverance, focus, and that now extremely valuable and rare element of attention.

 

Photos:

http://www.freefoto.com/preview/21-33-65/Red-Traffic-Lights
http://www.copyright-free-images.com/fauna-animals-copyright-free-images/reptiles-and-amphibians-copyright-free-images/turtles-free-images/desert-tortoise.jpg.html