What triggers the human brain to reminisce about our past experiences in life? Smells, I am told, are critical to our memories. But, this week, for the first time, I ran across an old machinima that I shot in 2008 and (believe it or not) I found myself virtually reminiscing. Physical space, such as our houses or the streets and shady parks we remember from our youth, cause us to recall personal memories.
Perhaps I am one of the first to discover a personal “pang” of reminiscence in a virtual world. The spaces we live in are moving from physical to virtual. Whether or not we have an avatar is of little consequence.
We all now live both physical and virtual lives. If you don’t agree, take a look at how close your digital device is at this moment. We are networking, connected, and always online. This evolution of networked culture has challenged me to be both a physical world librarian and a virtual world librarian.
Within this past month, I was coincidentally (I am not sure if that is the right word when you realize how pop culture inspired this post) asked to edit a Gangnam Style video in both worlds.
As a school librarian, I was asked to edit a video showing student engagement. The popular Gangnam Style dance parody was embraced by everyone from kindergarten to our principal, pictured dancing in my library loft.
Just a few days later, as a virtual world librarian leading an exhibit tour to the Museum of Virtual Media, I was asked to edit another Gangnam Style dance- this time with avatars from around the globe. One of the tour guides, from Argentina, gave the participants a dance animation for the closing festivities. The exhibit was built by the University of Washington’s Certificate in Virtual Worlds Class of 2012 and features the evolution of media from ancient cave paintings, through radio & movies, into the future. Being asked to produce a video by two completely different patron communities fascinated me.
We all hear every day, as educators and librarians, about how we now live in a participatory culture. Spending time editing such diverse groups, in both physical and virtual worlds, made participatory culture clear to me in a way that I had never before experienced. Learning theorists, like Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey, proposed that learning is social in nature nearly a century ago, way before digital culture took hold. Witnessing this human desire to be part of a social experience through the global phenomenon of a popular dance video illustrated a new frontier in constructivist learning.
Having never played many videogames, I don’t consider myself a gamer; however, I have seen a generation of learners come through my library who have grown up with videogames. A recent library article shared the idea of including videogames as a literary genre alongside other media formats, such as films because they now embed stories that evoke real emotions in a similar way. Current videogames feature cinematic scenes and are often set in historical periods, just like historical fiction novels. Some may be considered too violent for young players (example Call of Duty), but often the historical details are researched in the same way writers and filmmakers seek authenticity.
So, it may seem perfectly natural for the “gaming generation” to enter virtual spaces set in eras from the past. Resources may include reading a novel, viewing a film, or actually entering a virtual simulation set in a particular time and place, such as Berlin, Germany in the 1920′s. Working in collaboration with colleagues in the virtual world of Second Life, I shot machinima of the Grand Opening of the Summer in Berlin Exhibit on display through August 2012 at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Info%20Island/61/94/24/ All are welcome to attend individually or for the live tours on July 14th or August 5th at 1pm Pacific Time.
At the upcoming American Library Association Convention in Anaheim, California, I will be leading the ACRL Virtual World Interest Group meeting for librarians interested in immersive learning and information delivery through virtual worlds. I will also be leading a session on Virtual Media in Libraries and Museums, sharing the Summer of Berlin Exhibit and other virtual media examples.
For the past two years, I have been working with fellow librarians on virtual library projects that allow participants to “enter” a virtual exhibit or simulation. The first exhibit we developed was Virtual Texas, which featured the Alamo. Next, we worked with a virtual world builder who designed a rescue simulation called Virtual Tornado. The third virtual library project was created in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Washington’s Certificate in Virtual World, which built Maya Island.
Now, in the summer of 2012, we present Summer in Berlin!
Summer in Berlin will be on display at the Community Virtual Library Exhibition Area in the virtual world of Second Life. This virtual experience will give participants the opportunity to enter an historical simulation of Berlin, Germany in the 1920′s- complete with music, art, literature, and historical attire (which will be provided). The Berlin project was created by a woman in the Netherlands who is an historical consultant specializing in the era.
What’s the purpose of these virtual exhibits? The Horizon Report, and current research on best practices in education, show potential and predicted growth in serious gaming for education. Librarians realize the importance of not only embracing emerging technology trends, but helping users prioritize them through teaching critical evaluation of content. Several librarian colleagues have worked together to acquire virtual world resources in the same way librarians acquire the best physical resources available for community libraries. In the future, it may be possible not only to “read” the book, but to “enter” the book through an immersive virtual experience in 3D.
I was totally blown away when I found that HVX Silverstar (a wonderful machinimist who taught me how to get started) captured my session on machinimatography in Second Life this week! Machinima is a portmonteau which combines the words “machine” and “cinema” and means capturing video within a computer simulated environment. Machinima can be used for digital storytelling, visual poetry, archiving digital content, and capturing simulated learning experiences in virtual worlds and online games.
There are a couple of audio glitches (when I lost sound) but most of the session can be viewed here. Just fast-forward if there’s a lull. I do not consider myself an expert, but I hope my session helped other beginners who want to learn how to created videos in this creative format. Video formats and editing tools continue to change and are now readily available for home use.
The Virtual World Libraries, Education & Museums Conference 2009 will be held April 24 and 25th in Second Life and through Adobe Connect. I filmed 5 short machinima ads for the conference on Youtube. These were filmed on a Mac Pro Laptop using Snapz Pro software. My earlier machinima videos were filmed on a Dell PC using Fraps software. Both programs are great but work differently, so I can not say I have a preference. Registration for the conference should open this week.
Amazingly, the Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education and Museums Conference was just like presenting at a real world conference! My presentation was at the end of the day (1opm my time zone) and I was rather nervous- this being my first virtual presentation. The best part was that my machinima about the grand opening of the Land of Lincoln sim actually played!
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/gBSqVHrY8wY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
After trying a variety of video formats and codecs, I have found that compressing to a 512kbs Windows Movie is pretty clear. I plan to keep experimenting until I am able to film a machinima video that highlights the educational potential of virtual reality.