Virtual Book Discussion: Beyond the Blogosphere

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).

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Hey you cyborgs, time to reflect

I continue to come across the idea of cyborg anthropology and the fact the we are all now cyborgs, whether we realize it or not. Our technological tools have become an extension of ourselves. We each have two selves- a physical self and a digital self. Anthropologist Amber Case’s Ted Talk is a gentle (or perhaps abrupt but well worth watching to the end) reminder of the importance of reflection in our lives. Some of my best moments of reflection have taken place while hiking, particularly on a trail in some beautiful place (like Big Bend National Park or the Olympic National Rain Forest). After you get into the zone of relaxation…simply placing one foot in front of the other as you continuously inhale and exhale…you sometimes glimpse beyond yourself into infinity. How often do we get to do that as we multi-task, follow, tweet, post, and check our electronic gadgets in between responsibilities?

I am going to take some time to today to reflect and just breathe.

Augmented reality popping up everywhere

Each new technology trend I have found seems to begin as simply a novelty.  The real long-term purpose is not always clear upfront.  I downloaded the layar app to my phone and all I saw were silly random notes and tons of pizza locations!  Think about how this could have real benefits.  Sharing “post-it notes” on top of reality could archive our history and provide a trail for those who share common interests.  But, won’t we still have the problem of huge clutter to sort through (just like the web)?

A couple of examples:
http://vimeo.com/14878323

http://vimeo.com/8569187

I had fun trying out several AR demos at Metaio, including the virtual dressing room.  What’s kind of ironic in posting about technology trends in a blog is that it is old news as soon as you hit the “publish” button!  I imagine there are teenagers everywhere who have been checking this out before I even heard of it.  They are all rushing around the mall gathering virtual items for goldrun and posting on facebook.  Well, there’s an example of the novelty first arriving- which is a good way to learn any new concept.  I hope a meaningful long-term purpose is apparent soon.

Transliteracy

As a school librarian, I have often considered the best way to teach learners how to research for themselves in a “real world” context.  Often, students are assigned topics to research that are not personally meaningful.  Information literacy skills (back in “the day”) meant learning to use a card catalog, an index, or an encylcopedia.  The skills were first taught and practiced, so the students could use them someday when ready to look for information.  Currently, students are taught how to evaluate websites and how to access online databases.

Having spent two years researching virtual worlds, it now occurs to me that an individual in a virtual world is learning “in the moment” rather than in theory only.  In a virtual world, the individual is situated with other learners discovering and sharing the same inquiries.  As a librarian, this is revolutionary.  Imagine two library patrons actually entering a print encyclopedia to discuss their findings synchronously.  Images, text, and multi-media are commonplace information resources at the beginning of this new decade.   Studies are just beginning to provide evidence of the role virtual worlds play in information literacy and education.

During my exploration of rapidly changing technology in relation to literacy, I stumbled upon a new word- a word that implies more than media literacy or digital literacy.  Transliteracy includes all forms of information delivery, across all platforms.

Alliance Virtual Library: Where can I find…?

Looking for information on the virtual libraries collaborating in Second Life through Alliance Virtual Library?  The Alliance Virtual Libraries Catalog provides slurls (Second Life url addresses) that will take you to many inworld libraries and library related sims.  Another directory lists many of the libraries and projects on Info Island.

The Explosion of Virtual Worlds

Now Google has released Lively and Facebook is giving us Vivaty.  Just how many virtual worlds do we need? And how in the world(s) are we supposed to choose?  Valibrarian just entered both new worlds and compared the two environments.  This animoto video shows the “cartoon-animation” type avatars in Lively.  I also made an animoto video in Vivaty, which has more realistic avatars.  Neither environment allows for the creative possibilites of Second Life (where users can build just about anything themselves).  Both Lively and Vivaty are pretty easy to use.  I was able to play one of my machinima videos on an inworld screen in Vivaty in just a few minutes (Something that took over six months to learn in SL).

Virtual costumes

As a school librarian, I have quite a collection of costumes: book characters (like the Snow Queen), pirates, pioneers, and the like.  I can see a great advantage in virtual costumes. As I prepare for immersive learning environments (The Land of Lincoln) or re-enactments (The Alamo), it seems that some of the advantages of virtual costumes include savings $,  cleanliness (no problem spilling a drink), the ease of storage (you should see my guest room closet!), and the creativity (you can make them or find creators who specialize in them).
So many of the things in real life can be recreated in virtual worlds.  When I look at the advantages, I also think about how very special the real world will become when we utilize the virtual world for our basic projects.  Things worth making for real will be appreciated instead of simply added to a heap of mounting trash and clutter.

Virtual Librarian

The Librarians of Second Life are an outstanding group of librarians who are working together to build information delivery systems with the virtual environment of Second Life.  This network is an example of how Web 2.0 allows professionals to collaborate in new ways across great distances.  Volunteering time, expertise, and creativity, this group has built numerous in-world exhibits and provides helpful information to newcomers, educators, and individuals from around the globe. 

Second Life has been criticized for having a “difficult learning curve.”  Finding a network of knowledgeable people to turn to is crucial to learning the skills needed to explore virtual reality. 

Without the help of HVX Silverstar, I would not have been able to begin learning machinima (filming within a virtual environment).  Numerous other helpful individuals have kindly offered help.  As I continue to learn building skills and explore immersive learning environments, such as Renaissance Island, I realize that virtual reality will impact education perhaps sooner than most people think.  Children growing up in the digital age are already comfortable with avatars, computer graphics, chat sessions, and Web 2.0.  Educators have no option but to consider new technology tools to deliver information to the next generation.  Older people are often intimidated and are the ones likely to describe the “high learning curve.”  I found the skills needed to learn in Whyville were difficult but children 9 – 13 years of age are apparently quite adept at maneuvering Whyville without difficulty.