29 October 2007

On Vacation

The Sheck is heading abroad for a week or so for a much needed vacation.

A post-vacation wrap up will be available on Jon's blog, with pictures and descriptions of wineries, etc.


24 October 2007

Second Life is so funny...funny "odd" or funny "ha ha"?

A programming professor on our campus is writing his dissertation on Second Life so the Professional Development Committee offered a luncheon for him to introduce it to any faculty or staff member who might want to have a peek.

It's interesting to sit with a group of 25 people who are new to or haven't really heard of Second Life before: what they ask, what they find funny. Perhaps what I find most interesting is just how funny they find it. How they find the fact that there is prostitution in 2nd life funny. That "newbies" being ostracized or exploited is funny.

I wish I could say that they found it funny "odd". But it seemed to me, and I emphasize "seemed", that they found it funny "ha ha".

What exactly is it that's funny?

Is it just new? Is it the avatars that you can make into almost anything you want what causes them to laugh? That notion that their sense of physcial self can be altered or self created?

I am still new to Second Life and I am still trying to figure out what I think of it. I am still awed by it. I read a lot about it, I play in it, I try to think creatively about it. But I also spend a lot of time trying to think critically about it. And that's what I felt was missing from this presentation. It was just a show and tell and people just looked on and laughed.

Need I say that I wanted a whole lot more?

And that got me thinking about how technology is presented. What are the implications of throwing technology like this at people? Often times, people are so concerned with "keeping up" or "adapting" that I wonder if they defer their critiques and considerations of it. This is a dangerous place to be in, especially with so many technologies being introduced, one might never have the time to critically examine the place of the technology in their lives or the impact of the technology on society. There is no decision making, just complacency.

I am advocate for play. I am an advocate for experimentation. But I think there is a lot of effort to include people in something without giving them the tools to evaluate it. Second Life offers a great many opportunities to a wide variety of people with a wide variety of purposes. But there are also a number of issues it presents that warrant examination.

As the technologically literate or experienced bring people into this world, we have a responsibility to those that believe us or trust us to show them more than one side of the coin. In the academic world, as Second Life, and other technologies, take root, should libraries be working with faculty and the institution to shape the presentation of these new and exciting worlds. How do we create a culture of adaptability that emphasizes critical examination? And how do we do that without putting a damper on the thread of exploration and play?

18 October 2007

The Sweet Smell of Information

The Library has open dictionaries located all over the place. So the other day, Janet, my boss, noticed the world "information scent" as she was walking by a dictionary. Information what?

Yes, you read it correctly...information scent. Definition: visual or textual cues provided on a web site to suggest what information it or its links many contain; the perceived usefulness of a page based on such information.

Okay. So what does that look like? Sorry...or smell like?

I can't help but think of my dog's nose to the ground.

But seriously, what kinds of cues might put us on the right scent towards the information we need? Let's consider perhaps the most popular of websites: Google. The blank search box certainly provides me with a cue that says "I can find anything. No restrictions. No instructions. Seek and I will find." The blank page is also a cue. To me, it says, "it's that simple".

Pretty fragrant, no?

But would I really get that from the website if I didn't already know what it does? How many times have you gone to a website and looked at it blankly. What am I supposed to do here?

I think the visual of the nose to the ground is pretty profound actually, especially for those that are not well versed in websites or are building information literacy skills. What catches your attention on a site to indicate to your purpose, next step, or the information that you are after. I think it would be a good metaphor to try in the classroom. Students would have that visual or that sense to latch on to. It's also quirky, weird, different. I think for them, unlibrarianly (if only they knew).

But staying with the scent, let's try Wikipedia. What is most interesting in this example is that Wikipedia is not encouraging searching, per se. They search box is off to the far right, buried under a bunch of stuff (you know information about the site). It seems like Wikipedia's site puts you on the scent of deepening your search. With all the links visible within a single paragraph, you have to click on something. You just "have" to. There is nothing to do there but read and click. Read and click.

Just then, right at that moment, I saw Wikipedia in a new light.

Did information ever smell so sweet?

10 October 2007

Champlain Gamers...up, up, and away

Rock on Jenny Levine, (aka the Shifted Librarian) for highlighting Champlain College's gaming students in this post. Our gamers really are amazing and I wish them the very best of luck in this hard core contest. I know they will rock it in Orlando!

These are the same students that are working with the Library to develop an information literacy game to complement are developing IL program. We met for a brainstorming session last night and they are a rowdy, smart, creative bunch. They latched onto key IL concepts and ran with it, offering a slew ideas as to how to make information literacy exciting to college kids everywhere.

More to come on the project. Exciting stuff coming out of Champlain...

Talking 2.0

The theme of the Fall semester seems to be introducing faculty to web 2.0. Yes, that is why I haven't been blogging these last two weeks. I have been showing others how to blog! With so many initiatives underway on campus, the College is trying to figure out a way to keep people updated without increasing our already overwhelming email.

Hi...it's called blogging.

In the last two weeks, I've helped four faculty members get blogging as well as two departments. Some are interested in sharing information with others, some are interested in finding a new venue for their thoughts. Some just want to get acquainted with a new technology. Whatever their reason, it is exciting! Trying new technologies can be frigthening sometimes. I think it helps them to talk to someone who is using it for a variety of reasons.

I also encourage them to not feel like every post needs to be perfect. It's about communication, creativity, ingenuinity. I often share with them David Silver's "Gone" gallery as an example of how meaningful blogging pictures can be. I show them Common Craft's awesome videos imbedded on my site to show them that YouTube can be a great addition to a blog. I introduce them to the power of commenting.

One of the most commonly asked questions about blogging from potential bloggers is "who will read my blog?" And I often respond with "who cares?" While putting yourself out on the web is clearly a method of self-promotion, that can't be the sole stimulation. That is how you end up with blogs that are out of date (says the girl who didn't blog for two weeks). Blogging is a way to communicate with others but also with yourself. That is what makes is so informative and also so different than other methods of communication: its informality illustrates the development of ideas or experiences. It is interactive and inclusive.

It's so 2.0.