Continuing my series of starting points. It is taking a long time for me to guess, for each of the different tools presented by this subject, which features and functions students are expected to explore–before I can discover what would be new to me to explore and gain new understanding as a result of the subject.
Exploring user-constructed virtual worlds like Second Life is like exploring a foreign country. I cannot imagine how anyone new, who was not drawn to this environment out of personal interest, could form–within a few weeks–more than a surface or second-hand evaluation. Perhaps I am slow. During my wanderings and wonderings in the last three years, exploring and studying spaces and social interactions by virtue of their out-world* relevance (libraries) or potential to enhance my social or intellectual life, I have yet to reach a satisfactorily complete conclusion.
* I tend to prefer “out world” to “real world” because I have found that experience within a virtual world is still real. –^-
Still, first I will sum up my pre-INF2506 position, then guess how I might learn something more during the subject…
Me and Second Life pre-INF2506
Second Life is a fascinating environment for user digital creation and artistry. It is like any other populated environment in its potential for personal activity and development (for those who are able to get there). Both common (shopping, travel) and niche community environments and activities are sometimes enhanced by features which one could label information architecture (wayfinding) or service (access to niche experts, niche related information resources). As such SL was ripe and is probably still fermenting well as an environment for research of interest to information professionals. However all the best examples relate to in-world activity, and are not visibly products of professional information service. Of those I saw which were designed to serve out-world communities, most did not seem to attract ongoing participation from members of their out-world communities. LIS education environments seem to offer more novelty value than essential learning.
In all of my concerted exploration prior to this subject I have discovered no context in which my potential out-world clients would either be best served by entering a virtual world or already exist within one and have informational needs (within my remit) best met within the virtual world. With one unprovable exception: the potential for one or more members of my out-world community to be more able to interact via SL avatars than in person. For example:
- One visitor to Community Virtual Library told me that his/her** personal (out-world) lifestyle made them a subject of derision in their small out-world community and so s/he could never approach a librarian in the out-world for information the way he could librarians or niche community builders in SL.
- While I was visiting a different place and still wearing my “Librarian” hover label another visitor asked me for out-world information. She** wanted an editor for an out-world document (I found her three providing such service in SL). I do not know why she was looking in SL. It may have been that she did not want the subject of the document known to her out-world connections, or English-language services are too expensive or difficult to get in her out-world community (perhaps through time of night, lack of transport, the service being too busy).
However, as they do not approach their out-world library/service it is impossible to count how many there might be in our out-world community. Ideally a large enough corps of librarians banded together might serve such people well. However international collaborative reference service using Questionpoint was explored a few years ago and as yet found unsustainable, so I doubt that a large enough corps can be found to serve the even smaller niche community of SL avatars.
** While most people I meet through SL are gender-consistent in avatar presentation, many do play with different gender avatars – most without any out-world gender identity issues. Some very do have the latter, and the twists of conversation with this avatar might have skirted such issues. I tend to use the avatar’s gender for pronouns unless I am aware of the preferred/natural gender identification of the person behind the avatar. –^-
What to learn during INF2506?
I will offer to show others around, but that will only use the community skills I have already. The more detailed study of information architectures and experience creation I had begun looks like taking up a lot more time than this subject has.
If I were to use Second Life as an activity for my OLJ, to:
- Evaluate my own “use of Second Life as a 3D virtual world throughout this session”: I would need a context: goals, requirements, expectations against which to make that evaluation. The subject has not provided any. Nor can I whip up a valid target community for whom I could extend my abilities in SL;
- Critically evaluate the “effectiveness of different features/functions and learning experiences encountered” — I would not only need to find standards/best practices against which to evaluate but find new features/functions I have not already evaluated for my own interest prior to the subject. I guess I could observe the learning experiences planned for later in the session, possibly evaluating them against training standards and/or my earlier in-world learning experiences. This could prepare me for an unlikely scenario that I might want to bring a group into Second Life. That doesn’t strike me as particularly new, fun or relevant.
- State “the different ways an information organisation may be able to utilise Second Life to support information services, learning and/or collaboration of users and/or employees”–I would either be retracing old information about projects I have seen bud and die without blooming OR would have to re-research a topic I have been researching for years: risking time, in a potentially vain search for something new compared to my last researches of six months ago which had not revealed anything new from the six, twelve or eighteen months prior.