Wednesday, July 25, 2007

$25,000 Grant to Develop Courses in Virtual Worlds

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus Blog announced this grant by Blackboard.

Blackboard Greenhouse Program

NEW: We have created a special Greenhouse Program™ grant, The Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds, to foster greater educational innovation with virtual worlds such as Active Worlds, There and Second Life. Blackboard is funding a single $25,000 (USD) grant for initiatives that promote the integration of virtual worlds into teaching and learning. We seek initiatives that will:

* Enhance the student experience

* Leverage existing teaching and learning strategies and best practices

* Integrate virtual worlds and Blackboard Enterprise Software [1] through Blackboard Building Blocks™ and Blackboard PowerLinks™

* Make results/output available to the Blackboard client community

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good and bad reasons to be in Second Life

Is it worthwhile for a library to invest time and resources in a Second Life presence? I think it's still safe to say that the majority of librarians involved in the SL libraries are doing it on their own time. But what if you are trying to make a case for SL in your library that involves actual money?

In her blog Librarians Matter, Kathryn Greenhill (Emerald Dumont in SL), a librarian at Murdoch University, has been investigating SL. She wrote a couple of great posts a few months ago;

Ten very good reasons why your librarians should be in Second Life

Six very bad reasons to have a library branch in Second Life

Among her good reasons to be there are:
  • Learning - a new interface, how to relate to your patrons into gaming, how to code
  • Collaboration and networking - on SL projects with other librarians, breaking down professional isolation, accessing people with expertise in all fields, not just SL
  • Flexibility in thought and learning
I can say that I've experienced every advantage she mentions. I have learned from librarians, archivists, and information professionals all over the world. I have learned a new interface where I am now at ease.

The thing that I find interesting is her distinction between librarians and libraries. She says:
"There are great benefits to librarians in getting a Second Life. There are limited benefits to our parent organisations and to our users - at the moment."

and that many of her reasons

"depend on creating and maintaining social networks within Second Life."
As I have watched the tremendous amount of time and energy that the Info Island librarians have invested in Second Life, I still wonder if this translates into direct services or benefits to the patrons of their real life libraries yet.

Kathryn's post about "bad reasons" includes:
  • It's where users are
  • Corporations like IBM are there
  • It's Library 2.0
  • It provides access to more people
  • It doesn't take much time or skill
  • We need a separate service just for our users
She ends with one very good reason: to provide access to Second Life to the library's patrons. The biggest obstacles to SL being a useful tool for everyone is lack of the technical resources and know-how; a workstation and connection adequate to run the program.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Virtual World Librarianship Courses in SL offered by University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

New Virtual World Librarianship Courses/UIUC and Alliance Library System

Starting in September the Alliance Library System and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are offering 2 six-week classes on virtual librarianship. There are 3 sections of each course, which will be held in Second Life at Info Island.

The courses are:
Week One: Introduction to Libraries in Virtual Worlds
Week Two: Second Life 101
Week Three: Collections, Resources, and Exhibits in Virtual Environment
Week Four: Reference and Information Services in Virtual Worlds
Week Five: Managing and Working in a Virtual Library or Department
Week Six: Skills Needed by 21st Century Librarians in Virtual Worlds

Week One: Overview of Virtual Worlds Including Second Life & Others-What Libraries are Doing in Them
Week Two: Library Programs and Events in Second Life
Week Three: Introduction to Building and Scripting Items in Second Life
Week Four: Virtual World Library Services for Teens and Young Adults
Week Five: Introduction to Machinima - Creating Films in Second Life
Week Six: Immersive Learning Environments and Libraries

You can learn more at: Continuing Professional Development: Virtual World Librarianship

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Info Island this week

July 14 - 22

This week announces the opening of a new residential area; Mythica, which also is the home of the Griffin's Nest library that houses a collection of myths, legends and fairy tales.

The Lawspot has an exhibit on court cases related to virtual worlds.

Sunday July 22 - The Director of the Caledon Library, J.J. Drinkwater and Colonel Exrex Somme of the Caledon Militia will engage in a duel of compliments as a fund raiser for the benefit of Relay for Life.

Sunday July 22 - The grand opening of the Globe Theater on Renaissance island will feature fireworks, a dance and discussions by Shakespearean scholars.

Etiquette for Academia in SL

The recent hullabaloo over the deletion of Woodbury Universities island by Linden Labs illustrated how necessary it is for an organization to publish and enforce a code of behavior for its members in Second Life. Penn State's Virtual Worlds Project has published its own SLEtiquette for Penn State. Besides listing SL's own community standards, it lists a guide to interacting with other avatars.

Learning in virtual worlds: Future or fad?

Educators now have several years of conducting classes in 3D virtual classrooms behind them and are beginning to publish more and more good material on this environment. One publication devoted to this environment is the journal eLearn Magazine. A recent feature article
Another Life: Virtual Worlds as Tools for Learning discusses the special qualities of the avatarian experience in Second Life, and answers the question, "are virtual worlds a breakthrough technology that will forever reshape learning and business? Or are they this season's over-hyped fad?"
The article asks us to look at the technology with fresh eyes, and look for what are the special sensibilities and opportunities of the virtual environment. The article identifies five "sensibilities" special to the Second Life environment:
  • The Sense of Self
  • The Death of Distance
  • The Power of Presence, Sense of Space and the Capacity to Co-create
  • The Pervasiveness of Practice
  • The Enrichment of Experience
The article is well worth the time it takes to read. Or you can view a video by one of the article authors discussing the same concepts; Virtual Social Worlds and the Future of Learning

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Michigan Library Consortium's Grand Opening in Second Life

"MLC invites you to the grand opening of our new virtual building in the 3-D virtual reality, Second Life (Cybrary City II 167,51,21)! The celebration is on Thursday, July 12, 2007 from 4:00-6:00pm SL time (NOTE! That’s 7:00pm-9:00pm EDT). Please join us in Second Life for virtual music, dancing and refreshments!" (the rest)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Woodbury University Island Deleted by Linden Labs

On Saturday, Woodbury University's Second Life campus was vaporized. Not by mis-behaving Second Lifers, not by technical difficulties or incompetence, but by Linden Labs as a disciplinary action for Terms of Service (TOS) violations. In March Dr. Edward Clift paid Linden Labs for a six month lease and built Woodbury Island. In early April the region was suspended for 3 days for various abuses. Later in April Linden Labs contacted him by telephone to warn him that the island would be discontinued if the problems continued. According to Dr. Clift, that was the last communication he received from Linden Labs. "There was never any communication from Linden until the disconnection as to whether they thought we were doing a good job or not and certainly no chance to take corrective measures in any kind of cooperative fashion."

The island was yanked on July 1 with no further warning. From the Linden Labs notice:
Many members of the Woodbury University group (which controls the region) have been detected before and after that date causing severe problems in Second Life, in violation of the terms of service. These problems include incidents of grid attacks, racism and intolerance, persistent harassment of other residents, and crashing the Woodbury University region itself while testing their abusive scripts. Due to the ongoing problems, Linden Lab has no option but to immediately close the Woodbury University region.
The main events have been covered by the Second Life tabloid The Second Life Herald, and has now been picked up by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Herald's article comments are full of the bickering back and forth between the (ir)responsible parties, and illustrate what can happen if an organization does not take a firm hand in policing itself.

After reading the articles, interviews and comments, I gather that Woodbury U. was naive and negligent in monitoring the island it provided, and that Linden Labs is very bad at communicating to its customers about problems. Anyone who has land where avatars are allowed to build or script could face the same situation, including the Info Islands, Cybrary Cities, EduIslands, or Harvard. An educational sim designed to expose its students to the tools of Second Life must allow its members to build and script, but that also makes it a magnet for SL jokesters and griefers. You may not like it, but those are the facts. It appears that Woodbury U took a hands-off approach to management of their sim. It appears that the lack of communication by LL led them to believe the problem was under control. And it appears that LL has no clear protocol or progressive process in place to warn its institutional customers about terminal violations.

There are at least 150 colleges and universities with a presence in SL, many with their own islands. Perhaps they have assumed that their status as educational and non-profit institutions gives them a protected status and more latitude for students who are pushing the limits. Evidently they are wrong. I would suggest that there are some steps each institution should take if they want to protect their SL assets:
  • Restrict building and scripting to their own groups
  • Restrict the groups to their own students, and require that student accounts be verified
  • Require anyone who joins their group to agree to a code of ethics and behavior
  • Have an administrator available at all times to enforce the code
  • Form an association of SL educational institutions and demand from Linden Labs a protocol for communicating about and resolving problems
Griefer U (April 22, 2007) The Second Life Herald
Woodbury University Island Destroyed (July 1, 2007) The Second Life Herald
Interview with Woodbury University's Edward Clift (July 6, 2007)
The Death of a Virtual Campus Illustrates How Real-World Problems Can Disrupt Online Islands (July 6, 2007) The Chronicle of Higher Education

Friday, June 29, 2007

Library Journal: SLIS Program at San Jose prototyping virtual graduate school?

San Jose SLIS Embraces Second Life
Last year SLIS San Jose received a grant from the Souros Foundation to purchase and create an information island in SL. Several of its classes now include labs in using Second Life.

Info Island this week

Alliance Second Life Libary one of six Sirsi-Dynix Building Better Communities Award at ALA
Alliance Library System was one of 6 winners of Sirsi-Dynix's Building Better Communities award for its Second Life Library.

Seminar: Self Esteem and Empowerment Seminar at Health Info Island.
For all SL educators and helping professionals
June 29, 1 & 3 PM PST
HealthInfo Island 130, 140, 22

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Virtual Classrooms at Harvard

I'm both intrigued by and skeptical about using SL as a virtual classroom. There are certainly a significant and growing number institutions holding classes partly or entirely in SL. Several of the Library and Information Science classes I have taken at Wayne have had a significant online component, using Blackboard, as well as synchronous and asynchronous broadcasts of lectures. While grateful for the convenience, it's difficult for me to develop a sense of involvement with either the instructor or the students, and for me, that's central to a good class. So a well conducted class in SL could create a compelling online classroom. What would that look like?

Harvard Law School has boldly pioneered in this area. The Harvard Extension School is offering a class in SL this fall, Virtual Worlds, and here's the course description. Wish I could take it!

The instructor is Rebecca Nesson, who was one of the instructors for Harvard Law School's first SL based class, Cyberone. Ian Lamont publishes an interview about teaching in SL on Terranova (Teaching in SecondLife). Several things she mentioned didn't surprise me; at first the environment was chaotic. There was "culture shock" at first for those new to the environment.

The surprises? "a text-based environment has a whole lot of advantages over the face-to-face environment that I just hadn't anticipated." Rebecca found that "problem of students not participating in class discussions just totally disappeared". And that "we didn't have any trouble with students who dominate the discussion". Chaos was not a lasting condition as people developed new classroom norms. Who had the hardest time? Those who were "comfortable writing traditional response papers" who were not comfortable with the spontaneity of the SL classroom. She actually says "So for me the idea that I would actually end up almost preferring to run a class in a text-based environment to a voice-based environment, that was a huge surprise."

Read the interview here.

Indiana University's Synthetic World's Initiative

Indiana University has a research center devoted to the study and development of virtual worlds; The Synthetic World’s Initiative. Their purpose is to “promote innovative thinking on synthetic worlds ". They hold bi-annual conferences (the “Ludium”) and are developing Arden, a virtual world based on the life and works of William Shakespeare. At the Ludium II Conference “Attendees were charged with hammering out a well-considered platform to guide virtual world policy.” The result is:

A Declaration of Virtual World Policy

made by representatives of law, industry, and academia, assembled in full and free convention as the first Synthetic Worlds Congress.

Among the ten clauses in the declaration are calls for a player’s bill of rights, universal age verification, net neutrality and the statement that “fair use may apply in virtual worlds”. The declaration can be read here at TerraNova SWI's Declaration of Virtual World Policy:

Today’s Chronicle of Education’s Wired Campus makes note of the conference in the article Public Policies for Virtual Worlds.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Chronicle of Higher Education: Online communities changing online activism?

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation has given a $550,000 grant to the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy to "examine the role online communities can play in fostering real-world activism". (the rest)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Paper: Creating Museum Content and Community in Second Life

This paper was presented at the conference "Museums and the Web 2007", and is a fascinating look at how one museum is using Second Life. San Francisco's Exploratorium has created "Splo", a virtual museum in Second Life. The paper details several of their exhibits that could only be done in Second Life.

Creating Museum Content and Community in Second Life

Robert J. Rothfarb and Paul Doherty, Exploratorium, USA


Brick-and-mortar interactive science centers offer fun and educational experiences for visitors of every age. But in a virtual world, many of the constraints of the real world can be overcome, offering experiences that transcend reality. Exploratorium staff members have created just such a space in the massively multi-user, three-dimensional world of Second Life. In the virtual museum called the 'Splo, we’ve been experimenting with the social, contextual, and educational possibilities of a world in which people can fly through the solar system, scan their own bodies, and change gravity so they can bounce off walls. In mixed-reality events which combine live media programs with the virtual world, visitors can watch a solar eclipse while sitting next to someone on the other side of the earth. What does this mean for other museums interested in creating their own virtual environments? In this paper, we share our own experiences, and offer some thoughts and recommendations.

(the rest)

U.S. Government Agencies use Second Life for Education and Outreach

NASA, NOAA and the National Institute of Health already have established themselves in Second Life, and feature some impressive simulations. This article from News Blaze, describes how government agencies are using Second Life.
U.S. Government Presence Grows in Second Life Online World

Agencies use virtual reality environment for education, outreach

Since early 2007, more than 6 million virtual residents of the online world called Second Life have had new neighbors - a handful of U.S. government agencies that are exploring possibilities for education, collaboration and outreach in the popular real-time multiverse.
the rest)

The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog:

The campus has been in construction for several months; now it is officially open. This posting from The Chronicle's Wired Campus Blog has a link to YouTube video that is one of the best short presentations I seen so far on what educators are doing in Second Life.

San Jose State Library Celebrates Opening in Virtual World
May 11, 2007
Never mind that the celebration will exist only digitally. San Jose State University's School of Library and Information Science will put on a big show for the May 16 opening of its campus in Second Life, an online virtual world. (the rest)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Daruma Picnic at the Second Life Library Art Gallery

Daruma Picnic’s first name comes from the Japanese dharma or wish dolls. His first work of art in Second Life was his own skin, a full body tattoo of his own drawing of a Daruma doll. Since I met him soon after he arrived, I’ve seen all the phases of his SL career so far: “Avatar”, “Architecture”, “Darumas”, “Imported Painting” (his shortest phase), “Floating Overlays”, “Click Color” and now “Interactive Music Sculpture”. It has been interesting and exciting to watch an accomplished artist take on a new medium. It has also been great fun to see the inspiration meter go off when Daruma sees something that gives him an idea, and to see him working through it. He will be displaying many of these works at the Second Life Library Gallery (Library Gallery, Info Island (32, 117, 33).

For years he has been making layered studies for his gouache paintings in real life. His initial studies are drawings in felt-tip pen, which he layers in Photoshop. He has imported these studies into SL to create “floating overlay” paintings with many layers, “inspired by the ubiquitous SL waterfalls with their transparent layered prims and animated textures”.

His “click color” paintings are created entirely within Second Life through layering of transparent prims (primitive shapes, the building blocks of Second Life). The viewer can play with the interaction of colors and layers within the piece.

Daruma found particular inspiration in the interactive sound sculpture of Adam Ramona (Ramonia, Marni, (219, 198, 23) . Daruma says "Adam's interactive sound sculptures are simple in appearance, fun, intelligent, and immersive. ...Adam's work is mesmerizing and sparked my interest in interactive sound." Adam guided Daruma through the process of writing a script where collision of avatar with prim plays sound. He recorded the voices of 3 singers singing a variety of notes. The result is “a sort of free jazz work”. Multiple avatars can play notes within the sculpture at once to create music in Second Life.

The show opens on Saturday, April 28 at 6 PM PST and runs through May 28.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reference Services Review - Esther Grassian on Second Life

Grassian, E., & Trueman, R. (2007). Stumbling, bumbling, teleporting and flying … librarian avatars in Second Life. Reference Services Review, 35(1), 84-89. Retrieved March 27, 2007, from

This paper by Esther Grassian (UCLA) and Rhonda Trueman (Johnson & Wales) takes the form of questions and answers to provide an overview of the benefits and challenges for libraries in Second Life.

At NMC this week: EDUCAUSE Focus Session on Immersive Learning Environments

This session is taking place in real life in Raleigh, North Carolina, and will be streamed into Second Life at the NMC Campus. If you can only catch one session, I'd recommend the 10:15 (1:15 EST) session with Sarah Robbins (Intellagirl).

Tuesday 3/27 -
11am to 12pm (SLT)
Generation G and the 21st Century
Richard Van Eyk (University of North Dakota)

3/28 -
5 to 5:45am (SLT)
Cognition, Learning, and Literacy in Virtual Worlds, Constance Steinkuehler (U of Wisconsin-Madison)

6:00 am - 6:45am (SLT) Cyberinfrastructure-enabled Learning Environments for Gen-Z, Gary Bertoline (Purdue)

7:45 - 8:30am Virtual Learning Environments in 3D, Phil Long (MIT)

10:10 - 10:55 (tentative): Immersion and Engagement in a Virtual Classroom: Using Second Life for Higher Education, Sarah “Intellagirl” Robbins (Ball State)

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm The Bar May Not Be As High As You Expect: Considerations in Implementing an Immersive Learning Environment

More information is available at the NMC Campus Observer blog.

Info Island this week

Last week, Kitty Pope, Director of the Alliance Library System, announced that the ALA has given it the Information Today Inc. Library of the Future Award.

Tuesday 3/27 -
8am SLT (11 am EST) -
at Eduisland 2

3/29 -

8am SLT: Info Island Tour by Jilliana Susei - meet at the Welcome Area

6pm SLT
Discussion: Catch the Librarian Buzz
Discussion of services and programs for teens at Eye4You - location to be announced
There is also a discussion here about the new Eye4You Alliance Island, and what it will have to offer.


Thursday, March 8, 2007

American Libraries Online: Internet Librarian says Second Life needs libraries

Joseph Janes suggests that librarians should be involved not just in collecting, organizing and cataloging objects in SL, but also "part of the conversation about what those objects are and do and ought to be."
Like everyplace else, Second Life needs libraries
By Joseph Janes
American Libraries Columnist

Information Week Article: A look at the technology

This article describes what happens under the hood, as well as how Linden Lab is planning to handle hundreds of times the traffic.
Inside Second Life's Data Centers
As Second Life strains to keep up with recent popularity, InformationWeek looks at the real-world technology foundations of the make-believe world, and developer Linden Lab's plans to stay on top of growth.
Mitch Wagner InformationWeek
March 5, 2007

Even while Second Life struggles with its explosive growth and new popularity, the developers of the service, Linden Lab, are redesigning the service to handle hundreds of times as much traffic as it's dealing with today.

Second Life is seeing 20% monthly growth in the number of concurrent users, going from a then-record 18,000 users logged in at once in December to a record 36,000 on Sunday. The maximum capacity of the current network is 100,000 simultaneous users, Miller said. (the rest)

Lansing State Journal article on Second Life

My own home town paper did a nice article on Second Life today that mentions the Michigan Library Consortium among local users and entrepreneurs. And, refreshingly, not one mention of SL porn, Anshe Chung, or Prokofy Neva.
Second Life bring virtual, real life together
Barbara Wieland
March 8, 2007

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

IT Week article: David Tebbutt, Information World Review

This article has several paragraphs on the Second Life library.
"Is Second Life a brave new world?

A playground for geeks but an irrelevance for information professionals? You couldn't be more wrong about Second Life. David Tebbut explains the very real benefits of virtual reality."

05 Mar 2007

Having a Voice in Second Life

Last week Linden Lab announced the beta release of their new voice technology. Not that voice communication wasn't possible already; last month I experimented with Skype and blogged about it (Voicing Concerns in Second Life). Beta testing is starting this week, with an official launch to start sometime in the second quarter. Text based communication will still be an option, and avatars who choose not to use voice can display a "speech not enabled" indicator. Speech will be "proximity based" with sound changing to indicate position and distance. There will be three usage options:
  • General speech audible to anyone within hearing range
  • Group conference calls that include anyone in a group regardless of their location
  • One to one personal communication
They are also working on speech animations that trigger the beginning, ending and intensity of speech.

The biggest consideration about making voice part of the platform is how it will effect the performance. Second Life is struggling to cope with the 30% growth it is experiencing each month, but this feature should not effect performance on the grid since the voice is provided by 3rd party servers. It will however use more bandwidth, so quality will depend on each person's individual connection. It seems to me that it could even result in better performance on the grid since less text messaging will occur as voice takes its place.

More information and points of view:
ZDNet: Integrated voice coming to 'Second Life'
Who's On Second - podcast: Episode 16 - Everybody's sister Jeska Linden

Monday, March 5, 2007

Info Island this week – March 5, 2007

March 9, 6:30 PM SLT – The Caledon branch library co-sponsors an evening of story-telling at The Falling Anvil Public House in Caledon Tammrannoch. The theme is Tales of Love.

March 11, 2 PM SLT – Caledon branch library book discussion for the month of March is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

March 11, 12:00 PM – ebook and Podcast authors, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will appear at the Info Island Open Air Auditorium to discuss publishing in electronic media.

March 5 – 8 is YALSA’s Teen Tech Week in Second Life. Activities will be at open auditoriums at Info Island and Cybrary City, and include presentations and a panel discussion.

March 15, 2007 – 8:00 AM SLT – There will be a tour of Info Island. The SLURL for the Welcome Area is

Info Island this week

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Purpose, community and virtual reality

Events in my own life and community this week have submerged me into a time of mourning and reflection.

A long-time friend, Robert Busby was murdered last week. The impact of his death ripples far beyond the loss to his family and close friends. He worked for nearly 30 years to realize his dream of creating a center for culture and arts in Lansing’s Old Town district. When he bought his first building on Turner Street in Lansing’s decaying original downtown his first gallery, Two Doors Down, was named based on its proximity to the infamous the Mustang Bar, which set the tone for the neighborhood.

His gallery became a non-profit community endeavor, supported by the work of a group of artists who worked to bring real art, music and poetry to Lansing. Robert subsidized this in large part with his own labor and day job working as a model builder at GM. He had the same resources most of us have and had, but somehow he managed to be a patron of the arts. Arts and artists were not an interest or priority for the majority of leaders in Lansing (the then mayor, demanded the removal of a nude drawing at a Lansing Community College student art show to protect his wife’s sensibilities), so Two Doors Down was more then just a space to hang pictures. It was the place where the conspiracy to feed the soul of our community took root and grew into the place it is now.

Two Doors Down was laid to rest in 1989, but another gallery sprouted up down the block, then another, and another. Meanwhile, Robert continued to adopt dilapidated buildings, uncover their beauty, and turn them into working, living and playing spaces. The last building he bought was ready to be condemned after a fire gutted it. He loved it back into life, creating the Creole Gallery and his home there. His retirement from GM allowed him finally to concentrate all of his attention and energies on his gallery and the Old Town community.

Last Wednesday night hundreds of us gathered outside of the Creole to hold a vigil for Robert. Each person could remember many shows, concerts and performances they had been to there, and always, Robert in the center of it, inviting people in to the circle and making them feel part of it. In this way he made many, many friends, who continued to build, patronize and enjoy Old Town. Now it has become ours to carry on.

Robert’s death brings to a point a long internal debate I have had with myself over Second Life, its value and meaning, and what it says about us. Second Life is a virtual reality, an immersive experience, a complicated and time consuming exercise that only contains the meaning you bring into it. I admire and enjoy the landscapes and buildings created by its residents, and I value the friendships and connections I have made there. I think many residents are doing meaningful work there. But I wonder how many of SL’s residents are participating less in their real lives in order to learn and explore it? At what point are we contracting because we are mesmerized by our digital lives? Participating less in our own communities, seeing less of our friends, not supporting our local art scenes, in favor of a digital existence?

Second Life is only good for me to the extent that it serves my purposes in life. There are many ways in which I think SL is an improvement over television, or even reading a romance novel or mystery. But virtual reality is far inferior to almost anything my real life can offer. I would far rather meet my Second Life friends in the flesh for a real beer, concert or gallery tour. The technology, and therefore the seductiveness of the medium will only improve over time. So those of us who are exploring its uses need to keep the bigger picture in mind before we lead others into it, and surely that means first learning to use it in a skillful way ourselves to expand our own lives, relationships and communities.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The cost of a campus in Second Life

This article from the Campus Technology describes Ohio Universities campus.
"Ohio University is the first university in Ohio and one of just a few universities in the United States, including Harvard and Princeton, who have launched functioning campuses in Second Life."
If you are investigating education in Second Life, you can make this part of your tour, as it is open to visitors.

The complete article is here:Ohio University Opens Virtual Doors

Megan Conklin's 101 Uses for Second Life in the College Classroom

Megan Conklin is one of the original evangelists for using Second Life as an education tool. She has just published an updated version of her paper "101 Uses for Second Life in the College Classroom". Megan works at Elon University in the department of computing sciences, and blogs regularly at her megan@elon blog about technology and education.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Teen Second Life at Risk

Deleting Online Predators Act reappears for 2007
Jacqui Cheng

Last year, we reported on the progression of the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) of 2006—a bill that would restrict the use of social networking sites and chat rooms from being used in schools in libraries. That bill ultimately got passed by the US House of Representatives in July with flying colors, but ended up stagnating in the Senate until the session ended and the Democrats took over, much to the relief of many critics. Unfortunately, that wasn't the last we were to hear of of DOPA. A new bill, ambiguously named S.49 for the time being, was introduced to the Senate by Senator Ted "Internet Tubes" Stevens (R-AK) this January that smells strangely of DOPA. In fact, Title II of the newly-proposed bill is not-so-ambiguously titled "Deleting Online Predators Act of 2007."(the rest)

The article from the website ars technica warns that the overly broad definition could block schools and libraries from not just My Space, but Wikipedia, or any website with a forum.
The definition?
(i) is offered by a commercial entity;
(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
(v) enables communication among users.

This would certainly include the Second Life Teen grid, and would threaten the many wonderful programs that have been created there, such as the Global Kids Digital Media Initiative, and the Topeka Shawnee's Oz Island for teens which I have featured in posts here.

Now would be a very good time for librarians who believe in the value of social software to inform themselves and speak up for their programs.

I thank Facebook friends Nancy Picchi and Bill Drew for the alert and the links in this posting.

You can find out about the bill House of Representatives Bill H.R. 1120 by searching Search by Bill Number: HR 1120 or by Sponsor - Kirk, Mark Steven (R-IL-10) The Senate version is S 49.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Second Life Library - Mystery discussion series

The Mystery Manor on Info Island is hosting a new book discussion series:
Waiting for the other gumshoe to drop
The discussions will take place on the last Wednesday of every month at 6 PM PST at Mystery Manor . Ross Macdonald's "The Far Side of the Dollar" will be the discussion subject on Wed. Feb. 28. (

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sunday walks in Second Life

Sunday was a fine day for a walk in SL. Both New Media Consortium (NMC) and the Second Life Library revealed new islands that expand their complexes; Imagination Island, built by members of the SL library, and several new islands in the NMC complex. The NMConnect event mentioned in earlier posts is the first time these islands have been made public.

If you are looking for a beautiful, tranquil and imaginative place, visit Rachelville on Imagination Island.
"Rachelville developed originally in the mind of a seven year old girl, Rachel, who was undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. Stuck in a hospital room with only her parents as playmates she began to think out a place where the stuffed animals around her came to life and acted out daily stories within their own “virtual” world which she named Rachelville."(Welcome to Rachelville)
At the center of the island is the Secret Garden, built by Julia Hathor and inspired by the book of the same name. Besides the lovely garden there is the Dragon's Maze, built by Brian Corleone, and the Kitty Magic tree house by Alizarin Mondrian. Scattered throughout the island are children's book displays. This is a both a lovely tribute to Rachel and a loving gift to SL.

My adventures at the NMConnect were very different. I wandered over to the area dedicated to the theme of Love and Chaos looking for a concert. Instead I wandered into a Second Front event that featured competitive ushering. Both love and chaos did eventually result as my avatar was (temporarily) reassembled and offered hugs. We finished with a spontaneous parade to spread the love and chaos, and did even eventually end up at the concert I went looking for.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Information Today - Librarians on Second Life

Feb 2007.Vol. 24, Iss. 2
Focus on Publishing
Librarians on Second Life
Robin Peek delves into the virtual worlds that test the limits of online gaming.

This is yet another half-baked article on Second Life. Ms. Peek states that "very few are coming; it is similar to a library ghost town". The truth is, that the library islands have over 4000 visitors a day, and over 300 volunteers. It looks like she spent a few hours touring the island and drew her conclusions without actually interviewing a librarian there, attending an event, joining a group, or learning how to view the traffic.

Too bad.

I can't provide a link to the article, it is available through ProQuest

Saturday, February 10, 2007

NMConnect Media Arts Symposium Schedule

The NMConnect Wiki has the schedule of events which start tomorrow (Sun. 2/11) at 10 AM PST (1 PM EST) and include discussions, live music and an improvisational build.

Friday, February 9, 2007

NMC Campus Observer - Visual Arts Symposium , Digital Story Telling

The most recent postings in the NMC Campus Observer cover two events, one past, and one future. I have made regular visits to the NMC Campus since my arrival in SL but never found anything going on. It looks like another large and lovingly rendered build not being put to use. The quiet is deceptive.

The upcoming Visual Arts Symposium, NMCConnect, will feature "artists, educators, designers and researchers in a visual symposium for Second Life: NMCConnect. Structures of artistic expression in every medium will be linked and combined to tell new stories on how we bond within our shared new worlds." It will take place on NMC's four new islands, and will include interactive installations, live performances, and forums for discussion. This looks like it will be a spectacular event, I will certainly be there as much as I can. They have not yet published exact location and agenda. I will post details here once they are available.

The past event was an NMC Teachers Buzz Session with Gudand Hao from the Center for Digital Storytelling. The discussion on digital storytelling was attended by 65 participants.
"I think in second life you could have media exchanges, as in sharing already created stories or you could have folks collaborate to create and perform stories here. My main interest is could you hold story circles here. Could you get people to reflect on a considered narrative and find a way to get intimate about the story? The issue for those folks who have taken our workshops is that we are trying to peel back layers of meaning and that I have believed requires reading body language as much as words and expressions. Can you do that in the virtual environment?" ~ Gudand Hao
On reading the review and transcript I am kicking myself for not being there, but there are ample links to transcripts, photos, an audio interview of Gudand, and other resources. The group meets every other Monday, with times alternating between 6 PM and 9 AM PST. The next meeting is Digital Storytelling Part Deux - Mon Feb 19, 6.00 PM PST.

Second Life Librarian Lori Bell at MLC Conference 2/15/07

Michigan Library Consortium will hold the third session of its series The Library Rebooted; RUA nOOB? Bridging the Gap Between Boomers and Gamers
Lori Bell will speak about Second Life. She is Director of Innovation at the Alliance Library System started the Second Life Library, which has grown from a rented space in April 2006, to 8 islands now, with 4000 visitors a day, and 300 volunteers.
The event will be held at Lansing Community Colleges West Campus. The program is "on the use of social networking software and gaming in libraries". The speakers and their topics are:

Lori Bell, Alliance Library System - Second Life
Angela Semifero, Marshall District Library - MySpace
Eli Neiburger, Ann Arbor District Library - Gaming
Edward Vielmetti, School of Information, University of Michigan - Everything Else
Monica Harris - Panel Discussion on Facebook

Thursday, February 8, 2007

CNET News - Universities see Second Life as a solution to classroom crowding

This article seems particularly relevant in light of an email exchange on Wayne's LISPINF in the last 24 hours. A student asks "Is Library Admin ever offered as a web centric or all online class? Or are there plans for this class to be offered in this format in the future?"

Dr. Mika who teaches the course and is the head of our program replies that it will not, because interaction is an important part of the course. Second Life is already being used to offer interactive distance learning. There are 70 universities with a presence in SL and companies like Sun Microsystems are helping to improve the technology to do this.
Universities register for virtual future
Students may soon meet with professors once a week and then use simulations, virtual worlds and downloads to complete coursework.
Stefanie Olsen
Staff Writer, CNET
February 7, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO--If you want to know what higher education will look like in a few years, you might ask Charles Reed, chancellor of the largest four-year university system in the United States.

As head of the California State University system--with 23 campuses, 46,000 employees and more than 400,000 students--Reed says he's worried about classroom space in the future because of, among other reasons, expanding enrollment.

Consequently, Reed said he envisions students becoming more like telecommuters. They might meet with faculty and peers one day a week on campus, and then use simulations, virtual worlds and downloaded information the rest of the week to complete coursework. (the rest)

Lecture in SL by Dr. Gary Marchionini Feb. 16, 2007

On Friday, February 16 at 9 PM PST Dr. Gary Marchionini (aka Gary Octagon) will present the lecture "Toward Multimedia Surrogation" at the Amphiteater at Talis Cybrary City (Cybrary City (128, 131, 26)
Wayne State readers, his PhD is from Wayne.

School Library Journal on Teen Second Life

Meet the New You
By Kelly Czarnecki and Matt Gullett -- 1/1/2007

In Teen Second Life, librarians can leap tall buildings in a single bound and save kids from boring assignments—all before lunch.

Accidental Learning at Global Kids Island

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports the Global Kids Digital Media Youth Initiative, "a series of interrelated programs designed to support teenagers to think critically about the role of digital media in their lives and document their experiences in various media". A major piece of this initiative is Global Kids Island. Their programs are designed to promote awareness of global issues, and to create some accidental learning along the way. The website includes a blog, an area for teen postings, and a library of all of the files that have been posted to the website. If you are looking for ideas, illustrations, or examples of how educators and students are using SL, look here. Be sure to view some of the videos, particularly the video of Camp Global Kids 2006 program, made by kids who participated.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

MIT Technology Review: Second Life, Darwin and God

Second Life, Darwin and God
Is this new virtual world a product of creationism or evolution?
Thursday, February 01, 2007

While this article speculates about the "virtual evolution" of SL, there are residents who have made evolution models in SL. The island of Svarga is an entire ecosystem. Surina Skallagcrimson modeled Darwinian evolution with her virtual fish. And "In the Terminus area of Second Life, a team of coders are attempting to reproduce the beginnings of life. "

Qualities of Online Environments

Sarah Robbins is a rhetoric and composition PhD candidate at Ball State University. Her interests and research are on using online tools for teaching. Her blog Second Life Education Research, where she is known as Intellagirl is both thoughtful and based on real experience and research. In this posting she shares ideas from a book chapter she is writing, "CVE, MUVE, MMOE, MMORPG…What’s the difference?’: Virtual Environments as Compositional Models".

"In the chapter I attempt to delineate between different types of digital environments in which communication/composition can happen. In effect, what I’m doing is laying out the qualities that an instructor may be looking for in an online environment for a specific educational goal. Because the audience is largely readers who have never explored such environments, I’m hoping to lay out the most important differences to help light the way to informed pedagogical decisions."
It does a very good job of doing this, and includes a table that makes it even clearer. The post is here.

The World of Virtual Politics - Nancy Pelosi Wants a Second Life Too!

When I try to explain Second Life to those who haven't experienced it, reactions include interest, incredulity, concern and maybe even a bit of ridicule. But that is nothing compared to what Rep. George Miller must have experienced when Nancy Pelosi asked him to explain it to the Democratic house leadership! Evidently she is enthusiastic enough to have an account, but hasn't tried it yet. Today's Mercury News' (San Jose, CA) article on Rep. George Miller's describes his SL evangalism in the Capital and how Pelosi and Miller envision using SL.
`This is about leaping over the Beltway mentality,'' Miller said. ``Nancy doesn't want our discussions with the public controlled by a bunch of pundits who live their whole lives in Washington. In Second Life, we can have global town hall meetings.''

Lawmaker takes next leap: the virtual world of politics

The article is here (free registration required)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Second Life in a Crystal Ball

MIT Media lab uses a crystal ball not only as a metaphor but as a medium to explore Second Life at their SIGGRAPH Gallery. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to find the video.
Artist's statement

“Sousreality” is a pair of connected spaces linked through the metaphor of a crystal ball. In the SIGGRAPH gallery is a crystal ball that peers into Second Life, and in Second Life there is a crystal sphere containing a real-time inside-out vision of the gallery. The images of the spaces align visually and are also connected by audio. (the rest).

Monday, February 5, 2007

Voicing Concerns in Second Life

When you want to talk to another avatar in SL, you are probably going to do it either through chat, or instant messaging. If you choose chat, any avatar within range will see it, and can respond. If you choose IM, you can pick any avatar and send a message directly to them, whether they are standing next to you, or in a different area. If they are not online the message will be stored and forwarded to their email.

Before my entrance into SL, I almost never used either one of these real-time tools. Although I picked it up quickly, it seemed very flat and I wished I could just talk to people. I envisioned trying to conduct a classroom through the medium of chat, and could think of lots of drawbacks, with few advantages. There are ways of using voice in SL, but not built into the SL client, and not particularly easy to set up. I investigated, and quickly decided that between the trouble and the expense, I was not going to be trying this soon.

But then at the last Library Grads in SL group meeting, Uskala Hidayat offered to demonstrate the voice streaming he has set up. He spoke and played his bamboo flute to demonstrate it. The sound quality was good. The basic components of his system were a high quality microphone, free soft-ware (Win-amp), and use of a relay server which is not free (about $20.00 a month). His institution (UNC) is covering the cost of this so that professors can use it to give presentations in SL. He commented that they would have many fewer professors willing to do this if they had to do it through chat. The sound quality was great, but it is a one-way communication. We used chat to respond to Uskala, but our inability to talk back left us feeling hampered and muted.

Just a few days later, I had a chance to use a different tool that does create two-way conversations; Second Talk. This is a free virtual headset that lets up to ten avatars talk to each other through the VOIP program Skype. I was able to sign up for a free Skype account, and get a free headset in SL. I buddied up with friend Aleister Kronos to try it out. The steps are few and they are simple. Unfortunately they didn't work. But talk we did, through Skype, bypassing the headsets. In retrospect, I think the site we choose to try this in may have blocked the scripts of our headsets (script blocking is a security measure). We will try again with more people, and eventually get it to work. But we may not need Skype to do it, as Linden Lab has recently announced they are working on this. Once it becomes part of the SL client we can hope technical difficulties will melt (hah!).

Why wasn't this built in from the start? Sound devours bandwidth. One-way voice streaming is not as hungry, but VOIP gobbles it up.

Meanwhile over the months I have become used to chat and IM. And strangely once I had the potential to talk directly to avatars in SL, I found I was not completely sure I wanted to. Typed messaging has several advantages and special qualities.

Chat advantages

  • You don't have to worry if the other person has problems, technical or otherwise, with hearing you.
  • Chat has a distancing effect that makes it feel safer to approach and talk to strange avatars.
  • Chat is stored in history and logs. You can review the last several exchanges on your screen, as well has view it in your external chat log later. This is great for meeting transcripts, finding that name or website someone gave you, or just to review the conversation.
  • All members of the conversation are identified by name.
  • There are many tricks you can use, such as emoticons or animations to add shading and emotion to what you say.
  • You can write text in advance, and then cut and paste text into chat windows. There are even presenter tools to help you do this.
  • The conversation is paced by typing. You have time to consider before you type.
  • People who don't speak English well don't have to cope with pronunciation, yours or theirs.
  • Helpful visual cues help you know when an avatar is typing a response to you.
Chat disadvantages
  • You have to type everything you say.
  • Anyone within range can "hear" you, and you can hear them. Only distance lends privacy to conversations.
  • If many avatars are chatting at once, messages scroll by very quickly. If a person does not know about the chat history window, they will lose the conversation thread.
  • Chat without use of emoticons or other conventions can be misinterpreted.
  • Without any kind of etiquette to signal who should talk when conversations can become chaotic and unsynchronized.
The disadvantages related to privacy can be solved by using IM instead of chat. If you want to speak to someone without being overheard, you can IM them. If you wanted to conduct a private class or meeting, you can add everyone to a group, and IM the group. All group members can hear and respond. IM's are logged.

Streaming Voice Advantages
  • Sound can be heard by anyone in the area, as long as they have enabled media streaming, and have their speakers turned on.
  • It does not soak up too much band width.
  • It frees the speaker from typing. They can just talk or play.
  • It offers a high degree of control. The professor can talk without being interrupted.
Streaming Voice Disadvantages
  • It requires technical skill, and money to set up.
  • It is not logged automatically, so unless you have a scribe or a recorder, you will not have a transcript.
  • It is one way.
  • It is ephemeral.
  • The avatar just stands there. Unless other animation is used, it tends to disconnect you from the sense you are interacting with each other.
VOIP Advantages (Second Talk)
  • It frees you from typing.
  • Assuming they have Skype accounts and headsets, up to 10 avatars can converse.
  • It is free (beyond purchasing a headset for use on your computer).
  • You can hear each other's voices.
  • You can control who is included, and therefor who can hear the conversation.
VOIP Disadvantages
  • The technology does not appear to work consistently yet.
  • There are no identifiers other then the sound of the voice. If more then two people are talking it could be difficult to identify who is talking.
  • There is no logging, it is ephemeral.
  • It soaks up band-width. It could really degrade the rest of the experience.
  • It may be a more inhibiting medium. People may hesitate to voice things they would type. (This could be a plus or a minus).
What this all means to me, is that what we use will depend on the situation and people involved. Speech in groups, public places and sociable situations are likely to be dominated by chat. To talk privately to a person or group up close or at a distance, or to leave a message for someone who is not online, we'll use IM. Streaming audio will work in performances or presentations where sound is important, and the interaction is mostly one-way. And two-way sound will be best when talking to friends in settings with a limited number of people involved. I expect to use all three.

Information Week - Second Life Lessons: Cisco, IBM Pace Corporate Push into Virtual Worlds

Companies as varied as Toyota, Dell, Sears, and Adidas have all established bulkheads in the 3-D virtual world called "Second Life." Is this influx of brands an exciting precursor of how we'll be conducting business very soon, or the ultimate exercise in corporate flat-footedness?

By Alice LaPlante
Feb 3, 2007 12:01 AM
The rest of the article here.

Second Life Library this week (2/5 - 2/11/2007)

Sci Fi and Fantasy Gallery - activities for the month of February focused around the Talis Science Fiction portal on InfoIsland, include planning meetings, discussions and displays.
Genealogy Research Center - African American Genealogical Research Exhibit - the Genealogy Library this month features an exhibit on resources for the genealogist.
Book Signing at Open Air Auditorium - Author Al Perrin will do a short presentation on his new book "The Sloop John B" where he will bring his characters to life by wearing their avatars, followed bybook signing on 2/10.

Architecture in Second Life

Since one of the major activities in SL is building, it is no surprise that architects would find uses for a tool that lets them build 3D models of their ideas and projects. An architect can model the terrain, build the building, and furnish it. Once built an avatar can freely enter, explore and view the building outside or in. What a great way to show a proposal to a professor, customer or community!
The Arch is a blog "exploring the convergence of the metaverse with the real life practice of architecture". Not only are there architecture firms using SL, there is a Society for Virtual Architecture, and an Architecture Island. And of course architecture programs are exploring the uses of SL for their students. One library director I have talked with is pursuing the purchase of an entire island primarily for their architecture students. There are several videos here that show building in process or click directly on the links;

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Information Island Archipelago Keeps Growing announces the addition of three new islands; Cybrary City 2, Arts Island, and Imagination Island. The islands will open when construction is done.

New Islands

Friday, February 2, 2007

Article by Second Life Librarians in January issue of Computers in Libraries

Although Second Life has been receiving lots of attention in the popular press, and although there seem to be an endless supply of blogs, podcasts and other web-based articles about SL in libraries and education, until recently there has been almost nothing about Second Life in library publications. So the article "Get a (Second) Life! Prospecting for Gold in a 3-D World" in the January 2007 issue of Computers in Libraries may give authors Lori Bell, Tom Peters, and Kitty Pope the distinction of being first to publish. This is a distinction they have certainly earned. Their combined efforts planted the first Second Life Library.
I can't provide an external link to this article, but it is available through the Wilson Web database.

Second Life Continues to Draw Educators

The following article is from a publication called eSchool News online. It's a good overview of what's happening with education in SL.
Second Life' develops education following
Virtual world being used by some educators and youth groups for teaching, socialization
By Justin Appel, Assistant Editor

January 1, 2007—An online virtual world that has become one of the web's most popular activities is also becoming an increasingly popular venue for teaching and socialization among educators and youth organizations. (The rest here, free registration required to read past the first page)

Other good related articles at eSchool News online:

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Language School to Open in SL
by Zarachnia Wilder

A new venue for learning languages online is settling into Second Life., currently operating 12 private sims, is testing the system in beta. The firm plans to offer students audiovisual components and direct interaction with teachers and other students in social environments such as restaurants, museums and a bus depot. (the rest here)

Monday, January 29, 2007

New Media Consortium's Second Life Campus

Wayne State is a member of the New Media Consortium (NMC). “The New Media Consortium (NMC) is an international 501(c)3 not-for-profit consortium of nearly 200 leading colleges, universities, museums, corporations, and other learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies.” NMC is also a major player in the education movement in Second Life.
Their Emerging Technologies Initiative “focuses on expanding the boundaries of teaching, learning and creative expression by creatively applying new tools in new contexts.” Their annual Horizon report highlights six technologies likely to gain importance in higher education in one to five years. Each section discusses its relevance to education, and includes numerous examples and links. This year’s report predicts wide adoption of SL within 2 to 3 years.
NMC has a large campus on Second Life. Their blog NMC Campus Observer has lots of information about their activities. If you want a look at the campus view their movie “NMC Campus: Seriously Engaging”.
The 2007 Horizon Report this year:
Time to Adoption; 1 year or less
User created content (Flickr, YouTube)
Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace)
Time to Adoption; 2 to 3 years
Mobile Phones
Virtual Worlds (Second Life)
Time to Adoption; 4 to 5 years
New Forms of Scholarship, non-traditional scholarly models
Massively Multiplayer Education Gaming (WorldForge, Multiverse)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Second Life Librarian Lori Bell (aka Lorelei Junot) at MLC 2/15/07

Michigan Library Consortium will hold the third session of its series The Library Rebooted; RUA nOOB? Bridging the Gap Between Boomers and Gamers
Lori Bell will speak about Second Life. She is Director of Innovation at the Alliance Library System started the Second Life Library, which has grown from a rented space in April 2006, to 8 islands now, with 4000 visitors a day, and 300 volunteers.
The event will be held at Lansing Community Colleges West Campus. The program is "on the use of social networking software and gaming in libraries". The speakers and their topics are:

Lori Bell, Alliance Library System - Second Life
Angela Semifero, Marshall District Library - MySpace
Eli Neiburger, Ann Arbor District Library - Gaming
Edward Vielmetti, School of Information, University of Michigan - Everything Else
Monica Harris - Panel Discussion on Facebook

Friday, January 26, 2007

Library Graduate Students in SL - Discussion on Conducting Research in SL

At our last meeting (Jan. 18) we met at the Info Island II – Science Center. This week the topic of discussion was on conducting research in Second Life. Because Linden Labs announced the previous week that they no longer require researchers to get permission to conduct research, one hurdle at least, has been removed.

Uskala from UNC was in the middle of his IRB (Institutional Review Board) process to get approval for the research he wants to conduct here. This is a first at his institution, and it appears he may have to go through a special review process to get approval. This is partly because getting consent from participants involves signing forms. How do you get avatars so sign a consent form, and how do you verify that they are not a minor?

He had recently attended a workshop on conducting research. The proposal must meet three criteria to be approved:

  1. Respect for persons (voluntariness and free will)
  2. Beneficence (harm vs. benefit)
  3. Justice. Are people’s needs being served

The IRB wants to see research that is helpful to society.

A document we referred to in our discussion was “Ethical decision-making and Internet research: Recommendations from the aoir ethics working committee” published by the Association of Internet Researchers in 2002. It has a case study addressing the problem of consent in an online environment. The first case study was about research conducted in a chat environment, problems of consent, and willingness of participants. This environment presents many of the same problems presented by SL.

While researchers are and have been working in online environments for a while, its relative newness and special problems might present an obstacle to getting approval from an IRB board.

ALA Midwinter Podcast about Second Life

Mark Bard, Information Technology Specialist, ALA Office for Information Technology Policy
Barbara Galik, President, Board of Directors, Alliance Library System
Kitty Pope, Executive Director, Alliance Library System
Lori Bell, Director of Innovation, Alliance Library System

In the hustle and bustle of Midwinter, Mark Bard sat down with Barbara Galik, Kitty Pope, and Lori Bell to discuss the online phenomenon Second Life.

Lori, Barbara and Kitty are the innovators who have jump-started libraries in SL. From a small storefront in April 2006 they now have 9 islands, that receive 4000 visitors a day, with a volunteer staff of 300. Listen to the interview here:

Monday, January 22, 2007

Second Life Library this week

Mon Jan 22 - Training: Establishing an Educational Presence in Second Life / Teen Second Life
Tue Jan 23 - Training: Life Confidence and Potential Maximization
Wed Jan 24 - Genealogy Center on InfoIsland II - Presentation: Researching Revolutionary War Records
Thurs Jan 25 - Training: Establishing an Educational Presence in Second Life / Teen Second Life
Fri Jan 26 - 28 InfoIsland II - Exhibit and Reenactment: Marie Antoinette - The Teen Queen
Training: Life Confidence and Potential Maximization
Mon Jan 29 - Caledon branch- Book discussion: Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Heath Info Island: New information stations to help search all the resources there
The details here: InfoIsland this week:

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sirsi Dynix and Alliance Library System form Second Life Partnership

SirsiDynix Sponsors Alliance Library System’s Second Life Library 2.0

SirsiDynix will fund the two main islands in the Info Island project on Second Life

SEATTLE, Jan. 19, 2007 – SirsiDynix, the global leader in strategic technology solutions for libraries bringing knowledge to people and communities, announced today its 2007 sponsorship of the two main islands in the Alliance Library System/Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County partnership project on Second Life and Teen Second Life. (the rest)
The Alliance Library System serves a consortium of 258 libraries in Illinois. Starting in April 2006, their Director of Innovation, Lori Bell (aka Lorelei Junot) began the project of starting a virtual library in Second Life in a rented space. By May an entire island had been donated and a library built, the original InfoIsland. Early partners were TechSoup, and OPAL. InfoIsland has expanded to include InfoIsland II and HealthInfo Island. Another partnership with Talis built Cybrary City, an island where libraries can rent space. Islands keep appearing; CommonWealth Island to provide space to non-profit organizations and EduIsland to provide space to colleges and universities. It just keeps getting more interesting. What next?

Topeka Shawnee County Library Opens a Branch in Second Life

Library embraces online virtual community as tool for reaching local teens

By Taylor Atkins

Published Tuesday, January 16, 2007
The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library no longer has just one branch.
The organization has opened up a new location at the coordinates 24, 157, 24 in Cybrary City, a growing community for libraries in Second Life, an online virtual world. (the rest)

This library is not just sticking a toe in to test the water; they have opened a virtual branch, a building in Cybrary City and they have purchased an island on the teen grid. Why do both? The main Second Life grid, where the Cybrary City and the InfoIslands are hosted are rated "Mature". Their teen patrons cannot (truthfully) have accounts there. So Second Life has a separate teen grid rated PG. Nudity, for instance, is not allowed there, and adults over 18 cannot (truthfully) have an account or access the grid without a background check (so educators and librarians can be there to provide programs and services).
The island, named Oz, is almost ready to open. The library has prepared two very interesting pilot projects, described in a post at The first will teach a group of upperclassmen from Hope Academy to use SL, and then set them loose to create a world on the island. The second project will open the island to local teens to create content based on their favorite books.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

But Auntie What Does One DO in Second Life?

I keep in sporadic touch with my nephew, a freshman at Stanford, in Facebook. A few weeks ago I dropped a note that referenced my activities in Second Life and he asked “what does one do?” Good question, because once you get past Orientation and Help Islands, there’s no obvious path to follow. No one presents you with a quest to gain experience points or weapons of power. Once I had figured out my hair, I at least had a goal, to find out about libraries and education in SL. But many people come in just to check it out.

Besides other newbies, you are likely to meet first SL exotic dancers, escorts (hookers) or casino shills who haunt new user areas looking for customers or workers. Once outside of the new user areas, your first visits are likely to be to the Second Life casinos that attract customers by promising ‘free money’. Or, you may find yourself in a sandbox where new users are learning SL skills, or more likely, testing their new weapons on you.

So you will naturally conclude that SL is for sex, gambling, and assaulting other residents. If that’s what you want you may continue to return, but many never do. “How do you play this game? I don’t understand…” Is a question I’ve heard many times. It looks like a game, I have an avatar, a gun and great abs, so where are the damned rules?

It’s not a game, it’s a platform

That is, it’s there for you to use. Unlike most other online virtual worlds, like World of Warcraft, the content is created by the residents. It’s the creation of thousands of minds, and is therefore more varied, interesting and unpredictable then anything a single organization could create. And if it exists in real life (RL) someone has or is creating it in SL. Or if it’s something someone can dream of, but never do in RL, they’ll do it here.

“The ability to simulate our world on computers means that we can make it different in ways that empower us, allowing us to do things that in the physical world we can imagine but are incapable of.” (Phillip Linden. The Mission of Linden Lab)

This doesn’t mean you can’t find things to do if you are not interested in building a virtual geodesic dome or creating and selling virtual sex toys. So following is a list of what one could do.

One has conversations

As you take your first baby steps, you meet others. After you drive off the 3 newbies who want to have virtual sex (never mind that they haven’t even gotten a free virtual winky yet) you’ll meet someone who can converse. This is done with keyboard chat. Mostly through happenstance, I have made many friends; artists from Chicago and Australia, librarians and graduate students from Michigan, California, N. Carolina, Massachusetts, Iowa, and Spain, IT professionals from England, scientists from Scotland. I would never have met most of these people any other way. We all share a common interest in this tool called Second Life, but our differing skills and knowledge result in stimulating and sometimes surprising conversations and connections.

One fusses endlessly with ones appearance

Where else can a 51 year old broad acquire a knockout figure with no effort? Where else can you don different hair, gender, race or species everyday? The conformity of avatars is a bit depressing; there are a lot of Barbie dolls and GI Joe types. But there are many fantastical and creative avatars. I currently look human, wear purple hair and a very loud tie-dye tee-shirt with my jeans, but hope to become stranger as my skills in creating here improve.

One acquires objects, notes and landmarks

A newbie avatar is offered a variety of “freebies”, clothing, skin, hair, and other items. For instance, most avatars quickly acquire wings, a cigar and a beverage. Figuring out how to wear the objects is usually task number 3, after learning to walk and talk.

Notes are freely distributed to bother you with explanations and help. Most newbies are too disoriented to actually read them however. But eventually you’ll find your inventory full of 200 old notes. Landmarks help you teleport (TP) from one site to another. (One telltale sign of a newbie is that they fly or walk everywhere). You can make them, or receive them, or give them to someone else.

One listens to music and goes dancing

Beyond conversing, you can attend SL concerts, dance parties, or just sightsee. There are a growing number of musicians streaming live performances into SL, some of them even good. These performances are often held in some of the best SL places. In December I attended an electronic music performance at the Alpha Space Station. This celestial auditorium is suspended above a virtual Earth. Combining music, video, and special effects it was a concert you could only attend in the Metaverse.

Yes avatars can dance, with the help of dance animations. Whether at a club or a private island, avatars can groove independently, in couples (yes, you can tango), or all together. It is oddly fun. And the music is often quite good. If it is not live, then an SL DJ or radio station is providing the music, so you can become a DJ too.

One builds and appreciates other’s builds

A “build” refers to the environments and objects created by others. I’ve done a few of my own, including a cottage and a cloister. Some of my favorites created by others are a sky geodesic dome, a French cathedral, and an island devoted to sound sculptures. Last night I spent an hour with several friends playing with a huge virtual instrument (Cantata Park I). And we got to meet and chat with the artist.

One is educated and informed

There are many SL organizations conducting classes in how to build and script in the SL platform. There are many educational institutions that have their own private areas where classes meet, such as CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion, a class being offered at Harvard Law School. Last week I attended a presentation sponsored by the Michigan Library Consortium. Over forty people attended from all over the country. InfoIsland II, part of the same island complex, has the Science Center with 3D exhibits that model everything from a fullerene to a paramecium. Nearby is Health Info Island which offers consumer health information and resources for research activities. University of California at Davis has created a virtual simulation environment called “Virtual Hallucinations” to demonstrate the kinds of hallucinations schizophrenics experience. I’ve started a group for library and information science graduate students. We meet regularly to talk and learn about libraries in Second Life.

One gossips

I’m hardly alone in blogging about SL. Many blogs and publications now grind out daily articles about almost every angle you can imagine; business, art, fashion, features about places and people. This includes several tabloid publications that focus obsessively on a small number of famous SL avatars, and endlessly critique and speculate about Linden Lab, its practices, plans, and future. So one can read about Second Life, and one can write about it too, and you may even find a readership (I have at least three, four if you are reading this).

One commits sex, gambling and violence

Oh, and you can buy virtual genitals and engage in cartoon porn. Every practice you don’t want to imagine happens here. But its great popularity makes me think it could actually benefit the planet; birth rates and STD’s might plummet if a large portion of the population finds their partner of choice in another avatar. So of course, there is also a lot of emotional drama, romance, and betrayal.

Casinos are a big draw in SL; not only do they let you waste your patrimony; they usually feature pole dancers and escorts. And you can get weapons and use them. There are a number of SL places for gamers to go where use of weapons is allowed and expected; residents have built gaming environments. However, many SL residents find it more entertaining to commit mayhem in the peaceful population, and are known as “griefers”. The most common assault is to try to cage another avatar and send them flying into the stratosphere, or push them into another sim. But they can also blow apart an area with a nuke, sick annoying objects onto another (the horrid “banana phone”), or try to make a few bucks by armed robbery.

One satirizes Second Life

People who prefer to see things from the cynical side abound in Second Life, as it is such fertile ground for satire. Because, face it, except for you and a select group of friends, most other people are pretty lame and SL lets them demonstrate it to the world. There is a whole subculture outing SL’s ridiculous or seamy side in blogs and YouTube, such as Machinima video “Second Life: The Virtual Utopia of the Future”, or Shiplog of the U.S.S. Prokofy Neva (Prokofy is an annoying SL personality famous for “blogorrhea”).

One builds skills and knowledge

3D virtual worlds are no longer just an entertainment tool. We will be using them. In just a few years, they will probably be as ubiquitous as wikis and blogs. Corporations will use them for distance meetings. Instructors will use them to conduct classes. Businesses will use them to help customers shop. Families and friends will use them to get together over long distances. So I am getting ready.