The Wonders of the Press

It’s good news at a university when you get quoted in the press. I was quoted in Fox News (I’m going to let you decide whether that is good news or bad). The real problem was the quote used…it lacks a bit of context. The quote at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,269685,00.html could well tick off some very good librarians that I have said, and will restate here, are doing some very good work in Second Life (take a look at my responses here http://blogs.ala.org/districtdispatch.php?title=ala_wo_lecture_in_second_life&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1). So I wanted to add some context to the following quote:

R. David Lankes, an associate professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, sees virtual-world communication as no more than a novelty.

“I set up an office in ‘Second Life’ — and I was addicted for a whole week,” he says. “I taught a class in ‘Second Life,’ and at one point I realized we were just chatting. We could do that over IM.”

So here is the rest of the context that didn’t make it into the quote. As I have said with all technologies, we need to figure out when and where this technology is useful. For me, with my limited Second Life experience, I couldn’t do more than IM with wings. I look at what the Second Life Library Group and Information Archipelago are up to as pioneering work where they are working past my limitations to figure out the when’s where’s and why’s.

I also think Second Life is just getting started. It needs to better figure out how to incorporate large volumes of data. If you want to read a 100 page paper, Second Life doesn’t accommodate it well. If you want to create a 3D model based on 500,000 data points, Second Life is not there yet. That’s not to say it won’t, but it just isn’t there yet. I also think sometimes the environment is too slavish to the physical world thing. I want to build a building with a hundred thousand rooms. I want that building to literally rearrange it self dynamically when I enter it, so that the rooms I care about the most are closest to me. When you enter the building all the rooms should automatically reshuffle themselves to your interests.

Will these things be taken care of? Certainly. As bandwidth and computing power rise, and the ability to stream more media types at higher resolutions to the environment increase, Second Life will get better. It will get better because librarians are there finding and pushing the limits of the technology, and then helping to overcome these limits.

So there you go. I’m not a Second Lifer. Not because I dismiss the technology as a novelty, but because I haven’t found it’s true potential in what I do…yet. Since the time of this interview I have worked with ALA to give a lecture in Second Life that was very interesting. I really want to do more of them (if you have a Second Life “speaking” opportunity, let me know). In the meantime, I look forward to learning more about Second Life’s growing potential.

So please, I would ask that you not take this quote as a blanket dismissal of Second Life. I also apologize that I gave a quote that could be used against the kind of innovation librarianship so desperately needs.

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