Sunday, April 13, 2014

Playin Around with Second Life Virtual World

For my final project I played around with Second Life (SL) Virtual World. Signing up was relatively easy; upon entering I was asked to chose an avatar, a simulated, 3-D representation of yourself that can take many forms, from human to robot to animal and even vampire. Next, I created a user name and password before being prompted to download the SL software to your computer. A few minutes later SL was loaded and up and running. Besides my avatar there were several others that first appeared on the home island, and like a toddler, the first thing I learned was how to walk; the next was how to fly. The object of the first challenge was to get off the island via the portal at the end of the path. Suffice it to say navigating an avatar over paths, around buildings, and through people was clunky and difficult. The arrow keys control movement and there was a noticeable lag time between pressing the keys and my avatar moving, testament, I’m sure, to the four-year-old Intel processor I was using.

Last week I stated that the SL platform was no longer in use in today’s libraries, but utilizing the search feature I found several academic libraries on SL, including Stanford University, Texas State University, and the San Jose State SLIS program. Another interesting place a came across was the Rockcliffe University Library and Reference Center, and after some research I was able to ascertain that Rockcliffe University, while not an accredited university, was an online organization “dedicated to the advancement of science, education, and research in 3D virtual environments.” What all these “worlds” had in common was their lack of people; the two worlds I started in were littered with avatars, but the libraries were deserted, no patrons and no librarians. What they did have were information stations or kiosks, some interactive, some not, containing different information about the library, the institution, or the collection. Ironically, among the books on display at Rockcliffe University Library and Reference Center was “The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry)” by Siva Vaidhaynathan.

A "Book Room" at Rockcliffe University Library and Reference Center
Interactive Information Stations at Stanford University Libraries

Of the issues that arose, I would say that ease of use and computer shelf life were the two important ones that need to be taken into consideration especially when talking about the types of services librarians offer to their patrons. A platform like SL requires a high-speed connectivity that can sustain HD graphics, long-term or multiple users, as well as communicability. Most public libraries today have access to high-speed broadband but we know that there are still many without that capability. Along with this is usability. I am a novice at SL but even after a couple of hours of navigating several different worlds, I could not properly negotiate my avatar. Granted, most librarian avatars just stand behind a desk and answer questions, but on the off chance you are asked to direct a patron to another section of the “library”, the ability to seamlessly navigate and still provide quality reference service is key. As the librarian I interviewed put it, SL would require a high level of multitasking, to stay on point in both the virtual and real world.  And while the academic community has still found use for SL, it seems the public library has abandoned the venture for now, yet only time will tell. For my part, I found the library spaces on SL very useful, relaxing, and creative, and with the right marketing, a great way to reach a new segment of library goers.    

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