Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Librarians in SL

Discussions held in Centre: 1 (good); Successful discussions held in Centre: 1 (v. good); People attending: 10 plus lurkers in RL (good)
On Tuesday 4th September Maggie Kohime (Lyn from Sheffield University Library in RL) led a discussion in the Centre for Information Literacy Research, Eduserv Island. The full title was How should Librarians present themselves in Second Life, or Facebook, My Space or other social networking tools, with a professional or a personal face?
The transcript is online split into two parts at and
10 people were there (including us) and the debate was lively (i.e. a good deal of parallel conversations going on). However they were interesting parallel conversations, and Maggie did a good job of leading and summarising. And certainly better than 10 avatars sitting in a ring with AWAY over their heads, as is nightmare of discussion organisers (well, actual nightmare is, say 3 people turning up and all 3 disappearing in puff of smoke after 5 minutes - or 50 avatars turning up and you can't get them all on the island. But silent fidgety avatars is pretty bad).
Anyway there was none of that at this session and a range of issues got discussed. In our group some had alternative avatars for different occasions though more did not. (Some) people were buying clothes, but not so much playing with appearance.
The discussion raised questions about the librarians' role - why they are there - and also the "conservative nature of some students and staff inc. expectations that you should look "normal". Towards the end there was mention of intellectual property, liability issues etc. and I have flagged that up as a future topic.
Is there an equivalent of the RL stereotype of bun and glasses, or of "smart casual". It seemed like there did seem to be norms emerging, though not exactly the same as in RL.
Maggie provided some questions for discussion:
1. How do you decide on how you want your avatar to appear?
2. How many of us recreate ourselves as closely as possible in Second Life, make ourselves look how we would wish to look in RL or even have a different looking avatar for different days of the week? (Amdahl, 2006)
3. Do we need to label who we are? (e.g. "Librarian" - opinion was divided - or, rather, it seemed to depend on the context)4. If our students become our ‘friends’ within the social networking environments how do we keep our professional and our social lives separate?
5. How do we ensure privacy and confidentiality as we start to develop an academic virtual world?
Things which seemed to work: 1) Having a notecard prepared for people (again); 2) Having 2 people involved, so one can concentrate on facilitating and the other on helping people; 3) Planning for what to do if too many people turn up (we were going to go to the Eduserv conference centre, had the teleport link all ready).
And after the meeting I tidied up and played with the rabbits.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the experience. I did think at one point that there were rather alot of parallel conversations going on which is when I first tried to summarise where we were - :-).

I also found it quite difficult to provide a final summary as the conversation had been so fast with everyone talking at once. I think it worked asking individual participants to provide their own conclusion.

I wonder how we would get on if we use the voice facility, perhaps we need to try that next if everyone has the latest version?!

Anonymous said...

It does raise some interesting points, doesn't it?

For me the joy of Sl is being able to create an avatar that is far removed (unfortunately!! How I would love wings!!) from what I look like in RL. My feeling would be that, within reason, professionals' avatars should have the same freedom. After all, SL is very much about creativity and I'm sure it would enhance the student / Librarian relationship if they were witness to the creativity of their lecturers.

However, I do know some who use different avatars for different jobs, especially in the counselling sector where it helps to have male and female avatars. A lass I know who works for the SL Police, understandably wears a uniform, yet when she is running her Mission she wears the most delightfully flamboyant outfits.

I don't know how I'd feel about giving up, for instance, my wings for my work - they are such an integral part of my persona in SL, I'd feel naked without them. But I guess I'd have to see and make the decision based on the work I was carrying out at the time.

And there's that problem again - what if the relationship with a student goes beyond the student / teacher scenario and friendships develop? Are such SL friendships to be treated with the same caution that they would have in RL?

Hmmmm ....

PS I couldn't imagine you with buns and wearing tweeds!

Sheila Yoshikawa said...

Thanks for your comments, Maggie and Citril. I was thinking today that having 2 people introduce different questions during the discussion might make it easier to get people to "close" one question and move onto the next. On the other hand, I do think a number of interesting points emerged and it was nice that there was such an active discussion. As Maggie says, there were sometimes parallel conversations taking place and it is difficult to concentrate on more than one thread (at the time) Transcripts are definitely useful from that point of view.

Also you could take a focus group approach, with one person being an observer, who also has the role of summariser - easier to do that if you aren't trying to participate. I think that collaborative teaching is particularly valuable in SL.

I don't have Voice myself at the moment ... I think there will be another set of issues there ...

Citril, I think that it would be as inappropriate to have a relationship in SL with one of your students as it would in RL. Of course there is the issue if the student appears as an alt and you don't realise ... in general I think if you are using an avatar who is doing formal teaching in SL you ought to be careful of what that avatar does altogether in SL. I'm sure this is an area for further debate!! I gather that in North America in RL there is even more caution than in the UK e.g. it is more likely that you wouldn't have a meeting alone with an opposite sex student with the door closed.

Anonymous said...

lol ... just to clarify, having read back my comment, relationship to me meant friendship!

It would be interesting to see how a meeting went with voice. I attended a meeting recently where, on the whole, folk were very focussed on what the leader was saying and kept comments and questions to the pint. But every so often someone would start their own wee conversation, which would then lead to one of the assistants getting, in my opinion, quite ratty and telling everyone to stay focussed on the speaker. At one point I was so fed up with her comments, I was tempted to walk out .... except we discovered the door had locked and noone could get out except via the 3rd floor window. And given how laggy we were, I knew I'd end up trying to walk through folk. I would have TP'd but if I was going to make a point, that wouldn't have had any impact! lol

The blog of Sheila Yoshikawa on her adventures in Second Life. This may be very thrilling. Or possibly not.