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Archive for October, 2007

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I went to see Dr. Michael Wesch present last week at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. While his name may not yet be a household word, his viral video on YouTube, “The Machine is Us,”  may very well be. Published in February 2007, the video has received 3,634,385 hits on YouTube, as of this morning. 

Wesch is back with two new videos.

In A Vision of Students Today, students from his classes surveyed themselves and presented the results in an interesting and captivating way. Here is a preview of what you will see in the movie, (made in I statements by the students):

  • 18% of my teachers know my name
  • I complete 49% of assigned readings, only 26% are relevant to my life
  • I buy hundred dollar textbooks that I never open
  • I will read 8 books this year, 2,300 web pages & 1,281 facebook profiles

In Information R/evolution, Wesch contrasts the old ways of storing and organizing paper information with the new digital information age. Excerpts from the video include:

  • Wikipedia has 7.5 million articles from nearly 283,000 contributors (as of Oct 2007) 

  • We organize the information ourselves which is stored without folders or restricted categories  

  • We no longer just find information; we can make it find us

The release of both videos occurred in the same week as Wesch’s presence here in Minnesota. Here are some notes I took from his talk, which closely followed his Information R/evolution video:

 

     91% of YouTube videos is original material; there are 71 million blogs, and 60 billion emails. Less than .01% of  information today is on paper

      Blogging teaches us that anyone can be a creator of content; Wikis show us that our information can be better than the content of professionals, and RSS feeds have taught us that information can find us

     We are still using the assumptions of paper information in our current teaching:

o    That information is scarce, something Marshall McLuhan noted in his 1967 book, The Medium is the Message (which came out when I was a sophomore in high school)

o    That information requires experts

o    That information is a thing (i.e., book)

o    That information is located somewhere (on a shelf, in a folder)

o    That information is categorized

 

Today, he said, we originate materials ourselves, without folders and without bounded categories. We don’t need complex hierarchies to find information and links alone (and social bookmarking) are enough. 

 

So what’s the lesson in the ubiquity of new digital media, according to Wesch?

 

It’s the students who will be deciding how information will get sorted and prioritized on the Web. It’s their clicks that determine what gets on the front page of Digg or gets most tagged on Del.icio.us. It’s how we train them in media literacy that is key. He imagines two possible scenarios for the future:

  1. We don’t adequately train our students in media literacy, in which case the vast amount of information will be produced by a handful of people who have the money to push out information they want us to see. At which time, info WILL again be scarce and we’ll see even more advertising.
  2. We do adequately train our students, in which case we get lots of information and content creation from many people. This will be fertile ground for librarians, who can then play a key role in creating informational value in the links.

To adequately train them, among other things, Wesch said we need to teach students how Google, for example, works – where first-returned results can be the product of those who pay their way to the top. We need to teach them how the filters work so they can be better informed.

Links to learn more about Dr. Wesch:

 

His bio at KSU: http://www.ksu.edu/sasw/anthro/wesch.htm

His blog, Digital Ethnography: http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/

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Ok, another post on virtual worlds and immersive learning environments. Sorry, but this is a huge focus of my work these days, and I’m going to be pit bull-esque on this topic, for a while. 

I just came off of a couple of days this week filled with meetings and discussions having to do with 3D virtual worlds. In fact, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Melissinos, Sun Microsystems’ Chief Gaming Officer on two occasions this week. I think Chris would describe himself as a gaming parent raising gaming children.

Chris Melissinos  

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In my attempt to understand the differences among the existing 3D gaming engines, I think I finally have a handle on what distinguishes Sun Mircosystems’ new MPK20 (built on top of the Project Darkstar server infrastructure) from Second Life or the Croquet Project. Although the latter two are considered Open Source, whatever is built in those platforms, stays in those platforms. Conversely, Sun’s MPK20 (geez, that’s a techie name) will use open API’s which means any assets you want to work with (e.g., objects, tools, buildings, your own avatar) will be importable and exportable.

One thing you will be able to do with MPK20 is use other applications right in it.  So distributed teams of people, for example, can gather ’round a kiosk showing a Visio flow diagram or a 3D engineering model. The team can then work on building the model together in this virtual space, talking to each other via VoIP. You might say, well, we can do this presently in existing Web conferencing tools which offer desktop or application sharing, so why do we need to do it in a virtual space? 

I’m not sure I can answer this yet, but Chris would say, the virtual world is a train with no brakes – you can either get on the train or stay on the tracks. That the developers are adding the functionalities we already value, I believe is a good thing. But whether 3D worlds hold positive prospects for you or not, one distinction is worth noting. Instead of being an observer of what’s occurring in one dimensional software programs, with 3D worlds you actually become part of the environment momentarily forgetting about the physical space you occupy. People who are comfortable in these worlds likely will have a leg up on future careers.

The push of the 3D applications among other things, is proof that people are looking for a deeper means of approximating real connection with each other in the digital world. What’s is likely to occur once practiced in multiple 3D spaces is a blurring between one’s real self and one’s virtual self, as people seamlessly use one of their “selves” to meet up with people, transact business, or teach or take courses. Die-hard gamers may already know this phenomenon.

Chris envisions that sooner or later, we will have access to virtual world (VW) identities where we only have to create one avatar which will be universally recognized after logging in. Applications will have layers of security, just as commercial sites have now via https (or the padlock) so we can choose when to render personal information or more importantly, when and how to share information and products such as course curriculum, that we build inside the VW.

Here’s another Sun video, well-worth watching. It’s their new MPK20 virtual workplace demo video, fresh off the virtual cutting floor. (October 2007).

You’ll need Quick Time V7.0 to view it.

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Here’s a link to an article posted just today by the San Jose Mercury News, naming the various contenders in the virtual world domain.

 A quick excerpt:

“Computers may need to be more powerful. During a presentation last month, Intel senior fellow Justin Rattner estimated that a virtual, 3-D environment could require a 100-fold increase in the computational power of servers and place three times the load on personal computer chips.”

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