An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube by Michael Wesch

I caught this on Webmonkey yesterday and was blown away by this video production that Michael Wesch presented to the Library of Congress on June 23, 2008. Dr. Michael Wesch is an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, and is doing some very interesting work in the field of digital ethnography.

This is a truly fascinating presentation:

More information can be found at Mediated Cultures, and at Anthrovlog.

Check out this list of projects going on at MIT’s Convergence Culture Consortium.

It’s an amazing field and well worth watching what these people are doing.

2008 Metaverse Tour

This was posted to Facebook recently by John McMullen. Here’s what caught my eye: “There are more than 300 million registered participants in non-game Social Virtual Worlds.”  The quote comes from K Zero – a virtual worlds consultancy.

This YouTube has great video clips of a number of virtual worlds interspersed with fantastic quotes. Take seven minutes and check it out.

Blurring the Lines


We continue to blur lines between real and not real, as well as human and non-human. Once we get people thinking of robots as people, will this make exploration of Mars as exciting as humans on the moon? How long before they make these things look like R2D2 and C3PO so we can actually care about them as we do people?

I think we’re going to see a lot more of this humanization of objects, along with the use of Second Life as a “You are There” type of platform. Once we have online social relationships with NASA’s equipment, along with it’s employees, it seems like the next logical step will be increased interest and funding. The fact that NASA is early with the use of this stuff – Second Life, social networking, creating relationships – makes me wonder about some things:

Are they just quick to jump on the opportunity?

Does NASA have a marketing team? Or just smart, fun employees?

Is this stuff working for them because deep down we still have romantic dreams of space?

Why aren’t other scientific organizations building friendships on social networking sites? (I haven’t found any on FB, although there are tons in SL.)

Here’s an interview with the Phoenix Mars Lander:

By the way, Phoenix is one of my friends on Facebook which is how I found out about “her” recent interview.

LibraryThing for Libraries

I blogged about LibraryThing a couple of years ago as a great tool for readers. But it’s also a great tool for libraries.

One of the very popular programs presented at the library where I work is a series called Brown Bag Book Reviews. Staff members review some of their latest finds while the audience snacks on cookies or eats their lunch. It’s a great way for patrons to pick up some new titles and authors, and they love to hear the reviews.

In our last web incarnation, I had put the lists of the books reviewed on our site – basically, a separate list for each date we did the reviews. Books were listed alphabetically by author – not an easy way to find something you’re looking for, but better than nothing as I worked on building a searchable database. The idea was to come up with a way for patrons who, for example, loved everything reviewed by Carol, to easily find all Carol’s titles. Or if they missed last January’s review program, they could sort the data to find everything reviewed that date.

It occurred to me recently that everything I was trying to put into the database (title, author, reviewer’s name, review date) was able to be done easily on LibraryThing, with no need for me to try to become a master at MySQL or PHP. I had one of those “D’oh!” moments.

I brought this up at a meeting and one of our new librarians enthusiastically jumped at the chance to create our Brown Bag LibraryThing catalog, and tagged the items for easy sorting.

Take a look at our catalog and see what we’ve all been reading. If your library maintains lists of titles for various things, this is a great way to put it out there for the public.

Banned Books and Censorship: Big Read Event at Webster Public Library

Tonight: Wednesday, May 21 at 7 p.m.

Webster Public Library
980 Ridge Road West
Webster, NY 14580

This evening of lively discussion features three wonderful speakers on the topic of banned books and censorship. This program will be an intriguing look at thought control appropriate for adults and teens.

Red Star: Science Fiction Under Soviet Dictatorship
Censorship usually means destroying books and their writers. But presenting ideologically correct views is as much a part of dictatorial societies as suppressing dissident ones.
David Pascal discusses how Soviet Science Fiction was used to foster and advance the views of one totalitarian state, how some Soviet authors used the form to question and transcend state policies, and why writing produced under Soviet rule has continuing relevance for writers and readers today.

Burning Books and Bodies in the Middle Ages: Peter Abelard and Johannes Trithemius
Sarah Higley is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Rochester, New York. Her primary interests lie in northern medieval literatures with an early emphasis on language, linguistics, and poetic structure. Her later work in fantasy and science fiction led her to explore medieval and modern notions of magic, machinery, monstrosity, and artifice. Her recent publications investigate the early origins of the werewolf, the medieval concept of the “robot,” and manifestations throughout time of “simulacra”– lately, miniatures and constructed languages. This last interest has inspired her book on Hildegard of Bingen’s “Lingua Ignota” (Unknown Language). She is also a published author of fantasy and science fiction and a Teleplay for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a member of the writing group: “Rochester Speculative Literature.”

Censorship in Communist Romania: An Uncensored View
Gabriel Prajitura will give an insider’s view on the suppression of literature in communist Romania. Dr. Prajitura will bring along a book that was edited by communist censors. He will give a first-hand account of what happens when a work is deemed “unacceptable” by the government, as well as the repercussions of thinking independantly in a land where thought is governed by the Party.

Set Your Mind on Fire! The Big Read Goes Virtual

The Big Read comes to Cybrary City II on Wednesday, May 14 at 5:00 pm (SLT). Join us as Rebekah Cavan leads a lively discussion of Fahrenheit 451, censorship and the value of books at The Monroe County Library System Amphitheater in Second Life.

The discussion starts at 5:00 pm SLT, but get there early to save your favorite books from the bonfire before it’s too late!


Psychological Upswing of Virtual Worlds

This article from Wired goes back a few months – it’s from January. But it’s still relevant.

Anyone involved with Second Life is likely to know that NASA has made a large commitment to virtual worlds and their potential for reinvigorating public interest in the space program. I’ve attended and blogged on some of NASA’s mixed reality events. It’s a fantastic medium for open discussion.

What’s particularly heartening about the Wired article is the fact that NASA sees the huge potential of connecting lonely astronauts with their loved ones through virtual worlds. If you’ve been in-world, you know how real it feels to have a conversation with another avatar, compared to sending an email or even using the phone. It feels like you’re really in the same space, in real time, sharing a moment with another person. For long-distance relationships, this really is the next best thing to being there.

bnet: Present like Steve Jobs

I’ve signed up for email newsletters from bnet. The information provided is concise and highly useful. This video, in particular, is worth sharing with anyone who has to give a presentation. Whether your presentation is a one-time thing or if speaking is what you do for a living, there are tips here that will help you do a better job, and ultimately reduce that anxiety so many of us feel when we give a lecture. All in a seven minute video.

After the video, check out bnet’s crash course on presenting like Steve Jobs. Cost? $0. You can’t beat that!

Roll Your Own Multi-touch Display

Were you totally wowed by Microsoft’s Surface? Trying to figure out how to come up with $10K so you can have one for yourself? Save some cash and build your own instead! Technology Review has an article on Eyebeam engineers who created an open source version, and there’s a nice exploded-view image of it at Gizmodo. At a mere 500 bucks for parts and some hands-on building time, who wouldn’t put this multi-touch table on their wish list?

And just as a reminder: Microsoft didn’t invent this technology. Here’s a fantastic video of Jeff Han showing his multi-touch display for Perceptive Pixel, and another from Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab.

Cool stuff. : )

Library Terms that Users Understand

It’s been a while since I’ve written about web design, but this came across my radar screen this morning and I found it to be very bookmark-worthy:

We tend to forget that terms like “catalog” or “database” can be confusing to users. John Kupersmith’s site is a much needed reminder that we have to think like a patron and limit the use of library terminology.

One Big Library

This came in my email today:

Announcing the One Big Library Unconference


When: Friday 27 June 2008, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Where: The Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

It seems like there are lot of different kinds of libraries:
public libraries, school libraries, university libraries, college
libraries, law libraries, medical libraries, corporate libraries,
special libraries, private libraries. But really there’s just One Big
Library, with branches all over the world.

The One Big Library Unconference is a one-day gathering of
librarians, technologists, and other interested people, talking about
the present and future of libraries.

It’s organized and sponsored by York University Libraries and
members of the YUL Emerging Technologies Interest Group: Stacy Allison-
Cassin, William Denton, and John Dupuis.

In an interconnected world, all physical and virtual libraries can
really be thought of as branches of One Big Library. We would like to
get together and explore that concept. Areas of interest:

* The future of libraries
* Collaboration on building One Big Library collections and
* Uses of social software in libraries
* Tools to support and extend the One Big Library

Our goals are:

* Bringing people interested in the future of libraries
together with the hope of sparking collaboration and cooperation
* Starting conversations between people in different kinds of
libraries, and people inside and outside libraries

Virtual World Hits the Road

Is your first life getting in the way of your second life? Does your avatar get cranky if left unattended too long? Are real life meetings a bore compared to in-world events? Pop into Second Life whenever you want, using your mobile phone.

Vollee has just released a video demonstrating Second Life running on a mobile phone. The application is still in beta, but you can sign up at

The app is free, but you’ll need to know a) if your phone is compatible (check the website) and b) what your phone service charges for airtime. If I can get my phone to run the program, I’ll be reviewing the usability of the application in the very near future.