Bradley Johnston Fiesta 6
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1 - Second Life and LibraryThing are both types of social networks. Compare your experiences with each. Then, compare them with a third social network (i.e., LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Whyville, Footnote) you've explored on your own. Describe what you consider to be the positive and negative aspects of each social network you explored. Which is your favorite? Why? How has this experience expanded your thinking about social networks?
I was very impressed with Second Life. The format offers a number of pros, including the ability to customize one's avatar, interact as humans do in real-life (which includes gesturing, dancing, walk, not to mention looking into someone's eyes). In addition, it enables an enormous amount of creativity, in that one can build nearly anything. On my tour, for instance, I was particularly impressed by the Globe Theater recreation, as I have been there and it was a very similar to the original. Second Life also features a functioning economy, which enables artists to profit from their work. Also as with other social network, it allows people to "become someone else." With Second Life, this is encouraged and appreciated. One example of this is the plays that occur in the virtual Globe Theater. They can attract individuals who would otherwise be too timid to try out for plays in the real world.
Negatives of Second Life include it requiring a fast Internet connection and higher-end graphics card. I noticed the experience was markedly different when I tried it out on my laptop, which has a low-end graphics card, than when I was on my desktop, which has a higher-end graphics card. Another negative is related to this: the graphics even on a high-end machine are dated. It may be that upgrades can fix this to some point because during our tour, we did see some areas that looked better than others. The functioning economy can also be a negative in that for a person to have property on Second Life they must pay a fee.
LibraryThing is a great service for cataloging and managing one's personal library. Some of the interesting features of the service are that you can find e-book and audio book versions of items in one's collection with some at no cost. One can also view interesting statistics such as the male/female and living/deceased authors, the relative obscurity of the collection, and original language of the books. Social features include the ability to compare one's collection against the collections of friends and acquaintances, which could strengthen existing bonds and forge new ones. One can also find out what friends and acquaintances are reading and what they thought of books they have reviewed. One can also join groups for discussion of interests
It seems to be limited to books. It isn't that popular (by Facebook standards), so one may not be likely to find friends on the service.
Facebook enables one to learn about friends interests, friends, and daily lives through profiles, status updates, and with the addition of news feeds the information comes to the user so they don't have to seek it out. In addition, one can connect with others with text, pictures, and audio/visual media. In my opinion, Facebook gets high marks for usability. One can now export or delete all data. Finally, the service is very popular, so one is likely to find friends, acquaintances, or colleagues to connect with.
Facebook is typically for social purposes and has a more limited value in business environments. On a related note, one has limited control over what others post on your wall; one can delete it later, but by that point, the damage may already be done. Managing preferences still is in need of improvement, particularly privacy preferences. With the amount of information available through Facebook, it also carries a high degree of potential for cyber-stalking, which could turn into real-life stalking.
I think my favorite service is Facebook because it allows one to keep in contact with old friends, loved ones, etc. on a level and with such ease that has never before been possible. One thing that Facebook is working to address is that we all play a role in our social groups and our roles in some groups can conflict with our role in others. As long as Facebook allows us to keep these groups separate, then it will continue to be a powerful social tool.
I used to think that all of the disparate social networks needed to merge but now I see that all sub-communities have their strengths: LibraryThing users tended to be more affluent, Facebook users more social etc. It is these strengths that bond users together and make the users part of the group.
2 - What did you find most interesting about Second Life? Has Second Life changed your thinking about virtual worlds and the future of the Internet? What feature did you like the best? What other features would you like to see added? Create and share a SLurl so your classmates can visit a site in Second Life you consider great for teaching and/or learning.
Through its use of avatars and third-person/first-person perspective options, Second Life is unique in that it allows you to interact in much the same manner as one would in real-life. Going into the assignment, I must admit having a negative impression of Second Life. I saw it as a fad, but after seeing the features presented in the field trip, I can see the potential of such virtual worlds.
The two things I would change about Second Life are to upgrade the graphics and improve the controls. Second Life’s developers could really benefit from copying some of the control innovations found in today’s video games.
In addition to sharing a SLurl, I thought I would share a photo album of an up and coming Second Life-like alternative called Blue Mars.
My friend is currently working on a recreation of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition Simulation (World’s Fair) in Blue Mars. Here is a Flickr photostream from the Ball State-based group working on it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/idia_lab/5162451265/in/photostream/
As one can see, they have done a fabulous job. Here are a couple videos about the project: http://www.youtube.com/user/IDIALab#p/a/u/0/m0gsE4CYSQw
Blue Mars uses the Crysis2 engine, which is why the graphics are so much better than Second Life. Nothing against Second Life I think the increased graphical realism holds tremendous promise for teaching opportunities, particularly for virtual field trips. I will say that the downside is that it requires a beefy computer. It nearly brought my slower machine to its knees.
As far as a SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Mont%20Saint%20Michel/79/35/21
This is a 1:1 recreation of the Le Mont Saint-Michel. They did a fantastic job with it and it could serve as an excellent virtual field for a class interested in architecture, France, or history. Before visiting, I would recommend that you take a look at the Wikipedia page, as it helps one to realize the significance of such a place. It is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Saint-Michel.
3 - What did you find most interesting about LibraryThing? Has LibraryThing changed your thinking about the books you've read or intend to read? What about other types of materials such as music, movies, audiobooks, etc.? What feature did you like the best? What other features would you like to see added?
I really liked the statistics on my collection and seeing which works I am more predisposed to liking. I also liked the forums; they are a nice way to connect with people with similar interests. I looked at a couple of reviews for books I loved and saw several books that really intrigued me in the recommendations sections. I think it would be helpful to have music and movies because we really are a mixed-media culture but the fact that it is only books seems to attract a more affluent demographic which is apparent in the reviews. I liked seeing how many other LibraryThing users owned my books. It is interesting to see that most had a “classics” slant.
One thing I would add to the service is a "loaned to" field because one of my biggest annoyances is loaning a book to a friend and then forgetting who I have loaned it to.
4 - What can you learn through an online community like Second Life or LibraryThing? Give an example. Do you think these technologies will have an impact on teaching, learning, and libraries? Why or why not? How can you see social communities being applied in the area of inquiry?
I think that you can learn a lot of things. First of all, they are great excuses to learn how to be comfortable working with technology. In using them, students as well as instructors will become better at using computers. Second, I believe that they are useful for conducting “virtual” field trips and stimulating discussion. For example, a trip to Le Mont Saint-Michel could serve to stimulate discussions about the architectural or historical significance of the non-virtual version. It is a very different experience getting to walk in the building than looking at static pictures. While it might not be as good as actually visiting, it is a cost-effective alternative.
Going back to stimulating discussions, social communities offer the advantage of a wealth of perspectives on a given subject. I think an excellent example of this in action is Slashdot.org, a news site dedicated to covering technology which features an active community of software programmers and designers. The site’s members have the ability to reward comments that are insightful, which leads to some very interesting and deep discussions. I would highly recommend anyone check it out to see a great example of a social community applied to software inquiries. Be prepared for a heavy open-source slant.
Stackoverflow.com is another example that looks at programming problems. Think of it as Yahoo Answers for programming. Such projects will continue to flourish as the community becomes bigger and more skilled.
I enjoy your suggestions about other social networks. Many of the cons about Facebook are part of the reason that I don't use it. There's too much risk involved.
I also liked your interest in Library Thing. Many of the books in your library are some of my favorites, like The Great Gatsby, 1984, and Animal Farm.
And I also liked your Second Life worlds, particularly The Globe Theatre and the Saint Michel one. They both present wonderful views. I could certainly use that Stackoverflow.com. :D
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