A Safe Place to Fail

I attended the Second Life Community Convention in Chicago this weekend. There were four tracks; social, business, education, and machinima. What did this conference have to do with libraries and what were some sessions that I could highlight as examples that relate to teens?

Innovation in Second Life is driven by its residents. Wow-what a powerful practice that many libraries are currently doing and could even do better. My library is currently undergoing an organizational restructuring. Part of the change has to do with putting creativity into the hands of our users. What will this look like? What has it looked like in libraries already? Philip Rosedale, the CEO of Linden Lab, wore a tshirt that said ‘missing image’. This meant, he explained, getting the heck out of the way and again, putting the power in the hands of the users. Can we as libraries continue to create spaces, tools and opportunities that will truly allow our users to explore to their fullest potential?

We should be more concerned about the participation gap rather than the access gap. This thought was echoed several times throughout the conference by foundations such as MacArthur and Microsoft. While they are not denying that access is a concern, they feel that it’s coming faster than those that have the skills and those that don’t. Can you have participation without having access? I think that places an interesting responsibility on communities to offer tools so that students can learn. How do we come together and do that? Again, it’s something libraries do all the time, but what digital skills do some teens have that others don’t? Second Life is a powerful tool for educators. Global Kids, based in New York is coming out with curriculum guidance for teachers to use Second Life as a medium to teach.

Virtual worlds are going to be bigger than the Internet. That was also a frequently stated comment. Sure, when you’re at a conference with like minded people, it seems like that’s the whole world-and everyone else? Surely they’re listening via streaming audio on Second Life at the conference. No-I think it’s more than that and something that libraries can definitely wait to see what happens or they can be early adopters and pioneers and as Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus Notes) said, “you have unbelievably great opportunities to put your stamp, to leave a legacy, to create things which will endure and have value.” What will that look like for libraries to have relevance in virtual worlds and why should we care?

A few examples of presentations to relate to teens:

Global Kids teens presented their machinima from machinima camp this summer. Ten one minute films based on child rights. Teens presented their work at the conference and audience members shared how they/we truly bow down to their expression of storytelling, research gathering, and presentation in a digital medium.

Musicians and dj’s in Second Life predicted that virtual worlds are going to have a huge role in their music performance, participation, and creation. Music is so important to teens-what a great opportunity for a global reach for their art.

Eye4You Alliance Island on the teen grid, sponsored by a public library, presented through a poster session a college fair in October. Teens and colleges from all over the world can come to gather information, share resources, and build community.

The Alliance Library System in East Peoria, Illinois talked about their presence within the virtual world, including Renaissance Island which has period clothing and buildings-including roaming sheep. Imagine teens diving into the Faerie Queen because they can recreate scenes and build community. It’s so cool-it’s hard not to hear the snap of fingers, that lightbulb that goes on, the imagination that has no bounds.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki