My Final Reflection and Virtual Symposium

And somehow, the finale for this class and the semester it inhabits have come to an end. Time is weird in some respects because it feels like to me just yesterday when I submitted my intro blog post while also feeling like it was years ago. It’s been an enlightening and fun journey, though at the end I must admit I’m a bit frazzled from this and my other classes (something which I suspect is not limited to just me). I hope everyone has an enjoyable summer whatever they do, especially now that it appears that we’re finally entering the end of the nightmare of COVID-19, at least in some respects. Personally, I was able to get my second vaccine shot last Wednesday but I’ll probably wear masks in public spaces for a little while longer (and when I have colds).

Regardless, here is my entry to our Virtual Symposium: an infographic on five of my takeaways from the Hyperlinked Library.

Director’s Brief: A look at the Implementation of Virtual Reality in Libraries

Objective:

To introduce Virtual Reality technology, give an appraisal of the what the technology can offer, and posit strategies for creating services that take advantage of VR in the library while working with both librarians and patrons.

Executive Summary:

A look into the way we consume information in the digital age accelerated by the COVID-19 Pandemic that forced us to use virtual services in place of traditional real ones. Also, as technology has allowed videos and pictures to be readily available their powers of immersion have waned. Plus, as we ingest information through screens on smartphones and computers that create a divide between the viewer and the device that keeps it from becoming an alternative for real experiences. However, by using Virtual Reality (VR) technology we break through the barrier between our eyes and screens towards experiences that mimic that of real life as if we’re actually in the digital worlds VR transmits. Plus, as VR is an offshoot of video games, it allows for a greater interactivity than previous technology. Thus, VR can support constructivist student-led and initiated learning in worlds that can be analogous to our perception of reality. Finally, the paper goes over the benefits of VR in libraries and the beginnings of how and what to implement.

Introduction: Shortening the Distance between the Screen and the Viewer

 As life during the COVID-19 Pandemic has proven, we have been transitioning more and more to a digital ecosystem predicated on the usage of personal computers and smartphones. With applications like Amazon and Uber Eats, goods and services which once required in-person interactions at storefronts are no longer required. And with Zoom and Facetime, social interactions, meetings, and learning can be taken care of within the digital sphere as well. Devices like smartphones and computers, which act as the portals to the digital world, as well as access to Internet has become a prerequisite towards living in society long before the physical realm became dangerous to inhabit.

The saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words” but looking at a picture or a video of the Taj Mahal in India isn’t a valid substitute for actually experiencing it yourself. Long are the days when people would duck out of the way of a movie of a speeding train coming towards them. Society has become inundated with screens and the media within them so much that they’re fast becoming the majority way we view the world. Social Media has become the way information such as news on world events, COVID forced virtual classrooms to replace their physical counterparts, and what seems like all information is just a web search away. But there’s still a disconnect between a person’s eyes and the screen when using these information gathering tools that keeps computers and smartphones from becoming true replacements for real experiences that engender an emotional connection to the information accessed.

Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu

When we look at a picture of Machu Picchu in Peru, such as the one above, we get a fair amount of information from it about the place, mainly it’s beauty. But any information gleamed is limited to the photographer’s (or more accurately their camera’s) perspective. Looking at this picture it’s hard to get any feeling for the size of any of the objects within. Depending on the aspect ratio of the image and the screen of the device accessing the picture, the information can be filtered away that it loses most of the parity with actually standing where the picture was taken. It doesn’t help that a quick Google search can pull up thousands and thousands of images of varying perspectives and quality (which is, in fact, where I got the above picture) making it further lose the ability to really connect empathically with the viewer.

Watching a video, of course gives more information through its movement, editing of different shots, voiceover, graphics, and overall narrative structure. However, it’s still limited to the creators’ viewpoints and the delivery medium. And again, there are a glut of videos on YouTube and other sites on the subject as well.

But through Virtual Reality (VR) viewers can break through both the physical and emotional barriers separating their eyes and mind from the information portrayed on the screen. Videos like the one above, while viewed through traditional devices they allow for movement of the viewpoint through, depending on if it’s a computer or a phone, a mouse click or by moving the device around. But when they’re viewed in a VR headset, they simulate an immersive experience that’s akin to the viewer actually being there without physically inhabiting the place at the time. Plus, users can take a more active role in the world within much more than those of traditional pictures and videos, being able to choose what they focus on by moving their head and body around much like we do in real life (thus further adding to the immersion).

Take the above video, a VR tour of the White House with then President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Viewing it through a VR headset rather than a traditional purveyance, the viewer is able to not only feel like they’re standing in the rooms featured in the video, but in the parts with the President, feel like they’re sitting across from him akin to if they really were (enough to feel like they could simply reach out and touch him). This is because elements within the VR-made media appear to be much the same sizes as they would in real life, not suffering as much from the foreshortening effects implemented by the camera or the monitor.

Interactivity

Furthermore, in software designed for VR, like in the National Geographic Explore game, represented in the video of it above, which allows users to explore both the North Pole and the previously discussed Machu Picchu, their able to take even more of an active role: moving about virtual immersive environments and interacting with objects within (picking them up, moving them, making objects appear and disappear, etc.) while within a game where their actions progress them through the experience. While a video moves forward regardless of user input (except for the rather de-immersive playback buttons) players are in control of how and when the story within progresses. Also, as VR is an offshoot of video game technology, games within the VR console take on beneficial aspects that match with their traditional counterparts. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. An active learning environment where students can learn by interacting with the game. And with the immersiveness of VR, and the fact the control scheme includes aspects congruent with our real life interface, such as head, body, and ambulatory movement even in the traditionally non-interactive medium of video (made for VR content allows for the user to choose what to focus on rather than within the conventional their view is tightly controlled within a rectangle), the effectiveness of the active environment is only enhanced further to levels nearing gaining knowledge in real experiences.   
  2. The games within, as they don’t have any real-world consequences supply the user with a safe space for experimentation without fear of failure. In fact, failure becomes just another opportunity for learning. In real life, unsuccessful surgery would have adverse effects (up to the patient being killed) but in the world of the game the “doctor” can restart the procedure with the knowledge they learned from their mistakes without the causation experienced in the real world. VR can also replicate training that isn’t possible, costly, or isn’t safe to create in real life.
  3. It allows for players, as users of video games are called, the ability to consider and reevaluate their identity. When playing a game, the player has a real world identity (based on who they are and the environmental factors exerted on them), a virtual identity (based on the traits of the game’s player character and societal factors of the game world applied to them), and a projective identity (where the two former identities interface with each other, with the real world identity projecting “one’s values and desires onto the virtual character” (Gee, 2003, 55) and perceiving the virtual identity “as one’s own project in the making, a creature whom (the users) imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by (their) aspirations for what (they) want that character to be and become (within the limitations of (the character’s) capacities, of course).” (Gee, 2003, 55). As VR is much more immersive than traditional video games, the three identities become even more woven together. 
  4. In certain situations, learners can share knowledge in peer groups that are not based on the traditional factors such as race, gender, location, or physical proximity. In their place, these groups are formed by “a common set of endeavors and social practices in terms of which they attempt to realize these endeavors.” (Gee, 2003, 196). Instead of being consumers, they’re able to become collaborators both in-game and by using third-party communication methods and applications. For example, users can create mods that improve upon the game or add features to it. Also, they can create walkthroughs to help other players learn from the original player’s knowledge. Both of these can be shared fairly easily through the internet.

Plus, owing to the immersive and interactive properties inherent in VR technology, it can more fully engage and keep them engaged longer than traditional methods. For example, in Virtual Reality as a Tool for Student Orientation in Distance Education Programs, Sandra Valenti, Brady Lund, and Ting Wang conducted a study into using VR for the purposes of providing new Master of Library Science Students with an orientation they can participate in without actually coming to the campus of Emporia State University. They found that their students were more engaged more and remained in the VR orientation for protracted lengths of time, something that was not featured in traditional distance learning materials where short length is a mandate to combat distracted or bored students. This shows that VR can be an effective alternative to other forms of digital learning, such as in the control group for the study, who saw the same content as the VR group, but by using a computer instead of VR. (Valenti, Lund, Wang, 2020).

Virtual Reality in the Library

Due to the capabilities and benefits of the usage of Virtual Reality technology discussed above in this paper, it is imperative that libraries begin designing plans for using it in their programs, especially within services involving education. Countless museums, including the Smithsonian, the Louvre, and the Anne Frank House, have come out with virtual facsimiles of their grounds and collections that can be experienced using VR without having to physically travel to the institution’s real location. Other locations, such as a crowded ballroom with real or virtual people to give or to practice presenting or created environments with no real-world counterpart, can also be simulated. Additionally, as the technology is just a facsimile of the reality rather than an alternative bound by the same rules, they can go beyond just creating a copy of a location real or imagined. For example, in the Louvre’s Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass is able to show Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting the Mona Lisa as it would be if one to travel to the original’s location while also employing different perspectives such as a version which is able to inhabit and move within the world outside of the painting’s frame akin to a real person.

And in the Smithsonian’s VR program Beyond the Walls allows for users to learn about the artwork featured in the digital representation of the museum while also providing context that would have been impossible or at least difficult to consistently replicate, such as being able to go from the bronze cast of the Adams Memorial in the museum to instantly being transported to the gravesite where the original statue is located. Another example is an offering of a guided tour of Face in the Crowd, a contemporary art piece within “a black box gallery, where video plays asynchronously on three of the walls” (Snyder, 2018) by a 360 video scan of the piece’s author who makes the user feel like she’s in the room with them.

VR can also offer opportunities for classrooms that move beyond both the physical space and methods inherent in a traditional educational environment. Instead of focusing on a model with a teacher up front lecturing to a group of students, they can take on a more constructivist approach where students lead the instruction while creating the knowledge necessary to understand the subject on their own or by working with peers and teachers. The technology can transplant traditional models of learning into the virtual, through representations of the accepted style of classrooms or by allowing for class to be held in digital environments that can be virtual representations of anywhere or even areas based on the imaginations of the creator. The teacher can be actively involved in VR instruction, either as a fellow VR user in the same instance of the environment or by monitoring their charges actions and modifying in-lesson parameters to modify it to meet student needs (of course depending on the content). But it is also possible they can take a less active role, allowing interactive VR content which motivates student-lead learning to take on more of the actual instruction. The teacher can instead be involved with introducing students to the VR programs and possibly be involved in the creation of the content, shifting their focus from day-of learning to more preparation. It’s difficult to quantify what changes will occur before implementation but using the technology will have an impact on both teaching’s and learning’s pedagogies just as implementing video did.

Offering the technology in a library setting allows for, as said previously, users to embark on virtual field trips without having to travel to the physical place. This includes locations that would be otherwise impossible, such as a representation of ancient civilizations and cities, or digital worlds with no real analogue. Another example would be places that cost a lot of money, from other countries to even outer space. Patrons could use the technology to unlock all kinds of experiences all from within the library:

See African Elephants or other animals in their natural habitat
Watch a video of an example of working a job and the environment, such as this video of a film set
Or take part in a VR game that allows interactive training in a safe space where everything, even failure, is a learning experience without real world consequences (no deaths and don’t have to spend money on teaching aids, such as water for firefighters)
Virtually walk through a museum or other institution, such as the Smithsonian or the Anne Frank House
View a narrative VR video that allows, through the immersiveness of the technology, a more visceral emotional reaction than found in traditional videos
Attend a virtual college tour
Experience and modify molecular structures in a world-space where you’re the same size

or all kinds of other experiences that closely mimic actually being there in real life.  

Implementing Virtual Reality in the Library

            Currently, there are two ways to truly access content made for VR as it was meant to be experienced. The first is through dedicated headsets for VR such as those made by Oculus and HTC, which is integrated hardware either tethered to a computer or (more recently) able to function standalone for the processing of VR content. The other is using an enclosure, either made from materials including plastic or even cardboard, for a smart phone to be used as the processor and display for the VR content. Of course, the former is of a greater quality and allows more for more interactivity than the latter, but hardware dedicated to VR is often more expensive than using a phone in an enclosure (depending on the type of smartphone used as they can vary in price). However, headsets are becoming cheaper, with some models like the HTC Vive Pro released in 2018 being $1200, 2019’s HTC Vive Cosmos being about $700, and 2020’s Oculus Quest 2 starting at $300 (Amazon, 2021).

Of course, there are differences in the technology offered for different price points, with something like a Vive Pro having higher technical specifications then cheaper alternatives, but the technology is still becoming cheaper and more accessible. On the other hand, a cardboard enclosure for phone-based VR can run for $5 (Amazon, 2021) or can be made using easy to find parts. Plus, in our society smartphones are becoming so prevalent and integral that a large percentage already have the most expensive component to the cheaper iteration of VR.

Thus, it is recommended for libraries to introduce VR through the usage of the second method, with the first being used for patrons who are more knowledgeable about the technology. Libraries could either supply pre-made enclosures or have visitors craft their own as a project, either with supplied phones, their personal devices, or a fusion of both. This way large groups of people can experience and familiarize themselves with the technology without having to spend large amounts of money. Users could take the cardboard viewers home with them and introduce more people to them and could be made with recycled cardboard already used by the library. Also, they may already be knowledgeable in the usage of their personal phone and thus it’ll be easier to teach them about VR as an addendum to that knowledge rather than teaching them a whole new technology. Additionally, when they become knowledgeable enough to transfer to the dedicated headset version it won’t be as a large of a learning curve in regard to their information on the medium of VR. Plus, patrons knowledgeable in 3D printing could possibly create enclosures using that, thus further allowing VR instruction to be spring boarded from previous library services.  

Both versions can also be implemented on top of previous library services. For example, the library can use Makerspaces computers for those VR headsets that need (or can use) them for their processing power. Videography instruction, if offered through these Makerspaces can also be supplemented with the start of services on teaching and using 360 cameras and editing software for patrons to make their own VR-ready content. Though the cameras would have to be purchased, editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro supports 360 video editing. Rooms used for video and audio recording could also be modified to include the ability to use VR inside, such as what the University of Calgary did with a computer in a repurposed lockable file cabinet, room for maneuverability as VR implements body movement as well as controllers for input to VR software, and a projector for others to watch what the VR user sees. (Hurrell, Baker, 2020). As time goes on, the library spaces and technology could be improved specifically for VR, such as creating a semi-mobile cart with VR accessories, but at least at the beginning it can be started by using already implemented programs to lessen the cost and time necessary for offering services in VR, thus creating a much more gradual implementation rather than creating it all at once. This has the added benefit of allowing the program to organically evolve using librarian and patron experience and feedback rather than just transplanting other libraries’ fully realized programs that may not work in all aspects due to differences in the institutions and the communities they serve. Instead, the technology is able to grow alongside with librarians and patrons’ knowledge of it, thus creating a more organic program that has ties to both parties within the library.

Another part of VR libraries can utilize is including VR-ready videos and software in their cataloguing efforts. There is a glut of content on sites like Youtube, on the online stores of the makers of dedicated VR headsets, and on third party sites like Sidequest which offer user-created content. And the amount of content is constantly expanding with new content uploaded by professionals and amateurs alike. That is why it’s important for libraries to compile their own, well, libraries of content that allows for patrons to cut through the masses of online media and find quality VR content that meeds their needs.

Conclusion

VR offers a new way for accessing information in an immersive and interactive way that creates a virtual experience thats akin to the visual interface of real experiences. It creates an empathic connection that’s not formed in more established forms of media conveyance that boosts engagement with and the digestion of the within due to the immersion created through the technology’s ability to display in 360 degrees in an enclosed space. This link is further helped by the interactivity allowed through the technology being an offshoot of video games which allows users to become collaborators rather then simply viewers like in pictures or video. By being able to control their experience within the digital worlds VR displays, it allows for personal connections to be formed that enhances retention and engagement. An example of this is where after playing a video game people take personal possession of the experiences of the player character within because they’re the one controlling them. Conversely, rarely do they do this when talking about a character in a movie or a television show. There’s a connection between viewer and character, but there’s still a delineation. Plus, with the power VR has as a portal to more realistic viewpoints into countless worlds both real and imagined, there’s no doubt it can enhance the way we view media and, in effect, the information within. Thus, it’s important for the library to provide services allowing the communities they serve access to the technology. But as 1) library budgets are limited and 2) programs should be organically created taking into account both librarians’ and patrons’ needs and opinions, the library should first start by building services off already existing ones like makerspaces. This process lessens culture shock on both sides while also giving them time to allow VR to evolve with input from both sides as they’re introduced to the new technology. Just as the technology creates a immersive connection with users that gives them interactive control, so too must the library go hand-in-hand with patrons, allowing them to shape the process so they take partial ownership of it. If not, it can quickly devolve into an “authority” coming on high to proclaim something to the plebeians like a traditional school where there’s clear separations between teachers and students, which keeps them from truly accepting the technology.

References

Szekely, P. (2007). Early morning in wonderful Machu Picchu [Photograph]. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Machu_Picchu,_Peru.jpg

National Geographic. (2017, September 2). Machu Picchu 101 | National Geographic [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnMa-Sm9H4k

Odyssey Visual Media. (2020, January 21). Machu Picchu in 8k – Immersive 360° VR experience – Peru [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77hJtIrMJ7g&t=195s

Felix & Paul Studios. (2017, May 17). The people’s house – Inside the White House with Barack and Michelle Obama [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqW2qm02jwI&t=157s

Oculus. (2019, November 26). National Geographic Explore | Oculus Quest [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1VILv6Db7I

HTC VIVE. (2019, October 21). Mona Lisa: Beyond the glass at The Louvre | HTC VIVE ARTS [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au_UpzhzHwk

National Geographic. (2018, December 18). Elephant encounter in 360 – Ep. 2 | The Okavango experience. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI7mTIxNotQ&t=134s

ScreenSkills. (2020, June 15). Explore behind the scenes of a film set with first day: on set (360 video) [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsBIR8aN3Ho&t=84s

BBC Click. (2020, September 17). Virtual reality training for the emergency services – BBC Click. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOAOfn9bTDY

Oculus. (2020, October 30). How Hilton uses virtual reality for training | Oculus for business [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KuL3QMgM84

Force Field Entertainment. (2019, July 12). VR experiment Anne Frank House [Video], Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f093i1q71TQ&t=112s

PBS Voices. (2017, January 27). My brother’s keeper | PBS digital studios (360°) [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mo1hMXrkl-8&t=69s

Ithaca College. (2020, February 14). Experience IC in 360° | 360° [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpjuMBKeoaw&t=10s

Nanome. (2018, October 12). Nanome | Virtual reality tools for nanoscale design (10^-9 meters) [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCNbuH9Y6hU

Google for Education. (2016, May 19). Google expeditions: over a million students, on trips to virtually anywhere [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MQ9yG_QfDA

Valenti, S., Lund, B., & Wang, T. (2020). Virtual reality as a tool for student orientation in distance education programs. Information Technology and Libraries39(2). https://doi.org/10.6017/ital.v39i2.11937

Hurrell, C., & Baker, J. (2020). Immersive learning: Applications of virtual reality for undergraduate education. College & Undergraduate Librariesahead-of-print(ahead-of-print), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/10691316.2020.1796879

Gee, J.P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy [Kindle version]. Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Snyder, S. (2018). Possibilities and constraints for virtual visits: Experimental approaches to VR at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. MW18: MW 2018. https://mw18.mwconf.org/paper/possibilities-and-constraints-for-virtual-visits-experimental-approaches-to-vr-at-the-smithsonian-american-art-museum/

Amazon. (2021). HTC VIVE Cosmos. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TWNTGCH/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_HTGYQC4W6SZNFH5WFMVD?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Amazon. (2021). HTC VIVE pro virtual reality system. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B9WPR7G/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_1ZYVAEX2DJB9S674AEA9?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Amazon. (2021). Oculus Quest 2 — advanced all-in-one virtual reality headset —- 64 gb. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F7PTF54/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_KD8H6E0BV39BEHC1KYHC

Recasting the Library: From “Shh!” to Fun

When one thinks of a library, probably the first word that comes to mind is “Shhh!” Popular culture has long posited libraries as the domains of strict librarians who enforce quiet and regimented learning. Like in this commercial for Slim Jims where Macho Man Randy Savage bursts into a library and blows stuff up to save kids from the oppressions of education within a quiet library with a strict frumpy librarian:

Or in this scene from the movie UHF where Conan the Barbarian becomes the Librarian, angrily responding to a patron looking for help and killing another who’s late returning books:

Or the Librarian Ghost from the film Ghostbusters who shushes and then scares the titular characters right out of the library:

In Citizen Kane, the library portrayed in the film is an echoing shadowy place policed by a stern, no-nonsense librarian with nothing besides a large statue of the tacturn founder behind the information desk and a dark room used by guests to read through only the librarian-assigned sections of the library’s documents.

Of course, these examples, like most commercials and films, is a caricatruatizion of its subjects, but they’re based around the public’s perception of the overall environments of libraries. A location where knowledge is accessed and gained, primarily through utilizing the library’s reference materials, but also a domain ruled over by a tyrant where the patron’s decorum is enforced, not by axe wielding ghost librarians, but still enough to suck out any fun from the learning process.

As technology has advanced where information through personal computers and smartphones can be freely and quickly accessed, the importance of the library’s reference materials has been replaced with another function, that of instruction, mainly in information and technological literacy. Additionally, with this technological change people have gone from information and media consumers to collaborators. What once took expensive printing presses and video crews now can be done instantously from a smartphone that, depending on the make and model, is increasingly cheaper than the former technologies. That is why libraries have and should move towards a more active model to match, offering a place for patrons to familiarize themselves with the technology with a helpful librarian who abdicates the despot’s crown for that of a fellow peer, who shares their knowledge with the technology and the morays of information literacy, as both parties experiment and learn. For in this world where information and technology seem to move at the speed of light, with things like TikTok, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, LiDar, etc. it’s next to impossible to delineate between master and apprentice and instead both are comrades in learning. The librarian is an upperclassmen to the patron’s underclassmen, showing them the ropes of past technology and how to be informational literate, but both are partners in the journey into the future. Gone are the barriers “with teachers at the front of the room and students at their desks,” (Vangelova, 2014) that kept students and teachers/librarians disconnected and regimented like in the past, allowing for interactions that approach more of a personal nature where learning is symbiotic. In fact, by adopting this more open model of library, students can become teachers to each other in both the rules of the library and the tools within, thus taking a load off librarians and teachers from having to be overbearing police and instead focus on facilitating learners based on their needs.

By shifting towards Makerspaces and other collaborative spaces where the fun parts of learning: socialization, experimentation, and collaboration; are allowed to flourish in an active and egalitarian environment. As a place where new technologies can be experienced without breaking the bank, libraries of course can create more informed users of the technologies that can enhance their voices. Also, it can serve as a place for patrons to better understand digital and information literacy in a safe place instead of online that can lead to pitfalls into echo chambers of hateful misinformation and misleading advertisements.

Sources Used

Digital Promise. (2016, January 28). The library as a gateway to 21st century skills. Digital Promise. https://digitalpromise.org/2016/01/28/chicago-public-library-the-library-as-a-gateway-to-21st-century-skills/

Doctorow, C. (2013, February 25). Libraries and makerspaces: A match made in heaven. Boingboing. https://boingboing.net/2013/02/25/libraries-and-makerspaces-a-m.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Vangelova, L. (2014, June 18). What does the next-generation school library look like? KQED. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/36326/what-does-the-next-generation-school-library-look-like

Welles, O. (Director, Producer, Writer) & Makiewicz, H.J. (Writer). (1941). Citizen Kane [film]. RKO Radio Pictures.

Reitman, I. (Director, Producer), Aykroyd, D., & Ramis, H. (Writers). (1984). Ghostbusters [film]. Columbia Pictures.

Kirkwood, G., Hyde, J.W. (Producers), Yankovic, A. (Writer), & Levey, J. (Writer, Director). UHF. Orion Pictures.

ClassicCommercials4u. (2008, December 4). Slim Jim commercial with Macho Man in a library from 1993 [Advertisement]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CL3Z6Lajzw4

How Libraries can help us learn from and create stories

Stories are the underpinning of human society. They’re how we quantify the past and qualify the future. It is how we package information for distribution because we cannot dispassionately accept all information and come to a logical conclusion without becoming overloaded, frustrated, and bored. With stories as their vehicle, we’re able to empathetically connect with the storyteller, their thought processes and experiences, and their perception of the characters and events, whether fictional or nonfictional. For the author, stories are the baring of their soul into perpetuity for an audience to experience and keep alive long after the creator’s physical form is gone. On the other hand, the audience is able to learn from the author while also expanding their mind by seeing through the eyes of another, reevaluating their identities and perceptions by assuming the virtual identity of the main character(s) constructed by the author for this connection.

For example, in hunter-gather societies like the Agta in the Philippines, stories give information from the storyteller to their audience on “social behaviour regarding marriage, interactions with in-laws, food sharing, hunting norms and taboos” (Smith, Schlaepfer, Major, Dyvle, Page, Thomson, Chaudhary, Salali, Mace, Astete, Ngales, Vinicius, & Migliano, 2017, 2) which allows them to function and cooperate within their society.

In stories like the movie 12 Years a Slave and the television miniseries Roots allow viewers to experience the horrors of slavery in America without having to physically live through it. While the knowledge isn’t one to one with actually living through slavery, after watching these stories and others like it, viewers have entered into an empathetic connection with the characters and the created world they inhabit to the point they’re able and driven to enter into the conversation on the history and repercussions of slavery, thus cementing the knowledge passed through the story in their minds while also expanding it to others.

More recently, the stories imparted though bystander videos of the death of George Floyd by police served as a doorway for the world to better understand the brutal realities of the inequalities in American society and were part of the evidence that convinced jurors to convict the officer who killed Floyd.  

Libraries have long been the arbitrators of access to stories and the media they’re delivered in. However, over time other options and new technology, such as television, the Internet, and social media, have chipped away at the library’s dominance. What once required perusing your local library’s collection or asking a librarian for assistance can now be done online. However, though the advent of these new technologies and services, access to and the ability to create stories has increased exponentially. In the past, when making a book you needed to pay a printer to produce your book and a distributor to circulate it, now that same tome can find a larger and more worldwide audiences with tools online that are available for free (or at least a fraction of what the previous method costed). Before to make a movie, you needed many different and costly elements which included but were not limited to:

  • A camera that required reels of actual film, which was expensive and had to be handled with care
  • Audio Recording equipment
  • Actors or subjects to be captured on camera and a crew to man the equipment
  • An editor who took the film reels and cut and pasted them together
  • A distributor to create the avenue (cinemas, film festivals, home video release, etc depending on the time) for your film to be seen by an audience. The larger the audience, the more expensive it became to distribute

However now video can be created via one person and their phone, a device that’s become an important tool for living. And this video can reach a worldwide audience for free on sites like Youtube. And this is only two of the avenues now open for stories to make their way through our world. There’s word of mouth, social media, video games, podcasts, painting, sculpting, etc. But because of this, we are experiencing a glut of stories that are updated and added constantly and instantly (as of 2019, more than 500 hours are uploaded to Youtube every minute (Hale, 2019)) in a way that requires users to be their own arbitrators for what stories to learn from and how to create their own stories. Of course, this democratization of responsibility offers an opportunity to eliminate stereotypes and allows minorities and the powerless a voice when previously they were silenced. But at the same time, people are sacrificing their own agency to compilers and instructors that are propagated by bad actors who are more interested in getting money or propagating political power to the point where the empathic and open connections inherent to storytelling is being replaced with misinformation, bias, and hate of closed-minded spheres of influence.

An example of this is the Qanon conspiracy, which teaches to view and create stories through a dark and warped lens while an artificial construct of Q (their unseen teacher) as well as themselves and their fellow members evaluates them as more informed as the uninitiated, thus closing the community off from empathic learning outside of the closed group.

Another example is social media providers, which are more interested in making money off of usage than anything else and thus allow the creation of distinct closed communities that are kept from intermingling by algorithms that show stories that are tailored to individual user’s interests and political leanings to the point of creating segregated echo chambers. Users may like sharing stories with like-minded peers which drives up usage (and makes the companies more money), but at the same time it keeps connections from being formed and discussions to be had from the sharing of stories across divides.

Thus, libraries must become facilitators and instructors to the collaborators in our diverse and ever-expanding media landscape, helping them in the creation of their stories and helping them to break through the echo chambers. Part of this is by libraries offering access and instruction to the technology inherent to the way we access and create stories, such as giving access to computers and internet to those who don’t have access to them or by giving them the ability to experiment, learn, and create with video cameras and other equipment used to craft stories that can be found in library makerspaces. An example of this is libraries using their equipment to record members of their community’s stories and upload them to StoryCorps and the Library of Congress so their story can be accessed by the world in perpetuity.

Another way for libraries to facilitate is through teaching information literacy and critical thinking skills to give people the abilities to not fall into the closed community traps of bad actors where stories lose their powers of empathy and world-view reevaluation. Instead of allowing groups like Qanon teach a warped version of information literacy, libraries should start early to give people the tools to interface with stories and the information within without falling prey to conspiracies and echo chambers.

Lastly, libraries have to offer programs that use the power of stories to promote connections between disparate communities such as race, gender, and life experiences. By integrating programs like the Human Library, where people can listen to the stories of and from “human books,” allowing the reader to build an empathetic connection and reevaluate their preconceived notions and help put an end to stereotypes, hatred, and close-mindedness. The story from the “human book” would then lead to a personal one-one conversation between reader and book where both sides are able to “find common ground.” (Wentz, 2013)

Sources Used

Ray, M. (2019, April 12). Courageous conversations at the human library. Nextavenue. https://www.nextavenue.org/courageous-conversations-human-library/

Smith, D., Schlaepfer, P., Major, K., Dyble, M., Page, Abigail, Thompson, J., Chaudhary, N., Salali, G.D., Mace, R., Astete, L., Ngales, M., Vincius, L., & Migliano, A.B. (2017). Cooperation and the evolution of hunter-gatherer storytelling. Nature Communications. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-02036-8

Renken, E. (2020, April 11). How stories connect and persuade us: Unleashing the brain power of narrative. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/04/11/815573198/how-stories-connect-and-persuade-us-unleashing-the-brain-power-of-narrative

 Wentz, E. (2013, April 26). The human library: Sharing the community with itself. Public Libraries Online. http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2013/04/human_librar/

Hale, J. (2019, May 7). More than 500 hours of content are now being uploaded to Youtube every minute. Tubefilter. https://www.tubefilter.com/2019/05/07/number-hours-video-uploaded-to-youtube-per-minute/

McQueen, S.  (Director, Producer), Ridley, J., Northup, S. (Writers), Gardner, D., Katagas, A., Kleiner, J., Milchan, A., Pitt, B., & Pohlad, B. (Producers). (2013) 12 years a slave [Film]. Regency Enterprises, River Road Entertainment, Plan B Entertainment, New Regency Productions, & Film4 Proudctions.

SearchlightPictures. (2013, July 19). 12 years a slave – Official trailer (hd) [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z02Ie8wKKRg

Hannah, M. (2021). QAnon and the information dark age. First Monday26(2), 1–1. https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i2.10868

Keveney, B. (2021, April 20). Video remains ‘star witness’ in Derek Chauvin trial closing arguments, tv’s analysis. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2021/04/19/derek-chauvin-trial-video-star-witness-george-floyd-death/7295124002/

The New York Times. (2020, June 1). How George Floyd was killed in police custody | Visual invesitgations [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vksEJR9EPQ8

Emerging Technology Planning: VR in the Library

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:
Creating a Virtual Reality contingent to the library’s makerspace so the community can first experience and learn the capacity of the new technology to entertain and educate in new ways and later use the technology and create for it in new and community-led ways.  
Description of Community you wish to engage:
The community this would be one who have mixed experiences of technology as a whole, from the un-initiated to the experienced. However, with Virtual Reality they’re all in a fashion new to the technology, with some having access but most having no experience or just transferable skills from gaming or other technologies. However, with accessible access to Virtual Reality viewing and creating technology they can become accustomed to the technology to the point where they’re collaborators in its usage with the library, media companies/publishers, and the companies that make the devices. This will primarily be with those who have technical knowledge, but the un-initiated can learn and use the technology as well given the time to learn and experiment with it enough to unlock its benefits.  
Action Brief Statement: (Fill in the blanks):
Convince the library’s community that by using, collaborating in, and creating for VR they will experience our world and virtual worlds in new ways while also using the technology to express their voices and viewpoints to others which will allow for new ways of thinking and new ways of articulation because the technology can shift the paradigm of media consumption towards a more active and realistic perspective.
Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service: (URLS, articles to help guide you)
The American Library Association. (n.d.) Virtual reality. http://www.ala.org/tools/future/trends/virtualreality

An overview of the trend of virtual reality.
San Jose Public Library. (n.d.) Virtual reality. https://www.sjpl.org/virtual-reality
Georgetown University’s Gelardin New Media Center. (n.d.) Virtual reality at Gelardin. https://www.library.georgetown.edu/gelardin/vr
Western Michigan University. (n.d.) Virtual Reality Lab. https://wmich.edu/library/vr

These three are examples of already created programs using virtual reality.
Dahya, N., King, W. E, Lee, K.J., & Lee, J.H. (2021). Perceptions and experiences of virtual reality in public libraries. Journal of Documentationahead-of-print(ahead-of-print). https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-04-2020-0051  

A paper on how to evaluate the program, the pros and cons of VR library programs, and insight into the perceptions and experiences on VR that was compiled from staff and patrons at Washington State Libraries.
The Smitsonian Institute. (n.d.) Explore. https://3d.si.edu/explore

Assets that can be used for the creation of VR content.
Wolfe, R. & Wassus, K. Can’t make your college tour? The campus will come to you. (2021, March 11). In The Wall Street Journal Online. https://www.wsj.com/articles/cant-make-your-college-tour-the-campus-will-come-to-you-11615483587

An example of a practical use VR could replicate, college tours in a realistic and immersive form without having to actually travel to the campus.  
Kenney B. (2016). Three ways publishers and libraries can work better together. Publishers Weekly. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/69404-three-ways-publishers-and-libraries-can-work-better-together.html  

An example of the importance of publishers and libraries working together to make media more accessible while creating a symbiotic relationship.  
Schneider, K (2006). The user is not broken. Free Range Librarian. http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/  

A reminder that it’s important to meet the community’s needs and expectations rather than the library artificially attempting to mold them.  
McShane, M. (2018). Is virtual reality the future of field trips? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemcshane/2018/06/13/is-virtual-reality-the-future-of-field-trips/?sh=4d0fd4b01809

Another example of practical uses for VR, giving people the ability to immerse themselves in places and locations without having to go there physically. This isn’t a replacement for real “field trips” but can be an alternative for locations that require a long distance or are impossible to travel to.
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service: (Who might be involved in setting policies? Where might you look for example policies? What do you want to include in guidelines for use?)
It’s a two-pronged approach towards first giving community members from all walks of life that opportunity to experience and understand Virtual Reality and secondly than working with the community to create services that allow them to use and create VR content and apps to enhance knowledge, strengthen connections, and give them a voice in a new, immersive, and empathic technology. It will be open to the public but will be geared towards students from middle school to college so as to appeal to the future generations of media consumers and creators. Overall, it’s a diverse community but who have not had much (if any) hands-on experience with VR technology because of the cost of technology and the fact that it hasn’t yet become fully mainstream, thus meaning the way to interface with VR (using both controllers and the user’s body) hasn’t become common knowledge. For example, VR headsets have been going down in price, at $300 instead of $1000+ but for parts of it you still need a mid to high end compute and for creating content with for VR tools have become more accessible but still cost a lot, with budget versions at $300+ but these can lack the high quality needed for a seamless experience that’s not too blurry or too nausea inducing in VR. Not to mention that like with using VR headsets, the creation of content requires different processes than traditional video capture. Then there’s the process of creating 3D and interactive worlds for VR, which also requires costly PCs and software. By introducing them to VR through the creation of a VR hub where they can experiment and learn how to use and create in this new media it can make the technology accessible so they can discover new ways to learn and perceive as well as create their own content to educate and entertain others using their own voice and the voices of the teams they work with.  

Overall, this should be a partnership between librarians, local media communities, educators, interested community members, and possibly college students. This is to create a partnership that meets the perceived goals of all involved while spreading the load of the service’s creation, advertisement, maintenance, and growth. If it was just shouldered by the library alone costs could be prohibitive and we’d run the risk of not tailoring the endeavor to meet the needs of the community it would be serving. Also, the plan would be much more limited in scope due to lack of input from both the community and media professionals who may have different perspectives that could lead to groundbreaking ideas that advance the program further and quicker than what could be accomplished alone.

Other libraries, mainly of the collegiate academic persuasion, have begun creating VR programs and services, such as Georgetown (https://www.library.georgetown.edu/gelardin/vr) and Western Michigan (https://wmich.edu/library/vr) Universities. These libraries and others like them can be used as a jumping off point for tailoring parts of the services and could be possibly communicated with for possible partnerships or just for support through communication that could fill in the map of the program’s creation allowing for us to avoid possible pitfalls while opening new pathways that would be beyond our perception without outside help.

The services will be made up of several stages that will be added and evolve over time:

1. Create VR viewing stations for community members (primarily older elementary, middle school, high school, and college students) to experience and familiarize themselves with the technology to become informed consumers and creators.

2. Create opportunities for people to learn through the empathic, immersive, and active medium that is VR

3. Allow the community to have their voice heard through the collaborative powers of VR and by giving them the tools to create their own VR content.

4. Adapt the library’s makerspaces, in conjunction with local media companies, into places where 360 video and VR applications can be created, edited, and published.

5. Create a pipeline where those who’ve experienced and become interested in VR go from being consumers to creators, again with the support of local media companies.

6. Use the library as a location for creators to meet and collaborate together to the point where they can create their own companies and organizations

7. Where local media companies can offer opportunities and internships for students to learn from their instruction and possibly work in productions for VR.

8. Make the library into a distributor akin to a movie theater where the community can view and play with creations by the overall VR community but also by local partners and by community members

9. Build a relationship between media publishers, VR designers, and libraries that’s better than past relationships between publishers and libraries, such as with e-book distributors who focus on profit rather than accessibility and mutual collaboration. Make and keep the technology that goes into viewing and making VR content accessible
Briefly outline how your technology or service’s grant, allocated funding, budget, available free-space, etc. will be distributed: (Will there be a need for staffing, contracts, additional software, or any other necessary contributions?)
The first step would be the purchase of VR headsets, more would be better but its determinant on budget, that can be paired with computers in the library’s makerspaces (or, in a limited capacity depending on the headset, on their own) to create spaces for VR consumption. It’s possible that the headset companies may be willing to donate some that could serve as a core to be grown out and upgraded over time. Additionally, we will have to create workspaces for VR, considering for a lot of materials it’s recommended to have a 6.5 ft by 6.5 ft or larger space.

Some software will need to be purchased for the use on these devices while other offerings are free to use, with a preference towards the latter. Purchased apps like Beat Saber (as an entertaining introduction to VR) and other more educational apps could be considered, but there is a lot of freeware available that offers great VR experiences. A prime example would be Youtube, which has a massive amount of 360 contents of varying qualities. It would just require the library to compile a digital collection of the best ones for guest consumption. Additionally, we can reach out to local or other media companies for the use of their creations to be added to this library to connect local voices with the rest of the community that can be expanded into standard “creator and viewer” relationships or the more preferable “collaborators.”  

Staff involved in the education and makerspace departments may be enough, though they may require some training to first get them on the same page with usage of VR to expand their media instruction toolkit. However, it would be preferable to create a committee or chairman for VR to oversee the overall process and represent the library in the community partnership described earlier, but expanding knowledge through the entire staff, even if it’s just experience with technology that can be advertised to guests, can only be beneficial.

Additionally, there will have to be the purchase of software packages and 360 cameras to allow for creation both digitally using 3D assets and through physical capturing and editing content. This can be delayed to after the display part of the program is established if necessary for budgetary reasons. It can also be possible that, at least on the hardware side, companies may be willing to donate or loan higher end cameras and equipment as they upgrade their own hardware. These as well can grow with time, with the library adding more and newer technology over time rather all at once. But at first it would be good to get consumer brand cameras rather than professional ones for the staff and community members to create and experiment with. For editing software, existing standard video options like Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut Pro have options for no additional price, meaning it would only require training to transfer the library’s traditional editing support services to include 360 as well.

For 3D assets to be used in the creation of VR experiences by the library’s patrons, we can use the Smithsonian’s assets which they released for public use as well as other free assets, though for these they’d have to be catalogued and evaluated. This can facilitate creation without having to rely on patron creation from scratch which requires extensive knowledge and costly equipment to make high quality models.

Part of the burden of the cost of technology can also be supported by local colleges and museums by creating a partnership between library and the campuses institution having their own technology and spaces for usage but part of an overarching program that are all part of the same program with staff collaborating.  
Action Steps & Timeline: (Can your target Technology or Service be prototyped? What’s a reasonable timeline for this project? What are the project flow dependencies? Who has to say “yes?” What are the planned alternatives if there is a “no.”)
The program can first be prototyped over time by slowly expanding those being educated. The first prototype would be creating units of instruction for familiarizing the makerspace and education staff in the usage and the creation of VR. Then, they can expand that lesson plan to educate the rest of the library’s staff and focus groups from the community. This can then be expanded to the public and students. This way the process can start small with educating people knowledgeable in technology and/or education and then expanding little by little slowly adapting to those with less and less experience, instead of starting with a large group of every skillset. Also, by starting with the most knowledgeable and working down, it allows a process for the service’s growth where both teacher and student can polish it to the point where when it gets to the uninformed the program will be much more robust.  

As time goes on and the technology becomes more mainstream demand for usage and knowledge of the technology will expand but the community will already have the experience and knowledge to be the trendsetters rather than simply adapting to trends. This way we can uplift the community to where they’ve become knowledgeable in VR use and creating for the technology that they can be involved in the way the service evolves.
Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: (Is this a new service that requires staff? Where will staff (or other) hours come from? Brainstorm some creative, outside-the-box ideas for generating hours.)
As previously stated, this can be built of off already existing staff in the makerspace and education departments of the library, primarily the makerspace team with help from educators from both the library, local schools, and community partners in creating instruction towards VR usage and creation. Though, as part of the staff will be focusing on the creation and maintenance of the VR service, it may be necessary to expand the makerspace department to pick up the slack. However, by partnering with local companies, teachers, and students we can open up a larger talent pool that’s collaborative and create services that are beneficial and more robust for all involved. Teachers can use VR technology to help their students better visualize and understand their lessons, students get experience in a new technology and can learn and create in new ways, media companies and publishers expand their audience while also gaining a talent pool of interested and experienced employees, and the library can be focus point for the technology while keeping the service accessible and cost-effective. As time goes on the service’s staff will grow to include the community members who will become an active part in shaping the evolution of the service.
Training for this Technology or Service: (Who gets trained? Who is the training instructor? Who designs the training? When can training be effectively scheduled?)
The designers and instructors would be a committee made up of select Education and Makerspace team members, professional partners, and college students (so that it would be involved across the board). After the committee created a lesson plan, they would first train the Makerspace and Education teams who would have the most knowledge outside the creators of the education and would be part of the program’s maintenance, promotion, and use. After getting their feedback, it would move onto those in the library’s organization and outside partnerships as well as interested community members. Then it would be opened to the public. This way it goes through multiple checkpoints starting from experienced on down so as to get a feel for each of the different skillsets and how to teach to them and that by the time it gets to the uninitiated the program will be robust enough to cater to their needs. Depending on how many headsets are purchased at first, training could be done throughout the day with it scheduled in for staff members to come back in a scheduled rotation to cover day-to-day operations. At first, we’ll only have a few headsets so it won’t disrupt to much of the library’s workflow but as it gets more and more along (and more and more public) as we possibly get more headsets and more experienced users and instructors it can expand while still maintaining the library’s other services.

Part of this training can simply be having library staff grade 360 content and VR games for quality and subject matter for the library’s collection. Another part would be giving staff the access to borrow 360 cameras and access to the library’s editing rigs to go create their own content. This would give them a more active role in the service as peers to guests who can impart and work together their own experiences and creations.
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: (How can the new technology or service be promoted? Brainstorm some planning ideas to promote within your organization. Brainstorm more ideas to promote outside your organization.)
For library insider’s promotion would be the opportunity to experience and better understand VR with the help of someone knowledgeable in its use. This could possibly appeal to those who aren’t as savvy with technology and/or gaming but want to expand their knowledge on the new technology. They can then be shown the educational and networking abilities in the technology, showing that gaming is a part of it, but it can be used for much more. This can also be used also for outsiders of the same persuasion. As part of this service will be for instruction in schools, teachers will be heavily marketed to use the tool and get a feel for how it can be used for educational purposes that other media lack (ie: the immersive feel, the near-realistic manipulation experience, and the opportunities for gamification of learning). This can be started with showing 360 Videos and then moving into interactive games and social spaces as they get used to the feeling and won’t get overwhelmed with using the controllers as well.

For those of a more technological and/or gaming persuasion, we can promote the service through tournaments of games like Beat Saber alongside tournaments for other games on other systems. This way they’re able to familiarize themselves while having fun and competing with others. All it would require would be two headsets and some broadcasting equipment that can be used for others to watch before they get their turn. Then, after they get the feel and possibly an interest for the technology, reel them in with the other opportunities this technology offers. Another promotion would be to sponsor a 360 Film Festival, where professionals can showcase their content to those interested in the community and the library can offer support to amateurs to create their own creations for the festival.

Another marketing promotion that could be undertaken would be a campaign educating those of the ability of VR to experience locations and experiences all over the world through apps and videos without having to physically travel there. We can work with professionals and universities to create a VR library of their campuses for virtual visits in 360 video or possibly interactive experiences down the line. This way students making the next step to colleges can take virtual tours without having to take possibly long trips. For the general public, they could be interested in experiencing the far-off places and behind the scene tours all from their local library in an immersive fashion (no plane ticket or backstage passes required). They can visit Machu Pichu, Switzerland, the White House, the Smithsonian and even outer space. They can see concerts, sporting events, behind the scenes of their favorite television shows, and other events. All locally using VR and using free apps and videos that are publicly available. Eventually we can create our own content with partners and interested community members, but at first we can build a library of titles that best show off the technology from those that have already been made and freely distributed.  

For internal promotion, at least for the 360 media creation side, we could have interested staff members borrow the library’s 360 cameras and go out and film. It could be a creative contest or just an opportunity to flex their creativity. This way staff members could get the feel for the basics of 360 filming and possibly get more content to be shown through VR. This could then be expanded to a public contest, with the newly experienced staff providing instruction and support, that could be tied into the Film Festival mentioned above.
Evaluation: (What benchmarks and performance metrics will you use to evaluate the technology or service. What stories are you envisioning telling about it? How might you expand the service in the future?)
In the beta stages of instruction and training, we’ll get personal feedback on each person’s usage of the technology and how effective the lesson plan was in teaching them. Over time when it’s open to the public we’ll digitally monitor usage of people’s VR consumption in conjunction by looking at usage metrics and by, with their consent, recording their VR sessions.  

Another way of evaluating the service would be by interviewing staff members involved in the service and offering surveys to those who use it, thus allowing on-the-ground insight that can steer the program to meet their ideas, needs, and expectations. The most important data to gather would be their experience with the technology, thus getting information that can help improve the instruction processes inherent in the service, and their expectations of the technology, which would give everyone a more active role towards shaping the overall evolution of the technology and the library’s program.  

As we evolve our relationship with the community on VR from that of student and teacher to that of collaborators we can enter into partnerships where they shape the service as much as we do, thus keeping the service connected to the needs of its community. As the technology becomes more prevalent and advanced, all parties can be the backbone of adapting to and creating the attached trends along with it while imparting the technology to the next generations.

Works Cited

McShane, M. (2018). Is virtual reality the future of field trips? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemcshane/2018/06/13/is-virtual-reality-the-future-of-field-trips/?sh=4d0fd4b01809

Schneider, K (2006). The user is not broken. Free Range Librarian. http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/

Wolfe, R. & Wassus, K. Can’t make your college tour? The campus will come to you. (2021, March 11). In The Wall Street Journal Online. https://www.wsj.com/articles/cant-make-your-college-tour-the-campus-will-come-to-you-11615483587

Dahya, N., King, W. E, Lee, K.J., & Lee, J.H. (2021). Perceptions and experiences of virtual reality in public libraries. Journal of Documentationahead-of-print(ahead-of-print). https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-04-2020-0051

The Smitsonian Institute. (n.d.) Explore. https://3d.si.edu/explore

The American Library Association. (n.d.) Virtual reality. http://www.ala.org/tools/future/trends/virtualreality

San Jose Public Library. (n.d.) Virtual reality. https://www.sjpl.org/virtual-reality

Georgetown University’s Gelardin New Media Center. (n.d.) Virtual reality at Gelardin. https://www.library.georgetown.edu/gelardin/vr

Western Michigan University. (n.d.) Virtual Reality Lab. https://wmich.edu/library/vr

Revealing the Ark of the Covenant: Digitizing the Museum Experience

 At the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the titular character questions the government on where is and what they’re doing to the fabled Ark of the Covenant he’s just retrieved from the Nazis, he’s rebuffed with it’s being analyzed by “top men.” Instead, the audience is shown that the Ark is put in a brown box labeled TOP SECRET and put in a warehouse filled with similar brown boxes. In place of being utilized or analyzed for better or for worse outcomes, it’s become a piece of hay in a haystack kept away from everyone. Of course, the Ark has terrible powers (being able to melt off peoples’ faces among other things) but it also has a deep historical and scientific significance that should really be looked at by these top men.

            Museums and other institutions run aground of this fallacy as well, albeit not because of a government conspiracy. Their artifacts are displayed, but in frequently controlled and limited environments. They’re stored in glass boxes or kept from close inspection by alarms as articles for people to only look at, offering an increasingly non-interactive experience for learning. Of course, this is understandable: these artifacts are often one-of-a-kind, expensive, and fragile; but it still doesn’t help in creating a participatory experience any more than locking it in a box away from prying eyes. And even if these limits didn’t exist, there are only set ways they can be experienced due to the laws of reality. Additionally, the mediums these artifacts are conveyed through are designed to facilitate one-way communication from the artist to the viewer. And thirdly, museums only have a limited amount of physical space to display their collections, the rest is stored away like the Ark, maybe coming out for special exhibits or as part of a rotation. Lastly, regardless of if they’re displayed or not, the only way to view these pieces is by physically visiting the museum in person.

            But digital displays have none of these limitations. Gone are the walls limiting patrons from experiencing the museum and its charges, instead they’re able to explore on their phone, computer, and other devices from anywhere regardless of their physical proximity to the museum’s in-person location. They’re able to reconnoiter in the traditional context already offered in the past, but also in new and more interactive ways. And while they’re doing that, there’s no need to worry about the fragility of a picture or a 3D model like the way the original has to be treated. There’s also no need to worry about limited space for physical representation in cyberspace as everything can be displayed as long as the servers and hosting sites are available. An example of this is when the Smithsonian created a Virtual Reality experience for Francis Glessner Lee’s forensic science training dioramas which in real life were the size of a dollhouse room and delicate. (Snyder, 2018). They thusly used technology to create an experience that enhanced the museum’s artifacts for use well beyond viewing diorama’s in a glass case.

Consider viewing this scene like above, a static picture with a zoom lens, or like below, looking at a diorama from the outside.

They convey the necessary information (and the ghoulishness of it all), but through 360 VR captures (found here) the viewer can be placed in the middle of these doll murders that were used to train forensic investigators in the 40s and 50s. Perhaps, through this 360 VR capture her work can train this generation’s forensic professionals as well.

In fact, the Smithsonian has released millions of their digital assets, both 2D and 3D to world free of charge. This offering allows people to not just learn through viewing the items, but also create their own experiences that educate themselves and their respective audiences.

Imagine a teacher using the Smithsonian’s assets to enhance a lesson for their students, from using a picture, a moveable 3D model, or an asset in a VR space. Or imagine a student using them to create their own works of art. Instead of being limited by having to travel to Washington DC to view these works behind glass cases, they can truly interact with the museum’s artifacts in new mediums and contexts.

Another example for the benefits of museum’s digitization their assets and experiences using technology to reach, educate, and inspire their audiences is through Virtual Reality applications. VR is still in its early stages commercially, but it is becoming more and more accessible, with headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 costing $300 without relying on a tethered PC. 360 immersive environments can be viewed on a phone through its gyroscopes, but with VR it can create the feeling of actual integration of the viewer and what they’re viewing. Add the ability for users to interact with objects (grabbing them, picking them up, etc) and it creates an experience that’s akin to reality or at least a video game.

In Anne Frank House VR, users can actually pull out the bookcase hiding the door to enter and explore the the Frank family’s secret annex they used to hide from the Nazis. The medium allows for an experience that mimics actually standing in the real Anne Frank House while also allowing for user input towards progression. There’s prompts, a button to press or a thing to pickup, to advance the story of the game, but the user has the agency of when to proceed with them. And when they do proceed, they’re greeted with information (mainly quote’s from Anne Frank’s diary) tying the user’s interactivity to their learning experience. This experience also allows for the creation of an empathic connection between the viewer and Anne Frank by experiencing the same spaces she inhabited while hearing her inner most thoughts from the diary.

Another example is the Smithsonian’s Beyond the Wall application, where user’s can interact with the art in a digital space free from the confines of real museums while also approximating that same real experience. They can approach the pieces akin to as if they were actually at the real Smithsonian, but also go beyond. For example, they can view the bronze cast of the Adams Memorial in the virtual museum but also get transported to the gravesite where the original one is located. Or they can look at Frederic Edwin Church’s Aurora Borealis and, by prompt, compare it with a real 360 video of the painting’s subject matter in Iceland.

Fredric Edwin Church’s painting Aurora Borealis
An example of a 360 video of the Aurora Borealis that is intertwined in Beyond the Walls with the painting
The Adams Memorial bronze cast at the Smitsonian
The original Adams Memorial gravesite

By using technology to digitize these museums into Virtual Reality, they’re able to create a much more immersive and interactive experience that creates a facsimile of the real experience while not being bound by the law’s of reality.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has accelerated and laid bare countless changes and challenges that are happening to society. One of these is that we’re moving towards relying more and more on interacting, creating, and learning through a digital lens. With the loss of physical realm, we’ve relied on technology to see the world just as someone with vision issues relies on glasses In recent years with the advent of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality headsets, this comparison has become even more 1:1. By utilizing technology in mueseum’s to digitize their experiences and collections, we can remove the Ark of the Covenant from its box and, instead of melting faces, inspire people across the world in new, more interactive and participatory ways.

Works Cited

Airpano VR. (2017, March 8). 360°, northern lights in Norway, 12К video [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNsYzXDJg_8

Force Field Entertainment. (2019). Anne Frank house VR [Oculus]. Oculus Studios. https://www.oculus.com/experiences/quest/1958100334295482/?locale=en_US

Force Field Entertainment. (2019, July 12). VR experiment Anne Frank house [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f093i1q71TQ

Richardson, Stuart. (2018, May 16). Smithsonian Presidential gallery VR promo [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivflDGWWRvE&t=2s

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Intel Corporation, TwoFiveSix, Valis Studies, & xRez Studios. (2019). Smithsonian American Art Museum “beyond the walls” [Steam]. Smithsonian American Art Museum. https://store.steampowered.com/app/1087320/Smithsonian_American_Art_Museum_Beyond_The_Walls/

Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inside the ​“nutshell studies of unexplained death” — 360 VR. https://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/nutshells/inside

Smithsonian. (2020, February 25). Smithsonian open access: 2.8 million images are yours to use [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5vC2kweCNk

Snyder, S. (2018). Possibilities and constraints for virtual visits: Experimental approaches to VR at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. MW18: MW 2018. https://mw18.mwconf.org/paper/possibilities-and-constraints-for-virtual-visits-experimental-approaches-to-vr-at-the-smithsonian-american-art-museum/

Spielburg, S. (Director). (1981). Indiana Jones and the raiders of the lost ark [Film]. Paramount Pictures & Lucasfilm.

Adapting Technology into the Library

Avoiding Technolust and the Sunk Cost Fallacy by understanding new technology and the community served

           We seem to be living in an increasingly materialistic society. When Apple announces a new iPhone, people flock to buy it even if they have last year’s model with only minor differences. And now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve become even more focused on the digital world: how to access it, how to experience it, and how to use it; primarily because we’ve been forced to with the physical realm no longer safely usable. This isn’t just limited to individuals, but organizations as well. Libraries and other institutions like schools, have had to close down their physical buildings (or regulate their usage in a way that focuses on safety but makes it difficult to offer meaningful service) and move towards the Internet. Most have some form of online service presence, but hardly as an alternative to their physical location, and so have had to expand and evolve quickly to help and stay relevant to their guests. However, if we give into our enamorment with technology without a plan, we would be building a house without a foundation that could easily turn into a castle long before it comes tumbling down.

            The reason behind this is two things: 1) Focusing on becoming technological trendsetters, giving in to technolust instead of focusing on how the new technology can fit into the library’s services to its community,  2) Not properly reflecting and reviewing projects to the point where we fall into the sunk cost fallacy, where the only reason to put time and money into a project is because we’ve already put time and money into it.

            It’s easy to see the coolness factor in getting an 8k tv, the images on it look beautiful and it is using future technology that’s still rare and not in the common domain which leads to bragging rights. However, is it worth it? Not many media is available in 8k, the half-quality 4k is just becoming common and services like cable are still on 720p (six times smaller than 8k). Eventually 8k may see it’s time as the standard, but it’s not there yet and so another TV may support you and the uses you have in mind for it better.

It’s easy to get enveloped by cutting-edge tech and the want for being a trailblazer. Sometimes that’s acceptable, such as in academic libraries or others, but it’s more important to consider how and what technology can and will support the library’s staff and visitors. Every adoption of technology should be considered towards that. For example, instead of buying one high-end computer for customer use, maybe two mid-end computers (or four low-end ones) for the same price would do better because then two guests can use each at the same time. But, on the other hand, if you’re setting up a Virtual Reality makerspace you may need that high-end computer because it’s VR ready. Additionally, when you trendset with technology, you run the risk of finding it inadequate when the tech becomes universally adopted. Worse, you can easily find yourself backing the wrong horse with the technology trends going a different way than you expected. For example, when 3D made its resurgence in media movie studios paid millions of dollars to convert their movies to the process, but now its lost most of its mainstream importance.

            That’s why it’s important to also experiment and research with the technology before implementing it. No one should go in and buy something just because it has a sticker that says “new” on it (ie: the 8k tv). Instead, one must attempt to understand the new technology through researching and experiencing it. Afterwards, librarians should consider how this technology can fit into their community as well as the library’s goals and services for distributing information. Instead of getting caught in the web of tech developers, who of course want you to give your money to them for their products, libraries have to consider the needs of their community while attempting to understand new technology before attempting to introduce new technology into the library’s service ecosystem. And once a technological project is underway, it must be properly vetted by staff and guests to make sure it’s providing this support. Understanding this maintains the service or project in continuing to offer the care the community needs, even if it changes over time, while also making it feel like their voices’ are being heard. Additionally, it stops the project or service from becoming an albatross leading to the library falling prey to a sunk cost fallacy, wherein instead of admitting the failure of the project or service and considering alternatives the managers continue on because the time and money already put in overrides everything else (and thus leading to a bigger amount of waste that in turn supports continuing).

This is epitomized with the Concorde, a British/French supersonic jet from the 1970s to 2003 that ended up going overbudget (originally £70 million, but ultimately £1.3 billion) that didn’t catch on for commercial travel because of ticket cost, environmental concerns, and because no one wanted sonic booms in the sky constantly where they lived, worked, and played. Not only did they allow previous investment to color the continuation of the project, they also let institutional (in this case patriotic) pride and trendsetting technolust color their thinking. Instead of focusing on the needs of their customers, designers “built metal tubes that flew very, very fast and then grudgingly bolted seats in afterwards.” (Ivory, as cited in Bramson, 2015).

            It’s good to want to be a trendsetter, but the true way about becoming so is not by attempting to grab the future (which doesn’t exist yet) but instead to understand the present and, slowly over time, make it the future. Librarians must look towards their community, analyze their needs, adopt technology to help fill that need, analyze their success, and then evolve it based on that feedback. Even mistakes can lead to movement forward, even if it’s just insight into the community or a foundation with one technology that can be transferred to a technology that’s similar but more adaptable to the library. Rather than accepting new technology immediately, it’s better to first experience it and understand it just like with the communities libraries serve. Only then can the library continue to function in an increasingly technological world.

Works Cited

Blasingame, J. (2011, September 15th) Beware of the Concorde fallacy. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimblasingame/2011/09/15/beware-of-the-concorde-fallacy/?sh=55521a264e22

Bramson, D. (2015, July 1st). Supersonic airplanes and the age of irrational technology. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/07/supersonic-airplanes-concorde/396698/

Stephens, M. (2008). Taming technolust: Ten steps for planning in a 2.0 world. Tame the Web. https://tametheweb.com/2012/05/30/taming-technolust-ten-steps-for-planning-in-a-2-0-world-full-text/

Stephens, M. (2019) Wholehearted librarianship. The American Library Association.

Video Game Learning

Using New Media and New Technology to Remake Teaching

James Paul Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy is about taking the techniques good video games, an active medium, use to shift the paradigm of learning, which for too long has been stuck on having students remember and recall for uncompromising standardized tests that allow for little to no experimentation and creativity, easily turning off students. Basically, its a roadmap for educators, both teachers and instructional librarians, to bring instruction into the twenty-first century, to create an enjoyable and truly educational experience.

While Video Games can be seen as the opposite of learning, being seen as a waste of time and mind-numbing while school learning is assigned much more societal worth. However, no one can doubt video games popularity, with the US market size in 2020 being $60.4 billion (Clement, 2021). Thus, one can infer that games offer their users enjoyment or the medium would not have grown so big. The book overall implores educators to think in new ways that use new mediums (in this case video games) as ways to rethink the syllabus to more actively engage students and unlock their full learning potential. It additionally offers the viewpoint towards using new media to enhance the classroom into a multimodal experience where the student is able to immerse themselves in the perspectives of professionals in the learned subject.

Gee, a retired Professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education at Arizona State University, personally realized this while helping his then four year old son play Pajama Sam, a point-and-click puzzle game. Not only did Gee realize how much his son enjoyed playing the game, but he was also “surprised to find out it was fairly long and pretty challenging, even for an adult. Yet a four-year-old was willing to put in this time and face this challenge—and enjoy it, to boot.” (Gee, 2007, chapter 1, section 1, paragraph 14). He wondered if it was possible to transpose this drive and enjoyment towards school and thus began to play himself, creating learning principles for educators to incorporate the game developers’ successful practices for their software into the instruction of the classroom.

Semiotic Domains: Literacy as More than just Understanding the Words

In the traditional realms of education, mainly K-12 but can also be higher, a cognitive approach towards teaching where memorization and recall for standardized tests has been the norm. It’s an efficient way to teach, with the tests creating numbers to quantify student’s academic abilities instead of a more messy and time consuming method to gauge students’ worth. However, universities have recently started to realize the inherent problems with learning for tests, with the University of California no longer requiring the ACT or SAT tests for admissions. Instead of providing an accurate representation of the ability of a student, success in standardized tests are more predicated on their financial means and cultural background. Additionally, good test scores do not correlate with college success, instead they can “show weak relationships and even negative relationships at the higher achievement levels” (Allensworth, Clark, 209). This is because the old system focuses on the literal meaning of words, sentences, and the texts attached to them. They have students read texts without entering the deeper group consciousness the writer and like-minded people are a part of, which Gee calls Semiotic Domains. This limits the student from becoming fully literate in the text and the Semiotic Domain behind it, instead substituting the test for its own Domain which is hardly useful to students after they take the test.

Gee gives two contrasting examples to illiterate the difference between the partially (literal only) literate and those fully literate with the Semiotic Domain:

  • A college freshman who has taken and passed their first undergraduate physics class, thus being able to write down Newton’s laws of motion. However, they only have a passive understanding of the laws and thus cannot apply them or adapt them to real situations
  • Another student, who can do the same things as the first but, with a more active knowledge of the Semiotic Domain of physics, can use the laws and, more importantly, “also has the ability to manipulate them in order to (sic) innovate and create new knowledge” (van der Meer, 2019).

Video games allow students to more easily enter Semiotic Domains due to the fact that the Domains are multimodal, incorporating not just text but also other modes of information conveyance such as sound, video, and pictures. A good game inspires the user to be “an active problem solver, one who persists in trying to solve problems even after making mistakes; one who, in fact, does not see mistakes as errors but as opportunities for reflection and learning.” (Gee, 2007, chapter 1, section 8, paragraph 22). This is because 1) unlike other mediums, games allow the user a more personal connection to the character they’re controlling and the events happening to them (to the point where, to the gamer, themselves and the player character can become synonymous) due to the interactivity of the game (their actions lead to the game’s responses and outcomes), allowing for experimentation with perspectives and identities and 2) games provide a safe-space where failure (even death) is not absolute, but a learning experience towards refining themselves, their viewpoints, and their skills towards solving the problem. Instead of treating problems and their solutions as rituals devoid of meaning and Semiotic Domain, the player is encouraged into the mindset of “undoing former mastery and finding new ways to solve new problems in new situations.” (Gee, 2007, chapter 1, section 8, paragraph 22).

Gaming as an Immersive Medium to Learn

Real learning is like play, in that the student should be given the chance to subsume themselves into the identity and perspectives of people from various cultures and professions. Learners are able to get much more of an active understanding of a subject if they’re able experience it from within the Semiotic Domain then without. But this is not just about perspective shifts into Domains, any attempt to play with identity allows the student to reflect on and question their own values while constructing new ones while interacting with experiences in a different worldview then their original one. Video games, primarily RPGs, facilitate this by allowing the gamer to create their own character using their own values while also taking into consideration the values within the game’s world.

As previously stated, the player and their character enter a kind of immersive symbiosis where their identity is one and the same. This allows for the player to learn from the interactions and experiences their character has with the game and the world portrayed within it. Because the gamer and their character share agency, both their experiences and skills merge together. Of course, this doesn’t mean that by playing a game the player can now fight aliens, do surgery, or other experiences in gaming. Rather they have entered the Semiotic Domain and are able to, as well as interested in, further study. Playing as Kassandra or Alexios, a mercenary in Ancient Greece, in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey allows a much more immersive learning experience for learning Ancient Grecian culture, politics, and history then more passive assimilators such as lectures and readings. Playing The Westport Independent allows the gamer to mentally step into the shoes of a newspaper editor in a country with an oppressive regime having to phrase articles to keep from angering the government (and arresting you) while also appeasing their writers. Playing games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein the player enters into a romantic view of war where the player character individually fights endless waves of Nazis, while being able to take and give plenty of damage. On the other hand, games like Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis show a more realistic viewpoint where you’re a soldier among a larger squad, fighting enemies that you often can’t see before they kill you in one shot. These games and other allow the player to not only learn from their experiences, but also either strengthen or challenge their already held viewpoints and allow them to enter into the mindset of active learners as well as professionals in subjects.

Invoking Critical Skill Learning through Reward Systems

Video games also provide rewards to players that work through them. This can be seen in both good and bad video games, but good video games go a step further and “give players better and deeper rewards as (and if) they continue to learn new things as they play (or replay) the game.” (Gee, 2007, chapter 3, section 4, paragraph 9). These games actively punish those who use the same well-practiced reactions in each subsequent encounter without critically considering each puzzle and interaction. For example, a player who’s gotten experienced at shooting enemies from great distances may run into trouble when running into a foe that responds in a way that nullifies that technique. Thus, the player must reconsider their approach, removing the autopilot and creating a new play-style that in time becomes automatic and later itself supplanted. The gamer who used to fight from a distance must now learn how to use close-range weapons. The previous lessons are not forgotten, just the routinization of them, instead they are modified (the old snipeable enemies may still be there but possibly at the same time as the un-snipeable, meaning a medley of both learned skill sets). This can be helpful to instructors who focus on automizing learning but don’t give students the toolbox to “change and adapt in the face of novel conditions and new opportunities to learn, which requires the learner to bring back to conscious awareness skills that have become unconscious and taken for granted and to think anew about these skills and how they relate to specific sorts of problems.” (Gee, 2007, chapter 3, section 4, paragraph 10).

Using Video Games Themselves to Teach

Much of James Paul Gee’s book is about harnessing his analyzation of the new medium of video games to revitalize the old medium. However, now that technologies have advanced where games have become more complex and new conveyances like Virtual Reality have become more mainstream, teachers and instructional librarians can also considering using the medium itself to teach.

(From The Simpsons Season 4 Episode 12 Marge vs. The Monorail)

The above clip, while presented in a passive way with Genghis Khan lecturing Lisa Simpson/the viewer on what they will do and see, shows the power video games have for students to actively learn. Games allow players too deep dive into the experience of learning, may it be learning how to beat the game, about a profession, about a culture, about history, or about anything. Media has been extensively used for learning for a long time (with this context book assignment being an example), but video games offer an experience where learners immerse themselves in the subject. Video games offer a location for students to hone their skills, mastering them then evolving them when the game’s forces incentivize them too without fear of failure. Video games offer a medium where the agency is in the learner rather then the instructor or the material within other mediums.

Game designers are beginning to understand this too. Ubisoft put into their game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (and its predecessor Assassin’s Creed: Origins) a mode called Discovery Tour that takes the experience they’ve designed and tailors it even more towards being akin to a virtual classroom (the reverse of what Gee’s is endeavoring in his book of having classrooms become more like video games).

For example, here are some ways that video games can enhance learning in ways that would either be difficult or impossible in real life:

  • Time travel is not yet available, so we can not actually visit the Akropolos of Athens during the time of Ancient Greece or other locations lost to time
  • Some learning experiences are simply too risky or too costly to attempt in real life. An example of this is surgery. I doubt many (if any at all) people would commit to allowing a student be their brain surgeon in reality and the student would be equally unwilling for fear of killing their patient. Alternatively, using cadavers to practice can be costly and raise ethical concerns. A realistic surgery simulator would allow the student to either enter the domain and practice with little consequence if their patient dies. This way they can learn from their failures and successes. (Not to say this would be an apt replacement for real life practice and experience, but can take the place of the entry-level experience surgeons have to partake as well as offering a place for experimentation to name a few examples).
  • Some learning experience would require extensive travel to initiate. Instead of learning Japanese in Tokyo, one could experience conversations with Japanese speakers in a virtual Tokyo from wherever theres a gaming setup
  • They can connect disparate students together virtually to interact, compete, and grow. This is especially important today with the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Updating Education

Traditional instruction, focusing on remembering facts and information that is reiterated for tests, can turn off both the “achievers” and the “underachievers.” The underachievers can feel alienated and unable to enter into the Semiotic Domains covered in the classroom (primarily because the main Semiotic Domain would be passing the test rather than more realistic experiences students would interact with during and after schooling), especially if its presented in a way that doesn’t bridge the gap between their own personal experiences and culture with that of the lesson. “Achievers” end up only scratching the surface (the physics student who knows Newton’s law but how to use or adapt it). Both don’t find much enjoyment from it.

But when lots of students (as well as adults) enjoy playing video games. With the immersive abilities games have, these students project their own identity on the characters they control. These identities come from both the players own enforced by themselves and the world they live in as well as the character’s as well, enforced by their abilities and the game world. They can be anyone (an approximation of themselves in reality, who they want to be, etc) and see in themselves, though the game character, the greatness they can be. That is why educators must take lessons learned in video games, outlined in James Paul Gee’s book and beyond, as well as using video games in themselves to update their education regimen to unlock their student’s potential.

Works Cited

Allensworth, E.M, & Clark, K. (2020). High school GPAs and ACT scores as predictors of college completion: Examining assumptions about consistency across high schools. Educational Researcher49(3), 198–211. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X20902110

Clement, J. (2021, January 29). Market size of the video games industry in the United States from 2010 to 2020. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/246892/value-of-the-video-game-market-in-the-us/

Gee, J.P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy [Kindle version]. Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Kuriloff, P. (2021, January 24). SAT subject tests and essay are cancelled in welcome sign of exam’s pending demise. National Broadcasting Company News. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/sat-subject-tests-essay-are-canceled-welcome-sign-exam-s-ncna1255342

O’Brien, C. (Writer) & Moore, R. (Director). (1993, January 14). Marge vs the monorail (Season 4, Episode 12) [Television series episode]. in J.L. Brooks, M. Groening, & A. Jean (Executive Producers), The Simpsons. 20th Century Fox Television; Gracie Films.

Ubisoft North America. (2019, September 13). Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tour: The Akropolis of Athens | Ep. 1 | Ubisoft [NA]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5xBc63LVC8

Ubisoft North America (2019, September 10). Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: Discovery Tour | Ubisoft [NA]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh4Iy-p943M

van der Meer, A. (2019, November 5). The immersive power of semiotic domains. The UX Collective. https://uxdesign.cc/the-immersive-power-of-semiotic-domains-31e4caf93485

Blog Post #1: The Perils of Digital Isolation (Hyperlinked Library)

Why Libraries Must be the Bridge Between Digital and Physical

            The world and the way we interact with it has become increasingly digital over the years. Instead of reading newspapers and talking to people face to face, we have social media and online videoconferencing. Instead of shopping at real-life stores, we have progressively exchanged them for e-stores that deliver to our home. This has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, where in-person dealings have become potentially dangerous and digital services are the safer alternative. Our digitization is not a bad thing, it has opened up services and relationships that would have been impossible before, but we run the risk of creating a self-contained bubble in our society that keeps those inside blind to the larger community while not offering an expedient way for outsiders to become insiders. Instead of embracing a hyperlinked outlook where boundaries are broken, they’re instead enforced, keeping people separated into tribes based on qualifiers like race, income, personal experience, and informational and technological literacy levels. This is why libraries must not only just offer digital services, but accurately give support for their community to access and thrive online.

            It’s easy to be biased, as I write this on my computer and you read this on the internet, to only consider personal experiences of our interactions with the digital community. It’s easy to not consider those who have a disjointed connection to computers and smartphones as well as those who have no association. The cheapest mobile devices and computers can go new for $200+ which can be a difficult purchase for those living paycheck-to-paycheck. Even then, these devices can be extremely limited in their computing power, curbing their users from accessing some services while offering those they can access at reduced capacity. Add on the cost of internet, which can be spotty depending on the user’s physical location, and the possible software needs, there can be quite a difficult barrier for entry into the digital sphere. Additionally, we have to consider the fact that communities are made up of individuals with disparate levels in both the traditional form of literacy, but also in technological and informational literacy levels and thus don’t have all the skills necessary to fully comprehend the digital landscape that relies so heavily on the written word.

            Thusly, libraries must be the hyperlinked bridge that breaks through this barricade between the digital and physical planes, to bring together the “jacked in” and those on the outside to interact, create, experiment, and learn. Access to devices and the instruction of them is part of it, but the more important plank in this bridge is the ability to connect the fractured tribes within our community, bringing together those financially, informationally, and technologically well-off with those who aren’t. Not only does this empower all to reach this new frontier, but it also introduces differing opinions and experiences that allow new voices to be heard while creating empathy between those who previously wouldn’t have interacted let alone understood each other. This coupled with proper information literacy and critical thinking instruction allows the library’s unified communities to unlock empathic self-growth that can lead to breakthroughs, inventions, and creations that would have been impossible when separated and unaware.  This flies in the face of what’s becoming the traditional digital social model seen in online social media, which focuses more on keeping communities separate and divided to point where critical thinking becomes unnecessary. Instead, all are able to come together in partnership where will to learn and adapt are prized over socioeconomic, technical literacy, and information literacy statuses.

Works Referenced

Searls, D. & Weinberger, D. (2015). New clues. In Manifestos for the information age: An anthology.

Mattern, S. (2014, June 1). Library as infrastructure. Places Journal.https://placesjournal.org/article/library-as-infrastructure/?cn-reloaded=1.

Weinberger, D. (2001) The hyperlinked organization. In The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual. (2nd ed., pp. 187-232). Basic Books. (Original work published 1999).

Matthews, B., Metko, S., & Tomlin, P. (2018). Empowerment, experimentation, engagement: Embracing partnership models in libraries. Educase Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/empowerment-experimentation-engagement-embracing-partnership-models-in-libraries

Chokkattu, J. (2021) The best cheap phones for (almost) every budget. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/best-cheap-phones/

Elliot, M. (2020). The best 5 affordable chromebooks for back-to-school or distance learning. Cnet. https://www.cnet.com/news/the-best-5-chromebooks-for-back-to-school-or-distance-learning/

My Introduction to the course

Hello Everyone! My name is Michael Charney. This is my second semester in this program and am ready to hit the ground running! I have a BA from Film Studies from UC Davis and currently live in Napa, CA. Until recently, I lived in Anaheim where I was a steward trainer and lead at Ariel’s Grotto/Lamplight Lounge at Disney’s California Adventure. However, COVID happened… but also gave me more time to focus on going back to school. I’m excited to learn more about the ever-expanding and -changing digital frontier that is libraries in the 21st century during this course. Looking at the website outlining the overall program, the two pathways that spoke to me are Digital Services and Emerging Technologies and Digital Services, and I feel like this course could give me a deeper understanding of the underpinnings of those pathways and the possible careers within. I’ve always been technologically minded and I feel that COVID has accelerated our move to an increasingly digital  society. Currently, I’ve been helping my mother, an art teacher at my old elementary school, create digital lessons for her students. My heart goes out to all the teachers who, already under-appreciated, have to deal with transposing their teaching from in-person to digital with little to no support. And for the students too who aren’t completely getting the same learning experience they would in-person. We need to be a part of that support in some form and fashion. To make sure that the digital is accessible and fun, instead of prohibitory and stress inducing. It’s a big undertaking, but I feel like this class can be the first step. Anyway, enough doom and gloom. Here’s my six year old yellow lab Ivy jumping into the snow up in Tahoe:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClDnoe3tTco
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