April 20, 2007

Computers in Libraries: Day 1 Afternoon part 2

Building an Online Virtual Community by Mark Puterbaugh, Eastern University.

This was a pretty cool presentation about EU's attempts to create a virtual world using the ActiveWorlds system, a virtual world where the library could build it's own virtual pathfinder, a virtual information commons, into the world of information. What was interesting was that they allowed some students (not just anyone, I think, as that might make the space too chaotic) to build their own buildings and create their own pathways to information. One that they demoed was on education and one was on ancient Rome. The virtual spaces were interesting in that they combined elements of social interaction, learning and a kind of playful weirdness with blimps and birds and even what seemed to be a student being burned at the stake.

Now how did they get the students to build their parts of the world? Well, they seemed to have relied on faculty to help with that as well as some judicious begging (and perhaps bribery?). It will be very interesing to see if they will be able to attract students to using this virtual world for educational uses, to go to the appropriate rooms and link to databases etc, or if they'll ignore it or mostly see it as an amusing goof, or somewhere in between -- either way, it's an important experiement.

Social Bookmarking and Folksonomies. This was a two-presenter session.

First up was The Hive Mind: Folksonomies and User-Based Tagging by Ellyssa Kroski with a very good general introduction to tagging. Nothing new here for me (or, I assume a good chunk of the audience) but it was very well done; sometimes it's nice to get a good overview of even a familiar topic, it seems to just solidify stuff in the mind. I particularly liked her presentation of the advantages and disadvantages of tagging, although understandably she seemed to want to turn disadvantages into back-handed advantages and might have been a little more balanced in presenting some downsides of the advantages too. The link above is basically the complete presentation, so I won't summarize more.

Next up was Rob Cagna of University of Pennsylvania to present on their new PennTags (http://tags.library.upenn.edu) system where users can tag catalogue records. It was developed ot overcome deficiences in browser bookmarks, such as non-portability. It lets users bookmark and annotate catalogue records and even articles in databases, creating a process and community of bookmarkers. Librarians/faculty can use PennTags as a new book list, subject pathfinders, reading lists. Project pages can be used for departmental home pages. Each user has their own PennTags page where all their content is aggregated. This was a really exciting presentation, and a great inspiration for the kind of things we can do on top of the products our vendors give us.

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