Friday, November 17, 2006

National Book Awards

I forgot to write this yesterday, but Richard Powers won the National Book Award for Fiction. Why is this so exciting? Because I believe that my mom discovered him. I know that sounds ridiculous, but my mom has an uncanny ability to sniff out and recommend the most phenomenal works of fiction. Two years ago she recommended Richard Powers' novel, The Time of Our Singing, and it was one of the best books I've read in a decade. It begins in 1939 when a Germen Jewish emigre physicist goes to the Marian Anderson concert on the mall in Washington D.C. and meets a young African American woman studying to be a singer. They marry and have three children who they vow to raise beyond time, beyond race and steeped only in song. The epic follows the family through the civil rights era and to the present day. Powers won for his latest novel called The Echo Maker. I can't wait to read it!

So, kudos to mom (and Richard Powers) for her impeccable taste in contemporary fiction (and to Richard Powers for his beautiful writing).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Second Life and Asperger's Syndrome

Rebecca Nesson made a point of importance (to me, because my son has Asperger's) -- and that is that Second Life is being used as a testing ground for people with Asperger's to practice social interaction without the pressure of face-to-face meetings. Here is a blog about this called Brigadoon.

Here are some other discussions about using Second Life for this purpose.

A second shot at life. 'Second Life' helps Asperger's

My question about this is that many of the problems with communication for people with Asperger's have with face-to-face interactions is about reading emotional queues on the faces of others, and learning how to interact with people in group settings. Second Life will not help with these problems.

Hmmm... not totally convinced about it's importance, but I'm open.

Teaching and Learning in a Virtual World

Rebecca Nesson is teaching a class called "Cyberone: Law in the court of Public Opinion" at Harvard University. This course is offered in Second Life.

I'm not sure I understand why this class is being offered in Second Life vs. actual life or in a more conventional online setting. On the one hand I suppose it is a good experiment to see what the limits of Second Life are. But on the on the other hand I feel like we will look back on this in a few years and feel very silly about the clunkiness of the virtual experience. I sometimes wonder about these more 'meet-up' type social software experience whether we're just doing it because we can.

April 164 (a nom de librar for a person sitting next to me who shall not be named) wonders if in 100 years we'll be interacting like this in all areas of our life. Will we go to work like this? Will we see each other in real time at all?

As for me, I really like people, real people and I like to see them face-to-face and not in some virtual world. It feels too stilted and uncomfortable. I also don't like how the avatars in SL don't look like the people the represent (my own included).

Ok, now we're talking about building a virtual dance floor-- Queue BloodHound Gang-- "Da roof, da roof, da roof is on fire! We don't need no water let the M________________ Burn!.

How distracting is all this asynchronous goings on?

NerCOMP conference notes

The Book Meadow

Social Software in the Classroom: Happy Marriage or Clash of Cultures?
Eric Gordon-- Assistant Professor of New Media

Students rely more on personal stories and anecdotal evidence. students demand that course material be directly relevant to their lives.
Napster slogan: Own Nothing; Have Everything.
The allure of access...

Aggregation, consolidation, convenience, manipulating and sharing content.

In sites like myspace and facebook students assume they are in private. The desire to interact in the 'chat' level. "look what I did!" "cool." It feels like young people are being doofuses on more levels than before and we're trying to use the same tools to engage young people and look cool while doing it. It reminds me of Amy Poehler's character in Mean Girls. she's totally into being a friend to her daughter instead of a parent and makes a fool of herself. She makes virgin margarita's for the girls and when asked if they're alcoholic she says: 'oh god no! Why do you want some?

Like I've said before, we should not be going to keggers to offer refernce services anymore than we should hang out on MySpace or Facebook.

A participant in the conference said: We (as academics) are entering their culture and asking them to particpate in ways that we would like them to participate. And they're saying: "No, you're in our culture and you must participate within our cultural framework."

I think this is a good point. We can't enter their culture and expect them to participate with our social norms.

My thought is that we should leave the MySpace and FaceBook to the kids and, if we use public social networks at all (the alternative being a WebCT closed network type of interaction) we might want to choose something more intellectual like LibraryThing or