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VWLEM Conference_005_013

Originally uploaded by librariandreamer

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Conference Rocked!

SnapshotVW-LEM2 063
Originally uploaded by HVX Silverstar

Anneliv (Anne Mostad-Jensen) and I presented at the Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education & Museums conference this past Saturday. About 13 or 14 avatars attended our presentation titled “Getting to Know Our Users: Information Seeking in Second Life.”

Check out my full photo stream here.

We both connected with quite a few interesting colleagues, and the following morning I had a chance to chat quite extensively with Sheila Webber (Sheila Yashikawa in SL) of the University of Sheffield who has been instrumental in the recent development of the Center for Information Literacy. Her institution has a rich tradition in information seeking behavior studies, with Tom Wilson himself as the former Head of Sheila’s department. Sheila was very generous with her time – even giving me a balloon ride – and I look forward to developing a professional relationship with her and so many others that I met through the conference.

I love that in SL, collegial relationships can begin with a balloon ride!

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I’m excited to be presenting at Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education & Museums this Saturday with my pal Anne Mostad-Jensen. We’re giving a 45-minute presentation about each of our research projects that are currently in progress. At this point, we’ll each be sharing our methodological approaches that can help SL institutions better get to know their users’ needs, behaviors and preferences. We’ll be presenting this as a ‘toolkit’ for embracing evidence-based practice to continue to build world-class library services in SL.

Preparing for it has involved getting comfortable with voice communication in SL. I had some technical challenges that really frustrated me. But, after using a different computer, these issues have been resolved. Then, we got to learn about rezzing a power point slideshow in Second Life. Anne did all the heavy lifting on that one (thank you!) but I’ve learned a bit about creating in-world objects as a result.

Throughout all of this, the conference organizers (including many librarians) have been immensely helpful. They’ve offered practice sessions that Anne and I attended, pictured below:

orientation-session.jpg

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Of course, without IRB official approval, I won’t be using the results of any of the pilot interview/observations done thus far.

However, my first SL in-world interview took 77 minutes, yielded a chat transcript that is 26 pages long and taught me a whole lot about the logistics of conducting interviews in a virtual world.

It also prompted me to develop a tracking form (part of why the transcript is so long) with 4 columns:

  1. Chat transcript
  2. Transcription of verbal field notes
  3. Further reflective notes by researcher
  4. Coding

I haven’t gotten to the coding piece, but I am highlighting parts of the interview that jumped out to be as particularly interesting for analysis. I’m using one highlighting color for action items directed at my research method (since the point of pilot activities is to help me refine them) and another color for actual content that looks promising.

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With one pilot interview now under my belt, I’ve learned a few things about the logistics of in-world research: 

  • Check for grid updates. My first scheduled pilot interview was foiled because my subject had trouble accessing SL. Checking the Second Life blog earlier that day could have prevented this, as it was down due to scheduled periodic grid re-starts.
  • Expect technical difficulties. My second scheduled pilot interview was foiled because my interview subject had some connectivity issues at home. Crashes (where your interview subject *poof* disappears) are to be expected as well; usually they’ll reappear in a few minutes if you just patiently wait.
  • Busy mode. During interviews, when it’s critically important for me to fully attend to one interview subject, I’ve found it helpful to put my avatar in ‘busy mode.’ This blocks extraneous IM’s, group notices and other things that are potential distractions. At the same time, I do not utilize ‘busy mode’ during observation, as I want to be experiencing a typical SL user experience myself, which is filled with multiple IM sessions, constant friendship offers, regular chat, and so much more.
  • Follow-up then ask again. During my interviews, I’ve used iterative questioning to continue to pose the same query until the subject has totally exhausted what they have to share on the subject. This is helpful in textual chat communication, when I’m often unsure if the other avatar is truly done talking or not — a byproduct of not having those body language & verbal cues we all rely on so much.
  • Personal sharing. I’ve found myself sharing my own personal information with interview subjects in particular, particular my RL demographic information. After all, I’m asking for their age, gender, race/ethnicity, educational background and profession. Socially, it feels very awkward and almost downright slimy to be asking someone in SL for this information without reciprocating by sharing the same information about yourself.

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Jing Jing Jing

http://screencast.com/t/wWHEBWEh 

I’ll be using occasional video capture within my research and am forever grateful to Jim Oliver, St. Kate’s MLIS Technology Guru, for introducing me to Jing. I’d originally hoped to capture all observations; however, the resulting file size and impact on system resources make this not feasible. Plus, digging through hours of video for later analysis would have been pretty time consuming.

So, instead, I’ll use a quick Jing capture on occasion, whenever I find something particularly interesting. Below is an example of me getting to know Jing.

http://screencast.com/t/wWHEBWEh

Jing does impact SL performance a bit, but it’s OK becuase I’m using it to capture snippets that are generally less than two minutes long — and at these times, I’m able to position my SL view to capture what I’d like without moving my avatar. This avoids frustrating lag. Jing does not seem (thus far) to impact performance as long as my view of SL remains stable, meaning that features like chat function properly.

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