Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dear Sister, do you have a second life?

Well, if only I had a first life I'd be happy. But, yes, I have tried Second Life and lived to tell the tale, although huge problems with downloads and other technical irritants totally put me off. I did have a great name though which I miss terribly.

Some museums have also dabbled in Second Life. A comprehensive review is reported in this paper A Second Life for Your Museum by Urban, Marty and Twidale. For those interested in museums and Second Life (SL) it is a must-read.

Main points for me were:

  • Increase in mainstream activities are occurring in SL and the ideas around SL as a concept are not new
  • There is a lot of museum-like activity occurring in SL [suggesting to me that we could perhaps use SL as another way to investigate what people understand museums to currently be and how they'd like them to be??]
  • "The social nature of Second Life is a critical component of understanding what it is and how it can, and should, be used." (p.2) – issue for me here is that museums in real life (RL) have also always been about the social experience. One outcome from a (marvellous J) thesis I read recently was that the findings strongly supported views expressed in the literature about the significance of social learning in museums.
  • Early museum worlds were developed specifically by the museum, for the museum and carefully structured and controlled.
  • SL as a third place for "serious leisure", engaging adults in a collaboration rather than as a consumer. Again, museums in RL are about this too. The thesis mentioned before also looked at the relationship between entertainment, learning and education and found that they were linked in visitors' minds in positive ways. Further info can be found on this wiki - audience-research » Museum Learning

The authors detail characteristics of museums in SL:

  • Different scales, with new opportunities to display objects (e.g. vertically, in places where you can fly to them)
  • Some duplicate RL and some not
  • The evolution and change in museums in SL can be surprising for visitors in SL who expect to 'take up where they left off'
  • Rich multimedia opportunities are available – yet this will increase visitor expectations
  • Encourage repeat visitors and build on communities
  • Opportunities for social engagement [yet, that what happens in museums in RL, see above]
  • Can display objects that don't lend themselves to physical display
  • Hard to work out the audience, and any attempts to do audience research in SL may be limited [not sure I agree...]

These characteristics led me to wonder why are museums dabbling in SL, as they seem no different to museums in RL. Given my technical problems there is also a huge point about access here...

The paper ends with some examples of museum in SL and interviews with those who have been working in this medium.

Overall, the conclusions are that we need to understand the museums' role as collaborative partners with communities in SL – well, this really isn't new. This is what happens in museums in RL! Seems to me that museums are not really thinking outside the square and using SL as a totally experimental platform. Perhaps that's the next step??

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dear Sister, have you used Word 2007 to publish posts?

Well, yes I have now (I think).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dear Sister, who is the world's best songwriter?

Well, that's a tough one. That bloke who wrote the Psalms was pretty good as was someone called Isaac, and most things contained in St Basil's Hymnal (serving us since the 1800's!). Of course Sister Janet Mead is a personal hero of mine, and even Helen Reddy (think the first Airport movie...).

Lennon and McCartney, Frank Zappa are right up there, but for sheer honesty, Australian-ness, grit, suburbia, beaches, footy and the human condition, coupled with the great cities of Sydney and Melbourne you cannot go past Paul Kelly. To quote from his website: "From very early on in his career, Paul Kelly has been recognised as one of the most significant singer/songwriters in the country. Inspired initially by the likes of Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Lou Reed and Ray Davies, Kelly's narrative song writing is infused with wry observations, bittersweet emotions and enormous appeal." As well as his website, Paul has his own MySpace page.

Sister Concepta, with Brother Paulus, was most honoured to be treated to a kichen concert by the great man himself through a local radio station. In an inspired moment of madness, Sister Concepta composed some lyrics in the style of Paul Kelly that also contained the words "Pasha Bulker", the name of the stranded oil ship off Nobby's Beach in Newcastle, now successfully refloated. The Pasha Bulker was the subject of many beautiful images and movies such as this and more.

Here's Brother Paulus posing in front of the great man's dressing room.

Try and spot Sister Concepta at this landmark event.

If you're lucky, she may even post her lyrics...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dear Sister, how was the new Harry Potter movie?

Sister Concepta managed to scrape together two 12-year-old choir boys to see the new Harry Potter movie. What can I say? I've long been a fan of the books and the movies, which I think have got better and better. The movies in particular have become truly sumptious, visual feasts.

So, to the 5th instalment. In between Bible class I managed to re-read the book, which, in hindsight, was a big mistake... I realise that many things needed to be left out but I was a bit taken aback at the quite large changes they had made to the book. Unlike The Goblet of Fire where large chunks were left out without interfering with the narrative, the Order of the Phoenix actually changed many, many aspects of the story! Also, three critical scenes were left out. The first, when Harry first encounters Luna Lovegood, established the importance of her character to future events. This leads to the second - the story that Rita Skeeter was forced to write about Harry that appeared in the Quibbler - it was this, and not the Prophet, that was the catalyst for people believing Harry's story. The final part left out, to me, was the most poingent of any of the books - when they run into the Longbottoms at St Mungo's. That moment had an incredible emotional impact, and again, added depth to the other student characters.

However, the subtexts of Big Brother, arguments around the education system and the rather bleak scenes of London life were very clever overlays, and Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange was an inspired bit of casting. Imelda Staunton was also outstanding - girly and creepy at the same time.

But don't be guided just by what I say - from the words of one of the boys: It was good, pretty scary at the end, overall an eight out of ten and three and a half stars. I guess I'd give it a seven and I would definitely see it again.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Dear Sister, I'm buying a house. What do I do?

Yes, house buying can be a fraught process. It also depends on where you live. If say, you lived in New South Wales, Australia, there are many resources you could look at. The NSW Government has a list of resources for buying a property. The A-Z of home purchase pdf on the Steps to buying a home section is great.

Basically it tells me:
* Find out how much you can borrow - there many online calculators that let you do this
* Calculate what you can afford to spend - also taking into account any deposit you may already have
* Ensure in your budget you allow for legal fees, lender and mortgage costs and things like moving and furniture if applicable. Phone and cabling costs might also need to be included
* Think about your lifestyle - it will help determine what type of property to buy

The section on Buying a house from the Department of Fair Trading (NSW) also has simple checklists. The buying process page is worth printing off.

I shall now retire to the vestry to ponder further these matters ...

Dear Sister, what is user-tagging? I'm confused ...

I have heard about this thing called user-tagging in relation to museum objects. I too am confused about the terminology used - tagging, social bookmarking, keywords ... I'm also wondering how useful this is as a process of connecting people with objects?

Some things I've been reading shed some light. The Pew Research Centre have a post about Tagging Play:

"Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats for classifying information. ... Traditionally, search on the web (or within websites) has been done by using keywords. Tagging is a kind of next-stage search phenomenon -- a way to mark, store, and then retrieve web content that users have already found valuable and want to keep track of. It is, of course, more personalized ..."

Pew also report that taggers (at least in the US) are more likely to be early adopters of technology, under 40 years of age with higher income and education. Aside from age, these characteristics are also shared with museum visitors as explained on the AMARC website.

Also read an interesting piece about tagging (called in this post "social bookmarking") and marketing Social Bookmarking: pushing collaboration to the edge. This post helped explain social bookmarking to me:

"Social bookmarking leverages the popular social software phenomenon of tagging. Users can apply tags, or keywords, to the bookmarks they save. In social bookmarking, tagging creates a grass-roots taxonomy for the shared bookmarks. Users can search by tags to find bookmarks relevant to their interests. Taxonomies created through bookmarking are called "folksonomies."

What museums are doing interesting things with tagging? There is a paper from Museums and the Web 2007 by Seb Chan, Tagging and Searching – Serendipity and museum collection databases,as well as a research project reported here with useful links. The project, steve museum is an experiment in tagging art (and a very nice website too!). The Brooklyn Museum has many community projects, inlcuding a shared photo site, with a good set of guidelines and policy on uploading photos.

I will now retire to the vestry and ponder further these matters...