Friday, February 15, 2008

Educating Siri

For an old fashioned archivist like myself, one who works with dusty artifacts and iron-gall ink, just being able to dress my avatar in lots of different outfits was exciting enough.

As I move on to other more educational things I feel like I’m way behind the second life learning curve. With some avatars doing things like collaborating with NASA to create depictions of the earth with real time weather patterns, my recent contribution to the education of the second life public seems small. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

I donated a book to the collection of the Caledon Library (Emily Thornwell’s 1853, Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility – a handbook of Victorian etiquette). This means making a book, which means: downloading a scanned work from Google, turning it into a plain text doc, editing for mistakes, pagination, etc. then copying text into notecards that are placed into a folder which is then embedded into a three dimensional object in the shape of a book. When you click on the “book” your avatar is presented with a folder that can be copied into her inventory and read at her leisure. Likewise, I could have simply embedded into the book a link to the url which would lead to the original online source which my avatar/typist would have been led to via their web browser. Pretty cool.

So next up is curating my first online exhibition. I’ve chosen as my subject Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter. Her association with Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine I hope will excite the steampunk-inclined. I’ve met with the very lovely and very busy JJ Drinkwater, the director of the Caledon Library, who’s been guiding me through the process of finding an exhibition space and connecting me to potential collaborators. One thing I dig about sl is the ready, steady go go go attitude of residents. What might start as a gentle musing is immediately grabbed by anyone you care to muse with. Possibilities aren’t just discussed, they’re immediately experimented with. This was intimidating at first – “What do you mean we can just do it? Shouldn’t there be Approvals? Budgets? A Memo of Understanding?” This is the free-floating jazz mentality Au was talking about - a total relief from real world bureaucracy.