Thursday, December 29, 2011

Steel City

                Initially for this post I had wanted to discuss McMaster University’s library, amongst several others, on Cybrary City I. Unfortunately, Cybrary City I hasn’t been accessible to me for the past week or so. I’m not sure whether it’s just me or everyone else is experiencing this as well. Anyhow, I decided that I would visit instead the McMaster University Libraries’ very own island, Steel City.
                There’s a lot of content on this island, both in objects and information. The island is set up almost entirely as an example of how Second Life should be utilized as a teaching tool. All the buildings and areas have information boxes that you can click on to receive more information about its purpose. There is one structure, shaped like a tree, that you can climb to the top of. As you progress there are little stations that pose important questions about SL; for instance, why is SL useful, what are the problems with SL, how to use SL for education, etc. This blatant and straightforward attitude towards what is being attempted is something I find refreshing and progressive. 

You quickly find out as you explore the island, that almost everything there serves a dual purpose both as an educational assignment for students or faculty, as well as an example to everyone on SL of how McMaster believes SL should be used for education. For instance, there is a sculpture garden of video game characters that their game design class created. There are other projects all over the island like a dance club, a winter-Christmas time maze, and a playground to name a few.

                On top of these projects there are many other structures devoted to class time. There are many places designed to accommodate lectures and discussion. The nice part about these are that they are both functional as well as a product of being creative. It was clear that McMaster’s developers were interested in more than just making a presence in SL by merely placing a building here and there. Everything on the island is intended to promote further development and creativity. There are several advertisements of open space and areas McMaster students and faculty can rent (i.e. the student center) where you can start your own projects.

                Overall I think that Steel City is one of the dynamic forces I’ve seen for libraries on SL. They try to address what works and what doesn’t work and how they believe the pros outweigh the cons. Their emphasis on using the SL best qualities to educate rather than to attempt to recreate RL is worded and demonstrated quite well. However, this may have been a busier place when they first started and when SL had more users logged on, but it was still empty and seemed to be deserted (except for a poster I found that referred a recent date). While basing much of the island on how SL should be used and giving examples, without actual activity the island serves as just that. Once, again, I may be visiting during off-peak hours, but I believe that it is overall come to a standstill.
                Thanks for reading!

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