Category Archives: Second Life

Social Media For Exclusion

First posted (with a few small editorial changes) at the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Blog:

Pic of the day - Sweetness

We praise the power of social media to bring people together, to engage people around topics and events of shared interest, to include. Too often we don’t stop to think that every new tool with new ways to include people is probably excluding someone else in a new way.

The accessibility of social media is rarely discussed outside of communities of persons with disabilities. When it is discussed, the people who most need to hear it (us?) may not be in the audience. When we aren’t, the work we do to try to include and engage may actually serve to accomplish the opposite.


The obvious example, one you probably already know about, is when you share video or use streaming tools, but lack captions. It isn’t always possible to pay for live captioning, as much as we might want to, but there are tips and tricks to get around that with low-cost options. In Second Life, the Virtual Ability community has, as a standard of practice, a roster of volunteers who offer to type into live chat a synopsis of what the speaker is saying, and who describe images on the slides for the blind. Because some conversations there are held in typed chat, they also have someone sighted volunteer to read aloud the typed chat, identifying the speakers. Why couldn’t we working in healthcare media implement something like this for streamed events?


Did you know about Easy Chirp? It’s a Twitter browser designed for people who are blind or visually impaired, but it can be useful for others as well. Just as with curb cuts, tools to make social media more accessible for marginalized and excluded audiences can make life easier for people who are nominally able-bodied. Accessible browsers can require less bandwidth and be more robust when you are in that crowded meeting room with a hundred people sharing wireless, just as an example.

Do you tweet using one of those marvelous fancy tools for the pros that allow you to track multiple channels at the same time? Often those will place the relevant hashtag for the channel at the beginning of each tweet. I wager you weren’t aware that this makes life harder for those with visual or cognitive challenges, because it makes it harder for them to sort out the important part of the message. Recommended practice is to place hashtags at the END of your tweets.

Also, for those hashtags which smoosh together parts of different words? Screenreaders struggle to figure out how to read those when they are all lower case or all upper case. I have a bad habit of not mixing the capitalization because it is faster when I am typing, but for screenreader, there is a world of difference between #mayoclinic and #MayoClinic. Now that I know, I am trying to be better about it, because I was excluding people when I meant to include them.


These are just a few examples, low-hanging fruit. There is a lot more to know. Luckily, there is an upcoming free webinar on social media accessibility from the ADA National Network, if you are interested in learning more. If you are here on campus, we are meeting in the Hatcher Gallery Lab to watch this together.

October 20, 2015
2:00-3:30 p.m.
Social Media and Accessibility

Connecting Libraries, Makerspaces, Data Visualization, & Innovation, Part One

UMich 3D Visualization CAVE

I’m very excited about the new Future of Visualization Committee Report from here at the University of Michigan. Visualization is to make visual something that isn’t, and these days usually refers to data visualization. I used to ask “what do you call data visualization when it is auditory and not visual?” I found out that is called data sonification, and I’m hoping that the ideas and planning represented in this report include sonification as well as actual visual visualization.

UMich Data Visualization Report Cover
University of Michigan Visualization Report
University Visualization Activities, a report of the Future of Visualization Committee

A large portion of the report is based on a survey of campus reporting back on what people here are doing, using, and want to have available. There is one particular part of it that caught my attention, the “wishlist” of resources people want to have easily available.

Screen Shot of Table in UMich Data Visualization Report

Now, I read this, and the first thought in my mind is, “Well, duh, you need librarians!” Part of that is because I am a librarian, and I tend to see things through that lense. So let’s do a little reality check.

I have admitted bias in this area. I’ve been arguing in favor of 3d printing to be made available in libraries in a much broader fashion, and for libraries to blend in makerspaces. I feel the maker communities and what they are trying to do is critical for librarians to understand. Actually, I believe the goals fit, or should fit, hand in hand: libraries and librarians should be embracing and supporting the maker movement; the maker movement is (to my eyes) in many ways recreating the fervor and passion of shared knowledge, resources, and support that surrounded the origins and evolution of public libraries in America.

Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013

A few weeks ago, at the Ann Arbor Mini-Maker Faire, I found myself in an interesting conversation about 3d printing in libraries. I was of course arguing that more libraries should be supporting 3d printing in the interests of increasing access to it, lowering barriers to entry, providing rich open access to support and foundational skills-building resources, and generally taking the new technology that will be important to the public and sharing knowledge/resources/support. The person I was talking with (not from the booth shown above, but a different booth that provides 3d printer access) argued the reverse. The logic was that 3d printing is expensive, even when it is cheapest, and that it is complicated; that many if not most libraries that have engaged with 3d printing lack the understanding of what is needed to provide appropriate levels of support and troubleshooting. That most librarians don’t know how to use a 3d printer, don’t know how to repair or tweak a 3d printer, don’t know how to make handouts or teach classes to support 3d printing. To which I responded, “… and that is exactly why it should be there.”

I’ve been in libraries for a long time now, and I’ve seen a lot of new technologies come in. I remember the first month of my first professional job, when I was told that our library’s designated computer support expert refused to support the one Apple computer we had in the lab, and that for this reason it was now my job. I had used a Mac SE and DOS machines, but had never used an Apple II, which is what was in the lab. I didn’t anticipate any problems. I sat down and learned. Librarians are good at that. I figured it out, using it, repairing it, troubleshooting. I made guides, helped patrons, taught faculty about it, and we bought more. By the time I left a little over a decade later, the lab had expanded from 12 computers to 50, of which 25 were Macintoshes.

Not every librarian in the library learned this. We didn’t need every librarian to know it. It was my job. Other librarians were experts in other areas or topics. That’s one example, but it happens over and over, with many types of tech and many topics, with many librarians who walk in not knowing and walk out the local expert and go-to gal (or guy). I don’t see any reason why 3d printing should be any different. What should drive the decision to get the new tech is not whether someone in the library already knows about it, but that there is a looming need; that librarians and/or staff should learn about the new before need for it becomes imperative and is taken on by organizations that perhaps don’t have the same drive to provide service and support as libraries. Libraries are here to open the doors. Not that other professions and organizations don’t also, but libraries are first and foremost hubs for sharing knowledge and supporting learning, whether it is books, or software, or hardware. Part of that is appropriate referral. We make excellent parters in projects, and happily refer people to those who are more expert. Let the libraries open the doors to new tech; and we will gladly refer the more advanced learners to the real experts down the block or across town or in the lab in the next building.

Now, at the same Maker Faire, I was very glad to see several librarians already there with booths. As I wandered around, I encountered a surprising number of colleagues and peers. The librarians are already there.

Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire 2013: Eli Neiberger of AADL

Part Two will start looking through the wishlist from the report in more detail.

Beyond the Obvious: Second Life and Health (and Doctor Ann Buchanan)

Hi Patricia, I am talking to my [healthcare] students about Second Life. Is there anything I should tell them beyond the obvious?

Wow, what is the obvious? I provide introductions to Second Life for (mostly) faculty who are new to the idea of virtual worlds, and at the same time am very engaged with health care communities in Second Life. I can’t imagine what, between those two extremes, would seem obvious to anyone.

There are all the hundreds of support groups and professional groups listed in the SLHealthy wiki. Pick a topic, and there is probably a group for it. The wiki is a community effort, and really depends on people adding and maintaining their own info, so it isn’t complete. That means there are probably a lot more than we know of here.


Second Life: Support Groups in Second Life:

I said pick a topic? Here’s one. There are a variety of groups, communities, spaces, and activities for persons with autism and Aspergers or their family and caregivers. Some of these also provide therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, job training, parenting support, IEP advice, education, and more. I’m involved mostly with the American Society for Autism, but also the Brigadoon group, and have friends in many of the other ASD groups in SL, such as Naughty Auties, Autistic Liberation Front, and others. This presentation is by a fellow academic I know through Second Life who is involved in ASD teaching and research.

Similarly, I know academics and researchers working in Second Life with treatment for patients with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and a variety of other conditions; testing methods for providing consumer health education and health literacy interventions; conducting surveys; modeling simulations of sensory anomalies or conditions such as schizophrenia; and much much more.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder in Second Life


Speaking of PTSD, did you know the US Army is pretty active in Second Life with spaces to help provide support and treatment for veterans? This includes PTSD but is not limited to it.

Wired: Real-Life Inception: Army Looks to ‘Counteract Nightmares’ With Digital Dreams:

DoD gives PTSD help ‘second life’ in virtual reality:

‘Virtual world’ helps with post-traumatic stress:

T2 Virtual PTSD Experience:

I said there was more for veterans and health than PTSD?

U.S. Military Veterans Center in Second Life (SL)

Intersections International: Virtual Veteran-Civilian Dialogue:

AVESS (Amputee Virtual Environment Support Space) Project:

That last link is from a long-standing and extremely successful and active community for persons with disabilities, Virtual Ability. Virtual Ability provides support for persons with disabilities, educational opportunities, community events, opportunities to help others and do volunteer work, creative sharing of music and art, social activities, advice on assistive technologies, partnerships with researchers, and much much more.

Virtual Ability:

I have hardly mentioned education! That is a whole additional topic, with many schools involved, classes, resource, independent learning, peer-to-peer learning, both formal and informal.

But the most important aspect of Second Life and health is that it feels real, and involves people who are real to each other. Recently I’ve been asked by some people questions like, “So what is this? You make a cartoon character and then your cartoon pretends to be a person?” I find it hard to answer questions like that because to me even asking the question that way is disrespectful, and diminishes the sincerity and value that real people have invested in both the environment and in each other.

As an example, an important example, this past weekend I attended the memorial for DoctorAnn Buchanan.

SL11: Memorial Service for Dr. Ann Buchanan of AAMC

This is the Second Life name and identity of a real life physician based in the United States who really came up with the idea of using Second Life to support the real life education of future physicians. In her own words:

“Virtual Medical Training for RL Med students. RL medical consultation with board certified specialists. Research and medical collaboration between medical professionals.”

I have known of DoctorAnn for years but met her only through her students and colleagues, since her own health issues interfered with her hopes for what she wanted to do in Second Life and she wasn’t online very often. However, her vision inspired many, and influenced many. The medical students who studied at the Ann Myers Medical Center (AAMMC), the school she founded, carried on when she couldn’t be there, committing to work there above and beyond their own already existing commitments in medical school, finding enormous value in working through a case with practicing physicians and specialists. During her final illness, her friends and supporters gathered, cried on each others shoulders, fought for the vision, held benefits to raise money for her, and did all the things that people do when someone they care about is dying.

At the memorial, influential people in the Second Life healthcare community gathered to remember her, speak well of her, and provide support and consolation for each other.

SL11: Memorial Service for Dr. Ann Buchanan of AAMC SL11: Memorial Service for Dr. Ann Buchanan of AAMC

Among those were Poppy Zabelin, who manages the American Cancer Society activities in Second Life (the most successful charitable fundraising organization in SL), and May Rosebud, who represented both herself and her partner, Ren Stonecutter. Ren is the person who first introduced me to AMMC and DoctorAnn, but unfortunately he was caught managing the admission of one of his patients to the hospital in real life and could not attend the memorial. Poppy spoke at length about the vision and contributions of DoctorAnn, who was one of the speakers at the grand opening of the ACS island.

Poppy Zabelin on DoctorAnn:
“Ann was a firm supporter of the American Cancer Society activities in Second Life, and especially the ‘exceptionally unique’ opportunities for physicians and cancer survivors to interact and learn from each other saying that ‘It removes the stratified relationship that often exists in a medical setting and allows us to be equals in our fight against cancer.'”

Perhaps that is what is beyond the obvious.

Here is more information about the AMMC.

Why Bother With Second Life? Tools Jam, One Example of a Second Life Learning Network

I don’t spend as much time as I once did in Second Life. The reason isn’t because of the people or events or whether or not it is useful or getting bored or any of the reasons people tend to suspect. It is for tech issues. With the second generation viewer (SL2) it has become so computer and bandwidth intensive that my computer usually won’t launch it, or takes half an hour of repeated login attempts to finally succeed. I spent six months trying to force it to work, then finally switched to Imprudence, but struggle even with that. It is so difficult these days for my computer to run SL that I spend less and less time there.

The next obvious question is, “So, why bother?” The answer is because of the quality of the people and learning experiences I have there. I spend time with (or used to) with a wide ranging variety of communities from health care to disabilities to genetics to economics to astronomy to life sciences to educators to geeks. Oh, and don’t forget art and music. One of these communities (just one, mind you) is Tools Jam.

Immersion: Tools Jam:

SL: Tools Jam

Tools Jam (a.k.a. ITJ or #toolsjam) is a group organized around a similar philosophy to my own Cool Toys Conversations except that they meet more often and blog less. I try to attend when I don’t have a conflict because it feeds my own CoolToys activities. Today was the first day back to Tools Jam after the summer school break. Just as an example, here is a sampling of the range of tools and interesting URLs presented during today’s conversation, in roughly chronological order. It is just a sampling, because I crashed on login again, and so missed the beginning. Just imagine what I might have missed!

Stanford’s Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (AI-Class)

Change: Education, Learning & Technology (Change11) taught by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, & Dave Cormier
– The Change MOOC Schedule NOTE: The list of 35 leading educators blogs is in itself invaluable.

First ‘chatbot’ conversation ends in argument

OpenSimBot Email List

Diaspora Alpha (open source privacy-sensitive alternative to Facebook & Google Plus)

GPlus.To (URL shortener & personalizer for Google Plus)

Google Dashboard (to see a synthesis of what information Google has/shares about you)

Google Alerts

What Do You Love? (visual overview of Google services based on topics your search)

SLanguages 11 / SLang11 (a free 3-day conference on language learning in Second Life)



Pondering Prezi
– Get Satisfaction: Prezi: Topics tagged: “accessibility
Prezi needs to address Disability Access – It’s the law

Gestuno (International Sign Language)
LifePrint: Gestuno
World Federation of the Deaf. Unification of Signs Commission. Gestuno: international sign language of the deaf.
Handspeak: Gestuno
– More Info: Gallaudet University: Library: LibGuide: Sign Language

Empire Avenue



HootCourse (tool for using Twitter in education, still in development)

Twitter in the classroom? (Genetics professor at UBC)

Alright, so all this happened in less than an hour while I ate my lunch. There was, of course, more that I didn’t capture. How much of this was new to you? Half of it was new to me. That’s actually quite a bit! Definitely worth my time, and I wish I had better tech and more time so that I could learn even more.

Second Life: International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference Overview

I spent much of the weekend attending the International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC) in Second Life, at Virtual Ability Island.

SL11: IDRAC on International Disability Rights Legislation

Virtual Ability: International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference 2011:
SL11: IDRAC on International Disability Rights Legislation

Most of the people attending were persons with disabilities (PWD), caregivers, or work in healthcare as disabilities support and advocates, or represent some combination of the above. One of the fascinating asides from the conference was looking around and seeing the diversity of ways in which individuals presented themselves, and expressed themselves.

Flickr: IDRAC11:

As at all events hosted by Virtual Ability, events were presented both in voice and in text, to accommodate persons along the range of disabilities, from physical disabilities such as blindness or deafness to cognitive or learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Content provided ranged across:
– information about core services and supports made possible through disabilities rights legislation;
– interviews with disabilities advocates or support providers from a number of countries around the world about the evolution and current status of disability rights in their country;
– an overview of the recent World Health Organization World Disability Report, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention, and which countries have ratified the Convention (main page at;
– and even in-crowd comedy performance by GrannyZo Pinion, with a conversation on the roles of the disabled in popular comedy.

One of the highpoints of the two-day event was the grand opening of their new Second Life virtual island, Independence, created to support the activities of Centers for Independent Living in virtual worlds.

SL11: IDRAC on International Disability Rights Legislation

Among the events, was a brief video series used to inform a broader conversation and overview of disability rights in American history.

Disability Rights and the 1960’s

Disability Rights and the 1970’s:

Disability Rights and the 1980’s:

Disability Rights and the 1990’s:

Disability Rights and the 2000’s:

Transcripts of the conversations (with the consent of the participants) will be forthcoming at the main conference website posted at the beginning of this article.

What is it like? Really? (JJ Jacobson’s Gluttony Exhibit)

Most of the people I know are NOT in Second Life, or in any virtual world. I spend a fair amount of time in virtual worlds, and find that time enormously well spent for professional productivity & engagement, networking, learning, not to mention rich personal interactions and relationships. I also spend a lot of time in Twitter & Facebook & Plurk & & other online social spaces, but I find when I meet my online friends face-to-face I am less shy with the ones I’ve known in virtual worlds, in part because it feels so … real, so normal, just like meeting them anywhere else. So when people, often hesitantly, ask me, “What is it like? Really like, I mean,” I always describe ways in which it is like “real life” or actual life (or “in the carbon” as one friend describes it). No one believes me, they ask more questions, and then I describe ways in which it is different. The reaction then seems to be along the lines of “AHA, I knew they were strange!” So here is a parable, a story, a real event that happened that might help people understand, I hope.

SLUM: JJ on Fin de siècle culinary extravagance (Gluttony)

I’ve worked in libraries since I was 17, and I’ve hung out in libraries since I was 4. I remember. I am assuming that many of my readers may have also spent time in libraries, but if you prefer art galleries or museums, that also works for this story. Imagine you are in a scenario like one of those. There is a library / gallery / museum and they have a new show or exhibit. The person responsible for the content (artist / curator / librarian) is at a reception or giving a tour and answering questions from the various people in the audience. Some of them came for the food, some because a friend insisted, some because they were curious and wanted to learn more, and some because they are passionate about the topic. You know how the rest goes – the tour starts, or the question/answer session. You stand on the side and listen to the questions, smiling at some, frowning at others, and nodding as the expert gives their answer. At some point, someone is distracted by the display and falls behind or misses a question, then catches up with the group. Someone else has to leave early and murmurs an apology. Another someone else has questions that just won’t stop and stays late. Typical, yes?

When Wolverine Island (the University of Michigan space in Second Life) open for the public, we were using a theme of the Seven Deadly Sins. I immediately thought of JJ Jacobson, the campus Curator for American Culinary History at the Clements Library, as someone who might do an exhibit connected with the sin of gluttony. It seemed like a natural fit. JJ is a great expert in this area and a good sport, squeezing out a little bit of time for a small but intriguing exhibit, called “Fin de siècle culinary excess.” JJ also agreed to take a portion of personal time to do a sort of a “docent tour”, which was more of a question and answer session. So here is how that went.

SLUM: JJ on Fin de siècle culinary excess (Gluttony)

We gathered in the “lobby” which was outside the building. After a few minutes, JJ started leading people around, and I stayed behind as an assistant in case of late arrivals or stragglers. By the time I catch up with the group, the questions are flying fast and furious. Here is a very brief excerpt from the discussion.

[11:06] JJ: This exhibit is definitely a “first” for the Clements
[11:06] JJ: The exhibit is drawn from a remarkable fin de siècle work, the 8 volume Encyclopaedia of Practical Cookery, edited by Theodore Francis Garrett.
[11:06] JJ: The Encyclopaedia was a work for the highest tier of culinary professionals: its audience was the chefs and cooks of Britain’s great houses and grand hotels.
[11:07] JJ: (It was also published in an American edition)
[11:07] H.B.: Ah
[11:07] JJ: Published in London in the 1890’s, it boasted as contributors prize-winning chefs from high-class London hotels, restaurants, and caterers.
[11:07] I.S.: What wonderful illustrations
[11:07] R.H.: Why “Practical Cookery”? That sounds more like a manual for housewives
[11:08] JJ: Well, it depends on what you think “practical” is
[11:08] JJ: It’s pretty highfalutin’ cooking, in fact…..but I guess it was practical rather than theoretical
[11:09] I.S.: ah
[11:09] JJ: There are many recipes, and a wealth of practical detail about making some of the dishes described
[11:09] JJ: Entries include descriptions of foodstuffs and their origins, recipes, methods of cooking and preparation, cookware and utensils along with their uses, and other practical definitions helpful for the cook, chef, gourmet and gourmand.

The discussion continued with comparisons to related works; questions about the cost and techniques involved in production of the book as well as production of the recipes in the illustrations; the cultural and social contexts of “lavish display”; questions about relationships between Victorian food displays and those in other cultures; what is it like in the Clements Library; how the collection was built and where it comes from; electronic access to digitized books; preservation of these collections; access for the public; garnishes; health concerns related to the diet at the time; how the extravagant dishes shown differed from the food consumed by common folk; one of the audience member’s relatives who worked as a cook in Victorian times; some of the poisons used in cosmetics of the time; ice sculptures as a sign of wealth and how they were made before refrigeration; the context of the economic climate and labor pool during the era; how the word “breakfast” was used to mean something rather different than how it is used now; zombies; patterns of serving banquets (and why the food was never hot); and the relationships of these practices from the Victorian age to modern cooking, most notably Molecular Gastronomy. One of the questions was about whether these historic cookbooks show a lot a food stains from being used. The answer was surprisingly few.

Now I know someone will want to ask about “breakfast”, so let me close with another excerpt from the chat.

[11:50] JJ: Well, has everyone seen the poster of the Wedding Breakfast?
[11:50] JJ: On the far wall.
[11:50] P.P.: Wedding breakfast on the far wall.
[11:51] JJ: It turns out that wedding breakfasts became an institution because weddings, by law, had to be performed in the morning.
[11:52] P.P.: Really!?
[11:52] R.W.: Curious law.
[11:52] H.B.: Yes.
[11:52] JJ: By the late 19th c, however, these “Breakfasts” went on into the afternoon.
[11:52] I.S.: Interesting.
[11:53] JJ: What I don’t know is when custom caught up with the change in the law.

Now, doesn’t that all sound like … a very interesting but typical conversation at an event like this? The difference being that we attended without leaving our homes or desks or wherever we were — no travel required, no parking, no maps, no getting lost. And, yes, we did have snacks, a rather decadent and extravagant multi-tiered cake with ornate frosting. Luckily, as the cake was virtual, it lasts for ever, has no calories, and we could eat our pieces right next to the displayed artwork. ;)

SLUM: JJ on Fin de siècle culinary extravagance (Gluttony)

More pictures available here:

Museum at:

Seven Deadly Sins, The Beginning

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Second Life lately, as one of several people working to prepare Wolverine Island to open to the public. There are some wonderful things going on. Our opening event was Andrew Maynard, Director of the UM Risk Science Center, speaking on the Seven Deadly Sins of a Techno-Complacent Society. Continuing our Seven Deadly Sins theme, upcoming speakers include JJ Jacobson, Culinary Curator at the Clements Library, in a Q&A on the Fin de Siècle Culinary Excess exhibit (gluttony); AJung Moon on robotic ethics; Michelle Aebersold and Dana Tschannen; with more speakers and information to follow. Here is a video of Andrew’s talk, followed by slides showing images of the new Wolverine Island and a portion of the Seven Deadly Sins Exhibits.

Seven Deadly Sins of a Techno-Complacent Society

Seven Deadly Sins at Wolverine Island