Monday, November 29, 2004

Third Place Convergence

Your bloggers have been taking a wee break. It was Thanksgiving here in the US and I, for one, didn't even open my work laptop for several days and so I didn't think about the Second Place (work) while I spent time in the First Place (home): ate turkey, read, ordered presents online, did crosswords, talked to my sisters, downloaded music onto my iPod, played Monopoly (I bankrupted my husband twice), and acclimated the outside cat, Willy, to the three inside cats (he loved the change; the other three did not, and the dogs just enjoyed chasing all four of them).

So, the Third Place.

Shore Communications notes a piece from the San Luis Obisbo Tribune called "Libraries Could Use Some Crumbs and Noise." It comments on Howard Shultz's book about his company, Starbucks. Here's an excerpt from the Tribune article:
The only thing wrong with the third place concept is that it's being utterly co-opted by corporate America. The rise of branded third places like the coffee shop and the literary superstores has directly coincided with the fall of libraries.
You don't have to look far to see that. The countywide library system just went to the voters to plea for more money and got smacked down like a bespectacled librarian in a cage match.
Just up Highway 101, the news is even worse. The city of Salinas has announced that it will shut down its entire library system next summer. Take that, John Steinbeck.

And you might recall that some weeks ago George posted about the OCLC Members Council session in which Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire of the University of Wisconsin-Madison spoke to the delegates about gaming (to view their presentation click on the link on this page). Well, we are going to have Constance and Kurt as speakers at the OCLC Symposium at ALA Midwinter in January. They will be joined by Marilyn Mason, the program director for the joint OCLC/Gates Foundation community portal WebJunction, and Migell Acosta, the Principal Librarian for Information Management at Santa Monica Public Library, and who has had success with LAN parties at the library. And what does this have to do with the Third Place? Lots, I hope.

Constance has a paper under review for a journal. The title is "The New Third Space: Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming in American Youth Culture." As this is a draft paper, I won't quote from it but she does have the draft available at her web site under the MMOG research link. She, essentially, is arguing that MMOGs such as Lineage are a new "third space" and uses Ray Oldenburg's (he wrote The Great Good Place) eight defining characteristics of third spaces to support her thesis.

We hope that the Symposium will weave the theoretical with the practical and the possible: games, cognition and learning, community, libraries and the third place. Some people who have listened to George or me or Cathy DeRosa speak about the importance of the culture of gaming think that we are suggesting that libraries purchase and provide access to games in order to provide services to gameplayers...and off they wander down Tangent Lane, wondering how games would be catalogued and circulated.

No, no, no!! That's not it at all! We think that library culture can learn from the gaming culture about, among other things, collaborative workspaces, about peer support for learning, about providing interesting and fun environments in which to find information. Think WebJunction on steroids. And if you doubt that people "playing" games are learning much, read Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever by John Beck and Mitchell Wade. And then go find some people on the staff of your institution who game, and ask them to help out with your strategic planning.

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