Libraries and Public Interest Entertainment

Thom Gillespie directs the Mime program at Indiana University. He told the story of how it started: When he was teaching in the school of library and information studies, he was interested in games and media: “I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t where the school was going.” His interest was in visualizing information, sort of a visual MELVYL. Initially he had students from fine arts, information studies, and instructional design. His classes morphed into games classes, which got him thrown out of the information studies department. At that point the telecommunications department was interested in his ideas about fun in the user interface, which was the start of the Mime program. Graduates have gone on to work for Lucas, Microsoft, etc.

Where did he get the Public Interest Entertainment idea? There is actually a Public Interest Entertainment Corporation, piecorp.org, which he thought was a great concept.

Why do people get their information from the Daily Show? It’s a myth that only young people watch it. It takes a comic to step beyond the boundaries the “real” news shows stay within, like asking Pervez Musharraf “Where’s Bin Laden?” In the Mime program, students concentrate on areas from political communication to games; classes cover a range from 3-D modeling to “citizen media” — using blogs, wikis, and other media to create public information on local issues.

Network scavenger hunts, like the original Internet Hunt created by Rick Gates years ago, have turned into alternate reality games like The Beast and Majestic. (See Alternate Reality Gaming Network). Instead of keeping computer games within the realm of the computer screen, people are “playing games into existence” as with Pacmanhattan. Now there are “boring gaming” genres like Food Force from the UN which have a social change/educational component.

Thom was struck by the efforts LITA people make to create tools for searching and learning — yet says none of these efforts are the ones that work. What is in Google? We are in Google. Why does Google buy Picasa, Sketchup, etc.? Google is becoming a game. If you create your own content, your information system is dead. If you work like Google, you create the information system and you let the content come from the people.

It’s all going to come down to citizen media. The public library, especially, is the place where the people can come in and not just browse the web, but come in and create media. Check Orange Blender for open source versions of a lot of media creation technology. Find ways to bring in the community and make them partners in creating content.

3 thoughts on “Libraries and Public Interest Entertainment”

  1. I’ll comment on my own post :)
    In the public library where I work, I think bringing in user-created content is a big part of where some of us want to go. But this takes the form of looking at enabling user ratings, creating a space for our teens to post book reviews, etc. We wouldn’t really have any reason to compete with the existing high school and junior college media labs or the Community Media Center’s public-access production studios. I guess it sounded to me like this is a guy who is heavily involved in a certain type of conversational media who thinks it applies everywhere; I’m not too sure how well it would apply to vast swaths of our particular user population.

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