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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Customer Service Experience Required

Today, I was job searching online. I realise it isn't the method that yields the most results. For example, recently I applied for a Government of Canada job and it yielded over 2500 applicants for a single three month entry level position. I don't expect to get a job this way, but I stay current with who is hiring and have landed a few interviews in the process.

For the past seven years, I have worked in an academic setting at Western under contracts. It was a great way to work while in school with flexible hours, training and skills and to meet people working in the different departments and services.

Customer service means different things according to the business you're providing service for. But they all have one thing in common: Customers are human beings.

Prepare to interact with those who are friendly, cheerful and pleasant. As well, there will be those who are rude, condescending and sometimes downright scary. It is unfortunate when someone becomes audacious and belligerent when you are trying to help them. It is important to stay in control and guide the person's negative energy into seeing what their options are and move them forward. Show empathy for the situation and don't take anything negative that might be said too personally. If you're lucky, you might end off with an apology from the customer. You can acknowledge it by showing appreciation or just by saying, "Hey, you're just being human - I expect no less".

Customer service is more then just transactions - you sometimes have to wear many hats. Sometimes you're a long lost familiar face. Sometimes you're a social worker. Sometimes you might have to be a police officer. Other times, you have to be a detective. At least at the end of the day, you can go home.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I had to be rescued: Ctrl-Shift-

 Thanks to the helpful group for new SL users, New Citizens, Inc, I receive their conversations and can ask for help at any time.  People ask questions I haven’t thought about asking throughout my online in SL so it is highly informative and I can jump into the conversation no matter which world I am in.

Recently, I was in the sandbox, letting jeisei ‘rez’ when an avatar that looked like a little girl began to pm me. She was asking what I was doing and I told her I was new and just letting my avatar rez. She invited me via teleport to a world called ‘The End of the World’. So I went. Once we arrived, she gave me an object and asked me to wear it. It looked like a contraption that fit on my stomach. It was weird.

Then spiders began appearing from the contraption on my stomach. They grew; they morphed into large beasts with teeth. Random objects began growing – a large box covered my head, more objects and dragons began to clutter the entire screen. I couldn’t remove them because the option didn’t exist.

I right-clicked on objects and saw they had been created by the little girl avatar name. So I reported her.

So I asked my friends at New Citizens, Inc. what I should do. They thought it was funny; it was funny but what were my options now?


Whew! I was finally ‘home’. After having so many helpful people around, I had let my guard down and accepted something harmful. This experience brings a more real-life scenario within SL. It was more utopian until now. And yes, those little girls are most likely grown men in AL.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tom Boellstorff: "Coming of Age in Second Life"

This is a great day. Anthropology meets Virtual world. Isn’t it wonderful when a degree in anthropology isn’t put to waste because one decides not to dig for artifacts in Belize? Learning, and reading about SL from an anthropological perspective of Second Life creates a starting point that is more important than the technological appearance that SL provides on a surface level. People do things on SL and their activities can be whatever they choose. There can is a lot there to imagine and to do.

Tom Boellstorff uses analogy to languages when talking about virtual worlds in Coming of Age in Second Life:

“...there are common aspects to virtual worlds, just as there are features shared by all human languages even when they are mutually unintelligible”.

Here, he provides an easier way to look at virtual worlds when compared to languages. Languages are an important part of our identities. Languages enable communication by conveying thoughts. Language differences can separate people into groups of language users that share a common language. On Second Life, there are people using many different languages to communicate. There are aspects that many SL users have in common, such as being online, creating an avatar and browsing through different worlds. They are also there for a reason. The reasons for going onto SL vary and may overlap other reasons. For example, I went on SL because of my course that is held on SL. But if I wanted to talk with random people and befriend people along the way, then I am also building an online social network simultaneously. From there, language communities are created, or entered into existing communities. I found out about some of the terminology this way...

According to Boellstorff, “persons in Second Life typically say objects are “rezzing” into existence, a verb that dates back to Tron, one of the first movies to use computer-generated graphics and to represent a virtual world”. Someone used that word with me when they gave me my new hair. It looked like white particle dust until it suddenly appeared. It isn’t editable so I just went with it. My first SL ‘friend’ gave me a folder of lovely goodies to try on. There are a number of hairstyles – ones I thought I wouldn’t require because all I wanted was something a little closer to what I wear, a scarf over my hair. I could only find the type that tied around one’s neck. Oh well, its SL. Might as well go with the long hair; after all, isn’t this a world on imagination and of possibilities? My take home message after reading about rezzing is that I had been exposed to a language of inclusion. I know what rezzing whereas before, I had no clue. When I was told me hair was rezzing, I had to ask what it meant. I am adding this to my Second Life newbie vocab. Now I feel more like a ‘local’.

When Boellstorff says that “virtual worlds provide the opportunity for many forms of social interaction, and this can include anthropological research”, I agree with his take on the potential for social interaction in a virtual environment – just as there is with any sort of human interaction. It is simply a different form. Not everyone will embrace the technology, but the issue of technology has always had resistance whenever something new emerges. I imagine the telephone was not so well received by some when it was first invented. In the 1990’s, I remember how people were talking about how the internet would be the end of libraries. It turns out the technology can be of great use for people. Of course, there may be concerns about online interactions and the dangers of communicating with strangers. Online, you are able to control who contacts you and interaction is an option, not a necessity. I found myself being an observer most of the time when trying to figure out the basics of SL so I can see how useful  it could be for anthropologists to watch, learn and ask the occasional question to make sure he isn't making ethnocentric assumptions.

Friday, January 14, 2011

LIS 9726: Introducing, jeisei.

I’ve never been on Second Life ...until last week, when I joined, created an avatar called jeisei (a name comprised of two consecutive letters in each of my given real world names and entered the virtual world of SL.
What was the reason for joining? Well, I became interested after seeing LIS 9726, a course at the University of Western Ontario. I am in my final term in the MLIS program (Master of Library and Information Science). My professor is Dr. Carole Farber and yes, our classes are held online! I needed a course to teach me something new - something different. It was important to bring all the work I have done in my academic career together and so far I haven't found know, offline.

With mixed feelings of enthusiasm and skepticism, I had to clear my mind of any preconceived notions or bad press about online interactive environments. After all, I currently live in a world that has crime, poverty and health issues. It is an aspect of living that must be accepted and there are constant efforts to conquer these challenges worldwide. 

We not only ice skate and sip lattes in this virtual world; learning takes place, meetings with class and professor are interactive, and one of the greatest advantages of an online virtual medium for our class is having guest professors drop by to interact with us in a comfortable environment without any of us having to travel. They could be in the UK or the USA, etc. This is highly convenient and saves time, resources and energy.

Of course, materialism still exists. When I wandered around in Korea, different people were wanting to help me. Yes, I needed some guidance learning to move about and created my own appearance. A considerable amount of time was spent looking for a Muslim hijab - as I wear the head scarf in the actual world. I tailored some clothes and found some glasses and a basic hairstyle. When avatars began coming up to me offering clothing and hairstyles, I had no clue that I needed a makeover. It made me wonder how it would be if I entered the actual world at my age, from the virtual world...

Newbies. We are all newbies then.

I was given an assortment of clothing, footwear, hairstyles, 'skin' and an improved way of walking. The avatar helping me sat with me and walked me through the process of selecting folders and I ended up wearing a box at some point, which brought a lot of laughter. But I had a feeling that wearing a box was something of a rite of passage. Somehow, I now had a sense of belonging. I found where to un-box items and attach/wear them. I learned to use objects to animate jeisei. I even amused a co-student's child one night in the virtual classroom. I couldn't stop dancing and had to learn how to stop! I found the whole experience to be so fun.

Today, my avatar found pillows and an area to meditate. There is something so enchanting about a world where you can meet outside in a winter wonderland in a highly visual and interactive environment.There are so many possibilities using SL and virtual worlds. 

Its the sort of place where peace is possible.