Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Question to the Readers

Dear Readers, I am re-writting something I wrote some time ago ... I am developping some courses on cyberpsychology, virtual anthropology, and so on, and I would like your feedback. What do you think should be absolutely include in such course ? What, as a student in this field, as a user of these new spaces, would you think should be absolutely included there ? Comments are more than welcome ! If you are too shy to post a comment, just drop me an email ! (see "Contact us" for the email address)

Thank you in advance !

Monday, May 21, 2012

Metablogging ... blogs blogging on us

Thanks to Daana Kira (field reporter in "Galactic News Network", the galaxy-wide news network of SWRP in Second Life), I saw today that other blogs are mentioning our work. That made my day, thank you TOROZ ! I am very happy when my work is mentioned by scholars and researchers, but I am actually even more happy when it catch the eyes of people outside of academia. We do research not just for us, but because we hope that it can serve everybody (in this case, help us all to understand the mechanisms of immersion in virtual space).

The link brings you there !

And, for those who did not read the paper on the immersive impact of meta-media (Guitton MJ (2012) The immersive impact of meta-media in a virtual world. Computers in Human Behavior, 28:450-455), here is a picture of Daana Kira, one of the best journalists of the metaverse of Second Life.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Comment: On Wikipedia

I am a Wikipedian. Not since long time. And not a very active one. Nonetheless, I am a Wikipedian: I edit time to time articles on Wikipedia. Wikipedia was an amazing idea, and is a great tool. However, there are some things which limit its full potential.

All those who have given homework to students know that way too often, students will consider that doing a copy-paste from Wikipedia is what we mean by "searching on the subject". Whatever the level of the student and of the course, students are surprised that it does not work ... doing a copy-paste from Wikipedia is really easy to detect. Common, we, teachers, are not so naive ! When it comes to University level courses, it becomes even more problematic. First, plagiarism is not well considered in such context (and doing a copy-paste from an open source is still plagiarism. University work relies heavily on intellectual honesty, you can not attribute to yourself work of others). Second, and that is a big issue, Wikipedia is not the true. At a first glance, Wikipedia provides extremely useful information. However, if you are really an expert in the field, or, if you want to become one (let's say, Master and PhD students), Wikipedia contains a lot of mistakes. We had a discussion about that during the last PCA/ACA meeting: I defended the point that, Wikipedia EXISTS, and that it is used ... furthermore, the idea is in the line of the humanist idea of university and sharing human knowledge ... hence, we can not complain about the fact that there are mistakes: we have to contribute and correct them. If we (when I write we, I mean "scholars" in a broad sense, meaning people who are supposed to be experts in their respective fields) do not correct and edit the articles of Wikipedia, how can we complain about it ?

Having said that ... Wikipedia is a community-managed system. There are no control about the quality of the article writers, nor of the editors. All works based on the "good faith" of the community members. And globally, it works rather well. If a mistake occur, the "group intelligence" (so to say) will correct it. A community based system of control to serve the community. In theory, that should work (if we believe in the good hidden somewhere (sometime very deeply) in Human nature J  ). Practically, the risk is that Wikipedia reflects the mainstream opinions rather than the real knowledge. Let me take an example. In one of my fields of specialties, the neurobiology of tinnitus, we have several theories which are rather opposed to each others. Both are backed by complex experimental data coming from complex animal models, with use of complex methodologies, all published in moderate to high impact factor peer-reviewed journals. I am sure all of these theories are more or less valid (mine of course being probably the best ... no no, I am not biased !). The "tinnitus" article in Wikipedia is full of mistakes and non-sense. However, I refrain myself to edit it, because if I do so, I will in good faith write things which may be considered by polemical by other experts in the field. I still do edit some articles in "serious" topics (neuropharmacology, animal behavior, etc ...). But my point is that, even if Wikipedia may attract experts willing to edit the articles, the system of community control may lead to have the "expert edits" being corrected aftermath by non-expert editors acting in good faith.

The concept of anonymity is extremely important. However, in the extremely competitive world in which scientists (and actually all the humanity) live now, anonymity is not really appealing. You can hardly attract an expert to contribute anonymously to an article, since at the end, his real-life salary depends on the amount of things he published under his name ... Then, why loosing time to correct things which you would not be able to add in your CV, and that other people less expert than you will edit ? Not saying that we should not edit articles, I actually am doing it, and a lot of other scientist too. Just saying, it is a limit to attract people able to actually correct the mistakes.

In such "community controlled" system based on "good faith", rules more complex than "common sense" should not be necessary. However, humans are humans, so indeed, rules seems to be required. I will not extend on this last point, but I refer to two Tweets from Rhonda Lowry / Grace McDunnough (I advice you to follow her on Twitter, I think she is one of the person I retweet the most  J  ).

Between the two Tweets, I was defending the concept of "good faith" of the community members (yes, I am both a Kantian and a humanist, I do believe that humans can fundamentally be good  J  ). But her point is extremely important.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lab Update

We had the visit in the last few days of Sergey Kapishnikov from the Weizmann Institute of Science. We had amazing discussions and fruitful interactions with people of the team (pictures are coming soon). We will try to develop one or two collaborative projects soon.

Here, Charlotte is showing to me and Sergey a neuron she just reconstructed in 3D. We don't see it well on the screen, but believe me, it is rather cool ! For those interested, the pic was taken in one of the rooms of my lab which we use mostly for audio experiments and recordings (and neuron reconstruction), so the two big covered things behind me and Sergey are actually speakers (covered to protect the membranes).

Also, Catherine presented us in the last group meeting a very good "compte rendu" of the last ATA meeting. Actually, it was pleasant to see that we are having the "good hypothesis", so to say, since some of the main thematic on which we are thinking seems to be currently at the center of the debates in the field of telemedicine.

Catherine in front of her poster at San José, CA, during the ATA meeting.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Research Update

We are in the process of launching a very exciting new research direction in the lab, which is somehow (and rather obviously) at the interface between our interests in virtual spaces and in pathologies of sensory systems: "theoretical and practical aspects of tele-medicine in otolaryngology". Actually, some of our recent works could be seen as "predictors" of this kind of projects (particularly, the paper on recognition of artificial/human language, and the last review on tinnitus). We first will focus on theoretical aspects, but with the aim to go relatively soon (depending on how things evolve) to more practical things ... ideally with some more grant support !

Lortie CL, Guitton MJ (2011) Judgment of the Humanness of an Interlocutor is in the Eye of the Beholder. PLoS ONE, 6:e25085.
Guitton MJ (2012) Tinnitus: pathology of synaptic plasticity at the cellular and system levels. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 6:12.

Speaking about tele-medicine, Catherine is back from the 17th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Telemedicine Association (AMA) at San Jose, CA. It seems this year was a very good occurrence of this meeting !

On an other topic, the paper on the "Hutt Space" of Star Wars Role-Play community of Second Life (see picture just below for those who forgot what a Hutt is) is now in press, and available here.


Actually, this paper is kind of interesting (I know, I am biased), since it provided a greater "deepness" in the 3C model of immersion on which we are working, and since it increased our understanding on dynamics of virtual communities, and identified some structuring factors ...