Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pros and Cons

The brouhaha developing over the integrated voice chat is really interesting to me. I missed all the previous "ZOMG THIS IS THE END OF SL" changes — land fee changes, free accounts, and so forth — so this is my first experience with the wide spectrum of reactions.

Unlike some of the posters, I can see both sides of the argument. Speaking as an SL "educator", I think this will be a wonderful tool for teaching classes. I hate having to cut-and-paste due to the time constraints of disseminating large amounts of information in a fairly short time. If the students had to wait for me to type everything — and go back and correct typos, because I obsess about that — my hour-long classes would take at least a couple of hours each. Being able to actually speak it — and to let students actually ask their questions at speaking speed, instead of having to wait (sometimes interminably) for them to finish typing them, would be wonderful.

On the other hand, as I have a friend with profound hearing loss, and another with a bad speech impediment, I can understand the horror that some might feel at this development. My friend who stutters loves online forums because he can communicate as freely as everyone else; if he played Second Life, I can just imagine how this would affect him. And then of course there are the gender changers; this will pretty much spell the end of their SL identities.

I'm personally ambivalent about it; I really look forward to using it as a tool in teaching, but it'll make me feel really self-conscious because I hate the way I sound in recordings. (Why does it sound so different from the way I sound to myself when I'm speaking?) And I get stage-fright on conference calls. But maybe speaking more in SL will help me get over that. So I don't know. I'll have to wait and see.

And at the risk of sounding crabby, I'm getting really tired of the SL blog commenters who always complain about Linden Lab addressing anything but the commenters' pet-peeve bugs. "How can you waste time on X when you haven't fixed Y?" It's like saying "Why are you doctors and scientists trying to cure diabetes, blindness and Alzheimers when you haven't cured cancer yet?"


Barney said...

How many non-native speakers are in your classes? How many of them do you expect to be able to follow a fast-paced _spoken_ course? How many of them do you expect to be able to understand and follow spoken questions? How many of them do you expect to be able to _speak_ their questions?

No, telling people to slow down with speaking doesn't work, as much as it doesn't work if someone with hearing problems asks for people to type instead of chat.

wudangtiger said...

It's like saying "Why are you doctors and scientists trying to cure diabetes, blindness and Alzheimers when you haven't cured cancer yet?"

- That is the best way I've seen anyone say it! Make a T-shirt! Holler it from the walls!

Johanna Hyacinth said...

To answer your questions, barney:

1) I honestly couldn't tell you; I don't take a poll to see who comes from where.

2) When I teach, I proceed at speaking tempo anyway (after I hit Enter, I speak the line aloud before sending out the next line), so the pace (of my classes, at least) won't really change.

3) I'm not quite sure what you're asking here.

4) I suppose that depends on how widely adopted the technology is. But it certainly doesn't preclude people from typing questions if they wish; I certainly wouldn't expect that using voice chat would suddenly make text chat invisible to the user!

In what way wouldn't telling people to slow down with speaking "work"? You don't believe that people would slow down if asked? Or do you mean that a slower speaking rate will not help non-native speakers understand? (If the latter, I would have to respectfully disagree: the phrase "Mehr langsam, bitte!" helped me greatly in college.)

If both text and speech were combined (that is, whatever is spoken is also sent via normal chat), would that satisfy your concerns?

When I was taking German in college, I found that listening to the teachers speaking German, and responding in kind, was far easier for me than reading and writing it. Perhaps that's unusual, and most people find written language easier than spoken; I don't really have the data to say for sure.

But where you seem to be opposing voice chat based on linguistic concerns, it's one of the reasons I'm anticipating it: with nobody to practice German with, I forgot most of it fairly shortly after college. I'm looking forward to being able to hang out in the German-speaking parts of Second Life and try to pick the language back up again!

Thanks, wudangtiger. :)

Shreela said...

We watched a show on PBS many years ago that had a teen male with a stutter. They discussed how many stutterers did not stutter while singing, so they wondered if this worked when SPEAKING in unison too. They tried it, and it seemed to work.

Next they made a small recording device, modded to record the SPEAKER'S voice, then alter it to a slightly higher pitch (forget the exact reason, but maybe it had something to do with the speaker KNOWING it was their voice, as opposed to other voices they were hearing).

Anyway, once they hung the small recording device around the young man's neck, and put the earphone in, they asked him to recite something from a printed paper.

Both my macho husband and I were in tears as the young man spoke clearly, without any stutter at all. The young man's mother was bawling as her son just kept talking and talking (he was excited LOL).

I don't remember if that device would be helpful to all stutterers, but maybe your friend might look into it.

SL: Sabra Singh (newbie)

PS: lovely site, but it's WAY over my head for now; maybe I'll visit it later, after figuring out more at SL =^)