New worlds appearing in the virtual skies
I can almost hear the crackling pops as new virtual worlds suddenly appear in the static void of cyberspace. The megastar Second Life™ has a little competition; perhaps one day soon one of these new virtual worlds will entice Second Lifers to switch allegiances? Kzero recently provided some insights into the behavior of users in the post ‘Running the numbers: vSide’
It helps to follow the innovators, you can observe their mistakes and problems, and build something that improves upon their initial idea. ‘Followers’ frequently end up with a superior product, and the innovator finds themselves getting left behind, financially unable to justify investment in improvements. On the other hand, many followers are not necessarily improving upon the original vision of a product; they are just jumping on board the ‘band wagon’. But then, perhaps the fact there is a ‘band wagon’ means that a concept (in this case the concept of virtual worlds) has reached mainstream acceptance?
Looking through Truthseeker Young’s ‘threads’
The chuntering stage
When the first passenger train, the ‘Rocket’, was introduced to the public, sensationalists speculated that people would faint due to the high speeds the train could achieve compared to horses. There is always a sizable swathe of humanity that becomes very anxious when faced with innovative ideas and inventions. For example: planes were met with ‘If God had meant man to fly he would have given us wings.’ ‘Television will turn us into zombies’ or ‘Mobile phones will give everyone brain tumors’ etc.
Virtual worlds are in the midst of navigating their way through this chuntering stage as those who say ‘I just don’t get it’ are convinced that virtual world travelers are forgoing ‘real life’ for synthetic existence. Virtual worlds are gradually being recognized as a form of communications that can network us with others and information data. The Internet was created to share knowledge, and we are social animals who want to discuss what interests us. Hence the evolution of Web 2.0, with its social networking tools, enabling us to share conversations about quantum physics or Paris Hilton (or both at the same time if we are so inclined!)
Managing information overload
The problem today is that there is so much information ‘out there’ we can easily begin to feel disconnected, even alienated. The more we conduct our business (both commercial and personal) in virtual space, the more abstract our work becomes. It feels harder to relate the different experiences of the concrete world with the synthetic world. But this is where the potential of 3D worlds lies. These synthetic worlds use the metaphor of the concrete world, and this metaphor can potentially help us relate to masses of information. That is, if we move into a 3D virtual space we can place ourselves within relationships to information and data (and each other). We can represent ideas in 3D creating an immersive virtual mind map.
I am taking classes at a university that recently published its class schedule purely online. Classes are now tucked away in a system of drop down menus and filters that sift through the classes for me. Seems a shame though! I miss reading what other departments are offering and feel caught in a linear ‘outline’ logic system that disconnects me from the bigger picture.
Entrance to the blue orb by Kolar Fall
Imagining 3D catalog / galleries
Now, imagine putting the catalog in a 3D environment. Each department would represent itself three dimensionally, could be a building, object or symbol, and the same for classes. I could wander into each department and explore its programs. For instance, I could walk into the business school and see what they are offering (prerequisites would float like balloons above the particular class). If I want to know more I can click on a class for an information note card. To sign up I click on an enroll button that takes me through to a registration page.
Imagine visiting other universities in the virtual world and taking a look at their catalogs in exhibition areas, or galleries. Class catalogs are a form of education, in and of themselves, as they introduce us to other disciplines and educational possibilities. A problem with academic institutions is that they constantly refine themselves into ever tighter discipline areas that fail to relate to each other. Ideas become vacuum packed and creativity decreases as the cross fertilization of ideas becomes increasingly difficult. Online class catalogs run the risk of extending this compartmentalization.
Inside the purple orb: Jopsy Pendragon’s ‘Seraphim Monument’
We are putting more and more information online while simultaneously struggling to integrate and relate to this same information! When information loses its ‘tangibility’ (e.g, the paper based catalog) by becoming virtual, we feel we have symbolically lost something. However, we can come full circle and make the virtual information symbolically tangible by being able to directly relate to it within the 3D metaphor of the virtual world. With the financial pressures being placed upon businesses, non profits and academia more information is going to be published virtually. The sense of disconnect will increase with this remote placing of data. Virtual worlds have the potential to help us resolve this ‘lost in space’ experience of information anomie.
Inside the yellow orb: The Chakra Symphony by Brigitte Kungler
The next phase of virtual world development may well begin to provide us with this virtual 3D mind mapping environment, helping the data of our concrete worlds relate more naturally with the abstract data of cyberspace…
Pop! And another virtual world materializes…