Saturday, September 29, 2007
Space and place are really two very different concepts that are unfortunately often conflated by the designers of many of today's collaborative metaverses. Virtual spaces are representations of spaces in the real world, replete with mountains, trees, avatars, and other representations of real world artifacts. By contrast, virtual places are 3D user interfaces invested with meaning and function that need not be directly representational of anything in the real world. Open source software tools needed to create, deploy, and modify sophisticated and highly functional places are in increasing demand in education and industry. At the same time, design paradigms for such virtual places are still in their infancy.
Problem is that we don't presently have very many good models for the utility of highly-flexible 3D environments in support of productivity. Until then, many designers rely on using today's online gaming and entertainment applications as the models upon which to build their ideas. Most of the current batch of early 3D educational and productivity support environments run the risk of becoming too representational and game-like than is warranted. An effective argument can be made that representational environments are appropriate in support of game-based learning. However, not all learning or productivity support need be game-based.
With all the current publicity around online gaming and online 3D walled-gardens, the value of place is therefore too often overlooked - even by those who are entrusted with exploring the diversity of issues and solutions associated with the advent of emerging new media in support of education and industry. Bright shiny objects have a way of catching the eye and distracting ones attention...
This relevant link is from the YNNO Research blog in which YNNO researchers outline some very relevant differences between place and space that should be taken into account when designing collaborative 3D environments for work and education. YNNO, is a Dutch consultancy firm for innovative working which studies how innovation in workplace design, business process management and ICT tools can increase the productivity of today's knowledge workers.