Asset Risk

Julian Lombardi makes some terrific points about asset risk for virtual worlds on his blog. I think the issue is a pretty fertile area for exploration as we all continue to invent new ways of working together, but Blogspot simply doesn’t allow that much content in discussion, so I’ll have to fork it here.

I see the asset risk issue-space as breaking out into at least two dimensions:
* Bit storage vs bit usage
* Point assets vs context

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Because You Can

Ever since Shelly’s “Frankenstein”, the distinguishing characteristic of science fiction (as opposed to fantasy and other literature) has been the postulation that beings can change the circumstances of the world in which they live. We can alter the human condition, for better or worse. An idea of the last few decades has been that we can create an alternative reality for ourselves that is better than the one we inhabit in the flesh. For example, the movie “Avatar” has the characters access an improved natural world through a virtualized experience.

This terrific short blog applies this idea wonderfully to learning and collaboration. “The real power of a virtual immersive environment is the ability to transport the learner or collaborators into an environment that is ideally suited for the learning or collaborating that needs to take place and this usually requires an altering of the spaces.”

In principle, we can abstractly virtualize such an experience with 2D photographs, or even 1D text, but that doesn’t tend to cross the threshold of immersion that is necessary for deep learning and deep collaboration. As this commenter on the above puts it, “In most 2-D meeting tools, the data is the center of focus, not the human. Think about a Web meeting. The leader is simply showing participants slides. But the participants are not interacting with the information, nor one another.” Simply reading about nature or viewing it from a helicopter was not enough for the characters in Avatar, they had to “be” there and interact with it.

Development Rights in a Carbon-Constrained World

The good folks at environmental/social justice/global policy think tank EcoEquity have just published an intriguing policy paper about a “Greenhouse Development Rights”, which they call a

Climate protection framework designed to support an emergency climate stabilization program while, at the same time, preserving the right of all people to reach a dignified level of sustainable human development free of the privations of poverty.

More specifically, the GDRs framework quantifies national responsibility and capacity with the goal of providing a coherent, principle-based way to think about national obligations to pay for both mitigation and adaptation.

I plan to write a more in-depth synopsis of the paper soon, but in the meantime, all you people who are threatened by the climate crisis (basically all of you who live on earth), and especially you economic policy-wonk types, should check it out.

rock shows then and Can You Hear Me Now?

I went to my first rock concert in years last night. Wife and I took our oldest daughter to see Snow Patrol.

The base player for opening opener Silversun Pickups had an amp with a GREEN LIGHT on it instead of a RED one. What’s up with that? Kids these days…

Seriously, it wasn’t very different from years ago. OK Go (the middle band) had a a screen behind them with their music videos playing. The music was pretty much like early U2 with a maybe a little Iggy Pop thrown into the first two.

One thing that was kind of weird: no lighters in the air. There was enough cigarette smoking to make my hair stink, but not very much. No pot. Instead of lighters, people held up their cell phones!

Some of that was for taking pictures. It’s kind of interesting that where they used to ban recording devices (they may still do so, officially), there’s no freakin’ way that they can effectively stop that now. (The drummer for one of the bands actually whipped out a little camera to take pictures of his bandmates on stage taking their bows. From behind. Probably included a lot of the audience.) I wonder why they don’t have a live Web site on the screen to which the audience can upload their pictures while the show is in progress. More participatory and all…

Anyway, seeing all those cell phones being held up in the air was pretty weird. It was like some sort of bizarre Verizon ad.

It occurs to me that one of the reasons that we are all so accepting of government abuse is that we came of age going to concerts where we would be searched for alcohol (and recording devices), and then be served alcohol on the premises. There’s no flipping principle of safety or law at work there — it’s simply the exercise of commercial power. We accept it when it’s convenient enough to do so, and don’t accept it when it irks us enough. For example, we’re not going to throw away our cell phones during the entry search. And the “them” accept that, and only try to enforce the abuse of power that they can get away with. So as long as the government keeps the planes running without TOO much delay, and doesn’t send us personally to Iraq, we acquiesce.

The Shared Experience

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This is a picture of a three way iChat. My friend Preston Austin travels quite a bit with his business. Here we see Preston in the bottom display, cleaning bicycle parts in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His wife is folding laundry in Madison, Wisconsin. A third computer has a TV tuner attached, providing a live feed from “Sex in the City.” Preston and his wife have watched movies “together” this way several times. He reports that the experience allowed for more rich interaction than just long video calls and certainly better than separately watching TV.

Preston has been emphasizing to me the value of the shared experience almost since the moment I met him. When he first told me about shared virtual movie theaters, I didn’t really get it. But now I see my kids gathered around the TV or the computer running a DVD, and talking to each other about what they’re seeing. Or they’re on the phone discussing the same TV show that they and their friends are separately and simultaneously watching.

I think the principle here is that every(*) experience can be enriched by sharing it. Regardless of where the solitary activity is in the range from passive to active, the activity becomes more active when shared. This has value for education, training, and entertainment.

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I was just thinking of you…

I just had one of those damn computer things, where I send an email to someone who I couldn’t reach by voice, but just after sending it, I get an email from that person that changes the conditions of what I was writing to the person about. Arghh.

I’ve written before about how Croquet fosters both synchronous and asynchronous communication, like combining chat and email. Here’s how it plays out in this particular scenario. I go to the special space that Alice and I have created (with a few clicks or voice commands) for the stuff common to us. (Or maybe common to a group of three or more. It doesn’t matter.) I create a message in that space – voice, text, or video. The idea is that Alice will see that message (and possibly be notified) and will review at her leisure. Alice starts to do the same thing, but since each of us has a presence (an avatar) visible to anyone else in the space, we see each other. Then we just start talking, directly. While we do so, I can even point at the paragraph that I was just composing. Alice can edit it, too, so that she or I can then bring over the collaboratively revised version to Bob. No mail client. No telephone. No chat client. No whiteboard. No filenames or email addresses. No server.

OK, this isn’t that different in principle from the little colored balls in Macintosh Mail that tell you which addresses belong to people who are in your buddy list and available for iChat at this moment. But maybe it’s enough different to actually be useable.

My wife wants to run away with John Gilmore!

Well, actually maybe that’s a bit of an exageration. But she does admire his stand for privacy and the principle that people should actually be allowed to read laws that they are required to follow. If you’re not familiar with John Gilmore, there’s a good account here of his suit against Mr. Ashcroft.

My wife also notes that Gilmore has $30 million, which is about $31 million more than I have. (She’s never met him, by the way; nor had she heard of him before reading the article.)

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