We’ve discussed here how collaborative virtual worlds and other technology can be used to facilitate better business meetings while reducing business travel. (See here and its links.) What about when the Continue reading
Listen, I know that there’s a pretty good chance that you (yes, you!) are some kind of policy wonk who only reads Wetmachine for the insight & analysis of all things FCC/Net Neutrality/media hegemony/First Amendment provided by the inimitable Harold Feld.
And there’s also a pretty good chance that you don’t give a care about Harold Feld’s wonky analysis, because you read Wetmachine for Howard Stearns’s stunning and out-of-nowhere insights into software development in general and 3-d collaborative virtual-world software in particular.
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The virtual world is fertile ground for exploration of social and identity issues. Like the crucible of competitive sports controversies, synthetic worlds let us burn away irrelevancies to reach abstract truths about, e.g., gender and sexuality. The computer-as-laboratory lets you control the environment and change one variable at a time, and every possible interaction and gesture can be recorded for examination.
Social worlds are the most numerous and have the most users, and so provide the most opportunity for study. Although the examples are still from social worlds, this article is the first I’ve seen that addresses avatar gender in the workplace. My take-away is, “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog of the wrong gender.” Men can be women if it helps a sale. Women can be men if it helps a negotiation. Otherwise, it’s just not a big deal.
I suspect, though, that we can do even better. I think we’ll see a Village People effect in which we will become both more aware and more comfortable with differences that are now still scary to many people.
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Pages like this one make it easy to get information (e.g., documents) into or out of a forum without using the 3D collaborative client. Maybe you’re not at your usual laptop or desktop computer and only have Web access. Maybe you are an executive or assistant to someone working in the forum such that you can’t suit up and be seen.
We’ve all seen the cartoons of people sitting next to each other in silence and texting each other. I just picked up my daughter from a concert where she did exactly that.
At work, we meet for a few hours in-world at least twice a week. Usually at least one of us is in some other part of the world and a few at home, but sometimes we’re all in the same room with headphones on. It isn’t always better than being in the same room with someone, it isn’t always worse. It’s just different, although occasionally it isn’t even that.
For folks growing up with texting and ubiquitous computing, it seems working with others in a virtual world should not be an issue. But circumstances matter (context is king) in ways that I still don’t understand. I’m disappointed that even we are passing up some working relationships that are long distance even as we do others that are global.
Sometimes you text the person next to you and sometimes you have to get on a plane.
One of the really great things about the WWW, as opposed to the Internet in general, is that the Web separates the concept of naming from everything else. A URL is bit of text that names a resource. You can type it. Except for some long URLs used by banks and in ecommerce, you can often even remember it. But most importantly, you can include the text in some other technology such as an email, an instant message, a calendar invite, a Web page, or even in a book or piece of paper. It can be sent and stored. The URL can be transmitted through this separate non-WWW media, and it still works on the other end.
When you name something, you have power over it. Like the dreidel mnemonic of the title, names help you to remember stuff. You can speak clearly about places and objects instead of just using misunderstood pronouns and long descriptions. And best of all, if you know something’s name, you can use it in casting a spell. (We call them programs.)
So a big part being able to work with virtual worlds, talk about them with other people, and use them in programs is to have a name – a URL that corresponds to each interesting thing about a virtual world.
A lot of us like to run Forums all day, like an IM client. In the new version, you can log in to your organization without actually entering any of its forums(1). We think of it as hanging out in the lobby of that organization. You can watch people going in and out, text chat with them, and join them in whatever forum they are working in(2).
The idea is that if virtual world technology is a meta-medium that subsumes, for example, instant messaging, then it ought to do IM as well as dedicated IM clients while retaining the benefits of the virtual world technology. In the case of Forums, that means secure communication.
In Forums, each user is a member of one or more organizations.
One of the general internal themes of Croquet is that everything ought to just work, and work well. Most practicing software developers aren’t fortunate enough to be able to create artifacts like this because the software is aimed at addressing a very specific problem. That tends to lead to tools of limited scope and interaction.
Consider sound. If you only want to make voice chat work, you can use a low fidelity encoding on a lossy transport. It will do what it does well, but only that. Now suppose you and someone else are watching a movie and discussing it, using separate programs for the movie and VoIP. Either program might work well, but use them together and everything is likely to go to hell.