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A Virtual Project

April 1, 2010

A few weeks ago I visited a new project site with a group of business profs from the UO.   Seems that they want a space for conferencing and exhibit display… all within the Second Life virtual world.    I have to admit that when I showed up at the appointment I was not at all sold on the idea, my initial explorations of Second Life had given me an impression of a cartoon world populated with large chested female caricatures.  But these professors are doing something quite serious and quite interesting… they are studying the design and impact of virtual conferencing on the business community.  I have a personal history here as well, my final years in high-tech involved an increasingly frustrating level of outsourcing to sites in China and India and, adding insult to injury, more and more time spent at the office either early in the morning and late into the evening phone conferencing to those same sites.

What changed my mind regarding the “Collaboratory” as it is called, was the tour of the site they gave to me.   This was fascinating.  They have a parcel of property allocated to them in the arts community of Chilbo.   Its an odd “L”-shaped lot.   They have neighbors.  They have views.  There is a slope.  There are limits on the number and characteristics of the objects that can be used to create a space.

And then they said, “We want a space where our avatars will feel ‘comfortable’ meeting together.”  My head started spinning.   What makes an avatar “comfortable”???   What is personal space to an avatar?   What parts of real world meeting spaces would be incorporated into a virtual one and what would be excluded?  What is useful and what is distracting?

Although the project is virtual, these are completely legitimate and interesting architectural questions.  My understanding is that some schools have offered design studios in Second Life, which makes perfect sense.  I’ve agreed to help with the project where I can, and have begun to explore examples of “good” and “bad” virtual architecture.   I think it will be a fun and interesting project to be involved with and will share my progress here.  I’ll may never acquire a taste for chesty virtual women (my real world model suits me just fine…) but if you happen to be “inworld” as they say, look me up.

– Geovnic Qariel –

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