Physical space / Virtual space

Büscher, M., P. Mogensen and D. Shapiro (2001). Spaces of Practice. In Jarke, M., Rogers, Y. and Schmidt, K. (eds), Proc. ECSCW 2001: The Seventh European Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Bonn, 16-20 September, Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic Press, pp. 139-158. Using a case study, the paper interestingly discusses why mimicking physical workspaces in digital environments is naive and inadequate.

"straightforward reproduction is not even the most appropriate ambition for a digital environment. This is in part because the physical environment has constraints that it may not be helpful to reproduce, and in part because the digital environment may be given different and helpful capacities that the physical environment cannot match."

Some example the authors gives relates to - the three-dimensional arrangement and manipulation of material in space is constrained by things such as gravity (" Documents etc. can only be placed on horizontal surfaces, or pinned to surfaces in other planes") and this is not always helpful. - elements from the environments cannot fall conveniently fall at hand - the material available have a both an ephemeral (" easily created and easily changed or destroyed") and persistent character ("things ‘stay where they are put’"). This can have advantages and drawbacks ("The result of this combination of ephemerality and persistence can easily be just a clutter in which materials are neither in a meaningful arrangement nor ‘in their proper place’).

So what the authors proposes is to build upon these problems to create new kinds of digital workspaces that also take advantages of sociality:

" sometimes with a ‘minimal’ form of digital workspace, which users need never move beyond if they do not wish to; sometimes by reintroducing emulated physical properties such as gravity, stickiness, momentum and friction; sometimes through new behaviours for objects such as returning to a default position, or animation; and sometimes through extended properties that can be given to digital spaces, such as parallel universes, folding and tunnelling."

Why do I blog this? working on a presentation about SL, virtual worlds and the importance of spatial metaphors. The paper gives some very relevant elements about this topic; to put it shortly the argument can also be read as "the 3D metaphor is good for certain things, bad for others". People interested in this can listen to the interview of Raph Koster by Adam Reuters (at South by Southwest Interactive festival)