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Hub2 week 6; also: situated, synchronous spaces and their value in community-led design

My Hub2 class is chugging along, and I thought the halfway point would be an opportune time to “publish” the class agendas for the program so far on the off-chance that they might prove useful to someone contemplating a similar effort. I’m afraid it lacks the level of detail most people would need to run without further design, but at least it provides an initial framework:

  1. Who has time for a second life?
  2. Spatial imagination
  3. Virtual imagination
  4. Imagining new solutions
  5. Net-locality
  6. Building new solutions

In other news, we’ve been meeting with City of Boston and Boston Redevelopment folks over the last week, and in that time have come to sharpen our thoughts on how Second Life can foster more deliberative, community-led processes in urban design. While we are not Second Life boosters, at the moment no other tools combine the ability to collaboratively build and inhabit spaces the way SL does. We plan to describe these affordances in our forthcoming article, but one aspect I just started grasping today is the idea not just of net-locality (the extension of places into virtual networks, à la Red Sox Nation) but also of situated presence. That is to say, most design processes result in some kind of virtual fly-through, but “you” take the form of a disembodied camera (often not even under your own control).

By contrast, virtual worlds enable presence, which has implications beyond just, for example, seeing how easy or hard it would be to walk down the street given a particular arrangement of street furniture. It would also allow purpose — the possibility, for example, of situating community participants in particular roles — whether the child trying to get to school or the truck driver attempting to make deliveries. Indeed, in opening the possibility of robust, situated role-playing, such systems could even offer polarized community members to take other points of view — ultimately, a community would care quite a bit about whether trucks are able to make deliveries to their local shops even though they might also fear the noise or potential for accidents.

With any luck, our discussions with the city of Boston will give us a chance to test out these ideas.

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