By Ryan Schultz (Theory Shaw in SL), cross-posted from Studio Wikitecture blog
I’ve been using Second Life for a number of years now to run experiments, through our ‘Studio Wikitecture’ group, to see if a Metaverse, such as SL might one day act as the platform for collective intelligence in architecture and urban planning. I’m also an active member of the ‘RL Architects in SL’ group. As you can imagine, most of the members that compose these two groups are architects. What I have found, participating in these groups over the last year or so is that new members are always excited about using Second Life as either a collaborative tool or as a platform to exhibit their work. Unfortunately, however, their interest soon wanes when they find out there’s no easy way to import in models from third party programs. I realize there’s a number of grass-roots initiatives out there that have developed rough and crude ways to import from the following:
Although, I give my utmost respect to the programmers that have developed these projects, to say they are crude, is to pay them a compliment. What invariably happens is that after sharing these links with the many people that ask, they come back (if they come back at all) even more confused and frustrated having labored through the elaborate and evolved process of copying and pasting pieces of code back and forth between one program and the other. The process is about as easy as painting with rice grains.
Having had a number of conversations over the year with people about this, I can say with confidence, that SL’s lack of portability is the number one hurdle for our demographic and the main reason why many people never come back. Although speculation, I would imagine this is a major hurdle for other groups as well.
What I don’t really understand is why this issue is not pushed more by the SL community at large. I have noticed there were a number of issues posted on SL’s Issue Tracker that call for portability of a number of various file types, such as .OBJ, .3DM, .3DS, .DXF, & .DAE.
What I don’t really understand is why, firstly, the overall SL community is not voting on this en masse and secondly, why have some of these grass-roots initiatives outlined above, just withered on the vine? Some of these projects are over two years old, with no sign of life or continued evolution since they were first posted.
Having been in the middle of this conversation for awhile, it seems the standard responses usually involve two factors: technology and/or SL’s economy—Technology, from the aspect that it’s currently still too difficult to do and economically, from the aspect that the sudden influx of new models would dilute the value of existing in-world creations, resulting in a negative impact on SL’s economy. Although I’m sure there are more reasons, these seem to be at the forefront of the discussion.
What confuses me, from my perspective anyways, is that these reasons still don’t seem plausible to me and I’m found wondering if I’m missing a valuable part of the equation.
First, although I have a limited background in programming, it appears from the existence of these grass roots projects, that portability is indeed obtainable. Having dabbled a little with each project above, I realize the process is laborious—cutting and pasting code from one program to the other.
I also realize that most of these conversion programs drastically simplify the form when imported into SL, such as textures being stripped off, and meshes and certain objects such as cylinders and sphere’s being simplified down to plain ‘box’ prims in SL. Although these are indeed hurdles, the technology is currently there to do this on a very limited basis.
What I don’t understand, is why these projects haven’t evolved into a more user-friendly format after the years they have been in place. This is just a lack of user-interface design verses a lack of back-end programming. Even though they are crude and might only import texture striped SL boxes in some cases, i know that I, as well has a horde of others, would still jump at the chance to have access to a tool like this and in most cases would actually pay good money for such a thing.
On to the economic end of the argument. I guess I can see on the surface, why a number of residences might be fearful of a world where seamless importing and exporting becomes the norm. I would imagine their argument springs from the fear that they either think their creations would be diluted by all these new models or that their creations could easily be exported and in turn imported, further diluting their value. I think these are legitimate concerns, but are there not ways of regulating this? Could you not add an additional layer of modifications rights that would give the owner of the in-world object the choice on whether they allowed subsequent owners to export out their creations?
From the importing perspective, yes, I’m sure such functionality would initially effect the market. The problem is however, that in the long run, the longer SL holds out on this functionality, the more negatively it will impact the economy, that is, when they finally do implement it. I’m not an economist, but I would imagine this is the same phenomenon you see when age old tariffs are removed and the economy in which they were trying to protect in the first place, finds itself unprepared to compete in the more innovative and efficient economy that was growing up all around them the whole time.
The assumption here, of course, is that they will do this eventually. The reason being, I believe, is that they will be forced to from market pressures from other virtual worlds offering portability as standard service and perhaps. In the end, perhaps this is exactly the reason why SL hasn’t offered this service yet. There’s no real viable competitor yet.
Although part of the reason for writing this post is to rant a little, my main objective is to start a conversation around why you don’t think portability has become common place for the end-user by now. I just wanted to share my confusion with everyone and see if there are others that are either just as confused, or perhaps have a more nuanced answer to this problem.
And if you’re a developer, just know that I’ll be the first to put my order in and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone. The market seems to be begging for it.
Filed under: aias, forum, jon brouchoud, keystone bouchard, ryan schultz, Theory Shaw
Tomorrow, Ryan Schultz and I are heading to Milwaukee to demonstrate Second Life to the American Institute of Architecture Students FORUM convention.
For my part, I put together a survey of everything I could think of related to architecture in SL, and Ryan put together a more philosophical perspective of how we think virtual worlds and web 2.0 will be affecting these students, as the next generation of architecture professionals. We will conclude with a live demonstration of the Wikitecture project, and show our progress to-date.
Beyond our demo, we have the unfortunate reality of reporting to them that New Zealand’s equivalent of their AIAS convention already kicked their butts earlier this year by purchasing an island, hosting an architecture competition, and streaming their entire conference live into Second Life for everyone to enjoy.
The only comfort we can provide is that Ryan and I (former members of AIAS) took both first and second place in their competition! lol. One way or another, 2008 will be catch-up time for AIAS in Second Life, and we hope to kick-start that process tomorrow!
We will be giving a similar presentation at Metaverse U at Stanford University in February.
Filed under: collaborative design, jon brouchoud, keystone bouchard, open architecture network, open source architecture, ryan schultz, Theory Shaw, wikitecture
Can mass collaboration and collective intelligence improve the quality of architecture and urban planning?
We are happy to announce that, Studio Wikitecture will continue to try to tease out this question, via it’s 3rd Wikitecture experiment kicking off officially on Nov. 7th. To accommodate those in different time zones, there will be two different times: Wednesday, Nov. 7th @ 9:00am and 6:30pm PST/SLT.
The project on which this experiment will center around will be the competition recently announced by the Open Architecture Network. Competition sites range from a medical facility in rural Nepal, a media lab and library in the slums of Nairobi, or a fair trade chocolate factory in Ecuadorian Amazon.
Since the OAN is an “open-source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design”, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to submit an entry for this competition that is, in turn, designed and composed in the same collaborative and open-source fashion.
We would be happy for you to join the next experiment and help us design this collaborative competition entry. You don’t need any experience in architecture, engineering or construction to participate. We actually believe the more diverse the pool of contributors, the better. You will need, if you don’t already, a Second Life account. Registering is easy.
Once you have downloaded the Second Life application, registered an account and log in, press the ’search’ key on the bottom of your screen. Look for the group ‘Studio Wikitecture’ and click ‘join.’ Enrollment is open to all.
After you have joined, click the following link for a ‘teleport’ to the Wikitecture 3.0 Parcel (link), which was generously donated by arcspace.com. Once there, ‘touch’ the base of the ‘wiki-tree’ interface, which looks like the following:…
to get the password for the website. (not operational, until nov. 7th)
For the login: use your full ‘Second Life’ name.
If you have an problems, don’t hesitate to IM either Keystone Bouchard or Theory Shaw in-world and we’ll come by and help you.
A Brief Overview of the evolving technology behind Wikitecture 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0
We are not only excited about the project, but the new website and in-world interface (not operational, until nov. 7th) that will allow everyone to better communicate and collaborate with each other over the duration of the project’s two month time frame. Allow with the following description, this video, provides a nice overview of the technology behind Wikitecture 3.0 as well.
Over the last year, we have been using the virtual world of Second Life as a platform for conducting ‘Wikitecture’ experiments to work out the procedures and protocols necessary to harness a group’s collective intelligence in designing architecture. We have already conducted 2 experiments within Second Life to explore this idea of ‘open source architecture’. The videos of their final form can be found here: 1.0 & 2.0. The following gives a brief overview of the evolving functionality behind Wikitecture 1.0, 2.0, & 3.0.
Wikitecture 1.0 was not really a true Wiki in the sense that contributors could not modify or delete the contributions of others. What resulted, although interesting in its own right, was an amalgamation of ‘stuff’ with not no overall coherency or unity – a result we expected.
In the 2nd experiment, we asked contributing members to enable full-permissions on every object they added. This new protocol enabled designers to add/modify/delete each other’s designs. In addition, we set up a Flickr Account that allowed contributors to upload descriptive snapshots of their designs and leave feedback as well. With Wikitecture 2.0, we also introduced an archiving system, where members, through community consensus, were able to roll-back the ‘live’ design to previously saved iterations. Although this system was still rudimentary, the resultant design was far more unified and coherent than Wikitecture 1.0.
For our 3rd experiment, however, we have continued to try and improve upon this underlying technology. In teaming up with i3D inc., experts in creating virtual applications that cross the 2D/3D divide, we have developed both an in-world interface (’wiki-tree’) and external website that continually communicate with each other. From the in-world perspective, contributors are able to archive their particular design into an abstract ‘leaf’ within a 3-dimensional ‘tree canopy’. As this canopy grows, the branching network of ‘leaves’ communicates to other designers, how related all the different designs are to each other.
image of the ‘leaf canopy’. Although not always the case, the general rule will typically apply: one ‘archive leaf’ = one design iteration = one contributor.
In addition, to fully communicate their vision and rationale behind their designs, this interface will allow contributors to take snapshots of their designs and, combined with descriptive commentary, upload them to the external website.
Since there will be multiple designs iterations within the ‘tree canopy’ and only a limited amount of land, the ‘wiki-tree’ interface, by touching the leaves, will allow members to ‘rez’ out the designs, one by one, onto the viewing parcel. Once rezzed out, viewers are then able to immerse themselves, 3-dimensional, in the design. In addition, to augment the experience of actually occupying the space, the three screens in the viewing kiosk near the ‘wiki-tree’ will allow users to cycle through the snapshots and comments associated with the active design on the viewing parcel as well. This viewing kiosk will become especially helpful for those who want to communicate their designs informally with a smaller group of individuals.
The ‘wiki-tree’ allows the community, in turn, to vote and comment on their fellow contributor’s designs.
Other than cycling and rezzing out the individual designs from the ‘archiving leaves’, The website component will allow users all the same functionality as the in-world interface. In other words, through the website, members can vote and add comments, as well as upload images they would like to associate with their saved designs.
What if this collaboratively designed entry actually wins this OAN competition? How will the reward money actually be divvied up amongst the contributors? If you worked on the last Wikitecture experiment, we will be using the same system whereby we ask all the contributors to assess what percentage they feel they have contributed to the design as well as what percentage they feel others have contributed. The general idea being, that when everyone’s assessment of each other is averaged out, however subjective it may be, a pretty fair judgment is made to how much (compensation, ownership, IP rights, etc) should be dolled out to each contributor. If, in the event, Studio Wikitecture’s entry wins the competition, we will distribute the winnings in this manner.
Although this system of assessment is not perfect, we feel it’s a start. This is one component of the experiment we feel will need to be massaged here and there as we go forward and would love your input to help improve it. Throughout the next two months of designing and assessing, if you have an idea on how to improve either this contribution assessment procedure, or any other functionality for that matter, please let us know. We have set up a forum for such discussion: Feedback & F.A.Q.
Although, this collaborative platform is light years beyond what was used for the 2nd experiment, please be aware that it’s still somewhere between alpha and the prepubescence beta stage of development—we will most likely encounter our fair share of bugs.
Although running at a base level right now, certain features will not be available until Nov. 7th.
Filed under: keystone bouchard, lebenswelt, reflexive architecture, Theory Shaw, ugotrade, virtual architecture
UgoTrade has been doing some interesting research and reporting on virtual architecture, including a new post today (link) including coverage of the reflexive architecture installation, the Cntrl-Shift-07 competition, Theory Shaw, the Wikitecture progress, as well as the important work Eolus McMillan and the EOLUS One Initiative they have been working on.
(This is Theory Shaw’s essay submission to the Ctrl-Shift-07 competition on Lebenswelt Island – screenshots also by Theory)
“Learn from experience what natural structures men find beautiful, because it is among such structures that men’s aesthetic sensitivity evolved.” Nicholas Humphry
The process of evolution has taught us that those species with the most advantageous characteristics will have a greater probability of surviving and in turn passing these along to their offspring. It has been determined the constitution of these traits is not just physical, but includes psychological schemata as well. The evolution of these mental traits was especially pivotal in the survival of humans, since we are and have been sorely lacking in any type of self-protection other animals possess. Given our lengthy evolutionary history amidst the natural environment, we might then infer that these ingrained mental schemata would still have a great impart on how we inform and order our virtual world. Indeed one of the oldest and most consistent theoretical frameworks of what constitutes art has been its connection to man’s understanding of the natural order. What makes the virtual realm unique in all the genres of art is its unique combination of the spatial and temporal dimension. This project takes the stance that the evolution of the language of virtual architecture should not be sought through an unprecedented reinvention, but instead explored and teased out in the middle ground between our temporal and spatial arts.
Since someone is able to hear conversations transmitted through walls as well cam out and view remote spaces at the same time, avatars can essentially be in two places at once. The Temporal Tower explores how this characteristic might facilitate a cross-fertilization of ideas between disciplines that rarely intermingle in the real world. The ascending floors in the Temporal Tower are dedicated to informal conversations in the following disciplines: Science, Psychology, Language, Society, History, Literature, Music, Aesthetics, and Religion. The ultimate idea being that a conversation overheard on one floor might spark a discussion on an adjacent floor and provide a new perspective to help solve an otherwise entrenched problem. To further facilitate these impromptu discussions, the building itself visually transmits an avatar’s presence to the rest of the island by changing the color and size of its ‘leafy walls’ when an avatar is near.
In terms of materiality, I tried to both expand and exaggerate the material’s typical associations while at the same time use them somewhat ironically. For instance, the diaphanous leafy walls, might play into the associations someone might have of a protective forest canopy, while at the same time used somewhat ironic in their bulky girth. The bark texture used on the vertical element that transcends the height of the tower might recall a feeling of strength, while at the same time betrayed by its sporadic nature. The concrete’s association of strength is exaggerated in the overly thick floor slabs, while at the same time questioned through its transparency.
Overall this project was an exploration into how the temporal dimension, as defined in both time and materiality, would and could inform the spatial dimension in an effort to tease out a new language of virtual architecture.