Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Food for thought

Check out the prologue to "Everything is Miscellaneous", by David Weinberger. He's an interesting and engaging speaker, and writes in the same style.

Anyhow, I loved this quote, and I think about it in terms of what's happening with the 3D internet...

Those differences are significant. But they’re just the starting point. For something much larger is at stake than how we lay out our stores. The physical limitations that silently guide the organization of an office supply store also guide how we organize our businesses, our government, our schools. They have guided—and limited—how we organize knowledge itself. From management structures to encyclopedias, to the courses of study we put our children through, to the way we decide what’s worth believing, we have organized our ideas with principles designed for use in a world limited by the laws of physics.

Suppose that now, for the first time in history, we are able to arrange our concepts without the silent limitations of the physical. How might our ideas, organizations, and knowledge itself change?

For me this neatly captures a central idea of the 3D web. In a world without limitations, physics, or other constraints, how can we use the tools in a way that feels real, but that doesn't place the limits of physical world, or a static organization of information, into the virtual? This quote highlights both a mistake to be made, and new ways to think.

It also struck me last night that there is a common thread between the (admittedly modest) things I'm doing within Second Life, and past work I did on smart spaces and context aware computing. In some ways, the tools you wish were there in the physical world can be modeled in the virtual, sometimes with the same ends. In each case, physical and virtual, the goal is to respond to each individual, and provide a mesh of services around that person as they navigate the environment. I'm intrigued by the idea that some of these context-aware computing concepts could be applied within the metaverse toward the aims that David Weinberger describes. By the same token, I am interested in how the metaverse could be a testbed for context-aware applications. The whole environment is scripted, you can build sensors and actuators, have location, manipulate the environment, add social elements, etc. Model a smart home, classroom, or office in Second Life...It's certainly faster and cheaper than trying to build a testbed or living lab!

As a note, I happened upon this tidbit from Bob Sutor's blog, links to video now available from the MIT & IBM Conference: Virtual Worlds: Where Business, Society, Technology & Policy Converge which took place on Friday at MIT Media Labs.

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