Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A tale of two Cities, simulating the urban

A tale of two virtual cities: London in twinity and Paris in Second Life.

The ultimate game of City simulation remains SimCity. Why? Because the city you create in SimCity can be a lovely complex microcosm, but more because it can burn down, it can run out of money, it can revolt against you and the Sims can flee your administration or taxes. SimCity presents the urbana landscape as a set of problems as much as a set of places.

Web 3.0 with its venues, grids and geo-maps aims to more fully capture a city than any previous technology. Virtual reality has the ability to present a simulated city including real people in real time. The combination of geo-knowledge of Web 3.0 and Virtual Reality is what I think might make Web 4.0. But so far the cities of VR lack the essential ingredient that makes a city a city: the problems.

Second Life presents us with a vast array of amusement part imagination cities. The complexity of people and place is there, but the cities are more "rides" than places. Twinity promises to give us the "real place" building virtual reality based on Google maps. But the physical location of much of London is there without the soul. The soul of a city is the fact that millions of people. many from around the world, daily have to come together and work out some kind of peace.

The problem with simulated cities on the Internet is that they are own commodities. As such they are require no negotiation or compromise which is not simulation. The owners of a SIM in Second Life have the power neo-nazis can only dream of in RL, they can ban anyone they want forever at any time on any basis. They can lock down an entire urban space on the basis of a shared ideology.

And as an owned commodity virtual cities are what travel agencies try to make real cities: commodities. Whereas a city emerges because of the necessity of millions of separate lives a simulated city is someones idea, usually an idea to make money. Packaged ad branded for us to consume as a specific item it can never take the risks of a truly great city.

When ever I played SimCity I dreamed about walking around the city and meeting the SIMs. The SIMs games tried that, but they really were more in line with robot pets. At present it is still not possible to do this, unless of course you live in a real city.

Which is probably where Web 3.0 comes in. Foursquare and other such services might be able to leverage the reality of a city where a simulation simply can not. Or perhaps something like Foursquare impoverishes the city, turns it in to a managed commodity of selected communities?

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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