Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Space, building and virtual reality: from layers to Rhizomes

The brilliant futurist Stewart Brand of the Long Now Foundation has produced a concept in this book How Building Learn. A building, in the Real, is never a unified single finished constructed but a set of layers. Each layer has its own life span.

Brand identifies these layers, with estimated spans of time:

The ground a building is on, in the human scale this lasts "forever", though probably "generations of stability" would be a better term.


The frame or load baring structure which last 30 to 300 years. I live in a 100 year old house, when we moved in there was a great deal of stuff added during the 1970s and 1980s which we tore up to expose the bricks and beams underneath.


Skin is the stuff around the frame, like walls or installation, this stuff will last about 20 years until it needs to be replaced. You don't change the walls or even paint every year.


Gas, water, electricity, things that last maybe last 7 to 15 years.

Space Plan

From paint to walls and carpets this is the stuff that can last up to 30 years, what we see as the interior of he building.


All the stuff we move around at will.

If you own a SIM in Second Life all these layers are reduced to Stuff, everything, including the ground and sky in Virtual reality is furniture and decorations. The only way these layers are preserved is through levels of ownership. As a visitors to a friends apartment I can change what I wear and maybe ad something like a plant to space. My friend as a renter can change the skin and services of the apartment at will but the owners is able to change the ground layout and ultimately Linden Labs owns the fate of the site.

Second Life may reduce relationships of time to that of ownership, but it does so by essentially creating a singularity of time. Everything, nature, culture, history, is mobile, flexible and agile. There is nothing that can not be altered in a matter of minutes. Only the time it takes to design something, as designing and building are now the same task. We just need to draw it out and it is, from a mountain range to a new hat.

This creates an experience were the main "capture" for long term knowledge is lost. Since now layers of Second Life's reality are any more fixed than any other nothing holds long term data unless we decided, continually, to hold it there. This allows us a world supporting rapid creation and evolution of simulated culture, but it provides a world where there is nothing to dig up, no long term scares, all past and identity are just imagined past and identity, no layers reset under other layers holding them up in time.

And this is probably why I keep blogging like this. I am not sure how many records there are like this of Second Life, but in time you will be able to use the records of blogs, wikis and communities to find the history of Second Life. And I see some very solid lessons about communication and community in those lessons.

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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