Archive for August, 2006

I thought i would ramble a little about this as this thought cropped as I was reading Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Funny how I am going to read it after having experienced metaverses. What came first Gibson’s cyberspace or the internet :)? It is taking me a while to get in synch with the rythm of the writing which appears a little jerky at times. Writing style aside, I am interested in deconstructing the  scenes he paints in the book. I find it interesting how he picks little examples of future everyday objects, devices and so forth and take the time explain how they would work, and then weaves a story around those. What I find beautiful is that each of these future common devices are really simple linear extensions of daily common devices. The neat thing is that to the uninitiated, or the unexposed to information technologies, the book will certainly appear seismic. I am inclined to believe that all magnum opuses are really woven pieces of linear extensions.


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It is difficult for me to explain my gut feeling regarding how I view information spaces. But let me give it a try. My line of thinking can perhaps be more accurately cast as a sequence of questions. When we speak of virtual reality, are we referring to ‘naive 3d re-representations of the real world’?, are we referring to the existing Web applications, social applications, data visualization applications and so forth?’, do we really mean anything that is not real but reproducible as experiences for others to access and and perhaps use? It is fascinating how popular media, pundits included, and the masses view virtual reality as an escape route from reality. This view does not only presume virtual reality to represent exclusively ‘naive 3d representations of the real world’ but it also does not hold water which ever way you look at it. An engrossing game for example can be as attention grabbing as a good book. However, I do not see avid book readers be labeled as escapists even if these avid readers would prefer to read a favorite book at the expense of say taking a bath. Thinking outside the ‘naive 3d re-representations of the real world’ flavor of virtual reality, one could perhaps try to envisage a virtual environment that packages not only information representations but also user or user activity or user interest information (which is pretty much what the web with social and collaborative applications look like at present). Hmm.. so nothing really new here, interesting to see how my line of thinking landed on what is there already but along a rather circuitous route. One could perhaps argue that at present, all those web based collaborative and social applications are dispersed and there is a need to bring everything together to create more unified applications, this is also already happening, and i guess this is a rather complex way of describing the trivial. Fusion of ‘naive 3d worlds’ with abstract virtual reality (to describe the plethora of web2.0 applications), I guess could describe a good target for the evolution of information spaces. This fusion would then constitute web3.0 and I think web4.0 would then be the fusion of web3.0 with the real-world through augmented reality technologies.

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Avatar evolutions

It is perhaps interesting to think about how our notion of avatars have evolved. On a personal level, and having been exposed to hinduism since birth, this word is familiar and refers to god’s human representation or ‘human’ manifestation on Earth. Many science fiction writers have been fond of using words, names and so on from Indian myths, fables etc… e.g. Arthur C Clarke (Rendezvous with Rama) and more recently Neal Stephenson(the use of avatar in Snowcrash). If i remember correctly, this word rather unexpectedly became visible to me with albeit a slight shift in meaning as multi-player games exploded on the gaming scene. I also found the term ‘avatar’ being used quite regularly in published computer science papers (at so-called serious venues) discussing 3D virtual environments inhabited by role players. The word avatar at least to virtual community users have come to mean representation of users in a shared virtual environment. According to this definition, one could draw a ‘map’ or the evolution of avatars:

Avatar evolution

1. Some early multiuser games on Unix machines represented playes are ASCII letters;

2. Pong computer game represented a player/bat as a short line of pixels (To debate: where does reprentation of tools end and representation of avatars begin?) The actor-tool ‘paradox’ has and will rear its head in such discourses;

3. ‘Blokies’ simple geometric objects to represent users in early 3d virtual environments;

4. Cursors to present user hands/ users/ user locations  in shared drawing applications;

5. 3d human models with correct kinematic behaviors typically found in current 3d multiplayer video games but without facial expressions.

These are the main 5 steps of the avatar evolution i can think of at the moment. It is clear that there is a strong shift in the representation of users from that of tools to that of actors. The realism of actor representations will of course increase and is easy to predict in the near term.

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