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111708 Liquid Artifacts Metanomics Transcript


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Metanomics is a weekly Web-based show on the serious uses of virtual worlds. This transcript is from a past show.

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111708 Liquid Artifacts Metanomics Transcript

  1. 1. METANOMICS: ARCHITECTURE IN VIRTUAL WORLDS NOVEMBER 17, 2008 ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon. I’m Rob Bloomfield, and welcome to the 56th edition of Metanomics. Just about every week on Metanomics we hear from people who refer to terms from the field of architecture. They’re building software, and they’re talking about software architecture or building their business processes, but they’re almost always using these words in a metaphorical way. Today we’re going to be much more literal, and we’re going to examine the opportunities that Virtual Worlds offer professional architects, from helping them create Real World buildings in a better way to giving them a platform in which they can create buildings that simply are not possible in Real Life. So stick with us. This should be a great hour. As always, thanks to our sponsors InterSection Unlimited, Kelly Services, Language Lab, Learning Tree International, and, of course, to Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. I’d like to say hello to our viewers at our event partners Orange Island, Colonia Nova Amphitheater, Meta Partners Conference Area, Rockliffe University, New Media Consortium and JenzZa Misfit’s historic Muse Isle. We are using InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system to transmit local chat to our website and website chat into our event partners. This great technology brings you in touch with people around Second Life and on the web, wherever you and they might be. So speak up, and let everyone know your thoughts. Make sure, if you are doing this on the website, that you register on, in order to tap in to this great resource.
  2. 2. We start our show today by putting Kirsten Kiser On The Spot. Kirsten is the publisher of, an architect and an independent curator. After practicing architecture in Los Angeles and New York, she opened and managed Kirsten Kiser Gallery for Architecture in Los Angeles. She’s the founder of the Architecture Park Kolonihaven developed when Copenhagen was culture capital in 1996. She has a build under construction at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark and has been the European editor-in-chief for design architecture. Kirsten, welcome to Metanomics. KIRSTEN KISER: Thank you, Beyers. I’m happy to be here and to contribute my thoughts about Second Life. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, thanks. I appreciate it. I’d like to start by asking you about your online magazine Arcspace. When we talked the other day, you mentioned you get 17 million hits on the web every month. So can you tell us a little bit about this resource? KIRSTEN KISER: Absolutely. It sort of started when I closed my galleries. I had a lot of connections in architecture, and I realized I wasn’t going to be a great architect so I decided to start the magazine. I started it nine years ago. So I travel around the world all the time, and I get a lot of information from architects around the world. I have a good connection to them because I’m a curator at the same time, so I’ve done many museum exhibitions with architects. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: It has a travel focus as well?
  3. 3. KIRSTEN KISER: Yes, it does. I have a deal with Design Hotels so whenever I travel I stay in one of the Design Hotels and write about them. So this was kind of a clever way of me to make my traveling a little less expensive. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: In the U.S., we call that a boondoggle. KIRSTEN KISER: Well, then, it’s a boondoggle. It’s very nice because I do an architect or two of the town. I’ve done Barcelona. I’ve done Hamburg. I’ve done Tokyo. I’ve done Beijing. So wherever I go, I do an architect or two at the same time and visit architects. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I was going to say you were able to create such a big readership for your web magazine, but, as I understand it, when you tried to create a virtual community around Arcspace here in Second Life, it didn’t work out quite as well. Can you tell us a little about that? KIRSTEN KISER: Well, I think initially I though naively that all my readers would find it exciting to come in here and talk to each other and meet. And it just didn’t happen. I actually got some letters saying, “What are you doing now? This serious magazine is now in there doing that.” So I got very discouraged, and I talked to a lot of architects about it because I think that virtual reality technology is wonderful and a powerful technology, and it should be applied. And it probably will more and more, as it evolves and improves, as a tool. I think that when I talk to architects, my opinion is that the building tools in Second Life are very primitive, and I don’t think Second Life is doing Real Life architecture in architecture favor by
  4. 4. having a lot of nonprofessionals calling their work architecture. I mean this worries me because I think we have to respect architecture, and I think it’s a big deterrent for Real Life architects looking at Second Life as a possibility. There are exceptions like Scope Cleaver, for example. He’s a fantastic Second Life architect. Actually, there are buildings in Real Life I wouldn’t call architecture. But the thing is, it’s a problem. It’s a problem right now. I think that’s the biggest problem because the tools are just not available yet. But then again we can come in, in other ways, like I’m doing now with Frank Gehry’s master plan, and I think that’s sort of an exciting thing. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, let’s explore that a little bit. I had a chance to spend some time in the Arcspace Gallery, in the Avant Garde region of Second Life, aptly named. And so you have an exhibition there of Frank Gehry’s master plan for the Sonderburg Harbor. There’s a little video there that I could watch, as well as having diagrams and the like. I noticed that, in all the pictures in the master plan, the buildings right along the harbor are just these blocks. I thought, well, it’s modern architecture, and that’s the way it’s going to look. But, in the video, Frank Gehry actually just says it’s too early to know what the buildings themselves will look like. And then he modestly remarked that, in the past, he’s done a reasonably good job designing buildings and making them turn out okay. I’m wondering what you see as the possibilities for Second Life in this particular project. KIRSTEN KISER: Well, first of all, the master plan is in its first stage, and Frank Gehry is going to do one or two buildings or maybe three or more and different people who come in doing different things. I mean to get the master plan into Second Life, that we have to get it
  5. 5. at some scale, and it could be great to have it be larger scale than the Real Life model, but still smaller than Real Life scale and then add some detail as it develops. We can’t build full scale right now. It’ll be giant building blocks. And then maybe blow up one building area to full size, to see what we can do with it. I think we can then have meetings with the client and residents of the city and prospective investors and discuss the design. I think this would be a way of using Second Life, at least for these people, and the client is very excited about it. I was hired by the client because of my long connection to Frank Gehry’s office, so I’ve been on that project and the other project from day one. Then I think, along the way, we learn how it can work and incorporate comments and feedback as we go along. I mean that’s how I can see I can use Second Life. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You were kind enough to send us a visual of a 3D model of the Cancer Center that I guess was created by a 3D modeling program, Rhino. This is another Frank Gehry project. Is that right? KIRSTEN KISER: Yes, it is. That’s under construction right now, and I’ll tell you how we think about bringing that in too. This one I’ve just been on the construction site. Rhino is a design tool and Digital Project is a production tool where everybody from the contractor to the subcontractor, the engineer, the client, the architect, everybody works on the same program daily so everybody can see what goes on. But the Rhino is great because it’s inexpensive, and it’s easy to use so I think the day that could be brought into Second Life, it would be fantastic. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: But that isn’t yet possible.
  6. 6. KIRSTEN KISER: No, it isn’t. So I talked to the Cancer Society also about maybe building a sort of primitive building but holding consultations in there because they have a lot of IT equipment. They will have a lot of modern equipment and computers at the Center. So that’s another way. I mean we’re all sort of learning as we go along finding out where Second Life can be of use. I totally believe in Second Life. I mean I know I’ll be here forever. So we just have to wait and see how it evolves. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: [AUDIO GLITCHES] another project, the [AUDIO GLITCH] project which is also [AUDIO GLITCH] pictures of this also in the Avant Garde region just outside your gallery in what looks kind of like a bamboo forest. Can you just walk us through how that competition worked and where you’re headed with it? KIRSTEN KISER: Yes. I was working with INBAR, International Bamboo and Rattan Society and China, with Hainan, an island there, and somebody called David Greenberg, who has Tree Houses of Hawaii, he’s built a lot of tree houses there in Fiji and in China. And he was approached by the Chinese of doing an eco-friendly community built with bamboo. And International Rattan Society were going to contribute, sponsor it, with China. So we decided, as we have done in other competitions together, we decided to do this in Second Life and narrow it down to three winners who would then be invited to come to China and build the houses, which we did with the tree houses also. They went to Hawaii to help build. Unfortunately, the earthquakes happened, so it became impossible for us. And it’s put on hold. It’s by no means ending. It was just put on hold, and, instead of just choosing three finalists, we have chosen eight so that we will have more of a competition going on part two.
  7. 7. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, it’s exciting to see designs from the Virtual World making their way into the Real World. KIRSTEN KISER: Exactly. Yes. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: It’s fascinating to see, as someone who really has no ability to build. I can rezz a cube, as long as no one asks me to resize it. So the stuff that you and all of your colleagues are doing in Second Life is really very impressive to me. KIRSTEN KISER: As long as you don’t call it architecture. I will quote somebody. I will quote Oscar Niemeyer because I was listening to him on CNN the other day, and he said, “The architect was the mother of the arts, and it should move you on the visual side and transport you like a great symphony.” Now do you think a prim does that? I’m just joking, but I thought that was so beautiful, this almost hundred-year-old man saying that. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Actually, I have a quick question here from Tammy Nowotny asking about importing data from walkthrough tools like Pictometry. Is that a product you’re familiar with? KIRSTEN KISER: No, I’m not. No. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Sometimes you go to a website for a hotel or something like that, and you can actually virtually walk through something.
  8. 8. KIRSTEN KISER: You know what is very funny, apropos walk through, it’s like in Real Life when we work in Rhino or other programs we call it flythrough. And, in Second Life, we call it walkthrough things. And here, we’re flying. It’s very funny. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, a little irony there. Well, thank you so much for spending some time with us today and telling us about your projects, and I wish you the best of luck, especially with those projects with Frank Gehry, and I look forward to doing a walkthrough or flythrough of the Harbor master plan. Or, who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to get back to Denmark sometime soon and experience the real thing. So, Kirsten Kiser, thank you very much for taking a few minutes to be put On The Spot. KIRSTEN KISER: Well, thank you. Bye. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We turn now to our spotlight guest, Jon Brouchoud, famous in Second Life as Keystone Bouchard. Jon has one of these résumés that just has to be seen to be believed. He got his Masters degree in architecture, has won a number of awards for his work, both real and virtual; has demonstrated his work in Second Life at the headquarters of Linden Lab, Clear Inc. and during Autodesk’s CEO’s address at Autodesk University. He has built a number of very high profile projects in Second Life, including one I was in, back in April, the Virtual U.S. House of Representatives, where I went to observe the streaming of the Congressional testimony from Philip Rosedale and a number of other folks. Well, let’s see. Maybe I’ll just leave a lot of this bio for Bjorlyn, our producer, to paste into the chat. But, let me just say at this point, Jon, welcome to Metanomics.
  9. 9. JON BROUCHOUD: Thanks for having me. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So I figure the stuff you’ve done, you must be about 137 years old? JON BROUCHOUD: Second Life makes it possible. You can really accelerate that. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: How did you get started working in Virtual Worlds? JON BROUCHOUD: Well, it was kind of a culmination of several different things. I had done my Masters thesis in architecture several years ago on how Virtual Worlds will eventually affect Real Life architecture. And, at that time, I was really looking at Everquest and games like that and wondering why that couldn’t be an effective tool for architectural collaboration. So it was a little bit early, but then one day I was reading Wired Magazine and saw an article about Second Life. I knew immediately what it was when I read “User Generated World.” It’s like what I had been waiting for, so I literally ran to the computer and logged in and got a lot of help from a lot of great people, including I saw Clubside Granville’s here. Without his help, I wouldn’t be here at all. I mean he spent hours and hours with me and was very generous in sharing land and really getting me started. The last part of that is, around that time, I had a couple of clients I was working with in Real Life, and one of the clients was in London at the time, but had purchased a piece of property in Wisconsin where I was practicing, but wouldn’t be coming to the United States for a while. He had some real specific ideas about design that he wanted to explore, and he’d already
  10. 10. had the site picked out. So I built a replica of the site in Second Life and built a replica of the design that he was exploring and kind of some of the design iterations that we came up with and really got to know this client, using Second Life. So it just really had a profound impact on me, and I realized that this is eventually going to become a pretty powerful tool for the professional practice of architecture. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We will spend most of the remainder of the hour exploring those possibilities. Before we do, we got a question here already from Roland Legrand, who is asking about whether Second Life architecture does or should correspond to Real Life constraints or should we be experimenting with the virtual possibilities of things that are impossible in Real Life. Before you respond to that question, I’m going to take the opportunity to quote you from your very popular blog, The Arch. So here let me just quote from one of your recent posts, “Among the most frequently debated topics related to architecture in virtual reality is the fact that the majority of the content replicates Real Life. It may initially seem absurd to replicate physical architecture of any kind in a virtual environment since no amount of effort to recreate physical reality could ever be totally successful. Avatars can see through walls are free of gravity, and there are no weather elements to protect them from. While most of the people I talk to tend to write off this phenomenon as mundane and unimaginative, I think architects and designers might consider taking it more seriously. There is significant value in understanding and embracing a multitude of psychological and visually functional reasons for recreating familiar replicas based on Real Life architecture.” So what do you see as being the most important psychologically and visually functional reasons for doing the possible in a setting that lets us do the impossible?
  11. 11. JON BROUCHOUD: Yeah, there’s so many different facets to that question. First, I would say that there’s room for all of it. I think we have to replicate some physical buildings that are iconic. We have to build purely virtual architecture that looks like it’s physical, and we also have to be exploring the future of purely virtual architecture. There’s room for all three, and there’s very functional reasons to do all three of those things. But, from a purely virtual sense, I think that more and more, over time, I’m learning; I didn’t get this right away, but I’m starting to understand that we really do embody our avatars to a certain extent. And, as such-- ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: What do you mean by that, “embody our avatars”? JON BROUCHOUD: Well, it’s as if we feel it’s not just our conscious attention. It’s a part of who we are. Like, for example, if several people are sitting out in an open field, and suddenly somebody rezzes a prim and stretches it out and puts it right over their heads, like a real low-lying ceiling, it immediately affects our perception of that space. So we’re somehow embodied. What I mean is connected to our avatars as though it was an actual human. I really struggle with that because I never used to think of it that way, but I’m really more and more starting to think that that’s true. And we’ll talk about reflexive architecture a little bit later on, but there’s so many different things that we can do with the Second Life interface to really enhance that sense of embodiment. So I really think that we have to look at what elements from physical reality give us visual cues that we can read and inform the way we find our way around.
  12. 12. We can fly anywhere we want, but a ramp or a stair still has a very important function because it tells us that there’s something above where we are now. So there’s certain visual cues that we can still call on. And, if we just eliminate that and we just build purely virtual architecture floating in the middle of nowhere, we run the risk of isolating or confusing people who can’t figure out how to move around, and it just ends up kind of falling short. So I think there’s room for all of the above, and I think, as we get more familiar with this interface and as more people reach a critical mass of understanding of what you can do, we’ll start to be able to push the limits. But, right now, if we want everybody to be able to have a meaningful experience, we have to be able to borrow from some physical elements that can be comforting and help us find our way around. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: It’s interesting to hear you describe it that way. It reminds me a lot of a discussion I heard at the Second Life Community Convention, from a panel of Machinimists who were being asked, “Why does Machinima animation [AUDIO GLITCH] in Virtual Worlds? Why is it so similar to traditional forms of movies or, in this case, a talk show?” And the answer that was unanimous among the Machinimists is, “We still rely on this language of film, the language of the medium that people expect to see these types of transitions. It means something when you focus in, when you do a close-up on someone, conveys a lot more information, even though you wouldn’t have to do it that way necessarily. That’s what people expect.” It sounds like you’re getting at something very similar with architecture here. JON BROUCHOUD: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t know at what point it’ll be appropriate to go to this next point, but I think that, along that exact same line, there’s a limitation though. We
  13. 13. don’t want to get stuck replicating physical reality too much though. I think that’s something I’m starting to see more and more now is that we’re building architecture, but I do think it’s architecture. I think most of us would say that we’re sitting in a building right now. And, if it’s a building that we’re sitting in, it’s architect. You might not consider all virtual architecture good architecture, but it’s still architecture nonetheless. We’re bringing architecture in because it’s a three-dimensional interface, and we have windows and doors and all these things. We refer to it as architecture, but, along with that, referring to it as architecture, there’s baggage that comes with that because, in Real Life, architecture can’t change. It’s too expensive. It’s sort of static and dynamic and unchanging phenomenon that ends up kind of shaping us instead of us shaping it. Like Winston Churchill said, and I come back to this all the time that, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” That’s true of the Real World. Unfortunately, if you think about that, architecture actually molds us, but there’s no reason to drag that limitation into virtual architecture because here the interface, the prims, the architecture behaves a lot more like a liquid than a static artifact. I think we can take advantage of that in a lot of different ways that I don’t have time to get into now, but to be less afraid to change it, be a little bit less intimidated by it. In Second Life, we can afford to make changes, and we can afford to continuously modify the architecture, not just build it once and be kind of stuck with it and hope it works. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let’s get into that just a little bit now. You mentioned the term “liquid artifact,” which I liked so much. That’s the title of our show, Liquid Artifact, today. And
  14. 14. we spent some time in your exhibit of reflexive architecture, a term I had never heard before I started doing research for this show. What is reflexive architecture? And I know SLCN has some graphics they can pop up so people can get a visual sense of this. But tell us what you mean by this term. JON BROUCHOUD: Well, it’s an architectural theory basically. I had done so much writing about these ideas that I had, I just wanted to actually build something that kind of embodied those principles, at least on a very simple level. So I was talking to Fumon Kubo, who is here in the audience, and said, “Hey, if I asked, could you to write a script that responds to my avatar, if I walk up to it the prim gets bigger, and if I walk away the prim gets smaller?” He says, “Well, yeah, I can do that.” Five minutes later, there it was. I kind of copied that and pasted it and made a little building out of it. It was just tremendously profound what that did to your experience to have the architecture actually sort of genuflect or reflex or change as you move around the space and then kind of modifying that script and trying to different ways to manifest it over time. It ends up becoming this whole gallery of little experiments. Fumon was gracious enough to Open Source all those scripts for us and all available on the blog that you can download and use. So these are very basic fundamental scripts that aren’t very comprehensive, but, by Open-Sourcing it, the idea is that the community can then take that to the next level. And, in fact, they have. In YouTube, look at reflexive architecture. A lot of people have taken these and done some of the most incredible things with them. So that’s really, in a nutshell, what reflexive architecture is. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Shortly after Thanksgiving, you’re going to actually have an
  15. 15. installation for the Exeter Phoenix 2nd Live project. Is that a collection of exhibits similar to what you have installed in your current gallery? JON BROUCHOUD: Yeah. Basically I’m just trying to take it to the next level. I keep looking at these scripts and wondering what a practical application of these scripts might look like or even a more artistic sense or even a little bit more literal connection between how this connects with what we think of as Real Life architecture versus virtual architecture. I really think that we need a new language of virtual architecture, and I don’t know that I can come up with that language, but every new technology that we’ve seen, whether it’s electricity or steel or glass or elevators or whatever, every one of those new levels of technology brought a new language of architecture and challenged architects and designers to look at the new opportunities that those new technologies afforded. Now we have Virtual Worlds where we can do anything we want, and what can we do now that we could never do before. And so I think we need to take a look at that, and we need to kind of prevent ourselves from just dragging in the same limitations of Real Life. We have to build on what the native or inherent capacity of this environment is capable of so we’re not just sort of left being shaped by our buildings. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I guess if I had a wish list and I got to add something to your to-do list, it would be to study what are the needs of Virtual World conferences, like Metanomics for example, and what sort of architectural innovations could make these more effective events. Because certainly classroom architecture is a science all to itself. I know through the process of building Sage Hall in Real Life, the Real Life version of the building
  16. 16. that we’re filming this show in, that we dealt with a large number of architects that do exclusively classroom-style architecture for schools because it has its own set of needs and demands. So maybe you’ll spend a little time looking into that for the virtual live event and figure out what the state of the art can be. JON BROUCHOUD: Yeah. Just imagine the possibilities. It’s really pretty mind-boggling. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have been talking about, really, the end product, actually building a building and what you end up with, whether it’s real or virtual. But you’ve also been spending a lot of your time focusing on the process of architecture, and you’ve talked about what you call a decentralized approach to architecture. Before we get into the details of exactly how you decentralize and the different components, why should architects be thinking about decentralizing and doing that in Virtual Worlds? JON BROUCHOUD: Well, I think about user-generated empowerment, empowering the community of individuals who actually use the architecture to be able to have a voice in how it shapes up. We haven’t found all the answers yet, but at least we’re looking at the idea of enabling a loose and diverse group of individuals that can then work together, from the bottom up, to create something that’s a lot greater than the sum of their individual contribution. And, if that idea sounds familiar, it’s because it’s already very common in two-dimensional or information-based [goods] seen with Open Source software or Wikipedia. And all we’re trying to do is really apply the same wisdom of crowds principle toward
  17. 17. creating architecture in a build environment. And it’s about kind of tapping into our larger mindshare and sort decentralizing the process of creating architecture, instead of looking at it from the top down and making it the province of just a few select individuals, instead kind of empowering the community to be able to participate at the very least in that process. So that’s really what the Wikitecture project that Ryan Schultz and I have been working on for the past couple of years, that we’ll talk about in a little while. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Actually, we have an interesting graphic of, I guess, the shared project model, where you distinguish between a traditional and an integrated practice of just how people connect together. I’m wondering if you can just explain this to us. JON BROUCHOUD: Sure. That diagram really points to the very challenge that we’re facing, that the traditional practice of architecture is all about everyone kind of doing their own little thing, and then they pass it to each other. It’s kind of like the telephone game, you know, we do a little bit, then we pass it on to the next person, and you just know that, by the time it gets all the way back around again, there’s things that get lost in translation. It’s just not an efficient means of communicating. It’s not an efficient way of creating architecture in a build environment. So everybody’s in their own little silo, and so it leads to tremendous inefficiencies. The construction industry or the building industry, based on that model, is so inefficient that it’s actually decreasing in efficiency over the past 50 years of all non-farm industries. It’s actually getting less and less efficient, so we have to fix that problem. The AIA, the American Institute of Architects, has this new approach--it’s not really new anymore; it’s been out for a few years--but it’s called integrated practice, and the idea is that everybody that’s involved in the entire life cycle of a building is involved as early as possible
  18. 18. in the creation and after it’s actually been occupied into post-occupied [AUDIO GLITCH]. And so what that does is, it enables everybody to actually wrap their minds around the project earlier, and it’s been proven that that actually does lead to greater efficiencies. Problems are solved earlier. It’s just a better way to practice. And then, finally, to bring that home for virtual Worlds, the integrated practice model, typically everybody’s accessing a central file called a Building Information Model, or a BIM. And BIM is really the way forward for the practice of architecture. Many architects are switching over to BIM. So where I’m interested in is the intersection of Virtual Worlds and Second Life and how that might intersect with building information models and how we might be eventually collaborating around Metaverse-based building information models, and how do avatars and decentralized collaboration play into that whole picture. So that’s a really longwinded architectural specific answer to that question. But, hopefully, it was clear enough to at least get some value out of it. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: It’s a great lead-in to probably the thing you’re best known for in Second Life and maybe now in the Real World, which is Wikitecture, a tool that actually was covered by Architectural Record recently. My producer pointed out that, if you look, the cover story on that is “Buildings Get Real.” But here we’re talking about some virtual processes. Of course, SLCN will have to show the cover of the Architectural Record, but they can also pan around; we actually have a nonworking model version of the Wikitecture tree here in Sage Hall. So can you just give us sort of the 30,000-foot view of how Wikitecture works? JON BROUCHOUD: Sure. It’s actually pretty simple at its common point. The way it works
  19. 19. is, everybody can submit ideas around a common architectural challenge that we put forward. So the last project was actually an entry in an architectural competition in Real Life for a medical clinic in Nepal. And so that was the challenge. We put that forward. We asked the community to collaborate around that. We developed this WikiTree tool, which is basically a technology that we developed based on what we had learned in previous experiments about how people work together and what works and what doesn’t work. And how do you get people to work together. And how can you roll back to previous iterations if someone goes off in a bad direction. And how do you enable the community to vote on what they like or dislike. So the WikiTree was kind of a culmination of what we had learned. So the way the Tree actually just works is, it gives you a primitive object that you use as the seed that you start building with. That primitive object has a script inside of it, and all modify and share privileges are already established so that the rest of the group can use them. And the script inside that prim enables it to communicate back with the Tree after you’ve finished your design. And so you just take that prim, you go out, you build a design idea. You come back, and you give it to the Tree, and it automatically creates a leaf sphere containing that design, above the trunk. So when someone else comes up, asynchronously some other time, clicks on that leaf sphere, the design that that person submitted rezzes on the site, and they can look at it. When you submit a design, it also creates a cell on a website externally so people that aren’t in Second Life can still look at the design. They can vote on it too. Everybody in the community gets a total of three positive and three negative votes to cast on each of the designs that have been submitted. And so the color of the leaf sphere that you see is
  20. 20. actually derived from the design contained within that leaf’s popularity with the community. So the idea is that the really good ideas burn bright green and are very healthy, and the least popular ideas turn dark red, and the Tree actually automatically prunes itself so it leaves only the best ideas as options for further refinement. The idea is that people can just come to the Tree and they see an idea that they like, and they say, “Well, I like that idea, but I could improve the entry to that,” or, “I know something about the culture of Nepal that would make this a better design.” So they take it into their inventory, and they go somewhere, and they fix it, and they come back, and they use that as a branch or an iteration off that design concept. So what you see is, over time, there’s this kind of evolving iteration process where the design just keeps getting better and better, and eventually we arrive at the final design. In this case, we submit it as part of this competition, and this community in Second Life, using this WikiTree, actually won the Founders Award out of over 500 entries worldwide, in international design competition in Real Life. So we were really out of the group, which really, at the very least, proves that there’s some potential here. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So this is the Nepal Clinic? JON BROUCHOUD: Yes. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I think we have a graphic of that. I’m just warning SLCN because I think we’re skipping a graphic or two, to get that one up there. Then you had more than 40 people working with this Wikitecture device to pull that off. I mean I’m just reading; this is
  21. 21. from the Architectural Record. Not only were approximately half of these contributors not architects, but also the group never collaborated in the same room, so that’s really quite an impressive feat. So this is something that has been built in Real Life or no? JON BROUCHOUD: No. The actual winning entry for the Nepal group is going to be built in Real Life. One of the things--we’re talking with the group that’s actually building this about how we could bring Second Life to the Nepal Clinic in the future. We’re looking at the future of it, but this design will not be built in Real Life. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Thanks for that clarification. We have a whole bunch of questions in the backchat, and I’ve been saving them up. So if I can, let me jump in with a few of these. Actually one of the most recent is from Latha Serevi, who asks what progress you’re making on an Open Source version of the WikiTree tool. JON BROUCHOUD: Oh, that’s a really good question, and it’s a very, very complicated question, more complicated than I would have originally anticipated. But we really would love to Open-Source the WikiTree, but the challenge there is that Wikitecture in 3D collaboration is, it’s so much more about the methodology and the research that we’re having to do around how do you motivate contributors, how do you resolve conflict, how do you aggregate votes, and how do you actually make the methodology, the process work out. The technology can be relatively straightforward, but it’s very important that it’s tied in very closely with the methodology that actually makes it work. So we think that, if we Open-Source the WikiTree--first of all, the WikiTree is really just a very early and rude prototype that--it’s very fragile, and it works really well for us in these preliminary
  22. 22. experiments, but, if we were to Open-Source the code of the WikiTree, it would be kind of pointless because we’ve since taken so much of what we’ve learned and moved on with all kinds--I mean we’ve got a document that’s 300 pages long of different things that we want to make improvements and build the next version of the WikiTree. So we think, at least at this stage, we’re looking at every possible avenue, but, at this stage, it’s probably better for us to at least bring this to the next level and then think about what we should do because, otherwise if we Open-Source it too soon, it just isn’t going to get anywhere. It won’t get any traction and could end up actually backfiring because it’s so tied to the methodology. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: This is actually a question from ManqoQhapaqInca Qunhua, “Is the idea that you’re going to make something that is available to a Second Life community of users for free, or is this going to be a commercial product?” JON BROUCHOUD: We really don’t know. I’d love for it to be free, if there’s a way that we can work that out. It’s an idea we come back to time after time, but we’ve got a lot of different options on the table, and, obviously, we keep coming back to Open Source because it is an Open-Source-based idea. We’re asking people to collaborate in an Open Source fashion, so it only makes sense, on some level, that the technology be Open-Sourced, but, again, it’s not really about the technology. It’s about how you actually make it work. So it might not do any good to release this as a public and free tool if it doesn’t work. We have to figure out the rules and the protocols that will actually be able to harness the wisdom of the crowds. Because there’s a lot of wisdom of crowds experiments that don’t
  23. 23. work, and they go “clunk,” and then it’s sort of pinned as a failure. But I think, if we keep working at these experiments, we can actually refine this to a point where it really does work. Whether that’s a technology or a tool that we actually sell or distribute throughout the grid, we don’t really have all that figured out yet. So I wish I had better answers, but this has been something we’ve been wracking our minds over for years now. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: One way to pull together a good product like this is to get lots of money because I know building this stuff is obviously quite an undertaking. Can you talk a little bit about how you’re pursuing funding and how much you think it’s going to take to make what you envision? JON BROUCHOUD: Sure, I can be pretty open and honest about that. Ryan Schultz and I have spent thousands of our own dollars on the existing prototype, and I3D now has put a lot of their time into it as well. So the existing prototype wasn’t exactly cheap for us. We’re just architects. We don’t make money. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’ve heard that about architects. JON BROUCHOUD: Yeah, we don’t get paid very much. It’s difficult for us to fund this kind of bootstrapping, but, again, we have this vision of what we want to do at the next level of the technology, and we have a scope document that we’ve crafted over the course of many months so we know what we need to do to make this process better and to make the Tree more stable. And, to get that to the next level, we’re probably looking at somewhere around $50,000 to get another prototype essentially, but it would be a much more robust prototype with a lot more functionality, a lot easier to use and probably quite a bit more effective in
  24. 24. actually harnessing the wisdom of crowds than the existing Tree is. And then, if we wanted to polish that and make it really shiny and distributable, we’re probably looking at quite a bit more because it’s a pretty complex tool. We’re probably looking at even 250,000 or more dollars to make that into a really solid tool that we can distribute and feel comfortable that we’re not going to be giving everybody technological headaches trying to figure out how to make it work and then breaking our buggy. We really want to iron that all out. To get to that point, we’re probably looking at well over $250,000. So how we’re going after that funding is another story. Again, there’s more questions than there are answers about how we do that because there’s so many models. Ryan and I are specifically interested in architecture, and we would love to take this to an architectural place. We want to use this for architectural-built environments. So maybe we distribute the tool, build a for-profit model over the top of that, but then the question is, can we get people to contribute to an Open Source project when it’s a for-profit ownership over it. So then there’s a question around that. Or, do we actually fund the project by securing investment and actually distributing this as a tool and actually a salable tool that you’d sell individual units of [AUDIO GLITCH] be able to use. So there’s so many different ways that we can go about moving forward with this. I mean there’s literally dozens, maybe even a hundred different ways. There’s so many different ways because everything 3D really could benefit from this. It’s not just about architecture, and so how do we diversify the offering so that it’s not so locked to architecture. It’s a complex question.
  25. 25. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. On a somewhat different topic, I’ve got a question from Bettina Tizzy, who I think a lot of Metanomics viewers know as the leader of the Second Life group, Not Possible In Real Life, and she’s asking, “How do you feel about using Second Life to create models for architecture firms in lieu of 3D printing?” JON BROUCHOUD: That’s a good question. That’s originally how I started. Like I said, I built replicas of our design ideas in Second Life. It’s not to a point yet, the technology I don’t think is to a point yet where you can build an exacting model to have the kind of photo-realistic and shaded and shadowed visual that you could expect from the more professional architectural software, like Revit or 3D Studio or Architectural Desktop. It won’t replace those applications, but it can replace study models, the kind that you see with cardboard where you’re just ripping and pasting cardboard or watercolors, pen-and-ink sketches or whatever. On that level, it works really well. When you’re just looking at the relationship between spaces, you’re looking at just basic massing and hierarchy and things like that, Second Life is really good for that. And I think, over time, it’ll just become increasingly feasible to be able to use for architectural modeling, but it’ll just take a little while before it gets to that point. Then, hopefully, someday we’ll get to a point where we can import models from that professional architectural software so there isn’t this intermediate process of having to build everything twice, which we have to do now because there isn’t an import tool to bring those models in. So obviously, the architectural community using Second Life is really kind of sitting with baited breath waiting for that tool because that will be a game changer for all of
  26. 26. us, once we can actually import our content from architectural software into Second Life. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Just a couple quick comments and questions here, which is one as I see Latah Serevi has started doing a little Open Source collaboration networking and getting a bunch of people to IM if they are interested. So people who are interested in joining this, I guess, send an instant message to Latha Serevi or, no doubt I guess if you’re following the chat, you [AUDIO GLITCH] volunteering on an interview, I don’t catch all of it so look through the chat and get the information. JohnHenry Ames asks whether there are professional CAD systems for architects, computer-aided design. My understanding is that there are extensive 3D modeling options that are not compatible with Second Life. We talked about this a little bit last week, that there are naturally technical problems with actually importing professional 3D computer-created models into Second Life. Just to make that happen no doubt is a fair bit of work. And you also mentioned there were some policy concerns. Can you talk a little bit about the policy concerns? JON BROUCHOUD: I personal believe that importing measures could have happened a while ago, but I can certainly respect that something like that might be a challenge to the economy in Second Life, and I think that might be one of the reasons why Linden Lab is very careful about launching a tool like that because really, if suddenly people that have the $5,000 software applications can build things that are better than the even playing field that everybody can create with prims, it rocks the boat. I think it could have a pretty profound impact. But that said, I think that like an OpenSim or some of the work that Real Extend is
  27. 27. doing, you can import 3D models into those platforms. Those platforms still need a lot of work, but it’ll be a quick exodus for the architectural community the minute that you cannot import models somewhere else. So I think it’ll be kind of a waiting game in seeing which platform does it first because I think it has to happen eventually. It’s not just for architects, but anybody who works in [3D?], anybody that works with complex data that they could visualize better in 3D and import that information or engineering or product manufacturing. So many different fields could benefit from that. But I think the reason it’s not is because of the policy, because of the politics, some of the question marks around what that would do to the economy. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me follow up on these ideas of the level playing field and Linden Lab policy a little because you have been somewhat vocal about your concerns with a relatively recent announcement from Linden Lab, that they are linking up with Rivers Run Red to create a behind the firewall enterprise solution for groups that want to be able to use Second Life, but want to be able to house their own servers behind their own firewall so that they have a lot more security. And I actually quoted you on our show, from a comment you made on Dusan Writer’s blog, where you basically said, “A lot of us have been working to develop the Second Life platform, and this is a wonderful thing we all wanted, and now it’s being given privately to different organizations.” I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about your take on that issue and how it might affect the builders and architects. JON BROUCHOUD: Sure. And it really doesn’t have to do specifically with Rivers Run Red or even this immersive workspaces solution. I think Rivers Run Red is a great company
  28. 28. that’s delivered a lot of great content, and I think will continue to do so. I think the immersive workspaces solution is something we’ve all been waiting for. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. It’s something that we’ve all wanted to do. But I think my concern is just I’m probably being oversensitive, but it’s just that there’s a lot of great people from Second Life that are leaving. I see a lot of some of the best creators are sort of losing interest because there isn’t a lot of work to be had. The work is kind of slowing down a little bit. I think it’s temporary, and I see it is picking up again. But, when you see companies going out of business or leaving Second Life, it really kind of leaves the rest of us that are kind of hanging in there very sensitive to any announcement that Linden Lab makes, that they’re forming an exclusive relationship with one company over another because we’re all tethered to this platform. Those of us who are building this platform, we’re out there promoting it. We’re giving presentations, and we’re creating Machinima, and we’re writing about it, and we’re all trying to build this platform together. So anything that could potentially offset that platform, I mean what if it fails? If the platform fails, that’s going to affect all of us. But, if this one exclusive relationship succeeds, I’m not sure that we’ll all see the benefit. So there’s just kind of that even playing field that I really think is important in keeping everybody motivated on an even level. There’s a lot of people who are out there independently developing collaborative workspace environments, and what’ll happen to them? We’ve all been waiting for behind the firewall solution. We all want to offer that. It’s my understanding now that this will eventually be offered to individual solution providers evenly. It’s not just going to be one company so that did shed a little bit of light on what their
  29. 29. intentions are, but it still reads as though it’s an exclusive relationship, and I think that’s just kind of a dangerous thing to be doing at this point when we’re all kind of working so hard to build the platform. We all want to be treated equally, so I think that’s where my concern was. As I’m learning about it and I’m reading about it, I’m learning a little bit about why I may not need to be so alarmed, but I’m keeping a close eye on it anyway. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, let me say, if people want to learn more about this collaboration between Linden Lab and Rivers Run Red, we have Justin Bovington, the CEO of Rivers Run Red, appearing on Metanomics on December 15th, and this will be certainly a major topic of discussion. So I’m afraid that we’re already out of time, and it always feels like we just got started when it’s time to end. I would like to thank you, Keystone Bouchard, Jon Brouchoud, for coming on to Metanomics and telling us about your reflexive architecture and Wikitecture. JON BROUCHOUD: Thank you very much for having me. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I will point out you got your two names, the first and last name, they’re so similar but not exactly right. I vacillate between deciding it was a good thing or just really confusing, but I know we misspelled your name by mixing and matching syllables from your Real Life and Second Life names, and I do apologize for that. JON BROUCHOUD: Oh, no problem. It happens all the time.
  30. 30. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So as we end, I have a few announcements that I’d like to make before I Connect The Dots. So first of all, right after today’s show, we have an Orange Island architecture show and tell, and Bjorlyn Loon, our producer, will be pasting information in. We also have, from 1:00 to 5:00 Pacific Time--so that’s now--for another four hours, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation USC Network Culture Project and Global Kids are coming together to give a sneak preview of the Foundation’s Sim in Second Life. It’s going to be featuring [character?] programs and grantees. Next week we are going to have Sibley Verbeck, who heads up Electric Sheep Company, on Metanomics. Many of you will remember that they were one of the highest profile builder-consultant groups in Second Life, and now they’ve virtually cast their fortunes elsewhere, with their newest Flash platform, Webflock. So we’ll be taking a look at that. Last announcement: Many of you might not know that this show is available tomorrow on iTunes. You can go to iTunes and search for Metanomics, or go to and follow the podcast link. And you can get all 55 of our previous Metanomics shows from iTunes as well, if you want to catch up on all we’ve been doing. Now I’d like to take my final minute to just connect a couple dots. Today’s topic is “If you build it, they will come.” As every marketing student knows, certainly those here at the Johnson School, that just is not true. People need to know what you built is there. They need to have a good reason to go there, and it has to be cheap and convenient. Getting professionals to come into Second Life for professional activities has never been easy, and, from time to time, it’s made a lot harder by an article like this headline from Time Magazine that probably many of you have been told about by your friends, “UK Couple to Divorce
  31. 31. Over Affair on Second Life.” So it just doesn’t make Virtual Worlds sound like a good place to do real work. Now one way to combat bad press is to get out a lot of good press. But, we don’t want to go out and encourage a lot of businesses and enterprises to push flashy stories about all the great things they’re going to do in Second Life. We’ve seen that, and, if enterprises aren’t actually doing the things they told the press about, the good press turns bad in a hurry. So what we actually need to be doing is redoubling our efforts to build the communities we want in Virtual Worlds, doing the things we believe people can do in Virtual Worlds. So, for my own part, I’m doing this now with weekly events that bring together academics and policymakers, to discuss accounting standards. But the question is: How do you build a community? And let me tell you my answer, after doing this for a while, is one person at a time. Give them a good reason to come into Second Life, one person at a time, and make sure they understand why. And make it cheap and easy. I’m even mailing headsets to people so they don’t have to haul themselves off to Best Buy, which can sometimes be the last thing that keeps them from trying out your virtual event. So those of you who are trying to persuade your professional colleagues to consider a Virtual World like Second Life, don’t think, “If I build it, they will come.” Instead, remember that the thing you’re building, the hardest part of the design is the community itself, and, for most of us, there’s no substitute for the slow and methodical way. These are high-value customers in our community. Build it one person at a time. Thanks so much for joining us this week on Metanomics, and we will see you next week at
  32. 32. noon Pacific Time for Sibley Verbeck of Electric Sheep Company. Thanks a lot, and bye bye. Document: cor1041.doc Transcribed by: Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer