Harvard University - GSD (Quilian)



Sep '06 - Dec '09

  • anchor

    musings on the virtual world

    Quilian Riano
    Nov 28, '06 10:12 PM EST

    Two, well maybe three, things about the emerging virtual world that caught my attention while struggling to finish my design project. These musings are loosely tied by having to do with space, place, architecture, and the virtual.

    First, the blog This Spartan Life brought to us by one of my favorite radio shows Studio 360. Long story short, these guys found a way to interview people while in the virtual world of Halo. I am not a gamer so all this is new to me, I think the last thing I played was Super Mario Brothers 3 back in '93, but I am utterly fascinated with the idea that you can hang out with people in a completely virtual world. I now propose we all get assigned weapons in archinect. Seriously though, who is designing and planning this new community, are architects and planners involved? How can design improve virtual interaction? Does it matter? I have a hunch that it does...

    Second, the virtual world has made its first REAL millionaire, by the selling of real estate. I am confused about how this can happen and what it means, but can't help but wonder when DESIGNERS will get into the action. Does 2nd life need starchitects to move even more real estate? Same questions as above, mainly what can designers bring to enhance virtual life?

    Finally, I came across a group called 'cansei de ser sexy' (tired of being sexy). What cought my attention about this group is the fact that they sound like they could be from anywhere, which in itself is really nothing new. The band is actually from Sao Paulo (Brazil), but the band met and wants to be considered mainly as being FROM the internet. The group has myspace, flickr, and youtube accounts. I'm not sure where I am going with this or if it matters, but just found it interesting that they don't want to be thought of as Brazilian but Myspacean, what are the politico-spatial implications of doing this?

    Anyway, back to work...

    This Spartan Life
    Anshe Chung, 2nd Life Real Estate Tycoon, REAL LIFE Millionaire
    cansei de ser sexy


    • strlt_typ
      who is designing and planning this new community?
      probably the developer who owns the space...

      are architects and planners involved?
      they will be called programmers, logisticians and graphic designers...

      How can design improve virtual interaction?
      efficiency...more bandwidth like our roads and freeways...

      Does 2nd life need starchitects to move even more real estate?
      not neccessarily but some people put their trust on brands...

      Same questions as above, mainly what can designers bring to enhance virtual life?
      robotics in conjunction with the internet...the ability to use telecommunication in order for a doctor in u.s.a. to operate on a patient in another country lacking skilled and knowledgeable doctors...
      (source:city of bits: william j. mitchell)

      but the band met and wants to be considered mainly as being FROM the internet. The group has myspace, flickr, and youtube accounts. I'm not sure where I am going with this or if it matters, but just found it interesting that they don't want to be thought of as Brazilian but Myspacean, what are the politico-spatial implications of doing this?
      their next step is to play their songs via internet while each person is at a remote location and you can see them at

      Nov 28, 06 10:54 pm  · 

      i suggest some william j. mitchell to feed you curiuosity...

      Nov 29, 06 3:13 am  · 

      dammson, i think the design question offers other answers besides "more bandwidth." this discussion forum on this site, for example, has a better graphic interface than most discussion forums (which are often clumsy and clunky). this attribute (archinect's graphic interface) is one aspect of design improving virtual interaction.

      on the other hand, archinect pages don't respond to an accessibility concern. on most internet pages, if you hit ctrl + scroll the text size increases (for those with difficulty reading small type). this doesn't work on archinect, thereby potentially alienating some potential users.

      interesting topic.

      Nov 29, 06 8:54 am  · 

      hmmm... interesting answers, thanks,

      but my concern is not with the pragmatic infrastrucutre of the virtual world (bandwidth, etc...), nor the design of text-based forums. I am interested in the literal design of the places where that virtual interaction takes place: buildings, plazas, city streets, schools, etc... Can we design a poetic space to shoot your oponent from?

      I was thinking last night that 2nd life would be a perfect place to test out ideas such as the walking city and others that would be too complicated to actually build. You can create the infrastructure and test the idea with (almost) real people. 2nd life is literally a utopia, a no-place, why not treat it as such.

      And as dammson points out the moments when virtual interaction becomes physical is pretty interesting too.

      There are many schools that now offer video game degrees (all the way to Phd). Is it time for architecture schools to seriously begin to criticize and analyze the 'architecture' within the fgames? I would imagine that some schools, or at least students, have started to.

      Nov 29, 06 9:21 am  · 

      regarding virtual space, i'm not sure you can talk about it in the same terms as physical space. the same things are not required in the 2 vastly different realms. your myspace analogy, and dammson's satellite doctor are both virtual phenomenon (with physical components) that seem to have little to do with virtual 'buildings.' both of these examples do, however, have much to do with virtual space and place, but 'buildings' in the Doom sense are not applicable. point being, the design of the virtual spaces where the 2 examples take place is about infrastructure and interface moreso than a fantasy built environment.

      just some thoughts....i am interested in the potential for testing things like Walking City in a virtual environment...

      oh, wait. are you saying a physical place (internet cafe) where virtual interaction takes place? hmmmm. maybe my tangent stems from this mis-reading...

      Nov 29, 06 9:48 am  · 

      No, you are reading it right, I guess I just didnt understand you at first (and maybe still). I am not sure about doom, because I have only seen it once about 10 years ago. But if you look at the interview I posted above they are in Halo 2 jumping from place to place some landscapes, plazas, highways, platforms by the beach, hallways, buildings, etc...

      I am just thinking outloud.

      Nov 29, 06 10:03 am  · 

      to sum up (I think): we are talking about 2 issues, one of virtual interaction, and one of the physical interface necessary to allow for that virtual interaction. Both interesting and both may need architectural thinking in different ways.

      Nov 29, 06 10:13 am  · 
      Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

      I think there are some attendant issues. If you do replicate Archigram's Walking City within the normative universe of a videogame, what of it? It seems that the creation of a virtual environment becomes interesting in two instances: 1) when it creates a figural space for critique; and 2) when the virtual environment "outperforms" its real-world analog in providing such a critique. Thus, for example, how does a computer game affect subjectivity? Also, has anyone thought about how it takes tons of code to generate these environments? How such an environment is a representation of that code? Think about that for a second, for it seems like the computer-generated urban environment offers an opportunity to investigate how code is an example of the Lacanian "symbolic."

      (FYI, there is a great little piece by MacKenzie Wark in the latest issue of Grey Room about The Sims.)

      Nov 29, 06 10:34 am  · 

      Ever hear of A Quondam Banquet of Virtual Sachlichkeit?

      Or is this all a reenactment of Le Corbusier's "Eyes which do not see"?

      Perosnally, I think it all has to do with the direct relationship between ignoring and ignorance.

      Nov 29, 06 10:35 am  · 

      "eyes which do not see" is a criticism of the beaux arts movement isn't it?...i don't see the relevance...

      Nov 29, 06 12:25 pm  · 
      Nov 29, 06 12:42 pm  · 

      what's that?

      Nov 29, 06 1:01 pm  · 

      for sure...efficiency is only one part...

      Nov 29, 06 1:21 pm  · 

      class where 'virtual' environments were addressed

      ...I took this class and gained an active interest in defining what might be the intent, goal, purpose of designing in this type of environment... needless to say, during a semester a gained a lot more questions than answers... but, people within architecture have already started thinking about it, i assure you. also, the same semester that we were working on these projects, a halflife2 and secondlife based art piece were shown at an SAIC gallery showing. (not impressive, but it was nice to see other people were into it)

      i think my project is the only one still up and running in secondlife, Lupulinus 59, 115, 56. (it stalls out at the moment, use "/33 reset")
      Nov 29, 06 1:39 pm  · 
      ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭

      have any of you read this book?

      Architecture From The Outside

      it's a tough read, as i don't have an extensive philosophy background, but she seems to question the distinction between virtual and real space. it's pretty interesting and relevant to the topic.

      Nov 29, 06 8:26 pm  · 
      Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

      It's interesting, because Liz Grosz is not an architect, but she is a trained Deleuzian who always ends up teaching at architecture schools. She's great.

      Nov 29, 06 8:40 pm  · 

      I've read at least two of the essays in Architecture from the Outside: "Architecture from the Outside" and "Cyberspace, Virtuality and the Real: Some Architectural Reflections". My initial reading was when the essays were first published in two of the ANY books (late 1990s), and more recently earlier this year. I remember being struck by how some of the theoretical notions mentioned in "Architecture from the Outside" correlate directly with what I do in practice via Quondam, Museumpeace and other cyberspace venues. I wanted to write something about this but I never got around to it. Looks like I be doing it soon via a blog.

      Nov 29, 06 8:54 pm  · 
      ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭ ☭

      great Stephen, i look forward to reading it.

      Nov 29, 06 8:59 pm  · 
      vado retro

      i believe i talked about all this a few weeks back...signed vado zeitgeist interpolator...

      Nov 29, 06 9:18 pm  · 

      well, aren't we all reenactionaters?

      Nov 29, 06 9:35 pm  · 

      re: architecture and urban interventions in game environments as a test bed: in most cases (if not all?) there's no entropy. no weather, no rot, no differential settlement, etc.

      missing a lot of the things that makes it interesting to put things out in the world and see how they perform.

      Nov 29, 06 9:59 pm  · 

      just wanted to add a quick note.
      Second Life does have range of active architecture firms in place.

      And Second Life does serve as the base for several new media performances. Dubord inspired performances. Actually, some of the artists have gained a good amount of recognition.

      I can see Second Life as a platform to experiment with very schematic "spatial sketches"... but we're all aware of the <present> limitations.

      Nov 29, 06 10:46 pm  · 
      vado retro

      second life will supplant real life within two generations.

      Nov 29, 06 11:12 pm  · 

      no way...we have to protest against this...let's live the now and here...not in the there and later...

      *source: placing words & city of bits-william j. mitchell

      Nov 29, 06 11:16 pm  · 

      in the digital realm, market forces, politics, and gravity all don't apply.

      Nov 30, 06 9:09 am  · 

      if you look at second life, market forces and politics do apply. look at the protest that sl residents staged to prevent further land taxation.

      ...and i don't think everyone is intending to design in SL to demonstrate real life possibilities. environments in SL are specifically for the user's second life. thinking about differential settlement, material degradation are no longer relevant, but there are a host of new design problems. as sl is still young, and it is a digital environment, context is a big ?mark. how do we design for someone who is viewing the environment in the third person? what is the value of a digital 'space'?

      ...and to write of these envirments as not a viable or valuable problem i think would be upsetting to the residents. you wouldn't want to upset the furries! who knows, maybe 'virtual' architects will be an entirely different profession than physical architects. however, i do believe this community (architects and our history, theories, philosophies, etc.) has a lot to offer this new 'architecture'. look at what people have built there, castles, spaces ships, everything has been on a movie set before in some form. these are fantasies, or stages of fantasies. the real design problems have barely been addressed.

      Nov 30, 06 9:56 am  · 

      betadinesutures, I re-read parts of Architecture from the Outside and found the passages I can relate to in the essay "Architecture from the Outside". I won't be writing about the correlation though because that might put me too much inside architecture, and, more to the point, I don't even give a shit about the outside or the inside of architecture anymore. Good luck with your own endeavors.

      Nov 30, 06 10:26 am  · 
      Chili Davis

      Does anyone find it odd that cansei de ser sexy is infact not at all sexy?

      Nov 30, 06 3:00 pm  · 

      the music of c.s.s. is pretty sexy.

      Nov 30, 06 3:41 pm  · 

      The radio show "The Infinate Mind" did a series of shows about second life. I bet you could find them in their archives. At any rate, one of the guests commented that most of the domestic architecture in second life were Fallingwater clones in a malibu siting. Wild.

      Nov 30, 06 11:35 pm  · 

      ajliebch, I've heard that show once or twice it is great, I will look for it.

      Chili, they are tired of being sexy so they are not. I actually researched the name, it comes from a line in a Beyonce song that they thought it was so stupid that it needed to be enshrined as their own name.

      Steven, did you check this vided of theirs out A la la A la la

      I chose this video in particular becuase they managed to make a real city (Sao Paulo?) look empty and, in some ways, virtual. Even the interactions within people seems kind of Sim-ish, walk in (robot-like) fall on someone... Not sure if this was intentional and in any way comments on the issues we are discussing, but I saw it that way.

      Dec 1, 06 8:24 am  · 

      have seen it, but didn't notice what you describe. cool. if sao paulo, that's a pretty populated city, too.

      Dec 1, 06 8:46 am  · 
      Chili Davis

      +q, I think the question here is were they ever sexy

      Dec 1, 06 3:40 pm  · 
      vado retro

      im too sexy for milan
      too sexy for milan
      new yourk and japan...yeah right

      Dec 2, 06 7:57 am  · 

      What I find interesting about virtual based economies and communities, is creating an opportunity for them to manifest in reality.

      What are the implications of a digital economy on the real economy?
      How will our public/semi-public spaces in reality accommodate intangible cultural realms?

      Architecture's role in Secondlife is more of an "open-source" idea. I don't think that architects roles would perform the same way as they do in reality.
      I couldn't possibly imagine trying to plan anything in a large scale in would just get built over.

      Also, I think exploring ideas of making these worlds more efficiently accessible are valuable.
      "How can design improve virtual interaction?
      efficiency...more bandwidth like our roads and freeways..."
      Dammson's comment was ignored...even though it was a bit dismissive.. ;)

      Once connective technologies become more ubiquitous, and more embedded in our environments, we will be starting to accumulate this "internet of things" (
      We will also become more tied to the internet on more consistent terms, which gives our myspace profile, and Secondlife avatar opportunity to follow us around the shopping mall.

      Just for a smarty-pants conclusion.... a Foucault theory on Heterotopias (on existing in multiple realities at the same time)...Of Other Spaces:

      PS - Project Entropia is another virtual community/economy ( ), but not quite as creatively free as SL.

      Dec 3, 06 6:32 am  · 

      Block this user

      Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

    • Back to Entry List...
  • ×Search in:

Affiliated with:

Authored by:

Other blogs affiliated with Harvard University:

Recent Entries