In yesterdays post I described the scenario, and hinted at what I thought would be really cool for the Second Life project. This post is all about real world places that I think have some powerful lessons for our virtual space. I mentioned yesterday that there is a risk of getting too caught up in the scenario, but Clare also talks about the difference between a puzzle and a problem; as we try to narrow down the requirements for the virtual world, we will slowly move away from the “problem” realm, and ease into the “puzzle” realm.
So what do we need? There is the obvious stuff – common areas, bars, cafes, event venues, sporting facilities, student support services and information… the list can be as varied and wonderful as you like. The wonderful thing about a virtual Second Life, is that you can literally have ANYTHING you want! In Second Life the normal limitation of capital is not a huge problem. We do have a max prim count, and we will need to monitor this, but objects can also be deconstructed which will let us re-deploy prims however we like! So I think this shifts the focus from WHAT the Student Association might want, to HOW / WHY they want it. With this in mind, I think the main focus should be on COMMUNITY and building a flexible and really functional space designed to bring students together. As I mentioned yesterday, this was one of the advantages that ANU has – a great Community Square to bring everyone together.
This isn’t that removed from the real world. I believe that projects get wrapped up with WHAT they need. Of course this is entirely necessary – it is the justification for expenditure and it helps define the outcomes – but I also believe that by focusing on WHY you need it, and HOW you are going to deliver it lead to better long-term utilisation. Sydney Olympic Park (SOP) is a prime example. SOP was purpose built for the 2000 Olympics, and it is still an outstanding sporting facility. However, it covers a huge amount or real estate in Sydney’s inner-west and post Olympics is was a dead zone. In the years since there has been a huge need to rejuvenate the park and get people using it on a daily basis, it is too valuable and too expensive to be exclusively used for sporting events. Now, there are businesses (banks, bars, restaurants, retailers…) that operate from SOP, right alongside NSW’s elite sporting bodies. Slowly some life has been brought back to the park, which has broadened it usage and helped make the area profitable (and therefore sustainable) for the city. (perhaps there is a lesson here for Saxton Field here in Nelson, which is currently a burden on the rate payers)
So what do I want to pull from the story of SOP? I think the key is flexible, multi-purpose usage! Facilities whose uses are too narrow ultimately become a burden and eventually die out. I think that this is a really important consideration when designing our virtual environment, and it is also a really important thing to keep in mind when developing our project processes / methodology. Our designs will need to be suitable generic to be re-commissioned as needed (at smallest possible cost!). Our processes will ideally involve short, productive sprints and our methodology should be inherently flexible. In the end we want something to adapt with the needs of the Student Association. Next week they might want a full football stadium, and perhaps a concert hall the week after.
I think the one thing that will never change is the need for a high-energy, high-impact, exciting COMMUNITY space. I can’t help but think of a huge sporting event when I think about these things. Something like the Australian Open is all of these things; high-energy, multi-venued, food, drink, people, excitement, information services … the list goes on. During the Australian Open, Melbourne Park is EXACTLY the kind of facility we want for our virtual environment. The Aussie Open manages to pack all our requirements into one compact and vibrant location.
I will leave this post with a rich picture, a collage of images from the Aussie Open that captures the various elements I think we need in out virtual space…