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Oct 17, 2006

Comments

101.

Ooops' my critical question is why are we using the "Real World" as a benchmark, when we know that it's not so great for many applications?

Backgammon is interesting, because many of the 2D online backgammon games offer an augmented view of the game. Many backgammon interfaces will give you a running score. This is also true with online chess, which often has a running PGN notation, a cleanly organized display of captured pieces, and materiel count. And as many people complain, 2D interfaces make it easy to cheat.

102.

@KirkJobSluder:

Both points are well made. And your second isn't one that I meant in any way to gainsay. A fully immersive 3D world isn't *just* a representation of the real world... it is *at least* a representation of the real world. So all the neat stuff that happens in the 2D online backgammon and chess games you mention, and all the asynchronous comms we love, and all the other computer-aided tools we enjoy will all be there with us, too.

But I can't, at the moment, think of a way in which text, which was created for 2D, might be more useful, interesting or entertaining if rendered in 3D. By that, I mean the actual artifacts of letters, phonemes, grammar, etc. that make up "text." Not the "things on which text lives." I can certainly imagine 3D environments with 2D text embedded in all kinds of interesting ding dongs. But when you rotate a "Q" through the Y-axis... what does that give me?

Your second point is, as I said, very valid. It's one that I argue all the time with friends and colleagues about the difference between "space" and "geography." A "space" need not be geographic. A very "small space of land and time" from a rigid, definitional view can be extremely important. For example, the events in an extremely dramatic, important novel or screenplay can take place over the course of one day, and in one house, with only a few players. Whereas a truly bad movie can use up ten years of time, a continent, two thousand extras and a bag of kittens to boot. Which takes up more "space?"

When it comes to content... mapping should most definitely NOT be to the real world, as you say. The classroom may not be the best classroom. Land may not be the best place to build an online house.

And, yes... text may not be the best way to write in a computer-aided, 3D, virtual experience. But you'll have to bring me a bit further along if you want me there with you. Right now, text seems an extremely poor candidate for a medium aching for third-dimensional rights.

103.

Andy Havens: But I can't, at the moment, think of a way in which text, which was created for 2D, might be more useful, interesting or entertaining if rendered in 3D.

Well, that's the problem. You are still thinking, "text was created for 2D." Text is just a way of encoding, preserving and enhancing the cognitive alchemy of language. In fact, the concept of text as part of a designed 3D space probably predates the concept of text as part of a "page." Think about monuments, gravestones, and temples.

But when you rotate a "Q" through the Y-axis... what does that give me?

Well, and hypothetical monkeys might fly out of my avatar's arse. What does that give me?

Of course, I can propose equally silly counter-examples. I can create a sequential row of textured 3-D objects in a virtual world, what does that give me?

For some real examples, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington D.C.. Counters the false dichotomy between 3D and text. The arms provide geographic references to the Washington Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial (both of which include text as part of the design.) The wall lists the names of American men and women killed or declared missing during that conflict in chronological order. Many people find the end result to be very effective.

The capabilities of objects in space and the capabilities of language as means of expression have both been explored at length over the centuries. The result is parallel and very rich traditions of architecture, sculpture, and narrative. The fact that these traditions have flowered in parallel with each other suggest to me that they have different functions, utility, and aesthetics.

104.

@Kirk: Look... paper is, to be fair, 3D, too. If you wanna get funky, it's as 3D as a monument, gravestone or temple. If you get into its arse with a microscope. But if I stand more than 10 feet away from a gravestone... the text gets real 2D, don't it?

The nature of the thing on which the text appears does not define the nature of text. That was my point about rotating a "Q." The definition of most letters occurs in 2D. A capital "T" is a vertical (Y-axis) stroke, topped by a centrally balanced horizontal (X-axis) stroke, with no regard for a Z-axis. Although many of the things on which we inscribe, carve, paint, blob or otherwise mung our messages are, yes, massively 3D... the letters are not defined by 3D characteristics. If I etch a deep, dark, cavernous "M" as part of a "MCMLVXIII" in a granite gravestone, that makes it no more of an "M" as "a way of encoding, preserving and enhancing the cognitive alchemy of language," than an "M" that is scratched in a picnic table with a Swiss Army knife in, "Monkeys Fly Out of Andy's Arse."

Are the expressions different? Sure. Of course. Do I understand the difference between a gravestone and a picnic table? I think so. But the *textual* part of those experiences is 2D, and is portable, as evidenced by the fact that I could as easily carve "Monkeys Fly Out of Andy's Arse" on the gravestone, eh?

Text is two dimensional.

Letters can be 3D, sure. Letters can be made of balloons or wood shavings or paper dolls or any crazy shite you can dream up. If they're illegible, well... some ink letters on pages are, too (see my dad's handwriting). But the *concept* of text in no way requires a third dimension. I know of no alphabet where the meaning of letters ceases to function in the absence of a 3rd coordinate.

The Vietnam Memorial is an excellent example of what I'm talking about. It's 2D text. Yes, it's carved. Yes, the letters have a 3D "element" to them. But the "text-i-ness" of them isn't in any way enhanced by the 3D nature of the carving. The overall art is, sure. The experience, yes. The durability of the artifact. But a carved name is no more a name, no more readable, no more "Smith" than a printed name "Smith" of the same size, contrast and legibility.

There are all kinds of examples like this where, yes... in a fully immersive, 3D world, there will be text printed on, carved into, placed atop, etc. etc. etc. all kinds of 3D "stuff" in virtual worlds. Just like it is in the real world. So what? The point a bunch of people here were making is that doing 3D things in a 2D system (current monitors and mice) isn't grand, because text is 2D, and much of what we do on our current systems is text-based. To a great degree, I agree with that. On the other hand, I don't agree with the corollary... that a fully immersive 3D system is, therefore, not worth doing. Because there are other things, besides text, that are incredibly useful and helpful and entertaining in a 3D VW.

Frankly... I thought you were saying something more interesting than "letters can be carved into stone in real life, so let's remember we can do it in VWs."

105.

Andy Havens: Look... paper is, to be fair, 3D, too. If you wanna get funky, it's as 3D as a monument, gravestone or temple. If you get into its arse with a microscope. But if I stand more than 10 feet away from a gravestone... the text gets real 2D, don't it?

The nature of the thing on which the text appears does not define the nature of text.

Well, actually it does. Think about gravestones for a moment. The gravestone is not only a holder for text, but it communicates a specific geographic relationship. Here lies John Smith, next to his wife Jane that survived him by 20 years. In between them is their daughter, Betty, who died just after she was born. A few feet away is Christina Smith Poolitsan who'se husband Charles served in the Navy.

Higher up on the hill you have different families with more elaborate tombstones communicating social class. The combination of meaningful text, geographic location goes a long way toward communicating history, culture and relationships.

Are the expressions different? Sure. Of course. Do I understand the difference between a gravestone and a picnic table? I think so. But the *textual* part of those experiences is 2D, and is portable, as evidenced by the fact that I could as easily carve "Monkeys Fly Out of Andy's Arse" on the gravestone, eh?

Text is two dimensional.

Well, I'm wondering if part of this problem comes from a gap of two different fields. You seem to be interpreting text as decorative glyps enscribed on some object. I'm looking at "text" from a discourse analysis discipline. When I look at the text produced in Computer-Mediated Communication, I'm looking at multiple dimensions including the following:

structure: How many characters are in each message? How many words? What type of punctuation? What is the diversity of vocabulary used?

syntax: What are the grammatical structures used? (In terms of real-life, not in terms of conformity to academic styles.)

semantics: What does the text mean? How do I derive it's meaning? In 3D worlds this leverages references to the local geography of that world?

pragmatics: Issues of politeness, mutuality, flow of conversation.

And overlapping with this:

semiotics: What are the relationships between sign and meaning.

So from my point of view, interpretation of "Monkeys fly out of Andy's Ass," is going to depend to a large degree on the context of those words in 3D space. The meaning is going to be different if I see those words on a tombstone, a picnic table, a movie poster, or a theatre sign.

But the "text-i-ness" of them isn't in any way enhanced by the 3D nature of the carving. The overall art is, sure. The experience, yes. The durability of the artifact. But a carved name is no more a name, no more readable, no more "Smith" than a printed name "Smith" of the same size, contrast and legibility.

Such reductionism has proven to be less than useful.

You can't separate the meaning of those words from the location (The Mall in Washington D.C. vs. a library), the medium (carved granite vs. newsprint), their sequence with other words (a newspaper article vs. chronological list), and a variety of other factors.

And, there have been more than 4,000 years of artists and designers who would disagree that one surface is just the same as any other surface.

The point a bunch of people here were making is that doing 3D things in a 2D system (current monitors and mice) isn't grand, because text is 2D, and much of what we do on our current systems is text-based. To a great degree, I agree with that. On the other hand, I don't agree with the corollary... that a fully immersive 3D system is, therefore, not worth doing. Because there are other things, besides text, that are incredibly useful and helpful and entertaining in a 3D VW.

Well, if that's your point, I'm not certain that I'd disagree. I do think that 3D things need some kind of 3D emulation. What I hear though now and then is a sweeping claim that a 3D environment will surplant the need for computer interfaces that manipulate other media. Written language in particular seems to be under attack, but I also think that there still will be need for computer interfaces that manipulate audio, and 2D graphics as well.

Frankly... I thought you were saying something more interesting than "letters can be carved into stone in real life, so let's remember we can do it in VWs."

I am, but it doesn't seem you are listening. What I am saying is that written language opens up unique vistas for cognitive and aesthetic exploration. While it is true that we need 3D interfaces for exploring the cognitive and aesthetic possibilities of 3D, we also need interfaces for exploring the cognitive and aesthetic possibilities of text.

And finally, I don't think that research into language (both written and spoken) supports your contention that you can meaningfully separate text from medium or context.

106.

Kirk: I'm trying to listen. Really. And maybe we're talking (or texting ; ) ) two different things entirely.

Firstly, I do love text. I love words. I'm a writer by trade, a poet at heart, and a believer in the religion that says, "In the beginning was the Word." A religion that defines "God as Word" is very funky about the power of speech and verbal directive, and certainly puts the idea of enabled thought at the center of power.

And I certainly agree with you that in the real world, where a word or words occur is important; your cemetery example is a good one. But you are talking about "language," I think. Not "text." Or, at least, in my interpretation that is the case.

You go on to talk about even spoken language, which has nothing to do with text in the case of 2D vs. 3D environments. Yes, all the things you mention -- structure, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, semiotics and even speech -- are incredibly important and related to issues of text... in real life. You can't separate them. And, thus, you can't separate them from issues of text when talking about anything related to text in either a 2D or 3D environment. They are definitional.

But that doesn't mean that the 2D vs. 3D thing has anything to do with those issues.

If I want to show you what's printed on each of the gravestones, I can do so with 2D. On a flat screen or on a piece of paper. If, on the other hand, I want to share with you true depth-of-field, or real texture, or let you walk around to see the rear of one of the gravestones, or experience lighting changes and the play of shadows... these things are better accomplished within a 3D environment, because they are defined in RL by 3D parameters.

My point is simply that while 2D is great for conveying text, 3D is not specifically better for text-based applications, because the definition of textual characteristics are 2D even in RL, 3D environments. Will we need text in VWs? Of course. We will need it in at least as many instances as we need text in real life. And we'll use it in as many interesting, artistic, semantic, syntactic, semiotic ways as we do in RL.

But not because text is 3D. Because RL is 3D. And until we have better ways of displaying and interacting with virtual representations of 3D; and while text is still (one of) our major media... we won't go gently into that dark axis. Because there is no real need.

I love the text. And I want the 3D. I'm stuck in the middle.

107.

@Kirke:

Also... You said: "...written language opens up unique vistas for cognitive and aesthetic exploration."

Couldn't agree with you more. I'm still waiting, though, for those expressions in an MMO or VW. Mostly I see IM and chat that mimics the worst of the daily muddle.

What would "The Poetry MMO" look like though... The Haiku VW? Interesting...

108.

The Haiku VW?

That one I can take. =P Inspired by LJ Haiku Meme, I recommend that all text be parsed for syllables and separated with a line break at intervals of 5, 7, 5. Permissibly, this may occur only with speech emotes.

109.

Ady Havens: If I want to show you what's printed on each of the gravestones, I can do so with 2D. On a flat screen or on a piece of paper.

At this point, I have to agree to disagree. You are arbitrarily separating content from medium and context. I see these as two things that are critical to understanding how a text was designed, and actually understood. I don't see a huge difference between "real life" and computer-mediated experience in that regard.

Couldn't agree with you more. I'm still waiting, though, for those expressions in an MMO or VW. Mostly I see IM and chat that mimics the worst of the daily muddle.

And here is a good example. The chat texts produced in a VW with shared references to 3D objects are different from texts produced in a textual mud with emotes, and different from web-based chat, and different from bitnet or chat communicated with an IM content. Part of the flexibility of human language is its flexibility to deal with constraints of medium. In the case of "chat-like" messaging, you see abbreviations and emoticons, elements that were also previously developed by telegraph and radio operators.

110.

@Kirk: Kind of had an epiphany last night after signing off -- have to thank you for that. Doesn't happen often, but I've had a couple come from participation on this board. Thanks for sticking with me.

I get what you're saying now, and I agree -- completely. Here's what I think I've been trying to say, hopefully more coherently, so maybe it will make more sense (both to me and to you).

Until the textual issues to which you refer become easy enough and coherent enough in a virtual 3D environment to realize without specific reference to a 2D interface, there will be, essentially, too much "friction" involved in creating the text in a 3D manner. The same, I think, holds true for creating voice instances in many cases -- for you and I to talk vox-a-vox on this blog would take a lot more work; first a commitment to synchronous communication, then a schedule, then matching systems, then necessary hardware, etc. etc. At some point, if those "frictions" are erased, and it's as easy for us to leave messages or voice chat as it is to text comments... we may choose to do so.

Similarly, at some point, it will be as easy to create virtual instances of many of the nuanced, 3D text experiences that you make reference to in your comments. Right now, however, it isn't. Eventually, my hope is that if it makes sense for me to leave you an email carved into a virtual, 3D tombstone on top of a 15th century, French gravesite... because of the neat literary and metaphysical implications... well, yeah... that'd be wicked cool. But until it takes the general public a balanced amount of time/effort to do so, compared to the 2D alternative, I believe that the 2D nature of *many* text vehicles makes text probably not the application that will drive 3D over some event horizon.

Once it's there, though? OK... Now I get you. Yes. Text in 3D will be important, interesting and most cool. Sorry it took me so long to catch up to your thought wave.

Dang limitations of text ; )

111.

Well, to be honest I have not really thought about how written language will look like in virtual words. Or perhaps we should broaden it out to talk about language in general. One of the magic aspects of language is the way in which it's users flexibly adapt to new media, contexts and situations. The use of text in 3D worlds will likely evolve as designers and architects experiment with them as a media.

Perhaps I've been arguing a straw-man, what I've been hearing is that the "3D-web" will replace other media interfaces for information technology. My argument is that text-based interfaces such as novels, web pages, instant messages and wikis are likely to have a complementary but independent existance.

112.

On Oct 17, 2006, Ren Reynolds published "Searching for the 3D tipping point." He said:

In the long and winding why do we never talk about SL thread a question that lurked around is whether SL is the basis for a 3D version of the web and the meta question of whether such a notion makes any sense.


He then asked the zillion dollar question:

What characterizes the tipping point when an other wizzy 3D tech becomes the 3D tech?

The membrane has been breached. In Silicon Valley, they are beta-ing that very wizzy 3D tech that uses operating systems as simple power systems in a vast new envelope-space of technology. The product is called :WIDE OPEN: . There is still a lot of hush hush about it because it is about to explode the entire technology market and into its potentialities will gush entire new companies.


In an unusual move, :WIDE OPEN: has worked with local governments in Silicon Valley to prepare the infrastructure for the enormous expected inflows of people from across the globe. :WIDE OPEN: has in essence created its own industry. Anyone else even dreaming of 3D better perk up and take notice.


Silicon Valley is just about to change BIG TIME and it will explode out into the world just as the Intel chip did, the chip that was made in this same valley.

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