Erik Champion

Interactive History & Digital Culture

notes about places

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I’m writing a book,  DESIGNING THE ‘PLACE’ OF VIRTUAL SPACE, Indiana University Press, Spatial Humanities series.

Current planned book chapters

  • Place Theory Applied To Virtual Environments
  • Dead, Dying, Failed Worlds
  • How Mind Remembers Space, How Places Are Meaningful And Evocative
  • Place Affordances Of Virtual Environments Learnt From Affordances In Real Places
  • Place Interaction And Mechanics
  • Learning From Place
  • Place-Making Devices, Place-Finding Devices
  • Evaluation
  • Conclusion

My notes include the following:

  1. Place theory seldom clarifies different types of place features and different types of place genres, for example, fantasy places. There are places imaginative because they don’t clearly and explicitly relate to current place objects or interactive place relations, or imaginative because they don’t follow common sense, lived experience, or known physics. I don’t however know of a classification of them suitable to the design of virtual worlds.
  2. Such places are captivating but vague, what are the general affordances that mark them out as distinctive places but allow a variety of events and actions to take place?
  3. The place affordances of mobile places (tents, boats, stones, trailers) are seldom described but of great design interest to me. Where do I find this literature?
  4. Places are typically
    1. gathering (a center focusing or center-pulling away)
    2. the placing or gathering components are imaginatively or allegorically linked
    3. ecosystems
    4. related to other places
    5. allow a placing between the dynamic and the static (is there a better word than threshold?) This allows them to support creativity or allow time to imagine creativity..
    6. Depict a marking by or resistance to time (no, not exactly Kenneth Frampton’s architecture as heroic environmental resistance or critical regionalism theory). A place is a diary of us, a tapestry of meetings, of planned and spontaneous encounters.
  5. Place evaluation: places are very difficult to evaluate, to capture or to imitate. It is very difficult to observe a place without being there (and hence the appeal of phenomenology). For they are more network than tree, not linear and not directly observable.
  6. The levels of observable interaction are granular but of differing scale and not actually tailored directly to the scale and capabilities of a human observer, something we often forget when we design a virtual place, where everything is meant to be observed from and be seen to make sense from a human-height eye level. The layers and eddies of reality are infinitely complex. That does not mean that everything needs to be simulated or generated about that place.
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