April 2006

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There’s a lot of buzz about the BBC’s recent announcement:
MediaGuardian.co.uk | Media | BBC unveils radical revamp of website

The BBC today unveiled radical plans to rebuild its website around user-generated content, including blogs and home videos, with the aim of creating a public service version of MySpace.com.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about the difficulties newspapers and traditional broadcast news and information outlets are facing due to the explosion of the Web. And by explosion, I mean not the ecommerce fixation of 6-7 years ago, but the sort of afterboom of the social web. How Craigslist is eating the lunch of local newspapers, because (according to Craig, and I’m paraphrasing him here, from the very excellent interview I heard via podcast) newspapers are supposed to be a community service, and that’s how they work best and how a community values them most.

The authority they derive in their news coverage is an after effect of how well they make themselves into an essential social organ.

The BBC sees this clearly and is doing something about it … rather than whining about the changing world and trying to sandbag against it, they’re adopting the new paradigm.

And that new paradigm is the peer-to-peer world. A relatively new book, “The Wealth of Networks,” takes Metcalfe’s law seriously, and explains the point that many others have been making for a while. From an interview at Open Business:

By “commons-based peer production” I mean any one of a wide range of collaborative efforts we are seeing emerging on the Net in which a group of people engages in a cooperative production enterprise that effectively produces information goods without price signals or managerial commands.

The interview goes on to cover the non-monetary incentives for this kind of co-production. Any enlightened HR person will tell you, though, that similar non-monetary incentives have always been primary drivers for workers; it’s what makes people care about what they’re doing. Getting paid is necessary, but it’s not the immediate incentive every minute of the work day. (If it *is* the main incentive of most workers in an organization, the organization is doomed.)

But enabling people to work this way is something most organizations aren’t used to doing. Which is why there’s an exponential increase in interest about “social software” and how to use it for business. I’m a big fan of the stuff, but it’s only as good as the organization using it: like any other software, it doesn’t fix anything on its own, it only gives people more opportunities to fix things together.

Maybe this is why CFO magazine has an article just a few days old about “Office Collaboration, the Wiki Way.” Maybe it’s why Kleiner Perkins is backing Visible Path’s vision to take social software to the serious corporate world? And maybe it’s why Forrester has an online session happening tomorrow called “Social Computing: How Networks Erode Institutional Power, And What to Do About It” with a blurb like this:

Easy connections brought about by cheap devices, modular content, and shared computing resources are having a profound impact on our global economy and social structure. Individuals increasingly take cues from one another rather than from institutional sources like corporations, media outlets, religions, and political bodies. To thrive in an era of Social Computing, companies must abandon top-down management and communication tactics, weave communities into their products and services, use employees and partners as marketers, and become part of a living fabric of brand loyalists.

(The report from February is for sale here.)

A lot of this might be a little far-fetched. People and institutions don’t change overnight, and certain pockets of corporate culture have more inertia than others. Still, it’s one thing to talk about it like it’s the sci-fi future: then it’s just theoretical and not especially pressing. But it’s another to see it happening all around you. That’s when it’s time to at least have a strategy.

Ubiquitous computing research from AIGA

AIGA – Augmenting the City: The Design of a Context-Aware Mobile Web Site

The produced solution augments the city through web-based access to a digital layer of information about people, places and activities adapted to users’ physical and social context and their history of social interactions in the city.

Thanks to Irene Wong who pointed me to this article at HBS from a couple of years ago. I haven’t managed to read the “Gamer Generation” book yet, but it sounds like I really should have.

Managing the Gamer Generation : HBS Working Knowledge

This is one of the huge points creating the generation gap. Gaming is actually much more social than boomers understand. A lot of it is very social, done with friends, and now increasingly, over the Internet. Maybe as a result, gamers really value other people—more than people who didn’t play games growing up. They also firmly believe in a team environment. But they’re not egalitarians—they believe someone should lead, they are generally happy to do it, and they have more skills than other people their age, more fluency with different leadership styles.

I had a blast presenting Clues to the Future as an IA Institute redux session today via phone, gatherplace.com and campfirenow.com. It was a little awkward, honestly, because I haven’t done a presentation that way before. But people were very accomodating.

And some of them had some very cool suggestions about some relevant articles and such, so I’m sharing a couple of them here.

Rules of Play – The MIT Press

Putting the Fun in Functional: applying game mechanics to functional software

The dedicated people who publish UXmatters have launched their April 2006 Issue, with a focus on covering the Vancouver IA Summit.

There are quite a few thorough summaries and reviews of some of the best parts of the conference. I was honored to be asked to review the Conceptual Comics workshop I attended that Friday.

At the IA Summit this year, there was a lot of talk about whether or not individuals organizing information was still relevant (which is an absurd question on one level, but I suppose it’s important to work through this identity crisis together as a community).

There are some things that a designer’s understanding of context can do with information that a hive mind or a universal standard simply cannot.

It hit me with a thud as I read this interview: A Monumental Discussion with Vincent Scully | Metropolis Magazine.

Scully explains one of the design features of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC:

The other brilliant move was her determination that the names on the memorial reflect the chronology of their deaths. The authorities wanted very much to make it alphabetical. But I’ve heard people standing in front of that wall, pointing up to a cluster of names, and saying: ‘They were all killed by the same burst.’ The memorial is very close to the sequence of how people died. So it’s the whole story of the war. And in a way, symbolically, it starts out with the first casualty, and then it goes in the depths of the war, where the casualties were massive, and then it goes to the last.

There’s the human story. And there’s how stories get told and resonated with how we shape information. It happens every day, in many contexts much more mundane than this … but all of them are meaningful, all of them change us.

Bulletin April/May 2006, From Game Studies to Bibliographic Gaming: Libraries Tap into the Video Game Culture

Take a digital game world, throw it in a blender, add some information and research skills, sift out the word educational and maybe, just maybe, we have a new and effective way to teach our students bibliographic instruction.

As I was working on my article for the Bulletin, I saw this from the latest issue. Excellent article by Christy Branston, who is starting a blog on the issues: http://bibliogaming.blogspot.com/

Much of the research was gathered from this conference: http://gaminginlibraries.org which has a link to a pretty busy related blog: http://libgaming.blogspot.com/

At CommunityWalk – 3pointD there’s a hack for Google Maps that maps Second Life virtual spaces.

Mark Wallace’s blog, 3pointD, explains his hack here:


One of the cool Google Maps hacks on display at South by Southwest this year was Community Walk, a site that lets users create collaboratively tagged maps of real locations. But with the Second Life map API being open as well (see the SLurlPane at the top of the right sidebar here), I figured it couldn’t be a bad thing to hack a Second Life location into a Community Walk community. Not that the current incarnation is much of a hack, but if you dial into this Community Walk map, zoom out and look for the mint-green, upside-down teardrops, you’ll find links to the virtual version of two real-world locations: a Hawaiian island, and a coffee shop in Washington DC.

The R&B Coffee Shop in Washington was the site of an event in February called The Happening, which was for the most part a gathering of local artists and musicians. But there was also a “mixed reality” component to it, arranged by the Electric Sheep, whereby video of the live event was streamed into Second Life, and video of the virtual location in SL was projected on a screen at the real-life Happening. All it took was for someone (SL resident Hiro Pendragon) to build a scale model of the coffee shop in Second Life. That’s what I’m linking to in the Community Walk map, via a secondlife:// URL that launches the SL application when clicked. (The SLurlPane was slightly more complex, but still pretty simple.)

Jonkichi is Joi Ito’s blog about his dealings in World of Warcraft. How someone who does as much as he does still manages to be a guild leader in WoW is beyond me.

But he makes an interesting point in this blog post about the way WoW is designed. It points out that even at the hardware architecture level there is a profound effect on the shape of social interaction (and therefore collaboration, culture, and everything) in the game world. Much like in “real life.”

… this is one of the fatal design problems with World of Warcraft. In Second Life, each island has a server and they try to get people to scatter out across the world. In Second Life it is one world with each region connected. In Warcraft, we have over a hundred servers on various continents and “instances” in areas of each server making many many copies of the same game. This gives you a very very small chance of actually being able to meet people that you know in WoW even though you both play. I realize that it’s a fundamental difference, but from a social perspective the results of this “sharded” system that WoW uses are devastating.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger had a A Stimulating Lunch at Oxford University where he discussed new medical device technologies and other uses of IT at Oxford:

During our lunch, we discussed the potential of leveraging the highly visual and interactive capabilities of the new generation of game technologies now coming to the market in order to provide physicians with extremely high quality, detailed visual images that they can rotate, zoom in or out and manipulate in a variety of ways to help them better see and analyze the information embedded in the image – however small.
… Professor Brady also mentioned that at Oxford researchers in the humanities were increasingly using IT in their work, to provide, for example, online access to a variety of original materials that are scattered across many different locations around the world or that may be hard to examine directly because of their fragility. This led to a very interesting discussion of how the kinds of interactive virtual world platforms and tools that have become increasingly popular in online games like Second Life and World of Warcraft could be used to teach subjects like history or literature.

Vernor Vinge (his importance is described nicely here) has a nice article on the Internet as the ultimate “Creativity Machine” — and the place of MMOGs in it.


The possibilities do not end there. Even online games are attracting academic interest. Some games have millions of players. MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest, feature vivid three-dimensional action involving both cooperation and combat. Another genre of MMORPGs lack a significant combat or quest element and are more often called ‘virtual worlds’. For example, the virtual world Second Life has the visual realism of many MMORPGs, but it exists as a venue for the participants rather than as a pre-designed adventure. Second Life provides a range of software tools, including a programming language, that gives participants the power to create artefacts according to their own designs. Thus the game depends on the skill and creativity of its participants to generate content. Such virtual worlds have already been used for educational projects, and are worthy of psychological and social research.

IA Summit 2006 Presentation

I presented on the topic “Clues to the Future” at the 2006 IA Summit.

Here is the link to the presentation, in pdf format with notes. It’s 12.8 MB. http://www.inkblurt.com/media/hinton_iasummit06.pdf

It’s also available at the conference site.

If you download the presentation, could you leave me a comment HERE? Just to satisfy my curiosity. Thanks!

And, here’s the messy list of stuff I’ve been reading from:

Working “Bibliography” Links:

These are most of the sources for research I did when getting thoughts and ideas together for the presentation. I’ll finalize and categorize the list once the Summit is over.

From here to the CD-ROM list are new links I’m possibly referring to as I work further.

Another blog on MMOGs (one post in Oct questions Castranova’s Norrath GDP calculations — but it’s still a pretty high $450 or so)
This is the original one, which continues to be his casual blog
This is the new “virtual worlds” focused one:

Can’t believe I missed this: Jane McGonigal’s AvantGame

A new-media wiki page with a great bibliography

Philip Bell Associate Professor of Cognition & Technology
“learning scientist” / teaching science in internet environments
his syllabus on “everyday technologies in youth culture”

Playgrounds of the Self: Christine Rosen
excellent article on how people form identities and evolve/experiment with them over time — and how that now plays out online


Radio Open Source entry on “Living in Game Space” and a lot of great links in a sidebar

Alternate Reality: The history of massively multiplayer online games.

First Monday article: The Impact of Digital Games in Education

Constance Steinkuehler’s site

Selection of presentations and papers given at the “Com Work” Conference
including one by Richard Bartle, the guy who invented MUD in ’78, as well as Julian Dibbel!

Richard Bartle’s site

A nice discussion of Alexander’s “A City is Not a Tree” and concepts of semi-lattice vs. hierarchy, etc.
and Shirkey’s mention of it http://many.corante.com/archives/2004/04/26/a_city_is_not_a_tree.php

Article on the legal / tax implications of virtual bartering & “income”

Terra Nova — a blog on virtual worlds

Mostly solid overview of Sherry Turkle’s work on identity (ends up a little judgmental and oversimplified)
and an interview: http://www.priory.com/ital/turkleeng.htm
and an article: http://www.prospect.org/print/V7/24/turkle-s.html

A Testbed for Evaluating Human Interaction with Ubiquitous Computing
(looks at how Quake and other multiplayer environments tell us things about how people behave in ubiq. computing )

The Xerox PARC research landing page (esp embedded collab computing, community knowledge sharing, and game ethnography sections are of interest)

PlayOn — the PARC blog on game research

The “Serious Games Summit”


A Ludicrous Discipline?
“The information age has, under our noses, become the gaming age. It appears likely that gaming and its associated notion of play may become a master metaphor for a range of human social relations…”

Game Culture From the Bottom Up (“Productive Play”)

The Labor of Fun: How Video Games Blur the Boundaries of Work and Play / Nick Yee
“Using well-known behavior conditioning principles, video games are inherentlywork platforms that train us to become better gameworkers. And thework that is being performed in video games is increasingly similar to the work performed in business corporations. The microcosm of these online games may reveal larger social trends in the blurring boundaries between work and play.”

Social Impact Games

Game Resources Links (a lot of them are already on this list)

From PlayStation to PC

Game Mechanic Wikipedia entry

Communication Technologies as Symbolic Form: Cognitive Transformations Generated by the Internet http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&se=gglsc&d=5001893777

Internet, Emerging Culture and Design

Kierkegaard on the Information Highway

Ludicorp (creators of Flickr)

From Computing Machinery to Interaction Design

Wikipedia entry on Ludology

Eternal Gamer – weblog

Grand Text Auto: Georgia Tech’s blog on Game Studies

Games * Design * Art * Culture (blog)

Below here, added on the CD-ROM file already

John Seely Brown (homepage and article trove)


Nick Yee’s Research on Sociology, etc, of games

Nick Yee’s “Project Daedalus” on “The Psychology of MMPORGs”

Institute of Computer Science of the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH)

Jeff Dyck Homepage

Interaction Lab: University of Saskatchewan: Publications

Learning from Games: HCI Design Innovations in Entertainment Software (pdf)

Building and Experiencing Community in Internet-Based Multiplayer Computer Games (Whitepaper)

On Integrating First Person Shooter Games and Ubiquitous Environments (Paper)
Find it here

Game Research site

Hybrid Worlds: Social Cyberspace, Imagination and Identity

Changing Technologies, Changing Literacy Communities?

Digital Games Research Conference 2003 — Presentations

DiGRA Games Conference 2005 Papers

DiGRA Site

Academic Gamers

Marketing to Teens (not complete article)

Games & Culture: A Journal of Interactive Media (New journal — excellent resource)

Pew Internet & American Life Project Report: Pew Internet: Teens and Technology
(See also all the work at pewinternet.org)

Microsoft Research Gives Glimpse of the Future (article)

Microsoft Social Computing Group


The Coming Age of Calm Technology

Mourning Asheron’s Call

Business Whitepapers, etc.

Information Technology and the Institution of Identity (paper)

Here is the proposal final version.


Clues to the Future: What the users of tomorrow are teaching us today.

What might Wikipedia have in common with World of Warcraft? And how might that affect design and business strategy today?

According recent academic and business research, there is an enormous wave of people on its way to adulthood that may very well take us by surprise. And while many designers may be aware of this, we still face the challenge of making it clear to our clients and stake-holders.

Beyond the hype and more obvious implications of the “net generation” are key questions that affect how business and design plan for the future. For example: the shift from hierarchical to nodal paradigms; the rise of new kinds of literacy (and authority); the blurring boundaries between ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ economies; the splintering of identity; and users who, frankly, expect your web environment to be as well designed as the best games on their X-Boxes.

It’s important not to focus on the surface gadgetry, but to understand what is different about how these users think, how they solve problems and manage resources, how they socialize and organize, and how vastly different it may be from the assumed conventions of most business and design decision-makers (i.e. people born before 1985).

This presentation will:

1. Survey some of the current research and insights on the issue;
2. Explore some of the more challenging theoretical questions raised;
3. Discuss the practical business and design implications of those questions; and
4. Suggest how those implications might help make stronger cases for innovative design.