My quest to understand whether I can create a functional virtual workplace emphasizes the work in workplace. Others think that the place is what matters. Here’s an example of a virtual workplace from VRworkplace, a company providing virtual office space, an amphitheater, a beach and other places to relax during your virtual lunch break. This scene shows one of many areas for small business discussions with other team members or customers. It’s the kind of seating arrangement that you’ll find in hotels, convention centers and building lobbies. There are no affordances to support any work activity except sitting down and talking with other people. One of the other discussion areas nearby has a projector screen for presenting slide shows.
The overall design of the island is like so many office parks. Large buildings overwhelm you. There are vast open spaces, and not many people. (I haven’t seen any during my early morning and late evening peregrinations.) It’s a mirror world of so many office parks that leave me cold. If we have to have places like these to get corporate buyers to approve their use, let’s create some atmospheric places to meet. At a minimum, get a coffee franchise with some piped music and background conversation, or a lively Brasserie.
For a good example of this ambience, check out the Melbourne Laneways in Second Life. This project recreates the atmosphere of the little businesses in the small laneways in Melbourne, Australia where I grew up. When you sit down here for a coffee you hear all the hubbub of the city, the conversations, the clinking glasses and crockery. Around the corner you’ll see accurate reproductions of the graffiti that adorns the laneways. Notice how the scale is human, not corporate.
So I do think that place matters, but it has to be human, interesting and a place where someone would want to visit you. The soundscape is as important as the landscape in creating the mood that supports the purpose of the place.
But the quest is about creating a place to work, and getting work done. In the next post we’ll discuss the ways you can communicate with your fellow workers in their real-life industrial parks who aren’t in the virtual world.