Mapping the future

I’m a bit of a fan of maps, even strange ones, and I’ve been wondering lately about a world of virtual worlds and how that might look on a globe, with each virtual world represented by countries, with continents of related worlds. So a continent with countries for the Second Life grid, corporate grids and Open Sim grids for example. Beyond just looking cool, I think mapping out our virtual world – be that social networks, information/tags, 3d environments – in a visual way will make it more accessible. Still checking to see if someone has done it already but if they haven’t I’m thinking FreeEarth might work for a little experiment…

Just thinking out loud.


7 thoughts on “Mapping the future

  1. That’s interesting, that’s the first xkcd comic I ever saw and the reason I started reading the strip. I would enjoy seeing that on represented on FreeEarth.

    If you ever get something like that created, or even the SL thoughts sound interesting, definitely share, I would be interested in seeing it.

  2. Really intriguing thoughts, but it’s not clear why you want to overlay virtual worlds on the real? Or even on an artificial globe? One of the challenges, it seems to me, of virtual worlds, say Second Life in particular, is that we need a new geography of the imagination. While SL implies a “geography” as soon as they added teleports you’re not really moving from one region to another via geography but rather via concepts and experiences.

    One of the deeper powers of virtual worlds will be how they give us new conceptual languages – both “on top of the real” via augmented reality, and separate.

    I covered Photosynth, for example, and have tried to imagine how, in taking photographic artefacts and creating 3D spaces of real world places, you could also then overlay tags, time, person and other information.

    For something like Second Life, I’d look towards visualization models like the mapping of the Internet for hints on how space can be mapped out in 3D. What if instead of a map, it was a constellation of tags. There’s interesting work in the education community on tagging objects, what if those tags were mapped out against a 3D star system of sorts.

    Check out “top tools for visualization”:

    (Sorry if these seem like shameless links, they’re just meant to forward a dialogue! :))

    Just some thoughts but definitely you have an intriguing idea.

  3. Hi Dusan,

    Thanks for the comment. Nothing wrong with shameless links and those top tools for visualization are great!

    In this case I wasn’t planning to overlay virtual worlds on the real world- it was the globe I was after and FreeEarth seems to provide it in a way that shouldn’t leave any trace of the real world showing, although I still haven’t had a chance to check for sure. The reason for picking a globe was only because that is a much more familiar concept for navigation than, say, a star field approach. That’s one pro- a con would be that the globe would be wrong and not just because I would have clearly made it up, but because virtual worlds change faster than tectonic plates! So without a fair bit of, ‘here be monsters’ there is unlikely to be solid enough reference points to navigate by. (Causing the same kind of confusion as a new road layout I guess.)

    Teleporting in Second Life always feels very similar to getting the tube. I build up a bit of a mental map of what’s around the points I get the tube/teleport to, but there could be absolutely anything in between. Both a geographic map of my route or the classic schematic representation will be approximations and both have their uses. In a virtual world like Second Life where there are no set links between places (other than optional simulations of familiar transport infrastructure like road or rail in some locations) the schematic could certainly be generate based on tags, your network of friends, landmarks in you inventory, etc. etc. using a variety of visual tools. I suspect some will become more generally accepted and spread over time, but it will be an interesting process of discovery!

  4. For sure. And I think the globe idea is great, I just wish you could get the Grid map through SLLib, but maybe you can, I’ll ask around.

    I’d love to see an EMOTIONAL map of SL. Grab a bunch of users, have them tag locations based on how they make them feel, and then map out places with similar feelings.

    My point isn’t that traditional geographic archetypes aren’t useful, it’s just I’m curious about where the metaverse takes us after we’ve explored the usual.


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