Vienna…’exquisite’ HUB for social innovators

So I did manage to spend my birthday in Austria… I wished I could have spent it home with my son, but my plans were slightly disrupted.

I started out with a visit to Linz, a SOCIONICAL project meeting was held at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, and it was overall very nice.

ARS Electronica, Linz

ARS Electronica, Linz

I especially liked the ARS Electronica Centre… extremely unique in its architectural design. The day after I travelled by train to Vienna (the OBB are slightly more expensive than WEST but travelling in comfort has no real price I guess – so well I opted for the OBB).

The reason for visiting Vienna was to check out the Vienna HUB. At the University of Malta, we are in the process of creating our own virtual world HUB and we would very much like to recreate the same atmosphere as in the live real thing.

So what is the HUB? This is a video explaining the concept and well, this concept has taken off in a great number of countries all across the world.

Visiting the Vienna HUB was a really nice experience. I mean I thought it was quite – the word which came to mind then, was exquisite… the decor, the style, the people around…I felt I could really stay there and do some work over there. I mean I would even have been inspired to think about some social innovation business… maybe using Virtual Worlds? Oh, I really and honestly wanted to connect then.. with someone, to discuss, to brainstorm.

The HUB - ViennaSo the bottom line is: how can we design a virtual world which reflects the same experience or atmosphere, as to the real HUB? What we cannot do is definitely recreate the same ambience…

My thoughts so far are to capitalize on the affordances of Virtual Worlds to be able to create an experience which offers its users, that which the real HUB cannot offer.

My initial design reactions would be oriented towards:

  1. Communication which extends beyond geographical borders, time and space, therefore the virtual HUB is open 24/7 and extends to all the global HUBS from Argentina to the Bay Area, to Malta?? So how to design the world so as to foster this aspect of communication. Since Virtual Worlds are persistent, then the overall physical design of the world facilitates this. However we need something else besides buildings, open spaces, libraries, etc. We need agents roaming around, in addition to volunteer avatars, to greet people, to show them around… to make them feel welcome and definitely not lost.
  2. The aspect of creation. Creation and creativity is an important aspect for social innovators. If the virtual HUB can give its users the possibility of visualizing their dreams into a 3D world structure, to test it out, without running the dangers attributed to real world implementation – taking the risk without really risking if you know what I mean, then I think that is one aspect which definitely cannot be derived from the real HUB.
  3. The importance of the content, or the reconciliation of meaningful content in context. Without this ‘meaningful content’ there cannot exist the right amount of self-efficacy which would justify the extended presence into the social virtual world rather than using the real world experience only.

I would say that limitations and challenges are various. I will probably speak more about them, as we get to the actual development stage.However I am looking forward to seeing tangible products and being able to experiment with the various parameters as we seek results into future virtual worlds research.

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