Thursday, June 7, 2007

Third Wave, Second Life & First Person Prespective

Disclaimer: I wander a lot....even while writing! So hang on till the end..I am sure you would find it interesting.

I was not even born when Alvin Toffler's famous book 'Third Wave' was published. It was a best seller back then and still sells like hot cake because people read it again & again and get amazed to see how many of his predictions are really becoming true. The most significant of the changes being the shift from mass manufacturing & standardisation to customisation & personalisation. A shift from economies based on industrialisation to the ones based on information technology happened far too sooner to his surprise though. The changes in social structure are happening and what he mentions as 'telelcommunities' are seen everywhere around us. One such high profile community I believe is about to revolutionise a lot of things around us. It's called 'Second Life'. [If you still don't know about this visit secondlife or to read more Second Life on Wiki].

Its a 3D environment in which you can login with a different identity than yours. You can make your three dimensional digtial self look the way you want, dress up the way you wish, build things inside the world and communicate with other fellow 'residents'. All the things that are seen inside are created by the residents. The Linden Labs, SL's creaters are trying to build a virtual world by selling lands and property rights and creating a economy of its own. And they have kept the world to evolve freely as an ecosystem and people are trying to put it to use according to their needs. Interestingly people are finding worthwhile usages like a professor from MIT has started her classes inside for foreign students. Leo Burnett has put up a office to hold its global meetings inside SL. Recently read something about IBM planning to put up a huge virtual facility inside it. And reuters has appointed a reporter to report happenings inside the world.
Sounds wonderful isn't it? But it is still in its primitive stages, the renderings are poor and the controls for user are not greatly usable. But all these things will surely improve with time.

Here are some of the pics from my recent tour to the fairyland. Many things are possible inside which we can only dream about [like me getting an offer for a dance from a young and pretty Croatian! And I just have to use an animation of my choice salsa/ramba/tango etc to do so!]. One can fly to go from one place to other and many more.

At 'Rose Garden' : A night club

But one thing I could not help noticing is the perspective that is offered. A typical first person perspective common to shooting games like Counter Strike, Quake etc. where the camera his behind your head showing you on screen what your virtual avtaar might be 'seeing'. A tried to change the settings but invain. To explain the
perspectives better here are some from one my favourite movies 'The Matrix'.

This is the first person perspective from the protagonist's point of view. Though he is not the narrator of the film the story unfolds before us from his perspective. We learn about the matrix as he gets lessons from Morpheus and so on.

The second person's the person in the Agent views Neo shooting at him.

And the third person if somebody else is seeing them in combat.

The only thing I could do in SL was focus on something of interest and some more of it. But I could not change my perspective to look at what is behind my back. I had to turn and the controls were not really easy. Though some would debate that it makes it more realistic but my point is why not provide something that we do no get in real life...flying has been why not another perspective?

This stayed in my mind beacuse of an incident last week. I was travelling in the city transport bus in Ahamdabad which accidently hit a autorickshaw. Apparently nothing got damaged so the driver moved on. But the young rickshaw driver was not pleased. He followed the bus, meanwhile gathered his accomplices using his cellphone and withheld the bus on a corner by blocking the road from all sides of the bus... Bollywood issshtyle! Everyone in the bus wanted to see the view but everyone feared to lose their seat as it was pretty crowded and only God [& the autorickshaw wala ? :P ] knew how long it was going to take. Everyone was sure they are safe but could not get down because it was pretty remote part of the city and alternative transport wasn't around. So one had nothing to do but sit and could not even see the drama! Usually you go to see films but here the film itself had came to us and we could not see it! What happened later was insignificant from this column's point but I sure felt bad about us having only one perspective in real life.

Toffler talks about a lot of things in Third Wave ranging from business and economics to politics to learning systems to social lifestyles to media and technologies. And all the changes he predicted have been happening maybe at different rates but we can easily note the course of events. To put it in his words....
"A powerful tide is surging across much of the world today, creating a new, often bizarre, environment in which to work, play, marry, raise children, or retire. In this bewildering context, businessmen swim against highly erratic economic currents; politicians see their ratings bob wildly up and down; universities, hospitals, and other institutions battle desperately against inflation. Value systems splinter and crash, while the lifeboats of family, church, and state are hurled madly about. Looking at these violent changes, we can regard them as isolated evidences of instability, breakdown, and disaster. Yet, if we stand back for a longer view, several things become apparent that otherwise go unnoticed."

On a serious note I want to stress on this longer view that we are forgetting in our fast paced look at ourselves from a longer see where we came from and where are we headed...not in the sense of whole humanity but as an individual. We all have our opinions about things/people/happenings around us. But what if they are not like what we are thinking of them as? There is a cliche that
goes "put yourself in the other person's shoes...". But that's a second person could be biased as well. I am talking about a distant view of you and all the things around you. Could it change anything for you? Surely worth a thought I guess...


Anonymous said...

I agree with a statement made in your last post, you wander a lot :)
nonetheless, an interesting read.
I've been following up virtual world and to be frank, it offers a great escape. :)
No comments abt Toffler.. :)

renu said...

totally see yr point abt the third a sense p sainath, the great journalist,always keeps mentioning how first-person viewpoints of isolated incidents fail to offer the larger picture, what he calls 'missing the wood for the tree'..u miss the recurrent patterns..also, this makes me think of a rather contentious allegation on indian writers who have settled abroad, abt how their writing is not an authentic insider's..on the contrary, i think it's the third-man's perspective that helps them see things abt india, that we who live n face it daily they say, having seen the world, 'contrast makes things clearer for them'..insightful post..

Shayak said...

Nice read...gets your thoughts running...keep it up

Chaitrali said...

Nice article..starts brain storming for a reader so surely u gonna get many comments :)

First thing I did after reading ur article was to chk ! All of us always wish to be smarter,stronger,popular than we actually are and virtual reality is making it possible to some extent.

Looking at the situation with third-person perspective is tought but def.y useful as it leads to entirely new approach and ideas.

Anyways shall share the article with other friends.Keep writing :)

Ipsky said...

Mmm...good penmanship. I hold my opinions in your favour here. Perhaps a good point to extrapolate here, especially for a designer, or someone wanting to be a designer, is that this millenia is all about making things personal...or rather making personal things - haa...there goes my perpestive haywire. Second life, well is really an amazing notion and theres a lot to learn for it for designers. It could be a great tool for understanding the user perspetive - I can test my designs on the residents there! So, anyway, Parth...try getting hold of Aldous Huxley's 'a brave new world' if you can...and keep writing...ciao dude...

Gaurav said...

Nice one dude.. what took you so long to get started?!!
Keep me posted about the new ones... when's the next one coming BTW?!!

Mathew Idikula said...

interesting ! Perspectives and some day we all get to see them all from different angles!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Web Analytics