Futuring and Sustainability For Virtual Worlds?
As Alex Steffen at the World Changing blog points out, “we can’t build what we can’t imagine.” The city of Berlin, hoping to help build a better future for itself, is now in the process of catalyzing some imagination in a series of events looking at “the future of urban spaces in [the] world.”
As futuring goes, this seems like a great way to go about things, especially the series of citywide “experiment days” involved in the ExperimentCity project. This got me thinking about whether there couldn’t be a way to do a similar thing in virtual worlds.
ExperimentCity sounds like an exciting project to map onto Berlin:
The idea . . . is to engage the creative community with the principles of sustainability, networking together an impressive array of existing efforts and bring forward new arts, design and communications efforts that will inspire Berliners to break out [of] the mental prison in which their presently dire circumstances have boxed them. . . . To that end, ExperimentCity is partnering with Berlin21 to hold not only the usual discussions and workshops, but city-wide “Experiment Days,” which will identify and bring forward 50 cutting edge projects, and weave a network capable of enticing Berliners into supporting them. The focus . . . is on “stories, projects and people,” and creating new ways of bringing forward visions of the city (like art exhibitions and fashion catalogs) rather than on the mechanics of sustainability themselves.
For the virtual world, this raises a couple of questions, not least among them what the notion of “sustainability” means in the context of virtual worlds. It may be far too early to start answering that one, although it’s interesting to think about. (Is the World Wide Web, for instance, sustainable? What makes it so? Which of those characteristics are shared by a virtual world like Second Life? By one like ActiveWorlds?)
The other is what kind of “cutting edge projects” might be brought forward, and how one gets them to emerge from the noise. That’s a much easier one, and I’m tempted to answer it by launching a similar project in Second Life, one that would combine a few interesting chats about the future of the platform with a program to galvanize resident projects and “weave a network capable of enticing
Berliners Second Lifers into supporting them.” The initiative would presumably seek projects that promote “sustainable” uses of the virtual world. But again, what does that mean exactly? I invite readers to give it some thought and get back to me, so that perhaps we can start to get a project like this off the ground when I get back from Texas next week. What do you think?