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I had an interesting thought today while attending Coffee with Crayon. If you haven’t gotten it already, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander. It’s a fantastic book, nearly legendary in some circles. It is to architecture what Gavin de Becker’s Gift of Fear is to self defense books, a landmark piece of work. One of the central tenets of Timeless Way of Building is this: space is defined by how it’s used. The patterns of human behavior are remarkably consistent across cultures, across languages, across boundaries of every kind. A space is defined by how we use it, which is in turn driven by how it makes us feel. A sunny window evokes a different emotion than a featureless wall.

Here’s the funny thing in Second Life. A lot of the conventions of design don’t necessarily apply, or are at least not optimized for the virtual world, but are still necessary. For example, couches and chairs aren’t necessarily required because avatars’ legs don’t get tired like our flesh and bone counterparts. Doors and walls actually impede flight.

So here’s the thought of the moment. Why put these things in? Because they’re First Life cues to help us understand what the space we’re in is supposed to do. For example, in this morning’s chat, we were discussing different spaces in-world, and why some spaces were more conducive to conversation than others. One of the immediate takeaways, architecturally speaking, is that big, open spaces where people can not only fly in, but see from a distance a gathering crowd, makes a difference for sociability. Visual cues from First Life, like sofas, couches, and chairs arranged in a pattern that is representative of what you’d find in a similar First Life space almost hijack our minds into believing that a space is less or more conducive to conversation. Crayon has done this brilliantly in the lobby of their headquarters.

If you’re in-world, what First Life cues combined with Second Life functionality have you created to maximize the familiarity and comfort of your space in-world?