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Monday 08|13|01
Design for Community - Real World Crashes into Virtual World and Back Again

Derek M. Powazek has fleshed out his Design for Communities book companion site. A recent article discusses the nature of the fourth wall in the realm of virtual communities.

He comments "Each of these projects challenges the assumption that connections formed in the virtual realm have to stay there. When users begin to think of relationships as real, no matter where they were formed, we'll know that the fourth wall has been smashed once and for all."

The concept of using the web and virtual communities to traverse the landscape between real world into online and back again is really interesting. As more and more projects and tools are created out there that enable this, the more entrenched and invisible the online realm and tools become in our lives. I think, that as makers of experiences and tools, that this blurred line between the two speaks to the success of the web as a cultural phenomenon.

Powazek mentions a variety or projects and experiences that range from more online immersive to online as enabler to real world experiences - as in the geocaching example. These are just a few examples of the blurred distinctions between the real and virtual worlds.

I like to think that the tools become just that, tools that enable other things to happen. It's the other things that are important. These are the relationships, the friendships, the exchanges, the stories, the sharing, etc. The tools have or are becoming invisible and are peripheral to the experience. They are not the point. So many of the things we (the developing community) have built over the last few years have primarily been about the tool or the technology and in some ways less about the intent or the needs of the person.

I am seeing some of this same transition in the types of things we are designing in my team, as the technology matures and as the expectations of the end users reach a higher level. People out there don't want to know about the technology, they don't want to fight with it, they just want it to make things easier to do, to reach out to others they wouldn't normally be able to reach and it all must be simple and powerful.

I think, as Derek notes, that it is important to note the successful transitions that are happening and learn from them. What is working? What isn't? Where are the boundaries blurred, what type of communities are more successful at this than others and why? It is important to learn and act on that learning and continue to push the edge between the two realms. After all, it really is real.

Posted by erin at 06:55 PM | in Community

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