Re: Do we need a common visual metaphor?

Adam T. McClure (
Fri, 10 Jun 1994 17:57:37 -0600

>>Michael Snoswell writes:
>>> ... The VRML could contain hints as to how the
>>> client should present the link to the user (as a stair, path,
>>> highlighted text etc). This way all users would see the same physical
>>> scene, but if different users see different types of connections
>>> between scenes, does that really matter?
>Chris Holt writes:
>>Does it matter if they see different physical scenes, as long as
>>the connections have the same structure?

Brian Slesinsky responded:
>Although customization should, of course, be allowed, and the contents
>internally represented using a sufficiently general abstraction, I think it
>is quite important that (by default) we see the same representation.
>For the visual metaphor to be useful, the users need to be able to give
>each other directions like "...then go down the stairs and take the second
>door on your right, and you'll be in a library. On the second shelf on the
>left, there will be a book called *The Necronomicon*. On page 356 in the
>third column you will find..."
>If we're each in our own, customized virtual reality, we will be reduced to
>communicating with technical terms like "vrml addresses." This would make
>any books written about vrml worlds rather dry and technical, and require
>the user to think on two levels (in addition to what he/she's actually
>trying to do).
>Think about how hard it would be to explain to a novice how to use a
>Macintosh if the Trash Can could look like anything from a fire-eating
>dragon to a whirlpool to a third-level menu item labelled "Delete." It
>would effectively make the visual metaphor a pretty, but confusing, layer
>that one eventually learns to ignore, much like the "Desktop" applications
>intended to cover the Unix file system.
>| Brian Slesinsky | | (work) |

I can't help but recall Gibson's Cyberspace in this discussion. The main
thoroughfares and byways of the Matrix were commonly defined in simple
geometric forms to speed the processing of information, with everything
from corporations to data terminals represented with another shape that
roughly conformed to its purpose. I propose a similar arrangement here.
VRML links should be a standard protocol that all servers could recognize
on a technical level. The actual networks and public spaces would be
composed of simple geometries, while one's personal environment could be
completely customizable, with the caveat that it must utilize the
underlying VRML technical specifications. Thus, the points between places;
the actual server-space in which one may navigate between options, is
defined, yet the actual location is completely dependent upon the whim of
its designer/s while maintaining system-wide compatibility.

I only question whether my conception of navigation spaces is completely
off-base or absolutely necessary. Otherwise, it would seem that if the
only route to an interesting site is through someone else's living room,
the occupants might be disturbed by people constantly traipsing through
their "house".

As an additional note, I would like to back-up what (Michael Maier?) was
saying about 5-D navigation space. Perhaps the greatest possibility of
VRML-spaces is the ability to exceed the 3rd dimension. I'm still trying
to wrap my mind around that one. :)

When philosophy has grown beyond science, * --Adam T. McClure
it is time to create a new science. *
* Colorado Center for
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is * Astrodynamics Research
indistinguishable from magic." (Arthur C. Clarke.) *