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Immortal since Sep 3, 2008
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digital cartographers, narrative realization. image workers & pixel [re]searchers. emographers. memetic mappers. space cadets. polytopians.
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    Towards a Polytopia
    Project: Polytopia

    After reading through the posts on Polytopia, we realized that our research has led to the right place.

    NotThisBody has been doing research to do with the creation of a 3d, hypermedia, collaborative sense-making environment (whew). Most of Wildcat's ideas and thoughts, we agree are necessary in this new platform.

    Here are some things that we have run into along the way - what NotThisBody is interested in is becoming involved with a community who's desire it is to be the first inhabitants the Polytopia.

    What sparked the beginning of research was a desire for a virtual black space, where audio, video, text, etc. could be added in, links could be made between objects, and could be used by many users at the same time.


    Research led to Compendium, a concept mapping program which is pretty much exactly what we were looking for, except not in 3d. It is a flow-chart creator on your computer. By far the best program that we found, among the many out there. You can create a node, edit the content of that node, and link to any type of file, web page, photo, sound - but they can not necessarily be viewed within the program. There is a language that links them together called IBIS (issue-based information system) where you can specify the relationship between nodes - supports, denies, challenges, relates to, etc.

    NotThisBody already uses this program to organize all of its research and to allow further discovery and thoughts on all of this.


    The desire for a 3d space like Compendium led us to Cobalt, a metaverse operating system still in development. Based off the programming language Squeak, this is a scalable, collaborative 3d environment in which media can be added within the landscape - video, audio, web browsers, and portals into other spaces. Still very early in development, this program does not just exist on the web, it encompasses the web. Here is a post we added on the google group Cobalt highlighting what we think are the current needs of Cobalt.

    I see Croquet as having so much possibility, and would love to help it's development any way I can.

    Compendium is where I get my reference for this from - it's a program that has a very strong and user-friendly functionality. It's open-source. You can download it at

    I'm not a programmer, therefore would have no idea how to add this functionality.

    Pretty much, this is how I would the added functionality working in Croquet -

    say you have a file, note, reference, whatever, that you bring in.

    The first part of it, I believe, could be user-created - out of the blank spheres or shapes, etc. These would be the different types of nodes (this is not a complete list - some of them appear in Compendium, some don't - Compendium allows for a user-created "stencil" allowing users to add their own types of nodes - although I believe it would be important to have an as-completed-as-possible set, for reasons I will explain when it comes to structure.

    Reference (can be video, sound, website, etc. - since croquet already has this, it would just be a matter of being able to identify it as
    List (almost like a portal)

    This is by far not a complete list - but I think this would set a good basis. Compendium has "maps" which already work in the way of portals - infinitely expandable and shortcuts from one map to the other.

    Okay. So we have our set of nodes. Next is the information contained in these nodes. The functionality would work in the same way that Croquet has different 'actions' that are on top of an item. At the moment you guys have the Hand, +,-, X, and arrow.

    Compendium is set up in much the same way - except there are more options. On the four corners of the Node, you have

    Views (other maps/portals it appears in)
    # of Items it holds (for maps/portals)

    I will go through these one by one.


    When you double-click a node, there you have

    Where you can add notes - also where you can see when it was created, see in what "maps" it appears (if more than one), etc.

    When you add a note, and close the Node Contents view, a small star appears. Move your cursor over it, and you can read a piece of that note.


    You can also add tags - this is tied into the different types of nodes above. Compendium has them as:


    As I look at this list - I realize that it's less important to create the different visual types of nodes as explained above than to create a well-constructed "tagging" system (though a visual representation of the tag somehow would be very useful)


    This is fairly self-explanatory. There is a small number in one of the corners, and by scrolling over it you can see, and if you want, jump, to any other views where this node exists.


    How many nodes are in the map/portal - self-explanatory. Added functionality could be added to this function, to be linked with searching, possibly. (i.e. how many portals it holds, the links to other places.

    Actually, thinking about it, this could be a place for a visualization of the Contents - tho I have no idea how. Maybe you see how it fits into the overall metaverse view.

    Next - IBIS (issue-based information system)

    Compendium includes this system to link objects together. First of all, they use a directional arrow - it can be to/from, from/to, or both ways. or no arrow, just a link. Compendium is also used to great effect for live dialogue mapping, which I think relates to Croquet's collaborative creation. (sorry to reference Compendium so much, but as I said, my research on 3d visualization started with finding a 3d version of Compendium, and it seems quite well-formed)

    This system includes:

    Responds to
    Objects to
    Expands on
    Related to

    These are all color-coded. As well there is the functionality to add a more precise definition of the link, by adding text to it.

    Okay. Now we get to the hardest part, in my opinion. As Matt said, there is a big difference between the structuring of elements in 2d vs. 3d. And when it would come to a world, I don't think you could rely on users creating this structure, especially in a 3d space. I know that in Compendium, I have my own way of structuring my knowledge to make it the clearest for me, and it's sometimes a struggle. In a 3d space, I doubt if I could keep it clear.

    This is why I think it would need a structuring program for this type of work - possibly based on geometric shapes - I'm not sure - this is where I get hazy. But the implications that that would have would be that the metaverse would need a structuring program working full-time
    - a program written to keep it as clear as possible - this is why I think one based on geometry might work.

    The closest thing to this structuring program I can think of is a game that I saw, used with a multi-touch system - You have a series of connected nodes, and you have to "solve" the geometry by dragging nodes in and out - like a game of cat's cradle, in fact. I guess some of the structuring method could also be based on the "tags" and "node types" to further specify how it's structured.

    The Bridge Project

    I found this just recently. The project is from 2006, and it seems as if the author is now spending most of her time in Second Life.

    She seems to have a good handle on creating it, as well as the ideas of the Polytopia discussed here. She also discusses rhizomatic growth, which is of interest.

    The purpose of this post is for others to share information on what they ahve found that is out there and available so we can try to find a platform to support Polytopia. To us, so far Cobalt is the closes thing we've found, but has quite a long way to go. We'd like to hear other's thoughts.

    Fri, Sep 5, 2008  Permanent link

    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    Wildcat     Fri, Sep 5, 2008  Permanent link
    hi notthisbody, and thanks for the post

    so first there's a lot of content in your post so i'll take it step by step and then are you aware of Realxtend virtual metaverse technology?

    also are you aware of Nepomunk? Networked Environment for Personalized, Ontology-based Management of Unified Knowledge

    NEPOMUK brings together researchers, industrial software developers, and representative industrial users, to develop a comprehensive solution for extending the personal desktop into a collaboration environment which supports both the personal information management and the sharing and exchange across social and organizational relations.

    I did not know of the compendium nor of cobalt so i'll check them out and come back to tell

    notthisbody     Fri, Sep 5, 2008  Permanent link
    Definitely check out Compendium and Cobalt. Also - what I think is highly necessary to be linked to the Polytopia is something like microsoft's virtual earth, or google earth, but definitely an open-source version (i heard from someone that it's being worked on). Compendium has something like this - its called a GIS (geographical information system) in which information can be linked to a location on a map.
    folkert     Wed, Sep 10, 2008  Permanent link
    The bridge project is indeed fantastic looking, we've featured it before on SpaceCollective. You may also want to check out E15 —— experimental architecture that places the power of presentation of web content into the hands of those that use it. Based on a dynamic, interactive OpenGL-based scripting engine, E15 exposes an entirely new face to web content, freely modifiable by each individual user.

    A research project at the Physical Language Workshop at MIT Media Lab.