The Hub2 initiative started this week in the form of an upper-division class at Emerson College. The community class is set to begin next Tuesday. At this point, we are enrolled to capacity, and are quite eager to get started. The Emerson class is conceived a little differently than the community class. For one thing, instead of having groups organically decide on the space they wish to explore, I am assigning a space to them. All the groups in my class will focus on Government Center Plaza, the windswept product of mid-century renewal that is universally maligned in the city. Originally, I was going to have them focus on the Boston Common, but it occurred to me that there would be little utility to their design ideas because the city has no intention of altering the Common. Government Center, on the other hand, is on the mayor’s short list for reconstruction and re-conception. The hope is that the outcome of the class will actually spark debate.
Even though the class is only one-week old, I’ve had some concerns about the implementation of technology. While Second Life is easier to learn and use than most CAD programs, it still has a rather steep overhead for beginners. There are specific things we need the technology to do – the problem might be that Second Life does too much. We need groups to be able to design social spaces, without first having to learn the nuances of 3D modelling. We need something like Virtual Community Design (VCD) software that affords users the ability to: build (in groups), socialize, connect to external maps, and export. It would function more like a 3D wiki, where users could collectively move, shape, produce objects without any advanced building procedures. I don’t believe anything like this exists. If anybody knows of anything, please let me know. It would have some of the functionality of Google Earth, some of Second Life, and some of YouTube. I envision a VCD application enabling groups and communities all over the world to engage in local design processes, while also being able to learn from other cities and neighborhoods.
Is it worthwhile for Hub2 to move in the direction of application design?