There is an effort afoot to remodel South, and some thinking going on Beach, and perhaps other remodeling ideas going around. I'd like to inject what I think is a different viewpoint on how to think about remodeling. This will probably be a series of articles, and I'd love to have constructive feedback.We shape our buildings, and thereafter our buildings shape us. -- Winston Churchill
Arranging Our Space is About People
If there is a theme to what I'm saying, it is that our space arrangement is not about geometry, but it is about people and the impact that the space has on them, and vice versa. Let me start with an example, which I got from Beverly.
I was looking at the Kuula layout, and noticed that you can't see the freebies from the landing point. I suggested that opening up that wall between landing and freebies might be good.
Beverly pointed out that that's not such a good idea. The way things are now, people are drawn to the stage area and the open area right next to it, where the people are!. That's a very good observation. Let's build on this notion.
It seems to me that NCI Kuula "works" in a certain way, and our other locations work less well from that viewpoint. i'd like to explore why that is, so that we can make Hamnida and other locations work better as well.
Certainly there are also some things not to like about how Kuula works. We should explore those as well. I'll try to mention some of those aspects. I hope others will mention other issues and factor them into the planning.
To over-simplify, Kuula works because there are almost always people there, and things are going on. When people come in, they see other people doing things. They are drawn closer. People are often friendly to them. If they have questions, they are often answered. They are quite frequently directed to the freebies, the class schedules, the sign-up penguin, the translator, and so on.
Bev helped me to see that people asking for directions and help is a good thing. At first glance, we might think that the space does not work well, because people should be able to find things for themselves.
However, this may not be the best thinking. As human contact is our strongest value, a space that draws people to other people, getting them to talk and relate, may have more value.
Kuula works in this sense, almost in spite of huge spaces that do not work. Few people go to the news stand. Few people go into the back information area. Some people do hang out in Ginny's Park, which is a bit surprising as the layout makes it hard to find.
To me, the strength of Kuula is in the people mix, which forms a community and draws more people in. The physical space is often irrelevant and perhaps sometimes work against our goal of engaging with and helping new citizens.
A Starting Notion
Current thinking in the space remodeling seems to revolve around figuring out what we have and where to put it. I'd like to suggest something quite different: Start from a clean slate. Place just a few things, that are clearly needed. Build around groups of people, and their interactions.
Here are some starting thoughts. They are all just ideas. Some of them may be flat wrong.
Build so that new arrivals join the people already there.
Arrange things so that it is likely that there are people there. See below for more details on that.
Place the inbound teleport a bit away from people. It may be daunting to suddenly find yourself in a crowd. Instead bring people in near the crowd, but safely away.
Arrange the area around the teleport so that the only obvious path to go is toward the people. Perhaps place something interesting just beyond them as well.
Now, how do we get people to congregate?
Build so that people congregate.
The stools in Kuula work, I believe, in two ways. First, they make a place to sit, and sometimes people sit there. I think it is more important that they define a little area or space. People are inclined to go into an inviting defined area.
So the circle defined by the stools is a natural place to be. People tend to hang out there, and sometimes they work. Sometimes, though, they want to work on something a bit larger, or just want not to feel crowded. So they drift out into the open grassy area. Still they stay near, because the space is inviting. So there is a cluster of people ... which draws in people arriving.
The cluster becomes self-sustaining over a pretty wide range of visits, and invites people to join in and ask questions.
- Build a defined space that seems inviting. Could be tables (be concerned about cllques at tables) or chairs or low hedges ... anything at all.
- Arrange teleport area just a bit away so that arrival isn't right in the mass.
- Arrange teleport area so the people are seen, and nothing else really distracts from the people.
- Arrange frequently needed information and items near the people area ... visible from the people area but not necessarily from the landmark area ... we want people to come to the group area.
- Do not clutter the area with things that are not needed. Most commonly used may be Freebies, class list, and the grassy build/rezzing area. (P.S. Almost everything we have is needed rarely or never. See below regarding measurement.)
I suspect that most of our information displays, the news stand, and such, are used almost never. We might consider putting detectors near them to measure this. I have seen the photo area in Kuula used seldom. Most people in the news stand appear to be lost. Ginny's park gets used primarily by people who know it and hang out there, I believe.
All of this could be measured with some detectors and verified with some surveys, even informal ones.
OK, this is a lot to digest, and possibly no one is interested. The basic idea is that our spaces are primarily social and we are doing social engineering when we arrange them. So we should think about the people and how they interact with the space, and with each other, not think so much about where to put the Simon game.
Moving forward, we would think about what people need and how to build to provide it. One such "teaser idea" I call "Level Up". People who come in new lack basic skills, like walking. Suppose we had a series of experiences or exercises, like little games, called "Level Up". The idea is that people who come in know they need to build up their skills, so we provide things to do that will help them do it.
But that's for another day. I look forward to constructive comments.