Just how important a metaphor is the concept of a “world map” to Project Sansar? Given it has been a topic of discussion in both the first and second instalments of LabChat, and has been given by some as a reason for not wanting to be involved at all in Project Sansar, one might say “very important”; and there is no denying it does have its uses. But is it really as intrinsic to our use of Second Life as has been portrayed, and because it may not exist within Project Sansar in the manner we’re accustomed to seeing in SL, is it really a reason to proclaim we’ve no interest in the Lab’s new platform?
Within LabChat, the discussions on the Map have revolved around two ideas: that without the map, there will be “no sense of community”, and that it gives Second Life a greater sense of presence and of being a place when we’re within it.
I admit that in terms of the map being somehow central to the ideal of community, I find myself in agreement with Ebbe Altberg; that when all is said and done, the world map (and mini-map) don’t hugely contribute to a genuine sense of “community”. Yes, they help us find busy places we might want to visit (or avoid!), or see how busy a venue or store is, etc. But really, this doesn’t add to any feeling of “community” within SL. That comes from the people we meet within those spaces and how they interact with one another and us; how we in turn relate to them; what is going on within those spaces in terms of activities and events, etc. These are the things which are going to bring us into a community, and in that regard, the map really places no larger a role than search; it is simply a means to an end.
However, the idea that the world map presents Second Life as a place, adding to our sense of presence, is harder to deny. In fact, given that Second Life is intended to be a single world of (largely) interconnected spaces, its representation via a map can be a vital aspect of reinforcing this view. In other words, the map is, for many – but not necessarily all of us – an intrinsic part of how we see Second Life as a connected whole, a place.
When it comes to Project Sansar, however, things are slightly more complicated. For one thing, it is not designed to be a single “world” in the same manner as Second Life. It’s a platform for hosting multiple “worlds” (“experiences”, “spaces”, “environments”, call them what you will), many of which may well have nothing whatsoever in common with one another – and certainly no way of moving directly from one to another in-world as we can in Second Life. Thus, presenting a single, all-encompassing map of “Sansar spaces” actually makes a lot less sense that it does with Second Life.
Which is not to say the map is entirely redundant for Project Sansar. While some kind of all-encompassing map of “every” Sansar experience might not hold much value, the fact remains that as noted, maps do assist in giving one a greater sense of presence in an environment (as well as being useful for things like navigation!). As such, providing the means for experience creators to provide maps of their environments, and those to which they connect, would appear to be something Project Sansar should provide. In fairness, this isn’t something the Lab has ruled out, as Ebbe Altberg noted in the first Lab Chat:
So, that’s where we’ll start, and then it could be that maybe people create continents, or whatever you want to call it, even worlds, and maybe over time we’ll think about ways in which those can figure out how to have a map of that experience, and those could be vast.
The only caveat I’d have here is the idea that “over time” consideration will be given to enabling people to graphically represent their spaces. As noted, a map does provide a powerful metaphor for giving the environment you’re in a sense of greater presence. It’s also often the best means of showing people what is where, allowing them to see what might be of interest to them, and – most basically – how to navigate from A to B to C.
Given this, and the fact that there may often be circumstances within Project Sansar where direct “in-world” transfer from one experience to another may not be possible, I’d say that having some kind of all-encompassing “world map” of every available experience within Sansar actually isn’t that important or something we should perhaps get too hung up about. Certainly, it doesn’t seem to be as important as perhaps encouraging the Lab to fully appreciate how useful a tool a map can be to visitors within a specific experience (or connected group of experiences), and thus provide the means by which experience creators can easily create such maps sooner rather than later.