A Vitruvian-Inspired Theoretical Framework for Architecture in Virtual Worlds

A Vitruvian-Inspired Theoretical Framework for Architecture in Virtual Worlds

Viviana Barneche-Naya (Universidade da Coruña, Spain) and Luis A. Hernández-Ibáñez (Universidade da Coruña, Spain)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5023-5.ch008


Virtual worlds are an environment for the realization of multiple social activities ranging from entertainment to education, economics, or even medicine. Such activities require virtual spaces and buildings for their development and are inhabited by avatars that stand in place of the user. The architecture of these virtual buildings is, for the most part, a replica of architecture in the real world, and yet the realm of the virtual is replete with opportunities to develop novel and imaginative forms of buildings. It is possible to better meet the requirements and needs of the users if they use formulas adapted to the potentialities of this world of information. In this emerging field of architectural design, there is still no theoretical framework that can guide the creators of virtual buildings. For this reason, the authors propose a possible starting point as it was done in classical times with the real-world architecture, following the example of Vitruvian triad, firmitas, utilitas venustas, which is complemented by the virtual and exclusive domain of virtual architecture.
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Technological advances are present today in all fields of our daily lifes. Nowadadys, the world is permanently connected by means of WiFi networks, smartphones, GPS and social networks. Connected minds, direcly linked to the non-material cyberspace world once foretold by William Gibson, are present everywhere. (Gibson, 1984)

In this technological ecosystem, metaverses are one of the technologies that have evolved more in the last decade. Metaverses are three-dimesional, persistent and immersive virtual worlds which allow real-time interaction, telepresence and synchronic communication among users and in many cases, they also permit content creation by users.

These virtual environments, also known as MUVE (Multi-User Virtual Environments), follow a format derived from MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) but with an important difference; virtual worlds do not rely on a predifined set of goals or roles such as videogames. Rather, they are paidia spaces, emphasizing creativity and participation. This distinction is related to the game classification stated by Caillois (1961) which distinguish clearly between paidia and ludus. Ludus is related to a game with a clear set of rules and goals, while paidia refers to free play, spontaneous amusement, free of conventionalisms.

Virtual worlds are navigable spaces that facilitate experiences of a spatial nature. Users inside those virtual environments have the ability to share life experiences with other people connected from different points of the planet, sharing a common “virtual physical place” and stablishing social ties.

Users are represented an avatar. An avatar’s movement is essential to the user experience of the virtual space. The environment is perceived in relation to the avatar size, position and speed of displacement and is viewed using first, or preferably third, person view. Space is felt with the same qualities as with real world space.

Undoubtly, multiuser virtual environments constitute a field of research and development and is one of the great contributions of digital technologies applied to disciplines including education and learning evaluation (Bower, Lee & Dalgarno, 2016; Gregory et al, 2015; Barneche Naya & Hernández Ibáñez, 2014; Duncan, Miller & Jiang, 2012; Dalgarno & Lee, 2010; Hew & Cheung, 2010); medical simulation (Cook & Winkler, 2016; Hack, 2016; Ghanbarzadeh, Ghapanchi & Blumenstein, 2015; Creutzfeldt et al, 2010) social behavior and communication studies (Huvila, Ek & Widen, 2014; Stichter et al, 2014; Kandalaft et al, 2013; Schmidt et al, 2012; Williams, 2010), economy and business (Castronova, 2005), narrative (Ryan, 2003), game studies (Bartle, 2004), education in collaborative design (Alahuhta et al 2014; Merrick, Gu & Wang, 2011; Ehsani & Chase, 2009) among others. Some authors believe that this massive exodus to virtual spaces is due to the fact that they are, increasingly and to a greater extent, satisfying real human needs. (McGonigal, 2011).

Virtual worlds open up a wide range of possibilities since they permit development of all kinds of shared activities. There is a new need for meeting spaces and virtual buildings to host such activities in a new form that includes interaction, media, social networking and other concepts related to cyberspace. That is the point where Architecture comes into play.

However, in spite of their innovative features, certain types of constructions of the real world Architecture have been used as clichés by some of the users of these environments as a way of representing a “physical” universe recognizable by the presence of elements of the real world that they are familiar with.

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