Virtual Design Teams in Virtual Worlds: A Theoretical Framework using Second Life

Virtual Design Teams in Virtual Worlds: A Theoretical Framework using Second Life

Pete B. Rive (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9899-4.ch004
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Abstract

Design innovation increasingly requires cross-functional virtual teams and is becoming plural, collaborative and distributed. In order for global companies to compete they must be able to sync with the rapidly increasing pace of change and be able to tap the international talent that may, in the future, only connect via virtual worlds and virtual reality. It is important to recognise how design innovation and knowledge flow are regulated and how the virtual ecosystem can either inhibit or excite collaboration and the creation of new ideas, and the design of useful prototypes. This chapter presents a theoretical framework using three models, with examples, to explain and understand how virtual design teams can identify the regulation of knowledge flow and collaboration in the virtual world, Second Life.
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Introduction

This chapter will examine the pervasive discipline of design and the early lessons to be gained from design practice and design education in the virtual world SL (Second Life). Three case studies, that were conducted in SL, will be used to illustrate examples of how virtual teams collaborate and connect on design projects within that virtual world. The primary research question posed was: how to design a virtual innovation ecology in SL? There were two important sub-questions related to this: what enables knowledge creation during design innovation in SL? What enables creative collaboration amongst designers in SL?

Three models were used to assist with the interpretation of the ethnographic data collected during the research in SL. They were:

  • 1.

    The spectrum of fidelity that was used to interpret perceptions of presence (Rive, 2012);

  • 2.

    Lessig’s model of cybernetic regulators, and the four modes of knowledge flow (Lessig, 2004, 2006, 2008); and

  • 3.

    The indosymbiotic knowledge life cycle (Rive, 2012). These models will be discussed in greater detail.

Design is a discipline that has become pervasive in almost all areas of human endeavor and goes far beyond aesthetics to shape products, processes, society, and even the foundations of life (Mau, Leonard, & Institute without Boundaries, 2004). By its very nature design is virtual and while it is becoming increasing hidden through the miniaturization of products, and the implicit design of process and organization, teams of designers are working together in the virtual space to determine the future of technological evolution (Kurzweil, 2005; Taylor, 1997). Design is no longer about one designer, one client, and one location, it is now becoming plural, collaborative and distributed (Mau et al., 2004). In order for global companies to compete they must be able to sync with the rapidly increasing pace of change with agile tools and be able to tap the international talent that may, in the future, only connect via virtual worlds and VR. It is important to recognize how design innovation and knowledge flow are regulated and how the virtual ecosystem can either inhibit or excite collaboration and the creation of new ideas, and the design of useful prototypes. Three models will be introduced that can help to explain and understand how virtual teams can identify the regulation of knowledge flow and collaboration with examples from the three case studies.

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