2-2 Presentation of MOO & WOO environments

2-2.5 Spatial metaphor

One interesting aspect of MOOs is that they impose a spatial metaphor to the participants. One may talk and interact easily with people in the same virtual room, and may use other means to communicate with people in other locations. Spatial concepts make use of our capabilities to understand quite complex relationships between objects and ideas. MOO systems describe a very rich space based on the city metaphor. Spatial representations are used frequently to convey one or more attributes of the information objects to the user: sorting, grouping and so forth. When users move, use or create objects in space they communicate some relationship either to the system, to some other user or to themselves. The primary advantage of space is that there is more "room" to put objects in and that not the whole space is always "in front of the user". Objects can be moved closer or farther away and the metaphors of the room, the house or the city provide container metaphors for objects that are easy to understand. This type of space is therefore useful to organize larger collections of objects. The main advantage of spatial user interfaces based on real life metaphor is in the ability to communicate a spatial relationship easily to other users. Indeed people are used to navigate in real life spatial environments based on very vague descriptions and facts. They are also generally used to memorize relationships of objects in spatial terms. People might communicate about the location of documents even more naturally and we will see how this feature is relevant when the MOO server is coupled with a WWW interface and hypertext links. Thus spatial concepts are a natural way to organize information and, communication about spatial properties is a typical task for human. Spatial metaphor is thus not only relevant for human communication (you join somebody to have a talk or you organize a meeting in a specific room) but also for objects organization and in our concerns, objects can be records of previous meetings, black boards, information notes, posters, slides and so on.

VMDL/MOO Report - 17 FEB 1996

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