Open Access Book announcement: Place-Making in Virtual Environment – Designing Adaptive Virtual Worlds by Ning Gu and Mary Lou Maher


Designing places in 3D virtual worlds has emerged as an important topic in digital and multimedia design, but very often it lacks theories or principles. Current books on designing virtual worlds focus on designing and implementing the technologies that enable virtual worlds in terms of graphics, networks, multi-user capabilities, and real time rendering. Designing Adaptive Virtual Worldsby Ning Gu and Mary Lou Maher published today fully open access by De Gruyter Open differs in its approach by making a case for the design of places in 3D virtual worlds, rather than designing the technologies that enable virtual places.

In this sense, the book is closer to architectural design of places in virtual worlds – emphasizing the formal understandings and principles for designing virtual worlds, and featuring the advantage of automating design on a computational platform of multi-user 3D virtual worlds with avatars, terrain, objects, and interactions. The authors focus on the design of place in the context of virtual worlds in order to distinguish the contents of this book from others that focus instead on the design of the 3D models or the technology to support a virtual world. With a focus on place, they are able to merge the design principles that have evolved over a long history of architecture with the principles of new technology that make virtual worlds possible.

Both authors have a long history of research on models of design and creativity and the development of social-computational models. They argue that the design and implementation of virtual worlds is separated in time from the use of the virtual world, and therefore is not directly related to an individual’s experience of the world.

A common metaphor for the design of the worlds is the concept of place. Most worlds use the concept of place as the basis for terrain and objects in the world. Virtual worlds are designed for specific purposes and support a broad range of online activities. The design of places in virtual worlds draws on the users experience and knowledge of architectural design and living in physical environments. The metaphor of place and reference to concepts from architectural design provide a consistent and familiar base for designing virtual worlds, and facilitate the interaction of virtual world occupants with the designed environments and with one other.

Based on 10 years’ research and practice of designing places in virtual worlds the book includes a characterization of 3D virtual worlds as place and illustrates different styles of design. The grammar formalism builds on four principles of design in virtual worlds: layout, objects, navigation, and interaction. An agent model that incorporates and executes design grammars is described as the basis for an adaptive virtual world that responds to the changing needs of people worldwide. The book thoroughly illustrates the range of designs that are the result of the generative design grammar.

Designing Adaptive Virtual Worlds takes the design of places for education, entertainment, online communities, business, and cultural activities to a new level. Says Gabriela Celani, Head of the Laboratory for Automation and Prototyping for Architecture and Construction at the University of Campinas, Brazil. “In Designing Adaptive Virtual Worlds, Ning Gu and Mary Lou Maher extend our understanding of the design of places in 3D virtual worlds. This book is one of the first to show how different styles for interactive virtual worlds can be captured in a design grammar, allowing unique places to be created that respond to the changing needs of avatars. Gu and Maher introduce techniques that can be applied to designing inhabitable places in existing platforms such as Second Life, OpenSim and Active Worlds. These techniques also are relevant to future worlds in which digital and physical boundaries will blur.”

The book is available to read, download and share fully open access here.