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3 Volume 4 Number 1

;,w Canals of Amsterdam:


'ture and Saciety, 18, no.
lemocratization', Media,

Cybrids
Integrating Cognitive and IPhysical Space in
Architecture

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ndustrial Society
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1 has been dearly
.6,nerton's research,
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of direct electronic
ulorly in the USA. This
;ervotives, represented
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: [1996J, pp. 187) to
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lily, 1991), p. 261.

'oposolto
September 1997.

Peter Anders
Abstract: People regularly use perceived and cognitive spaces to
navigate and think. These include zones of privacy, territory, the space
of memory and visual thought. They let us map our environment, model
or plan projects, even imagine places like Heaven or Hell.
Cyberspace is an electronic extension of this cognitive space. Designers
of virtual environments already know the power these spaces have on
the imagination. Computers are.not just planning tools - they change
the very substance of design. With computers designers can create
spaces both for physical and non-physical media. A conscious
integration of cognitive and physical space can affect construction and
maintenance costs, as well as their impact on our environment.
This paper is about the convergence of physical and cyberspaces. The
first part defines cognitive space and its relationship to cyberspace. The
second relates cyberspace to the built environment. Finally, a recent
project done at the University of Michigan Graduate School of
Architecture, USA, is employed to illustrate the integration of physical
and cyberspaces.
... We pierce doors and windows to make a house.
And it is on these spaces where there is nothing
that the utility of the house depends.
Therefore just as we take advantage of what is,
we should also recognize the utility of what is not.
(Lao Tsu, Tao The Ching, Chapter Xl l )

Spaces as media Several years ago I attended a conference - Cyberconf 3 - in Austin,


Texas, USA. As an architect I was there to see presentations on virtual
reality and 3D representation of spaces. Architecture, a driving force in
3D imaging, uses virtual reality as part of its toolkit for building
documentation. I thought the meeting in Austin would confirm what I
already knew. I was wrong.
Amy Bruckman, then a Ph.D. student at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology's Media Lab, USA, presented a paper2 on a multi-user
domain (MUD) she had created for the conference. MUDs, I learned,
are text-based social environments on the internet. Unlike electronic
bulletin boards, MUDs use spatial references as social settings. Her
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ MUD, MediaMOO, was set primari!y in MIT's Wiesner Building, the

86

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

site of the Media Lab. Though the five-story building comprises labs,
offices and work areas, it lacks spaces for the large social events
Bruckman had envisioned.
Though the building was an available reference for creating a MUD, it
was no surprise that it couldn't accommodate large gatherings. There
was an architectural mismatch between the building metaphor and its
intended use. But Bruckman was not on architect.
Visitors who get to the roof level of MediaMOO are notified of a space
above them. This unprecedented sixth floor is the site of a ballroom
complete with guest facilities, changing rooms (With costumes) and
dance floor. The space is a fiction hovering above the Wiesner
Building. It is a mental space that extends the physical building beyond
its original purpose.
This witty solution challenged any assumptions I had brought to Austin,
It opened doors onto a world where fictional spaces took the status of
physical buildings. Architecture here was symbolic, situating the actions
of its users. The computer was not a design tool, in an architectural
sense, but a medium for creating social space.
The seeming parity between physical and electronic space was a
challenge, however. Could cyberspaces supplant physical architecture?
How would one account for their similarities or differences? What were
the benefits and costs of this ambiguity? I realised how troubling these
'luestions could be for architects. Their new tool, the computer, seemed
to be Trojan horse that could reduce the need for construction - perhaps
architecture itself.
Indeed, architecture is not alone. Any discipline that depends on the
physical production of objects could be affected as well. If these objects
hold or relay information they can potentially be supplanted by
simulation. We already see this since information media lessen the need
for the production of books, for instance.
Over the past few years, I have studied the spatialisation of the internet
and its potential effects on our physical environment.~ I hope to start a
discussion on the nature of space and its role in thought and social
interaction. While the research I will present was dane in an
architectural context, I believe the issues are general. They are as
relevant to those engaged in electronic media as they are to those
creating our physical environment.

Perceived and Both perceived and cognitive spaces are mental constructs that model
cognitive spaces the world around us. These constructs let us associate and evaluate their
contents. They are important to relational and qualitative thought, each
of which depend on contextual information. Contextual understanding
lets us evaluate issues before taking action. It helps us select a brond at
_________ the grocery store or design a graphic for a web site.

Architectu
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I will refer to the spatial construct of the outer world as perceived space
and that of imagination and memory as cognitive space. While they
both result from mental effort these spaces represent different kinds of
information. Perceived space is a mapping of external stimuli while
cognitive space represents internally generated information. Since my
discussion of this will be brieF and speciFic to mental imagery, I refer
readers to Kosslyn and Koenig's excellent Wet Mind: The New
Cognitive Neuroscience for additional material on the mental processes
underlying perception and cognition!

:Jting a MUD, it
1erings. There
taphor and its

tified of a space
: a ballroom
tumes) and
Niesner
)uilding beyond

)ught to Austin.
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87

Spatial constructs inForm a large part of our language through


metaphors and symbols. s They alsa form the structure of our experience.
Information comprising them includes visual images, sound, and touch.
They all contribute to a complete and immersive sense of the world. We
take information in through the senses, process it via an associative
memory for interpretation and then store it in long-term memory.
Expression is roughly the same process in reverse. Memory and thought
are processed mentally and projected to the outside as voice and
gesture. These expressions are in turn mediated through sound and light
to enter recipients' senses as information, and once processed, enter the
recipients' perceived space.
Expression is one way we can observe our thoughts - we internalise
our own expressions just as others do. Physical expressions, like
sketches or notes, remain at large for future reference, extending our
intelligence beyond our bodies into external space. Our spatial
environment is not only a product of thought, it augments our thought
processes. We use space to make us smarter.

Jends on the
. If these objects
nted by
lessen the need

The spatial canstruct is integral to our understanding of the world. 6 It is


crucial to thought whether the information it portrays comes from real or
symbolic sources. This becomes more important as virtual reality and
simulation technology extend our cognitive space into interactive
environments.

of the internet
lope to start a
and social
nan
ey are as
'e to those

We learn to think spatially from the moment of birth - our first days are
spent building a spatial matrix around us. While this matrix may differ
from one person to the next it is an attribute we share as humans and
possibly with other creatures as well. 7

:ts that model


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. thought, each
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Architecture and The spatial construct's strength lies in its inclusivity. It can accommodate
cyberspace both physical and symbolic information. For instance, a museum
communicates with us on a number of levels. Its architecture organises
the information it houses. The pamphlet we pick up at the entry uses
symbols to orient us and language to describe the exhibits. The
paintings on the wall, though Rat, present varying depths of represented
space. These various media, architecture, literature and artwork, exist in
the same perceived space. We interpret their symbols differently, of
course, but the inclusivity of space makes this mediation possible.

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88

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

With the increasing capabilities of the internet, computers now can


display networked information spatially - an important advance. The
spatial construct in computing is effective because it tops into our spatial
thinking - it allows us to manage information both cognitively and
experientially. Cyberspace extends our cognitive space. a
Since the conference in Texas, I have studied the impact of information
technology on architecture. My students and I have examined
manifestations of cyberspace and the role of architecture in their
development. Specifically, we addressed cyberspace as a spatial
environment affected by social, organisational and aesthetic issues - not
unlike architectural spaces.
Four themes relate physical space to cyberspace: (11 parity between
physical and cyberspaces via our use of space as an information
medium; (2) the transformation of physical environments in the light of
this parity; (3) the anomalies of translating the cyberspace's spatial
metaphor to physical 3D environments; (4) the possibility of creating
spatial hybrids that exist both in physical and cyberspaces.
While the association of physical environments to cyberspaces is
orchitectural in nature, readers may apply these issues to their own
interests. For instance, workers in electronic information environments
may see opportunities for manifesting online entities in the physical
world. Recent work done at Xerox PARC, Columbia University, USA,'
and the University of Toronto, Canada, for instance, posits an
augmented reality in which physical objects are responsive to computer
network environments. lo

Cyber/real parity: As I have argued, space is a format for the information we receive or
evanescence and generate. It is an illusion based on facts of perception or cognition.
reification Whether we regard a physical or symbolic space, they are both the
result of mental activity.
If we accept a parity between physical and the symbolic spaces, we
can question physical construction as the sole purpose of architecture.
The programme for a building can be interpreted as either physical or
virtual space affecting .the physical construction required in a project.
The physical structure of a building might, to a degree, be replaced by
the conceptual structure of on information system. This is particularly
true when the building hosts information-rich activities: libraries, schools,
museums, auditoriums and office buildings. Ev'en in a factory which
seems intrinsically physical, portions of the building are dedicated to
information work - offices, conference rooms, filing and administration
areas. The evanescence of these kinds of spaces could affect even the
most earth-bound buildings. II
Conversely, there may be reasons for parts of cyberspace to be
physically embodied. It may seem odd that a building would reflect
cyberspace, yet buildings often reflect the underlying information

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organisation of the occupant. Building programmes are usually derived


from this information. The overlaps between physical and symbolic
spaces could also have productive uses. Indeed, they already exist in
surveillance systems and building management networks. Future
buildings might capitalise on this overlap, letting synergies between the
physical and cyberspaces better serve the user.

:e. 8
Jet of information
<amined
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as a spatial
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89

M~.sfits and Buildings are inert relative to their dynamic social and cultural context.

anomalies Over time this results in a misfit between the building and its purpose.
Misfits ore not a fault of methodology or design strategy. They come
from the fact thor buildings ore static in nature and require updating if
their functions change. Misfits may involve size, configuration or even
the location of a building in cases where a company has moved its
operations elsewhere. The history of architecture is filled with examples
of this kind.
Aesthetics, queslions of typology and other concerns ploy on important
role in the design of buildings. However, viewing the matter through the
lens of function allows us 10 evaluate spatial solutions on verifiable
bases of economy and efficiency. The merits of this may be argued
because architecture is much more than the result of functional decision
making. However, the decision of whether a solution should be physical
is not mode by architects alone. Clients ultimately decide one way or
the other. The narrow scope of the functional critique highlights the
issues surrounding such decisions. As this study will show, the efficiency
of cyberspace solutions may soon affect decisions on physical
construction.
Cyberspace anomalies express the problematic relationship between
cyberspaces and the physical world. They occur when the spatial
illusion breaks down and cyberspace betrays its nature. Cyberspacea purely symbolic space - often has no foundation in the physical. I
have written elsewhere of spatial discontinuities which indicate the
slippage between on-line text and the physical world it describes. In our
research, my students and I investigated anomalies found in MUDs,
where the domain relies on the spatial metaphor. In spite of the
reference to spatial organisation, the activities and configuration of
some MUDs defy any physical logic.
My students and I have found this to be a rich field of research. It
reveals the gop between the architectural understanding of the spatial
metaphor and the illusive nature of cyberspace. Being symbolic,
cyberspaces have the ability to do things that no physical structure can.
They can transform, disappear overnight and be rebuilt the next day.
My students found a number of anomalies in the course of Iheir
research and carefully documented them in drawings and models and
computer animations.

Cybrids If we recognise a congruity between physical and cyberspaces we can


expect developments which straddle the two modes of existence. These

90

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

constructs - here called 'cybrids' - would benefit from online


technology by substituting simulations for physical spaces. My students
and I took these cyberspaces literally, roughly equating them to their
physical counterparts.
A number of questions immediately come to mind. Why should
architects concern themselves with cyberspaces? How would the sharing
of physical and cyberspaces occur? What physical technology is
necessary to effect the cybrid illusion? Are physical and cyberspaces
comparable in this way? While we were only able to touch on these
issues in the course of one semester, they will undoubtedly be important
in Further developments of cyberspace strategies..
The architect has traditionally been a manipulator of symbols. In a
service that ranges from interpreting clients' needs into sketches to the
production of documents and the administration of contracts, architects
rarely physically build the objects of those services. In this light the
architect can play the same role whether the work is maniFested in
physical or cybereal construction. The primary difference is that with
cybereal, or virtual, construction the symbol is the final product. The
question of why architects must be involved in this technology can also
be answered From the standpoint of economics.

Economics Cost effectiveness is one of cybrids' chief virtues. IF aspects of a


building can be served through cybrid technology, there could be
substantial savings in the costs of a project. IF the building's floor plan is
reduced - and we have found that the reduction may vary greatly
depending on the building lype - a building's energy consumption and
maintenance costs would likewise be reduced. These form a good part
of the operating costs of a building. Since initial costs of development
are reduced, so too would be the Financing costs for the project. There
might also be tax beneFits in the Form of rebates or from the reduction in
built Floor area.
OF course, this argument is made from the client's point of view. Seen
From the standpoint of a local community, the reduction in tax revenue,
lower employment opportunities in construction and maintenance Fields
will offset some of the overall advantage of cybrids. Still the community
would beneFit from the increased access to the facility through
cyberspace. The net gain or loss to the community, however, still needs
to be determined.
Finally, the buildings' utility becomes globalised, a<;:cessible to anyone
who has the technology. The building not only serves the local
community but remote 'occupants' as well. This suggests a signiFicant
benefit in overall costs. While this may seem to be only an advantage to
'wired' world citizens, it affects others as well through the increased flow
of information. The client's costs are reduced while - simultaneously world beneFits are increased. This surprising condition reveals the subtle
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ influence this technology may have on the global economy.

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Cybrids

91

Mediation and Clients might also gain from having their environment mediated in this
access way. If the building is globally accessible, the building is globally
present. That is to say the architecture potentially becomes an instrument
of persuasion - a form of promotion for the client. Architecture, which
has a tradition of representing the client's values, now might become
part of an owner's active, promotional arsenal. Whether this is good or
bod must be determined on a case-by-ease basis. Some communities,
for instance, would resent the availability of sexually or politically
oriented environments.
If the building is accessible electronically there would be Simultaneously
on increased use of the facility plus a reduced need to be physically
present at that building. This is borne out in recent developments in
telecommuting. In an increasing number of cases, the employee no
longer has to drive in to work. It is possible for an employee to be at
work - sharing a symbolic workplace with colleagues - and not have to
physically be there.
This is a well-publicised phenomenon and the benefits and burdens of
telecommuting are still being sorted out. There are signs that certain
businesses and employees stand to gain from this development. The
employee is no longer place dependent. A choice of employer is not as
reliant on place of residence as it once was. The employer has a
greater number of options to select from in accommodating employees
at the some time that the pool of potential employees increases.
These benefits come at some cost. There is no substitute for actually
being present at a workplace. Mediated workers are less immediate to
an employer than employees actually at the iob. This is because
employees that are physically present constantly communicate with their
co-workers. Employees meet at water coolers, exchange greetings in the
hallway, overhear remarks, sneeze and take up space. This is all part of
their investment in the place of work. Subtle as this may be, it affects
decisions as to which employees are retained during a lay-off period.
This lack of investment results also in the lowered commitment remote
employees may feel toward their employer.
At a larger scale, however, the host community stands to gain from the
cybrid. The load on the community's infrastructure is lightened since
many employees will forego physical transportation. Power, utilities and
maintenance supporting the building would be less than in a
conventionally developed structure. As we have seen, there are costs to
the community in the reduced flow of revenue generating traffic for
stores ond services. While the net economic benefit is debatable, there
would be clear improvements in our natural environment due to reduced
pollution, fuel consumption, maintenance and construction materials.
There are significant costs related to the maintenance and installation of
the computer equipment used to support the virtual structure. However,
these would be at a different order of magnitude from the construction

92

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

Information Architecture Studio - Programme of Study Diagram


Cognitive Space

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Presentation

Figure 1. This schedule graphic developed for the Information Architecture Studio shows the
concurrent development of physical and cyberspace strategies. The Definition/Analysis portion
of the semester dealt with each separately. The Generation/Synthesis portion brought the tvlO
strategies together in one proiect. (see p. 94)

me 4 Number 1

3tudy Diagram
ysical Space

Cybrids

93

and maintenance costs of a physical building. Design, implementation


and maintenance of a networked environment is often considerably less
than comparably effective physical solutions. The cybrid's support costs
would of course depend on the degree to which the building's
programme has been affected by this technology.

Flexibility Since cyberspace is symbolic and electronic it is very quick to respond to

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change. Flexibility is another key virtue of these environments. My students


found that eniire sections of a MUD would disappear overnight and others
would appear iust as quickly. The creation of a space is not nearly as
complicated as building a physical one - users of many MUDs learn how
to build soon after joining a community. Compared with the effort of
modifying a physical building, changes in MUDs are nearly instantaneous,
revocable and cost-free. The mediated portions of cybrid structures would
be analogous to MUDs, offering emulated spatial and social environments.
Clients' needs can be met on an ongoing basis as opposed to a
constraining, one-time, physical solution. Not all aspects of a cybrid can
be managed in this way. There are portions of the building which must
be physical. These include restrooms, mechanical rooms and - at the
very least - the computer room itself!
Yet a number of areas of a building could be substituted with electronic
equivalents. For example, if the filing cabinets were to become an
electronic database, there would be a floc.; area savings of five to 10
percent in each office.
But what kinds of space would take their place? Cyberspace should not
merely mimic the spaces that might have been buili physically.
Dependence on the physical referent would deny the fluid, symbolic
nature of cyberspace. Instead designers should aim for an emularion in
which the space provides the orientatjonal benefits of phYSical space yet surpasses it in amenity and flexibility. Design must not be limited to
the reproduction of physical space - cyberspace offers freedoms and
benefits not found in the physical world.
For example, simulations based on data let cyberspaces constantly
reconfigure themselves for functional or aesthetic reasons. Physical
architecture has components - doors, furniture, windows - that move
when necessary. However, cyberspaces may be reconfigured at any
scale or rate of speed. Potentially, designers of cyberspaces may
develop an ambient choreography which renders the real-time changes
appealing and meaningful.

re Studio shows the


lition/Analysis portion
rtion brought the two

Information may also be imbedded in cyberspaces in ways we cannot


experience physically. If we examine a physical object closely, we get a
larger more detailed image. The spatial expression is essentially the
same. However, examination of a cyberspace object may offer another
experience. Querying a cyber-object might bring up data on its past or
information about its materials in a spreadsheet. This is an extrapolation

94

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

of the icons we see in the desktop metaphor of Macintosh or Windows.


Metaphors lead to the issue of representation. 12
Cyberspace is a symbolic environment. As we have seen, an icon may
represent a spreadsheet, which in turn represents a physical object.
Each representation has its own merit. Cyberspaces may be interpreted
in various ways in order to best posit its inherent information. For
instance, if the user of an ambient space wishes to view other spaces,
she might use another representation, say a flow chart or plan, to see
them. The information feeding the 3D representation is essentially the
same as for the plan, although each is used differently. Cyberspace is
an information display and plastic environments are only one of its
maniFestations. The manifestation we choose results From a dynamic
reconFiguration of data based on our intent.

Information To illustrate the issues surrounding cybrids, I will discuss work done in a
architecture recent graduate design studio I directed at the University of Michigan
College of Architecture and Urban Planning, USA. I will structure the
discussion with reference to the preceding topics to present ways these
issues can be managed in the design process.

Cyber/real parity: In the spring of 1997 my students w~rked on a project which related
evanescence and cyberspace to the space of physical architecture. The project addressed
reification the effect of information technologies on the design of space and
comprised a semester divided into research and design phases. Our
research phase was a concurrent study of physical and on-line
environments. It included an investigation of on-line communities and an
analysis of four buildings on campus: a library; a museum; a classroom
building, and an auditorium. In the study physical buildings were
represented as information while the on-line entities, MUDs, were
resolved as physical objects. The reciprocity between the physical and
cybereal is indicated in the semester schedule diagram {figure 1l.
After some initial exercises in cognitive mapping (figures 2 and 3), the
students analysed each of the four buildings. They documented each
building, doing formal, functional and typological analyses of their
organisation. While this is standard procedure in many architecture
schools, here the focus was on information and its influence on
architecture. The students were transForming an existing physical
building into manipulable information for future use in their own design.
I will return to this transformation later.
As the teams analysed the buildings, they also researched MUDs on the
internet. With one exception, Alphaworld, these domains were textbased social MUDs. MUDs resemble chat rooms and BBSs (Bulletin
Board Services) which serve as on-line meeting places. They are
distinguished by spatial reFerences which situate the dialogue, much like
a stage set in a play. Because both the spaces and their occupants are
described rather than depicted, users are free to interpret their
experience as they will.

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maps by Nanilee Anantakul and

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Kristen Gibbs were the result of


phone conversations with other
students. The buildings and site
acted as landmarks in the
dialogue. Gibb's map below
presents these landmarks at
relative elevations. Note that
there is no site in the model and
that the objects apparently hover
relative to one another.

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MUDs are characterised by a masquerade of on-line identity.13 The text


environment of most MUDs lets users conceal their identities with on-line
character representations or avatars. This ambiguity holds true for the
architecture of these spaces as well.
The spatial illusion of a MUD is sustained by descriptions of its spaces
and the users' movement between its rooms. In most cases text is the
only interface with the environment. In graphic MUDs like Alphaworld
the spatial experience is similar to that found in computer g lmes like
Doom or Quake. In text MUDs, however, players move by typing a
direction - n,e,s,w - or the name of a room. Entering the address of a
destination results in instantaneous relocation.
The students uncovered the logical structure of their MUDs by navigating
and mapping them according to cardinal directions. If a room was
accessed using on 'n' command, it was mapped as a cube situated
north From the previous room. Rooms not accessed directionally were
mapped as spheres connected arbitrarily to the previous node. The
resulting logical adjacency models (LAMs) were built physically to stress
their presence as cognitive objects. Since the physical buildings were
also mopped as LAMs, it was possible to compare the diagrammatic
architecture to the reified MUD environment (figures 4, 5 and 6).
If you leave a room in a text MUD, you arrive instantaneously in
another space. The relationship is easy to map as a LAM because the
rooms can be represented as nodes in a lattice of connectors. However,
the graphic MUD Alphaworld was surprisingly ambiguous. It was
harder to map as a LAM because the 'outdoor' space between

__

96

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

buildings implicitly connected each destination to all others. A map of


this would have had too many connectors to map properly. The students
instead opted to map the larger structure of Alphaworld - which is
actually made up of several other 'worlds'. This structure resembled the
LAMs of text MUDs because inter-world movement resembles the
instantaneous motion in text environments. The relationship between the
maps of graphic and text environments bears further examination.

Anomalies and In the study students located places where the spatial metaphor broke
misfits down, where the text described physically impossible situations. At the
same time, they also critiqued the designs of the physical buildings for
their functional misfits.

Figures 4 and 5. The


logical adjacency
map (LAM) on the left
is of a local art
museum. It uses the
same mapping
techniques as LAMs
for multi-user
domains. Interior
spaces are shown as
cubes. Links are
doors and passages.
The model was built
by Dang t:"guyen
a,nd Chnstop.her
KretoY/c. C?n the nght
. IS a LAM of
~endl':tl h MUD.
T e m0 e sh ows 01
regu lar~ o~ og~na
organisatIOn since
most spaces are
located with cardinal
directions. The loop
is a train line
connection between
'nations'in the MUD.
Ying-Huei Chen,
Nanilee Anantakul
and Satanan
Channowanna
researched and built
this model.

AIrgl

rene
LAf\..
c

w
up
mo
c

dOl
K
The students located, classified and built physical models of the
anomalies. They were grouped in classes with Class A being conditions
general to on-line activity, Class B being general to MUD activity and
Class C occurring in specific MUDs.
Class A anomalies are general to computer networks and the internet.
They include the illusion of adjacency as users go from one web page
to another, regardless of the server locations. Another anomaly is the
sense of being somewhere else while on-line. Cyberspace has its origins
in this illusion. Some of these anomalies are not limited to computer
networks. For instance, a newspaper or pho~ograph can transport us
mentally just as a computer screen can.
Class B anomalies are general to text-based MUD spaces. They include
ambiguities of space, identity and movement. Spatial descriptions of
rooms may not fit their use. For instance, LambdaMOO has a closet that
can house hundreds of people. Jumping into a fountain at MediaMOO
can take users to remote parts of the MUD. Social identity is an
ongoing masquerade as avatars often take genders and species not
related to their owners. Finally, motion in the domain - using cardinal
directions - is the result of text commands, not physical relocation.
These often lead to spatial paradoxes. Users going west from a point
and then going east may not return to the same spot. 'Black holes'
occur where users cannat leave unless they teleport out or log off the

system.
Class C anomalies are unique to specific MUDs. They include elaborate
closed loops of rooms which users cannot leave without teleportation.

Ine 4 Number 1

rs. A map of
y. The students
. which is
resembled the
)Ies the
p between the
nination.
aphor broke
ations. At the
buildings for

of the
ing conditions
activity and

Cybrids

Figures 6 and 7:
Figure 6.
Alphaworld, the only
graphic MUD in the
study, had several
leleportation channels

pers;~~~~~~

rendered worlds. This


LAM shows the larger
organisation of the
worlds which make
up the MUD. The use
of spheres in this
model indicates non
directional access.
The model and
research on
Alphaworld were
done by Christopher
Krelovic and Dang
Nguyen.

the internet.
Ie web page
)maly is the
has its origins
computer
ransport us
They include
:riptions of
JS 0 closet that
MediaMOO
is an
pedes not
ng cardinal
ocation.
om a point
:k holes'
log off the
ude elaborate
leportation.

97

-.r--;'.
:#: .
Figure 7. BayMOO on the right has a loop of rooms which represent
Alcatraz, the prison island in San Francisco, USA. The rooms are
navigated sequentially, each room displaying information about the
history of the island. As in real life, getting to Alcatroz is easy, exiting is
difficult. Users must teleport out since conventional egress is not
available. Model and research by Ranah Hammash, Nanilee Anantakul
and Watinee Thanlronon
One example is A1catraz in BayMOO [figure 7), Users can enter and
move about in it using conventional motion. But, appropriately, they
can't leave without difficulty. Another example is a pentagram of empty
rooms in Alphaworld. Each has a teleportation terminal which allows
users to go to four other rooms. Each of these four rooms in turn have
terminals to four rooms. The user discovers that these are all the same
five rooms, interconnected within a pyramid structure. In a LAM these
spaces map as a pentogram - five nodes connected to eoch other.
There is no way out by using the teleportation devices. Users must find
another way out of this trap.
Some Class C anomalies may have resulted from careless programming
or deliberate mischief. Regardless of their origins, they are entities
which have no precedent in the physical world. Designers of
cyberspaces may employ lessons learned from these and other
anomalies in their future work. For example, anomalies may be used to
direct traffic in virtual environments, providing security for certain areas
of a MUD. Versions of brock holes could be easy ways to travel around
virtual environments, bypassing sequential movement through space.

Cybrids Finally, the students developed progrommes for their own building
design. In their analysis of the physical buildings, the students inferred
the building's programme - working backwards from its plans and
sections. They then took the existing building programme and
incorporated what they had learned from their MUD experiences.

--------

There ore many techniques for doing this. The~e include determining
which information-oriented spaces could potentially be mediated as
cyberspaces - a process which reduces the overall scale of the physical
building. Resulting designs would become chimeras of physical and
cyberspaces. The relationship between the physical and cyberspaces
can be completely distinct, congruent or overlapping.

98

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

Possible strategies for combination can be explained by Venn diagrams


(figure 8). Many examples exist of Distinct Physical and Cyberspaces.
For example, the logical structure of a computer network rarely has
anything to do with the layout of its host building. The spatial
relationship between the two is not vital since the focus is on data and
file structures rather than the support of navigable information space.

Figure 8. Potential
relationships between
physical and
cyberspaces.

o
Examples of congruency between cyberspace and physical space are
seen in surveillance and monitoring systems. In these cases the building
is mapped into a database and linked to support technology through
cameras and sensing devices. The one-to-one relationship of the
cyberspace map to the building serves the panoptic needs of the
surveilling party. However, congruency rigidly fixes the cyberspace into
a map of its physical counterpart. If physicality literally determines the
behaviour of the cyberspace, the on-line architecture cannot benefit
From cyberspace's inherent Fluidity.
The second, overlapping relationship is currently seen in analogue and
digital forms. For example, many teleconferencing and telepresence
systems serve specific spaces in buildings. The space is perceived as a
camera image and is usually not navigable by the viewer unless the
camera is operated through remote control.
Digital examples include many MUDs where their initial programmers
have used existing buildings or cities as the core configuration of their
domain. Such cases usually indicate overlapping spaces since - in most
instances - the MUD community actively builds the bulk of the MUD's
structure. The congruency between the MUD space and a physical
space is usually limited to the initial construction. The administration of
the MUD often allows communal participation in the construction of the
domain.

Despite the overlap, the 'live' relationship between a MUD and its
reFerent spaces is Fairly rare. With the exception Elf users who happen
to occupy the physical version of a cyberspace at the time they are
playing the MUD, there seem to be few examples of interaction
between spaces. Pavel Curtis' JupiterMOO project, I< done at Xerox
PARC, came closest to doing this, but other examples are hard to find.
In most cases the MUD version of a building or city is an unlinked
simulacrum, a stage set that merely resembles actuality. With the advent
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ of Virtual Reality Modeling Language [VRML], RealVideo and other

Desil;;

+Number
diagrams
:rspaces.
Iy has
::lata and
space.

:lce are
, building
lrough

e
he
)ace into
nes the
!nefit
~ue and

ence
'ed as a
,s the
mmers
of their
- in most
/IUD's
cal
Jtion of
n of the
its
:lppen
are
rox
:) find.
!d
: advent
Jer

Cybrids

99

technologies a true dialogue between on-line social environments and


physical reality is possible. For example, a MUD player may come
upon a room which has a link to a physical counterpart. A camera in
the physical space can send an image to its cyberspace twin which is
in turn displayed to the MUD player. This linkage could conceivably be
two-way, effecting an overlap between the physical and the
cyberspaces.
This interaction is the subject of research at Xerox PARC and Columbia
University, USA, on augmented reality. The linkage between physical
objects and a database potentially offers us an environment of 'sentient'
objects. At the 1996 ACM (Association for Computing Machinery)
conference in Boston, USA, William Buxton projected that household
appliances could communicate with one another in this way. For
instance, my refrigerator might notice that I am low on milk. It sends a
message to my car, which reminds me to shop for milk when I drive by
the grocery store. We can see that the information required to manage
this could also be mopped in a three-dimensional display as a
cyberspace. Yale's David Gelernter, author of Mirror Worlds,15 has
proposed the on-going monitoring/modelling of the physical world as a
way to manage our society and environment.

Design strategies A number of students explored the use of information technology to


influence the actual form of the cybrid. One student, Mark Mitchell,
used the passage of light through his site to determine the configuration
of his art museum (figures 9 and 10). This is a radical version of
contextual design since the resulting geometry, though based on the
local geometry of buildings, is surprisingly diFFerent from the
surrounding architecture. Here the connections between the physical
space and the cyberspace are visual principles of alignment. Museum
goers who approach the building physically would have clues as to the
cyberspace configuration. Conversely, on-line visitors to the museum
could infer the physical building from what they experienced in the
museum's cyberspace.
Another student, Christopher Kretovic, scanned historical photographs
of the site and reduced their collages digitally to determine his
museum's structure and layout. Here the solution was less based on the
physical context, limiting the solution to a half-buried object on the site.
Kretovic's design also proposed a co-dependency of physical and
cyberspoces. In both projects, the overall spatial strategy was clear, yet
the linkage between the physical and symbolic spaces were not
resolved.
How users of the physical and cyberspaces could qe made aware of
each other remains a difficult question. The interface between these two
spaces could be made with screen displays and augmented reality possibly a virtual reality proiected onto the physical equivalent.
However, users of these interfaces will confront different problems.

100

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

Screen displays disrupt the contiguity of the two spaces by 'containing'


the cyberspace environment. Augmented reality has a similar problem.
We are not aware of a deep, 3D cyberspace unless it is presented to us
visually. Smart objects may be evidence of this space, but the space
itself is not contiguous or present in a meaningful sense. Finally, an
overlapping virtual reality (VR) requires oFten encumbering equipment.
VR is usually an individual experience, mediated by a personal headset
or datagloves. Contained audio-visual environments (CAVEs) offer a
room that can be occupied by more than one person. However, they
are isolated from their physical environment for reasons of display and
technology. The problem of the interFace between 'contiguous' physical
and cyberspaces remains a promising subject For research.

Figures 10 and 11.


This art museum by
Mark Mitchell used
various viewing
angles on the existing
site to determine its
geometry. Vertical
surfaces were created
by refracting the
reflections from a
pool through a
hypothetical solid.
The cyberspace of
the museum shown
on the rightl lextends
the surfaces of the
building beyond its
periphery. Cybereal
additions to physical
art displays would be
accessible b the
building occupa!ts os
well as those enterin
the focility from th~
.t
t
In erne.

Another important aspect of this project was the bridging of the


cyberspace and the physical through a metaphorical narrative linking
the two spaces. By inferring the cyberspace from its physical
counterpartl the user is oriented within the non-physical space. In the
rare books library, Ranah Hammash described the building as a book
with the cyberspace being its pages released into the sunlight. While
the physical books would be hidden from light, the cyberspace pages
would be available for all to see - undermining the very notion of rarity
in books. This automatically evokes a number of images for the user,
pre-orienting them within the cognitive space of the building.
The sustaining metaphor is important in uniting the fabric of the physical
building with that of the conceptual space. The cognitive space of
cyberspace is dictated by more than just the access to data. As these
~paces develop soc~ally they will create cultures to. a degree .
Independent of the Instrumental aspects of computing. Narrative
frameworks offer a way of organising and correlating these radically
different kinds of space. They let the user anticipate the cyberspace
from evidence provided by the physical building. Canversely, the on-line
user may intuit the configuration and presence of the physical building
through the cyberspace experience. The two conditions are understood
to be related; the metaphor of space and the narrative provide the
conceptual framework uniting them.
Of course, the metaphor can be a constraint if it is belaboured or
poorly chosen. Designers using metaphors for on-line environments

Cybrids

4 Number 1

Icontaining'

101

should be careful that metaphors don't become a burden. We have


already seen that cyberspaces offer experiences unprecedented in
physical reality. References to physicality run the risk of limiting the
efficacy of the cyberspace. Metaphors must be flexible enough to avoid
this problem. Designers can avoid some of these difficulties by assuming
the cyberspace undergoes constant changes governed by principles of
design, growth or motion.

ilr problem.
~sented to us
Ie space
:lily, an
Iquipment.
lnal headset
) offer a
Ner, they
Jisplayand
JS' physical

The cyberspaces designed in the studio were dynamic, conveying the


impermanence and subjectivity af the medium. I encouraged the
students to examine the principles underlying the physical architecture
and then let the principles inform the cyberspace. This geometric,
conceptual reference to the phYSical would only be the organisational
skeleton of the cyberspace. Fixed room configuration would only occur
if the cyberspace overlapped a physical equivalent for needs of
communication or surveillance.
With these underlying principles it would be possible to have a number
of evolving solutions. We felt this appraach was appropriate since
spatial cyberspace could configure itself into specific forms according to
the needs of the user. Once those users have left the space it could
reform itself for others. The designers felt that cyberspace might
constantly evolve while the physical orchitecture maintained an
anchoring role through its relative permanence.

the
ve linking

The exercise emphasised the continuity of the spatial metaphor - from


the analytical phase to the final stages of design. As the students
developed their building programmes they decided which components
of the physical building could be affected by the technology. Once this
decision was made, however, they were responsible for integrating the
cyberspace conceptually into the spatial matrix of the scheme. The
didactic intent here was to have the students explore the effects of the
programming decisions and the continuity of the spatial strategy in
physical and cognitive media.

I
:e. In the
as a book
hI. While
:lce pages
rion of rarity
the user,

the physical
:lce of
As these

I, the on-line
:ll building
understood
ide the

In most cases the physical and cyberspaces overlapped in specific


areas and the cyberspace developed from there according to
underlying geometries of the physical scheme. I encouraged the students
to derive principles from the site in order to develop their physical
response to the problem. The building's relationship to the site was
understood to be analogous to the cyberspace's relationship to the
building. The analogy allowed the students to see how underlying
principles derived from the physical could be employed at higher leveis
of abstraction. This method is familiar to most O1chiteets and is common
in architectural education, although the design of cyberspoce is a recent
development.

'ed or
nments

In several cases the students based their cyberspaces on the principle


underlying their physical solution. Ranah Hammash's solution for a rare
books library used the freeform geometry of her physical building fo

Jtive
radically
~rspace

--------

102

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

extend and orient the cyberspaces beyond it. Watinee Thantranon's


design for a law library was almost entirely a cyberspace with specific
reference to the Gothic architecture of the law library at the University
of Michigan, USA [figures 11 and 12). In the art museum by
Christopher Kretovic the vaults of the gallery were virtually extended
into the ground plane to create a rough cylinder for a cyberspace
extension.
Students also examined the effect of cyberspace on the physical space
- a kind of feedback condition. Building designs often indicated
invisible extensions or highlighted absences. These took forms ranging
from outdoor rooms to projections onto the surrounding terrain. The
research on MUD anomalies proved useful to schemes where the
cyberspaces intersected the physical buildings. Making the illogical
events in cyberspace palpable was a great conceptual challenge as the
students were forced to acknowledge the contradictions and resolve
them spatially.
Although the cyberspaces referred to the architecture of the physical
buildings, these spaces often did not take the shape of conventional
rooms. Students took advantage of the disembodied nature of the space
by stressing information display over containment. An example would
be rooms which existed as shards of information which took on depth
when viewed closely - the way space is seen when looking through a
prism of glass.
Containment strategies were often employed in the design of social
environments of physical and cyberspaces. The embrasure of the user and
other occupants helped to set the stage for social interaction. Whether
these enclosures took on conventional form was up to the designer. More
important was the provision of a defined place of interaction.

Figures
This fa
WotineE
exists of
in cybel
the lOWe
OVE

e>

str
hOUSE

readir
reconfig
each US!
or!
spa
same,o,

oppe
user, eu:

space ft
The ima~
s
eonfigul

cybers!
from the
the ri;
frc

Self, society and The principles of the architecture provide a grounding for non.physical
space space. They become referents and set the conditions of orientation.
Cyberspace in this case is not a purely abstract space. Instead it is an
extension of our present experience of the world. These structures help
us to manage information. We are so immersed in this environment that
we see it as our only reality. Instead it is a sophisticated and powerful
illusion - one basic to our sense of self, our place in the world.
This means that designers must employ a cognitive understanding of
space and information. The cyberspaces created by designers and
programmers should acknowledge the user as the starting point for any
design development. Designers revelling in a freedom from physical
constraints often produce results which are disorienting and confusing.
While these spaces may be good for entertainment, as places of work
they provide no reference for organisation. Instead, information is
presented as a blizzard of images and fragments. While this approach
may illustrate the deluge of information in our age, it doesn't address a
pressing need to organise it coherently.

Ackno...~

,4 Number 1

ltranon's
"ith specific
, University
ly
:lxtended
rspace
sical space
ated
ns ranging
Jin. The
'e the
illogical
lenge as the
! resolve
physical
entional
::If the space
pIe would
on depth
through a
;ocial
the user and
Nhether
gner. More
m-physical
ltation.
:Jd it is an
:tures help
::lnment that
I powerful
Id.
lding of
rs and
)int for any
)hysical
:onfusing.
,s of work
ion is
. approach
address a

Cybrids

Figures 11 and 12.


This low library by
Wotinee Thantronon
exists almost entirely
in cyberspace. Only
the lowest part is an
overlay onto an
existing gothic
structure which
houses a physical
reading room. The
cyberspace
reconfigures itself for
each user. While the
organisation of
spaces stays the
same, only some are
apparent to each
user, customising the
space For each user.
The image on the 'eft
shows several
conFigurations of the
complex's
cyberspace. as seen
from the internet. On
the right is a view
From within the
cyberspace.

103

Representational clues, like gravity and oriented light, are crucial to


situating ourselves in space. Though we take these for granted they
engage us with the world. Even our imagined and dreamed spaces
implicitly employ these devices. This understanding is fundamental to
developing sensory cyberspaces. Readers may refer to the works of
Susanne B0dker and Brenda Laurel for more inFormation on these
issues. 16 Understanding the human factors of computing is essential to
the prospective design of on-line environments.
Cyberspace is not a place of escape. We found many similarities to the
physical world in MUDs. As in physical reality, MUD environments are
largely built by their users. Though the inhabitants were avatars, they
exhib.ited the same modes of. behaviour and ter~~toriality associated with
real lIfe - all aspects of phySical human culture. Planners should
recognise the foundation of physical and social realities in their design
of cyberspace. For this reason deep cyberspaces will likely be
abstracted but not entirely abstract spaces. Computer users will still be
able to recognise principles and features of physical reality in these
spaces.
Space makes engagement with information possible. More, it makes
engagement of users with each other possible. The advent of graphic
cyberspaces demands spatial strategies to better serve our culture. I
believe the humanisation of this technology can be effected with the
skills and training of designers of physical space.
The integration of physical and cyberspaces offers great opportunities.
Cybrids can reduce the incremental loads on urban infrastructure,
reduce our use of natural resources, maximise efficiency in the
production of useful places of work and play. They exist at the
boundaries of matter and media, fiction and fact, yet can playa unique
role in serving our information-based culture. Our use of space as an
information medium should be a basic principle of cyberspace design for despite its technological origins, the development of cyberspace is
on intensely human endeavour.

Acknowledgments The author thanks the folloWing for their help and encouragement: Amy
Bruckman and Ted Krueger for their help and thoughtful comments in

104

CONVERGENCE 1998 Volume 4 Number 1

reviewing this paper. Students involved in the research: Nanilee


Anantakul, Satanan Chanowanna, Ying-Huei Chen, Mervat F. Denno,
Joseph Filip, Kirsten Gibbs, Ranah Hammash, Andrew Hauptman, .
Christopher Kretovic, Mark Mitchell, Dang Nguyen, Watinee
Thantronon, Elizabeth Tobey. Technical support staff: Bill Manspeaker.
Technologies used: Macintosh and PC workstations using Form-Z and
RenderZone by Auto-Des-Sys, AutoCAD 3D and Studio MAX. by
AutoDesk, Director and Sound Edit by Macromedia. For inlernet
research software included NCSA Telnet, Claris Emoiler and Netscape
Navigator 3.01.

Notes 1
2

Quoted in Arthur Waley, The Woy ond its Power (London, 1934].
See Amy Bruckman and Mitchel Resnick, 'The MediaMOO Project:
Constructionism and Professional Community', in Convergence, 1 no. 1 (Spring
1995).

Peter Anders, 'Envisioning Cyberspace', in Design Computation: Colloboration,


Reosoning, Pedagogy, eds P. Mackintosh and F. Ozel (Tempe, Al.: The
Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, 1996), proceedings of
the 1996 ACADIA conference. Includes research done by students in mapping
text-based MUDs; Peter Anders, 'The Architecture of Cyberspace', Progressive
Architecture, October 1994, pp. 78-81, 106; Peter Anders, 'Texas Conference
on Cyberspace Implications', Progressive Architecture, July 1993, p. 24.

Steven M. Kosslyn and Oliver Koenig, Wet Mind: The New Cognitive
Neuroscience (New York: The Free Press, 1995].

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metophors We Live By (Chicago: University


of Chicago Press, 1980).

Irwin Altman, The Environment and Sociol Behavior (New York: Irving Publishers,
1975).

Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and
Company, 1966).

Donald A. Norman, Things Thot Make Us Smart (Reoding, Moss.: AddisonWesley, 1993].

S. Feiner, B. Macintyre, and D. Seligman, 'Knowledge-Based Augmented


Reality', Communications of the ACM, 36, no. 7 Vuly 1993), pp. 52-62.

10 W. Barfield, C. Rosenberg, and W. Lotens, 'Augmented reality displays' in

Virtuol Environments and Advanced Interfoce Design, eds. W. Barfield, and T.


Furness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 542-575.
11

William Mitchell, City of Bits (Cambridge, Mass.: The.MIT Press, 1995).

12 Clement Mok, Designing Business (San Jose, Cal.: Adobe Press, 1996).
13 Sherry Turkle, The Second Self: Computers ond the Human Spirit (New York:
Simon and Shuster, 1984).
14 Pavel Curtis and David Nichols, 'MUDs grow up: Social virtual reality in the real
world', Cyberconf 3, conference paper (1993).
15 David Gelernter, Mirror Worlds: Or the day software puts the universe in a

shoebox: how it will happen and what it will mean (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1991).

Jmber 1

Cybrids

,nno,

16 For example: Susanne B0dker, Through fhe interface: A Human Activity


Appraach 10 User Interface Design IHillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlboum
Associates, 1991), and Brenda Laurel, Computers as theater (Reading, Mass.:
Addison-Wesley, 1991).

:Jker.
and

scape

(Spring

Jration,
ings of
lpping

=ssive
erence

versity
Jblishers,
day and
on-

in
mdT.

the real
10

17 Robert Ardrey, The Territoriallmperalive INew York: Atheneum, 1966).

105