In Victorian England, the game croquet was a completely neutral area where social ranking and gender did not matter, and about which people could interact without inhibition. For the past few years, it has been the goal of a research team of bright and visionary industry gurus, namely, Julian Lombardi, Mark McCahill, Andreas Raab, David Reed, and David Smith, to capture that sense of interactivity and bring it to the Internet. Their tool for doing so is Croquet, an open-source software system where information can be shared and converted into a three-dimensional framework.
In the current paper, I intend to briefly define Croquet, present its applications and impact on cyberspace, and expound on its regulability and sociability as discussed by Lessig and Castells. Description of Croquet The Internet, for all its information and supposed interactivity, existed only as what Lombardi described as a “high-speed textbook”. Even though speed and quality of the hardware has improved drastically, the medium is still the same: information is displayed as if it was on a sheet of paper.
Croquet developers tried to solve this problem and finally showed how they were making the Internet do its job differently. They opened with a 3-D courtyard dubbed the “Cirque du Croquet”. Croquet is focused on interaction within a 3D shared space and is a new open source computer operating system built from the ground up to enable deep collaboration among teams of users (Smith, Kay, Raab, & Reed, 2003). As such, it is fundamentally based on user space and users’ needs. Applications of Croquet
Personally, I find it hard to imagine this 3D space as a true day-to-day working environment. It seems a bigger leap from the milestone we made from evolving from paper-based print to green screen interfaces, and from those old green screens to Windows. Then again, I am quite certain that it is not that big a leap to the generations that have been brought up with intense exposure to computer games in 3D environments – in stark contrast against Super Mario 2, Tetris, or Pac Man.
I am willing to believe that this represents a valid scenario for the next shift— indeed, we have only been through a few generations of this web world, and the change continues to be markedly rapid. Inside Croquet, each avatar can make changes – move a virtual mirror, make changes to a document or spreadsheet, upload a picture and play a game of chess – and all of the changes are displayed to the other person in real time. Moreover, users can build a completely new space and move into it using arrow keys and the mouse.
This new space can be either public or private, and users can place more information or graphics or even the link to an invisible page inside. Croquet’s 3D makeup also allows for more flexibility than existing online systems. Since windows can be tilted for a 360-degree view, it provides a perspective angle of flash animation. Basic paint programs can also render a new figure inside the software easily, as Lombardi (n. d. ) demonstrated by drawing a crude shark, which was instantly visible in a 3-D fishtank instantly.
For a practical example, I Croquet may possibly be applied in a hospital setting. Croquet’s interactivity would be useful in fields like healthcare where poor communication is a major issue. A virtual tool like Croquet would give physicians a different way of organizing their information and test it out, while at the same time communicating with other doctors and modifying the data collectively. Moreover, since Croquet was designed as a highly modifiable environment, developers may intend and be able to add new tools and capabilities. Cyberspace
Cyberspace is about making a different (or second) life (Lessig, 2006 – ensure that this is indicated in the references page). Croquet is basically Second Life, and much more. From an optimistic viewpoint, Croquet can be a private network. In other words, only those you want in your space can get in there. On the other hand, Second life sometimes violates the right of privacy of users by requiring them give their information to third party sources. Secondly, Croquet is probably more eye candy than anything else, but there are live snapshots of other virtual environments.
This is the equivalent of bookmarks, but live pictures of what is going on at those other places. It would be great since the user would be privy about other people’s whereabouts without having to actually go there. In fact, Tanaka (2003) has expounded on this feature of Croquet, presenting it as an effectual means of processing hypermedia. He has specifically explored the concept of portals that pose strong promise in buiilding digital libraries of the future. In addition, in contrast with HTML, Croquet allows the viewing of spaces by users, and the movement of such portals.
Users may also use these portals as bookmarks, allowing the memorization of this target space (Tanaka, 2003, p. 2). Lastly, Croquet is a complete 3D workspace that allows for co-creativity, knowledge sharing and deep social presence among large numbers of people at a time (Tanaka, 2003). On the other hand, from pessimistic view, I am worried about the ease of use of Croquet. Yes, the people who designed it could navigate and get around, but it looks a bit more complicated than Second Life. There are certain questions that are left unanswered at this point.
For instance, are there logs of everything that happens? What about the ability to lock down certain aspects of the world. If every user can manipulate and change an environment can a student accidentally/deliberately delete a world a teacher creates? The answers to these questions point to aspects of control that must be explicitly answered, whilst the advantages of Croquet seem apparent. The degree of control that a user has on these powerful aspects of Croquet may partly determine how aptly users will utilize it. Regulability One other issue of the effectuality of Croquet is its regulability.
For instance, the creation of “open” and globally scalable social computing spaces can cause some to ask the following: To what extent will we need to impose “rules” on people’s behaviors in such spaces? What types of “rules” are necessary? Who will come up with such “rules” and how will they be enforced? How can we find a balance between personal liberty and the need for regulating behaviors in “open” cyberspaces? These are but some of the sensitive issues that have to be explicitly dealt with before the full, successful launch of Croquet is possible.
Life in cyberspace is regulated primarily through the code of cyberspace (Lessig, 2006). I think Croquet as it is being developed now does not have regulability as a central concern. However, over time, if Croquet spreads and increases in popularity, users will begin to realize the importance of and build regulability back in. Croquet’s users/developers may freely share, modify and view the source code of the entire system. In other words, users can make their own regulability in their worlds.
The single biggest reason why Croquet will become the future operating system is that the users can run and modify the code that the worlds are built on and they can integrate their own application. While Croquet seems to be the perfect tool for encouraging knowledge sharing and creativity, a structure for regulating it must be clearly defined to be able to ensure its success. There may be areas that seem vague at the moment, including the rules that should regulate it, the enforcing parties, and the level of control that the system must accorded to its users.
The fact that regulability seems to rely solely on the hands of users may be both risky and dangerous – and is an aspect that must be seriously dealt with by the system’s advocates. Sociability The spread of Internet is making social exchanges based on fake identities and role-playing (Castells, 2001 – make sure this source is indicated in your bibliography). Those of us who have participated heavily in online communities over the years have substantial experience in dealing with imposters, forgers, and the ever-present anonymous cowards who can disrupt meaningful discourse.
Effective online educational environments must be efficiently insulated from such craft. The Croquet project team is looking into integrating federated identity management system. By doing so, Croquet users who use their own institutional login/password could access protected resources in Croquet places that are hosted by other communities. Federate identity management system would provide numerous benefits to the educational and institutional use of Croquet.
For example, multiple institutions could cooperate in creating restricted access learning environments in which students and educators from those institutions could interact and learn – without the need for each institution to set up an account for all the users of such spaces. A side benefit of this is that Fair Use limitation provisions on copyright laws would allow copyrightable materials to be distributed in such spaces – a feature that is really important to educators (and is probably one of the main reasons that academic institutions employ the use of cumbersome Course Management Systems over plain old websites, blogs, and wikis).
Conclusion The current paper began with a brief introduction of Croquet, presenting it as a new soft ware that allows users to interact within a three-dimensional shared space, and which seems to be tailor fit to user space and their needs. This new software will allow each avatar to make changes that shall be displayed in 3D format, in real time. Croquet also holds promise to settings that require intensive interactivity, such as in hospital settings – the software prospectively allows doctors to communicate and change data collaboratively.
Both the negative and positive aspects of Croquet as a channel in cyberspace has been presented. On a positive note, it may be used as a private network, an effective hypermedia processor, and a channel that encourages knowledge sharing, creativity and interaction. On the other hand, it may pose risks against users’ right to privacy, and has obvious ambivalent problems with regards to regulability and sociability. In our library and information space, we can see how our special information expertise contributes to the success of our users and the teams we work in and with.
If Croquet is inevitable, we had better be early adopters. In order to use this Croquet scenario effectively, in our own visioning sessions, we can use it as a framework to think about what our future workspaces, offices, and intranets will look like. What skills will we need? What skills do we already have that will increase in importance? How can information be delivered in this environment? How do we increase our relevance in this kind of space? Good questions and ones that we should struggle to understand now and not much later when we have already been immersed in the wave of change.
References Lombardi, J. (n. d. ) Socio-computational systems, virtual environments, learning contexts, and the Croquet Project. Retreived on January 31, 2008 from http://jlombardi. blogspot. com Smith, D. , Kay, A. , Raab, A. , & Reed, P. (2003). Croquet – a collaboration system architecture. IEEE Conference on Creating, Connecting and Collaborating through Computing, 2. Tanaka, K. (2003). Tea-time museum: Croquet as a browsing and searching environment for digital libraries. IEEE Conference on Creating, Connecting and Collaborating through Computing, 12.