The virtual world could learn a lot from physical world developers.
My wife is an expert in designing physical communities for real estate developers. She understands the art and science in designing communities that create market differential based on terms like streetscape, architectural appeal, color schemes and community functions and features. She reviews and does research on everything from the flow of neighborhood traffic, landscaping, color coordination, construction material, community features and related details that create neighborhood appeal. She has won awards for her work both in designing high and average income communities.
She tells me that the difference in success between one developer and another is in the design based on the market demographics of potential buyers. She says a builder knows how to build a single home but without the market demographics and detail to design they cannot build a community.
Commonality: Physical vs. Virtual Worlds
Today we are overwhelmed by the advancement of “social technologies” aimed at engaging us into “communities” . Individuals and organizations are continually launching “communities” built by them but aimed at us. Free technology is available to anyone and everyone seems to think the technology is the attraction. Brands are creating their own technology with the aim of developing communities of consumers who have an affinity to the brand.
Umair Haque writes Web 2.0 cannot live up to its (enormous) potential to create value that’s structurally disruptive until and unless technologists understand consumer dynamics. Web 2.0 can’t live up to its game-changing potential until and unless the geeks step outside and think outside their own box of geekery.
Scott Karp writes: I’d love to see an example (I’m sure one exists — at least I hope) of a Web 2.0 start-up that began by conducting extensive market research to identify a real consumer need and then created an application to meet that need. My sense is that most Web 2.0 apps takethe reverse approach — they are solutions in search of problems.
He also states in an article Web 2.0 Is Not Media 2.0 : For bloggers and other people with the drive to create their own media, Web 2.0 media applications give them the infinite control they crave. But for the average person, what pressing problem does Newsvine, Digg, or de.licious solve?
What the average person needs from New Media is not infinite choice and infinite control, but rather a user-friendly way to get their arms around — and find the value in — the avalanche of new content being created. They need more than aggregation — they need filtering, and even more, they need synthesis.
Media Is Not the Only Feature of “Community Building”
We hear a lot about citizen journalism, social media, social technology and virtual communities. Network operators like Linkedin and Facebook are constantly adding new technical functionality and features aimed at keeping existing users and attracting new ones. Developers are creating and releasing new technology everyday for users and community builders to add to their “toolbox”. Most of today’s Web 2.0 emphasis is about using technology to create media as the means of attraction and positioning, not community design for human needs.
In the physical world we live in neighborhoods and participate in “social functions” based on an affinity to people, preferences and privileges. Our neighborhood preferences have much to do with the design of the home, the image appeal and the community attributes. The privileges we seek are driven by status, relationships and social activities that appeal to our sense of identity as to who we are or who we want to be.
Media is about images and messages. We send messages and create images in the physical world through and with those activities and places where we live, work and socialize. Social design is the appeal that draws on human nature for identity. The virtual world operators, brands and technologist could learn a lot from the physical world design of privileges and preferences that have influenced human behavior since the beginning of time.
Taking a perspective from my wife, “builders know how to create technology which is different that designing a community”. Community building is the art and science of design that appeals to human identity. Which is more appealing, the technology or the community design?
What say you?