Places and Spaces and Covid

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In 2016, I saw a compelling future of Virtual and Augmented Reality (XR) when I visited Envelop VR and they let me experiment with Tiltbrush. I wrote about this in “From Pages to Places: The Transformation of Presence.”

As I always do, I thought this technology advance would take off immediately. Yet, virtual reality has disappeared from the Gartner Hype Cycle.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody picked up on what I saw as the transformation from web pages (and printed pages) to PLACES being the future of the web. Instead all of the hype has focused on web 3.0, cryptocurrency and blockchain.

I was reminded of the Pages to Places with the recent announcements from Meta and Microsoft of the new productivity tools for the Quest Platform.

“Here’s a list of what’s coming to the Quest platform:

    • Microsoft Teams immersive meeting experiences for Meta Quest: Connect,
      share, and collaborate in Teams immersive experiences.
    • Microsoft Windows 365: Stream the Windows experience on Quest Pro and Quest 2 devices, and access your personalized apps, content, and settings in VR.
    • Microsoft 365 app experiences: Interact with 2D content from
      Sharepoint or productivity apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook directly from Quest Pro and Quest 2.
    • Microsoft Teams/Workrooms integration: Join a Teams meeting from inside
    • Meta Avatars in Microsoft Teams: Use your Meta Avatar in Teams for
      whiteboarding, brainstorming, and meetups.
    • Microsoft Intune and Azure Active Directory support: Enable
      enterprise security and management on Quest Pro and Quest 2 devices.

“Notably, Windows 365 gives business and enterprise users access to a version of Windows 10 or Windows 11, streaming from Cloud PCs to the user’s web browser.

“The partnership is ostensibly building on Meta’s early steps towards virtual offices with Horizon Workrooms, something Meta says will help make Meta Quest Pro “an enterprise-ready device that’s easy to use, deploy, and manage at scale.”

It has taken nine years, but what Envelop VR envisioned will soon be released at scale by Meta and Microsoft.

As I watched many of the announcement videos, I was reminded of my blog post. I was also reminded about the Covid Pandemic and how quickly many of us shifted to remote work. I thought about Oldenberg’s Great Good Place and his articulating the three places of home, work, and a neutral social place (church, Starbucks, clubs …). Then I thought about my experiences over Zoom and Microsoft Teams the last four years.

In an instant, I realized that all three of my “places” had collapsed into my physical home and my digital screens. Being immune compromised most of my activities are now in my home. Work is completely on the digital screen. Most of my social activity except with family and a few friends is done virtually. I’ve attended wakes and family reunions and cocktail hours on Zoom.

What does it mean for my well being when each of my three places consists of my physical home and my digital work and social places?

In the process of doing research for this post I came across Third Space Theory. A brief overview of Third Space Theory is in a previous post (thank you Writesonic and GPT3). The original third space theory is about cultural identities. However, the first paper I read was about third space theory in education which talked about three spaces – physical, mental and networked (a hybrid connecting physical and mental). This description resonated as a way of thinking about my collapse during Covid of Oldenburg’s Three Places. It also provided a framework to think about the three places that can emerge from Envelop VRs original vision of connecting personal virtual spaces.

The Third Space Theory describes the challenges I’ve experienced with the collapse of the three spaces. In addition to Covid, due to a burst water heater in our ground floor, we’ve been restricted to only half of our house for six months. Even our home space collapsed. Now most of my place time is virtual and digital sitting in front of my two computer monitors.

As I delved more deeply into Third Space Theory, I came across Soja’s interpretation described as the trialectics of being.

  “The trialectics of Spatiality, Historicality and Sociality (summary terms for the social production of Space, Time and Being-in-the-world) apply at all levels of Knoweledge formation, from ontology to epistemology, theory building, empirical analysis, and social practice)”p.71
    “There has been a persistent tendancy during at least the past century to over-privilege the dynamic relations between the “making” of Historicality and the “construction” of social practices or sociality”p.71
    This”pronounced tendency in Western pilosophy, science, historiography and social theory to bifocalize on the interactive Hisroticality and Sociality of Being”, its tendency representing modernity.

There were too many obtuse concepts in these papers and books on Third Space Theory. As I dug some more, I came across a diagram I liked better:

“Firstspace epistemology” focuses on analyzing and interpreting the text of physical objects in perceived space [30]. Firstspace epistemology holds that spatial practice and material geographies are the result of history and sociality. “Secondspace epistemology” focuses on obtaining ideas from the conceived space and projecting them onto the world of experience. This type of epistemology breeds a wide range of philosophical hegemonies and utopian thinking. “Thirdspace epistemology” focuses on making endless sympathetic deconstructions and heuristic reconstructions of perceived space and conceived space by injecting new possibilities into the “lived space”. In this way, the heterotopia will spiral and result in an infinite approach to the state of utopia. In Thirdspace epistemology, real space has both subjectivity and objectivity, abstraction and concretization, reality and imagination, known and unknown, repetition and difference, construction and deconstruction, thought and body, consciousness and unconsciousness, singularity and diversity, daily life and endless history.”

The Firstspace comes in through our five senses of perception.  The SecondSpace is my mental construct of what I am perceiving.  I interpret the Thirdspace to be the physical world that I move around in.  As I reflected on this model, I believed that it was a better framework for the collapse of my three Oldenburg places.  I am living most of my life at the moment in First and Second Space.

As I reflected some more, I recalled what David Robinson has taught me about the theater (see The Lost Boy) and what Gifford Booth and team at the TAI Group have coached me to understand about the theater of my profession and how to communicate better with my audience (Who’s There? Platform and Wake Up! The power of presence).  So much of the work of the actors and the playwright is to get the audience as quickly as possible into the “willing suspension of disbelief.”  Through the actions on the stage, my perceptions lead to conceptions that I step into with the actors.

Is this willing suspension of disbelief what I am doing every day in my Microsoft Team meetings?  Is this how I cope with less time being spent in the physical lived world and more time spent in the digital lived world?

 To get away from these places and spaces thoughts, I opened up an article about the Hidden Barn distillery in Kentucky – “This Bold New Distillery is Rewriting the Rules of Bourbon.”  As I perceived the people and place through the written word with a few photos, I could conceive of the place.  I immediately started searching for everything I could find about about Hidden Barn bourbon.  I tried to order a bottle so that I could have a better sensory experience of their product.  Alas, nobody will ship Hidden Barn bourbon to Washington State.  I’ll just have to travel to the actual place.  For the moment I will enjoy my conception of this distillery.


I was gob smacked.  I had just read a “page” that transported me to a conceptual place that I had never been before.  I realized that I had been conceiving of “pages and places” as an either/or.  Instead, “pages and places” are a both/and.  Pages and places are complementary.  I remember all the times when we travelled both pre google and post mobile google.  In the good old days we had physical guide books (pages) that we referenced as we were experiencing a place.  Today, we pull out our cell phone and search for specific information about a place.  Or even better, using Google lens we take a photo of the place and then have Google give us specific pages about our location.  Tomorrow augmented reality glasses will provide us the information just by our looking at the place.

As I write myself back into existence and contemplate what is next for my third act of a long and mostly happy life, I now know it will involve exploration of pages, places, and spaces and the relationship of the physical, digital, and virtual worlds. This exploration will involve lots of experimenting with the new worlds of my work tools (Microsoft 365) embedded in the virtual worlds of Meta.

This entry was posted in Content with Context, Flipped Perspective, Reflecting. Bookmark the permalink.

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