Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hangouts, Real and Unreal: Experiencing Content Together

With every day that I am not finishing several projects that attempt to emulate some of the power of the online world in architectural or urban space, I, like most of my peers in the profession, are falling further and further behind with each day that virtual space continues to develop new experiences on a daily basis.

Enter Google+.
I have to say, I feel lucky to have gotten an early invite, as there are many things to be very impressed by. The freedom to control who sees what, even the idea of structuring around circles (nice!). They are hard to deny when you start questioning whether it is really a Facebook killer.

But all of that aside, what is truly phenomenal about Google+ is the idea of Hangouts. It enables up to 4 of your friends to video chat with each other simultaneously. Who ever is talking, or talking the loudest if simultaneously, appears in the main window. Best part... you can watch YouTube together. Okay, this might just seem like a gimmicky feature, but really, think about the paradigm this breaks? Since it's creation, the online video revolution has been primarily a solo experience. Sure you can send someone a link, or send it by chat, but you can't really see them laugh or say, "awesome" or whatever their response would be. We love experiencing content together. And it encourages dialogue that would be too slow and meaningless via email. When was the last time you went to a dinner party that didn't end in a YouTube sharing fest based on the previous conversation threads? Truth is, we love sharing content together, at the same time, in the same space. Hangouts don't quite get us there. But they are closer.

So Let's bring it all back to the public space, in real life. It was yesterday, right before I was to try out Google+, that I was telling a friend about a project I have been trying to revive since grad school that asks the question, "What if YouTube was a public space?" As in an "In Real Life" space, a megaplex, where people could create and watch video content in adjacent spaces. And the social nature of this public space would allow us to see what other people were watching in a very open theater experience and wander over to see it (more on this very soon). Truth is, architecture and urban planning take time to develop, and apparently more time than it does to create new social network features. As the "In Real Life" public space and the virtual one move closer together, we need to better understand where one space can enhance the other, and where they can learn from one another.

I could easily see some of Google's other features taking hold within the Plus social network. What if we could see which of our friends were located nearby (for the few of us who use Latitude) and we could see immediately relevant photos and content from that location through Plus? Social networks would begin to be relevant in the every day public experience. Serendipitous bumping into one another would be more rare, but accidentally on purpose would be the new way forward.

And, please + me, I need more friends (in the virtual space, not IRL) And maybe +1 my blog if you fancy it.