When I worked in corporate information technology I enjoyed meeting new people to work with on projects. I remember learning that a Senior Accounting Associate had, like me, a degree in Physics.
“How did a nice Physics major like you come to work in Accounting?” I asked. “That’s easy,” he said. “I love mathematical models – and accounting is a mathematical model of an enterprise.”
Modeling is an important step in the process of making ideas real. Who has not seen a miniature and been fascinated: a display case of collectables in someone’s home; a diorama in a museum; a holiday village landscape in a showcase window? The first models we encounter are the toys we play with as children – blocks, dolls, construction sets. We never stop playing, even as adults. The models we work with simply become more sophisticated. We call them prototypes, proofs of concept, demonstrations, or computer visualizations.
With the advent of online virtual environments, modeling leaps to a level that can appear to blur the boundaries between imagination and reality. As a real person, I can model myself as an Avatar and walk around in an online modeled city, interacting with other Avatars modeling other real people. I can chat or voice message them Avatar to Avatar. I can use my real phone from my real world to text my friend’s Avatar in their virtual world. Or my Avatar in my virtual world can text my friend’s real phone in their real world.
What’s going on here? Nothing – really. We never stop playing; we never stop modeling. The ways we interact with reality and each other simply become more sophisticated. We call it work but we also call it fun.
Picture: Courtesy Mini-Things