The value of ‘Place’
In 1999, James Scott penned a book entitled ‘Seeing Like a State’, where he illustrated excellent examples of how organizations and governments have designed buildings and cities without considering the local habits and styles of the population. In the book, the employees or citizens recognized that there were very few areas for them to socialize informally in these optimized workplaces or cities, which is how many cultures exchange important social ideas and other information.The difficulty in civic planning is you don’t know where the citizenry wants to congregate, much as companies cannot anticipate where the social loci will be for it’s employees. If you add to this the growing trend towards organizational decentralization, it makes it critical for organizations to provide a substitute for the break-room or water cooler conversation, to allow that free-flow of ideas between employees. This also extends beyond employee/employer relationships to customers and partners.When we utilize virtual workspaces, be it our Cisco Virtual Campus in Second Life, our Industry Solutions Partner Network, or other intraverses within the company, we are providing a Place for people to congregate, socialize, and brainstorm. This virtual workspace transcends traditional physical boundaries and allows for free-flow of information and ideas continuously worldwide. It becomes the corporate breakroom, the park in Brasilia, the clubhouse, the ‘beer and pizzas night’, where like-minded people can congregate.This is evident in the design of our Cisco Virtual Campus in Second Life, which recently won the Society for New Communications Research 2007 Award of Excellence in the Online Communities/Virtual Worlds category. When we initially designed it, we thought it would be used for people to interact with content we had provided into the environment, but we quickly discovered that what people wanted a common place to socialize and network. We ultimately ended up ‘virtually bulldozing’ the virtual campus and rebuilding it around informal and formal meeting spaces.As we begin our second year in public virtual worlds, we will continue to focus our efforts on building communities and dialog between our customers, partners and employees. We look forward to seeing you around campus!