Posted by: Steven Harris | April 9, 2008

3-D Information

3-D BooksAt a recent conference that took place in Second Life, Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education and Museums, one of speakers, Tom Peters (aka Maxito Ricardo) talked about how we are just beginning to explore the concept of three dimensional information (bad paraphrase). This all goes to the point of hypothesizing that the web itself may one day be navigated with a three-dimensional interface. As I explore Second Life, however, I am disappointed in the way collections are implemented and displayed, but this may be because we are still working primarily with 2-D information. What one finds is that the collections are largely made up of links to websites, taking one out of the 3-D virtual world and into the 2-D web.

Text and visual imagery are essentially two-dimensional. Artworks and photographs do represent three dimensions, but the objects themselves really only have two (excepting works that are sculptural in nature). This is actually true of virtual worlds as well: they LOOK three-dimensional, but are still only pixels on a flat surface. It is a REPRESENTATION of three-dimensionality.

I’m not sure what it all means for information delivery and library collection development. How will three dimensions change the way people interact with information? How will three dimensions change the way I find, select, and buy information? I’m not sure. I don’t think we will really know for some time. I do suggest that librarians explore 3-D worlds like Second Life, just to understand how the environment works. Perhaps that exploration will also suggest solutions to the 3-D problem. Perhaps a librarian will invent the 3-D killer app for information delivery.

[I might add, as a footnote, that it is unclear if three dimensions are in any way an improvement for some kinds of information.  Maybe two dimensions ARE better for some things.]



  1. This is an interesting subject. I just came from and was thinking about how much of our visual information is limited to columns, rows, lines, bars and pies. Just looking at the TouchGraph product which is a graphical network perspective told me that we haven’t even evolved into effectively using the power of 2D computer displays let alone 3D.

    2D representation of 3D is still evolving and will continue to offer new benefits, but even the manipulation of the models is primitive although some “supermice” have been developed.

    If we do utilize 3D to the fullest I think we will have to wait for the power of the new GRID technology being produced by CERN to power holographic displays.

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