Community Project Story
Sherwood Forest Town:
A Virtual Village On The Internet
Don't forget to visit the Sherwood Home Page
Meeting in Sherwood Old Town
Sherwood Forest Community was an experiment in virtual community building and culture in the first constructivist Cyberspace environment: AlphaWorld. AlphaWorld is the public cityscape in the Active Worlds environment. Sherwood was built and populated by members of the Contact Consortium, an organization dedicated to studying, promoting and enriching Internet-based virtual worlds as a new space for human contact and culture. Consortium members include individuals working at home, specialists in industry, researchers from universities, and the staffs of companies and government institutions. Consortium members have years of experience in designing and running MUDs, MOOs and in computer graphics world building exercises and applied this to the Sherwood Forest Community Project.
The purpose of Sherwood was to design a very natural, attractive setting with woodlands, flowers and flowing water and then attract a community of users to build a village community in that space. A unique feature of Active Worlds is that it allows users all over the Internet with nothing more than a Windows PC and a modem connection to navigate and build in a large virtual space while interacting with others. Using this capability, Sherwood community planners recruited builders from some of the 100,000 registered citizens of AlphaWorld.
Why did we pick the theme of Sherwood Forest? Apart from the attractive fable of Robin Hood (which supplied some imaginative roles), it turns out that the Luddite movement against technology began in the Sherwood Forest region of Britain. We felt that if there was a rebellion against life in this new virtual worlds technology it might as well happen inside a virtual Sherwood Forest!
Every community needs some sort of charter or constitution or set of rules, whether formal or informal. Sherwood's charter was designed to support the following goal:
To create a viable community within this new medium of human interaction and to observe how this community is be built, and can grow and function.
The Spirit of our Community Underlying the Charter
- to learn how to work together in a new reality
- to interact with consideration for others
- to cherish individual creative independence while meeting the community needs
- to create a thing of beauty and function worthy of revisiting
- to have a way cool time
Basic Community Charter Rules
Be considerate to others and their land and property as you would wish them to be unto you.
(ye olde) Towne Services Mandated by the Charter
- the towne will provide you with newsworthy communication, administration, zoning, and dispute management,
- the towne will maintain your mailboxes and deliver your post to others in the community and beyond
- the towne will water the flowers and keep the grass trimmed
- townesfolk can give you building instruction
- the towne may condemn unused or misused sites
- the towne will clean up trash and provide recycling of objects and reclamation of land
- the towne will publish a free newspaper: the Sherwood Towne Crier
- the towne will tow illegally parked cars
Sherwood citizen co-creator (psychotherapist Steve Lankton)
builds Therapies 'R' Us clinic to treat people with addiction to virtual worlds
When it went online in March of 1996, the Sherwood Forest community experiment was fun and very lively and deemed successful based on the richness of the experience and unexpected spontaneous occurances. Over sixty individuals participated, ranging from 9 year old children to a professional architect and database designer. The following timeline should give you an idea of the phases and events which characterized this experiment:
- August 1995: Consortium invited to enter AlphaWorld beta program.
- January 1996: Forest and 'ancient aqueduct' boundary defining town wall placed into the world.
- February 1996: Web site built, community recruitment begins.
- March 24, 1996: First big collaborative build day happens, the talking circle is used to hold an all avatar town meeting. Anthropologist makes first attempt to conduct ethnographic interviews in the town.
- May 1996: Second build day fills out incorporated area of town, Therapies R Us clinic is built, dispute over style of Bazaar built by teenaged citizens arises. Landscape architect goes to work on site.
- June 1996: Prototype virtual university is built in New Town during live exercises by students of Sophia-Antipolis University while at the MediArtech conference in Florence. This event was sponsored by the McLuhan Program of the University of Toronto. Sherwood is avacast between Italy and France and telecast to Italian media. Later that month, the third build day completes Old Town incorporated area and plans for New Town unincorporated areas where freeform building is allowed.
- July 13, 1996: Digital singles mixer and summer party gathering is held in Laurel's Herb Farm together with a large physical party in Boulder Creek, California. First every poetry reading held in Sherwood Redwood Grove. The first eviction of an AlphaWorld citizen was carried out during this event. Read about the event at: http://www.ccon.org/events/mixup1.html. Over 100 avatars participated in the event over an 11 hour period.
- Late July, 1996: Vandals struck unprotected west side properties outside the town walls. A protracted effort to get the vandalized areas cleared begins. Proof must be provided to the AlphaWorld city managers that this was not a creative act. Call boxes to the AlphaWorld Police Department and Help Patrols are considered for installation at Sherwood for rapid reporting of vandalism and avabuse (verbal harrassment of community members by outsiders).
- August 1996: More lots inside the New Town area are assigned and building continues. TheU virtual university, a separate virtual world, is created and a teleport transporter system between TheU and Sherwood is put into place.
- Fall 1996: Teleport directly to Sherwood is placed at Ground Zero in AlphaWorld. Resultant high traffic encourages vandalism and unplanned seizure of neighbor's land by unknown persons. Areas around Sherwood main gate are filled with teleports to other areas in AlphaWorld. This is likened to the development of low caliber commercial motel zones around Disneyland in the 1950s.
- March 1997: Attendees at ACM CHI 97 in Atlanta carry out collaborative building in the New Town area of Sherwood. Sherwood celebrates one year anniversary. Future of the site and the community is debated and a new land manager sought.
- July 1997: Sherwood awarded an honorable mention by Ars Electronica. Published in the Ars 1997 conference book.
- August 1997: Frontage road at Sherwood main gate is hacked and a booby trap teleporter is installed there, firing citizens' avatars far from the site as soon as they arrive. Application made to have the booby trap excised.
- November 1997: The dreaded booby trap is excised by city admin. All of Monies Avenue including the cobbles is hacked by the Anarchy vandal gang.
- 1998: Sherwood goes on, and a new round of building and land management is planned. Request to make a duplicate of the town is filed with city powers.
Monies Avenue Vandelized!
The Anarchy strikes, taking out cobbles and Monies' Avenue
Boobytrap teleporter is removed by city admin
Oh, there goes the neighborhood!
Teleporters crowd in unbuilt land across from our gates.
Teleporters rise like cheap motels
Come Visit Sherwood
Find the home of Sherwood Forest Town on the Contact Consortium Homepage at: http://www.ccon.org/events/sherwood.html. Visit the Sherwood Forest Community on the Internet by downloading and installing the Active Worlds Browser from http://www.activeworlds.com, entering AlphaWorld, and then teleporting to the coordinates: 105.4N 188.8E (turn around after you land to see the main gate). Note that you can also set up your web browser to teleport directly into various parts of Sherwood by clicking on teleports found throughout the Sherwood Forest Town Web pages.
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