🎨Studio Metaphor: An Embodied Software Paradigm

🎨Studio Metaphor: An Embodied Software Paradigm

posted in: Media Theory | 0

In my last post on 🎨studio metaphor I laid out a design for the physical environment for people working in VR and started to outline a set of embodied software design principles. This post builds from that foundation to begin a vision for a VR software paradigm so I recommend reading that one first if you haven’t already.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks. They are my favorite way to fold more historical context, data driven insight, personal stories, and comedy into my daily life. They can be enriching when I want but can also be a chew toy for my language brain when it is demanding attention during non-verbal art activities.

I spend a lot of time in a headset, 20 hours in a normal week, and while some of that time is spent in meetings with the rest of eleVR most of it is absorbed in making things alone. Often when I am working alone I play the VR environmental audio quietly over the computer’s speakers and then layer over it audio from my phones podcast app. This set up gave me the idea to make a podcast app in one of my creative VR workspaces (Anyland) that would incorporate this working style into a VR native configuration.



My VR podcast app has 3 main parts: 💍wearable, 🛠️holdable, and 🏡habitable.

💍wearable: A small, earring-sized, ring worn on my avatar.

🛠️holdable: A tool-scale object held in the hands.

🏡habitable: A navigable room-scale environment.


Each of these three scales houses a different subset of the apps total functionality.

💍wearable: Listening to my playlist of episodes, changing the volume, and starting/stopping the playback.


🛠️holdable: Reordering my playlist, scrubbing the playback timeline to a specific time, and saving time specific links to share.


🏡habitable: Managing my library of subscriptions, discovering new feeds to follow, and adding new podcast episodes to my playlist.

habitable search



Which functionality is filtered into which scale depends on the domain. A 3D modeling app’s 💍wearable might only display objects I’ve made as part of my avatar and give easy one-touch access to some of my objects I want to share; 🛠️holdable could give me access to quick sketching functionality for 3D note taking, and 🏡habitable would give me fully spatial creative space and tools.


With this in mind let’s think for a minute about the generalizable strengths of each scale.

💍wearable: Very fast interactions possible but few details visible/interactable. Limited to one spot on the avatar/body so the local position is consistent no matter what 🏡habitable environment or physical posture the avatar/body is in. When pulled off avatar/body transition to 🛠️holdable.

🛠️holdable: This scale’s objectness means its affordances are organized based on the object’s shape and orientation instead of in hierarchical menus. It can be used, not just worn, in any room-scale environment so its functionality can interact with or modify its own or other software’s 🏡habitable mode. This also lends itself nicely to recursive abilities (like moving the furniture in a 🛠️holdable dollhouse while in the 🏡habitable dollhouse).

🏡habitable: Like an artist’s studio or a chemist’s lab this scale affords immersion and positional organization with stations for different activities throughout a space.


So far I have been using the term ‘app’ for ease of communication about this new malleable-scale software idea but I think we need a new word. Here’s why:

If I want to make and publish a gif of several drawings I made on my phone I need to make the drawings, save them out of the drawing app, return to the homescreen (ie the operating system), open an app with gif making functionality, import the drawings, make the gif, save it out, homescreen, open publishing app, import, craft the post, and finally publish. Perfecting this workflow becomes just as central to the art making process as the drawing or gif settings manipulation itself. Each of these steps happen in a back and forth between the homescreen (or ‘Overview’ screen which lists thumbnails of all currently open apps) and the apps themselves. You can only be ‘in’ one app at a time and in an app you switch between modes by navigating to hierarchical menus.

In this vision of a VR software paradigm I would be wearing many different kinds of software, holding one or two, and inside one. Let’s pretend that I am working in this system one of my favorite podcasts is holding a icon making contest called #BestBlop. I want to contribute but I don’t know what to make so I just start iterating from their current one. So I start in the 🏡habitable scale of my favorite sculpture making software, grab that podcast’s current sculptural representation off the playlist ring of the 🛠️holdable podcast software, stick it in the world and start collaging and experimenting from there. When I was ready to submit it to the contest I would just snap it back onto the 🛠️holdable playlist ring with #BestBlop so it would be findable by the organizers. No flitting back and forth between desktop, 3D modeling, and podcast app.

So what to call it? ‘Malleable-scale domain-specific environments’ is a real mouthful. We shortened application to app so maybe envo? IDK. You tell me @blinkpopshift.

Because we aren’t talking about apps. Even storage, a thing which at first might seem indivisible from its current 2D paradigm, is easy to reshape for 🎨studio metaphor computing.

💍wearable storage: The currently in use software and the project files that go with them are worn directly on the avatar/body.

🛠️holdable storage: A container of less often used but still accessible 💍wearables for adding to or swapping out on the avatar/body.

🏡habitable storage: Longer term storage is organized in drawers or on shelves, in garages, library stacks, or photo albums. Spaces which because they are digital benefit from searchable metadata like date stamps, labels, tags, facial recognition, and on and on.

There is still more to be worked out about the specifics of this slowly emerging 🎨studio metaphor but so far the bullet points come down to: embodiment focused, variable viewpoint, and 💍wearable/🛠️holdable/🏡habitable malleable-scale.