Knowledge Places

Cosma / Communication / Knowledge / Navigation / Worlds / Places

Knowledge Places 1
Knowledge Navigation & Exploration Centers
Second Life, Kuula & Unity 3D (2006-Present)

Knowledge Places Welcome Center

A primary goal of Cosma is to provide a 3D “hypermedia” interface to enable truly spatial Knowledge Navigation of the inventory of Knowledge Resources on the Cosma Web site.   There have been many experiments with creating these interfaces on a variety of platforms since the 1980s (MicroWorlds, HyperCard, HyperStudio, Director, etc.).

The Knowledge Places (K-Places) project was the longest running and most extensive experiment so far. It used the virtual world named Second Life to create a 3D version of an earlier 2D interface to internet resources that Mary E. Hopper made with Apple’s HyperCard running in color on an Apple IIGS with ProDOS in the late 1980s. 2

Primary development on K-Places began in 2006, and at the height of the project in 2010, there were more than ten highly visible sites that covered more than a million square meters of land in Second Life. The sites were made up of thematically organized spaces within “places” designed around inviting metaphors (e.g. tropical resort, zoo, amusement park, etc.).

The sites have waxed and waned in popularity, but over the course of the more than fifteen years of experiments with using Second Life as 3D interfaces to Cosma, there have been many tens of thousands of visitors. Second Life employs fictional names and also enforces anonymity, so it is “almost” impossible to know who the people are in Real Life (RL), but it is fair to say that the more that someone has used Second Life, the more likely it is that they know of the sites. The “hard core users” and “older residents” are almost certainly aware of them and have probably visited them.

Dr. M. E. Hopper also presented about K-Places at a number of professional events that were attended by thousands of people — some of the attendees of those events were also likely visitors to the sites in Second Life. 3

The core of the K-Places project was a cadre of 3D links dubbed Knowledge Objects (K-Objects), and they enabled truly spatial Knowledge Navigation.   Magic Windows were 3D hyperlinks to Cosma, and Magic Doors were 3D hyperlinks to other locations in Second Life. There was also a cast of other K-Objects that served as “typed” hyperlinks to access other valuable Web sites besides Cosma. You can find out more about them on the K-Objects page.

Knowledge Objects Cast

Hundreds of content specific versions of each of the K-Objects were generated, and then they were distributed throughout the multitude of content specific “spaces” in the K-Places sites. This enabled a thematic approach for exploring Cosma, other Web sites and Second Life.

There was also an extensive collection of “talented” objects such as vehicles, animals, games and rides that were distributed at the same time. They were used to signal the subject of the “thematic spaces” as well as add some fun and value for visitors. Many of the objects were free to copy and modify (freebies). Others were examples of the best objects available for sale elsewhere in Second Life and were positioned next to Magic Doors that gave links (landmarks) to sites where they could be purchased.

K-Places sites also had “sky signs” that would show up on the Second Life map. They were very much like the store logos that appeared on rooftops in real life around the same time as K-Places began using them in 2006. Here is a story about that phenomena.
Logos On Rooftops Probably Not Aimed At Google Maps (Search Engine Watch)

Unlike in real life, a “sky sign” was also a useful navigational tool. Second Life users could click on the map to teleport to a location. Here is a map showing the “sky signs” of two sites in 2010. If you have a Second Life account and the software installed, then you can click on the map to teleport to a current site in Second Life.

Knowledge Gates Map 2010

The K-Places sites continued to be expanded and maintained until 2014. At the height of development in 2010, wandering the grounds of the sites would take visitors to over a thousand interesting things to see and do.

Here is a summary of the different versions of K-Places and links to where you can find out more about each of them.

Knowledge Gates to Second Life
Knowledge Navigation & Exploration Centers
Ten + Sites, Many Regions in Linden Village, 100,000 + sq. m. (2006-Present)

The Knowledge Gates (K-Gates) were the Alpha version of the K-Places project. They were virtual sites located throughout an area of Second Life called Linden Village. They were called “Gates” due to their proximity to the Help and Orientation Islands that were used by new users of Second Life at that time. There were actually many K-Gates sites that evolved and expanded from 2006 to 2015, and some still exist today. You can find out more on the K-Gates page.

Knowledge Palace
Knowledge Navigation & Exploration Nexus
Terminous, Meins, Quentin, Samoa & Arcata, 40,160 sq. m. (2007-2009)
Papa, 19,152 sq. m., Riiki, 13,200 sq. m., Hina, 11,440 sq. m. (2011-2014)

Knowledge Palace (K-Palace) was the Beta version of the Knowledge Places (K-Places) project. This phase of the project involved revamping the hundreds of content specific objects and multitude of thematic spaces that were distributed across the K-Gates sites and integrating them into a single contiguous space. There were actually two K-Palace sites built at two different times, and they each spanned multiple regions. The first K-Palace was built in 2007, and it was laid out with individual levels dedicated to General Systems, Knowledge Forms and Knowledge Realms respectively.

Knowledge Palace, Cutaway

The second version of K-Palace was developed in 2011, and it was laid out differently than the first version. Rather than layering content layers, this version had a central castle where visitors could learn about the color schemes Systems themes used at the site. Then the Knowledge Forms were in dedicated spaces arranged around the castle. Then the Knowledge Realms were built on the “grounds” which were located on nearby dedicated sites.

Both K-Palace sites were located on Second Life’s original mainland continent named Sansara and showed up as one of the most visible features on the SecondLife map. You can find out more about this site on the K-Palace page.

Knowledge Paradise
The Knowledge Kingdom
Cosma, Pyra, Gaia, Hydra, Aria, 327,680 sq. m. (2008-2014)

Knowledge Paradise (K-Paradise) was essentially version 1.0 of the K-Places project. Development of the five region estate began in 2008, and it was designed around a tropical resort metaphor. Creating K-Paradise involved updating the hundreds of content specific objects and multitude of thematic spaces that had been distributed throughout the K-Gates and K-Palace sites and then weaving them together into more elaborate, contiguous spaces. You can find out more about this site on the K-Paradise page.

Knowledge Port & Knowledge Park
Knowledge Navigation & Exploration Center
Maryport, 24,048 sq. m. (2015-Present)

K-Palace, K-Paradise and most of the K-Gates sites were discontinued in 2014. Then their contents were consolidated into extremely scaled back “archival” sites that hold just a small sample of the spaces and objects that made up the K-Places sites between 2006 and 2014.

The largest archival site is K-Park — it preserves the spaces and objects that were an interface to the Knowledge Realms on the Cosma Web site.

Knowledge Park@Maryport

There is also a “sky-space” situated above the ground-level sites — it preserves the spaces and objects that were an interface to the Knowledge Forms on the Cosma Web site.

Knowledge Palace@Maryport

Here is a video of an extended walk-through of the K-Places archival sites.

This map shows where the archival sites are in Linden Village. If you have a Second Life account and the software is installed on your computer, then you can click the map to teleport there.

Knowledge Port & Knowledge Park Map

Cosma’s Welcome Area
Knowledge Navigation & Exploration Center
Unity 3D (2015)

There was an experiment with using Unity 3D to create a 3D interface to Cosma, 360° videos and 3D Web applications. It is not available to download anymore, but here is a video of what it looked like and how it functioned. Notice that the application also used Magic Posters and Magic Objects to serve as 3D links to Cosma and other Web content.

The jury remains out about whether Unity will be the right platform for Cosma’s next interface. It depends upon whether it will be capable of creating high-resolution, complex, interactive 3D/360°/WebXR worlds that can be embedded on a web page viewable in standard browsers without plugins, logins or long load times.

Cosma’s Welcome Area
Knowledge Navigation & Exploration Center
Alston in Second Life & RoundMe (2020-Present)

There are a series of ongoing experiments with creating “Parallel Places” to test and compare the efficacy of numerous 3D platforms for creating interfaces to Cosma, other Web sites, YouTube’s 360° videos and some XR content. Second Life is one of the platforms being used for these experiments. The Toy Worlds that are hosted on RoundMe and are serving as the 3D interface to Cosma right now are also among the “places” used for comparison.

One of the experiments has involved building a Knowledge Exploration Center at the old K-Point site in Linden Village. It has 5 rooms that are semi-identical to the five main Toy Worlds that are serving as an interface to Cosma. The site has Magic Posters and Magic Objects that link to Cosma and other Web content. These are siblings of the K-Objects used in K-Places.

This is a picture of the Welcome Area. If you have a Second Life account and the software installed, then you can click the image to explore the Welcome Area and the four other rooms (Solar Extremes, Gaia’s Greenhouse, World Travel Lounge and Walk-in-Art).

Cosma Welcome Area SL

Here is a “Toy World” version of the Welcome Area that is parallel to the one in Second Life.

Click on objects to find out about them.
Use the menu or doors to visit other Toy Worlds.

You can also explore this Toy World on Kuula.

Toy Worlds are literally “Toy Worlds” because they are dioramas created with dollhouse furniture and other miniature toys that are photographed with a RICOH THETA S 360° Camera. The resulting photos are posted on the Kuula 360° photo sharing service in order to overlay links.

They are also figuratively “Toy Worlds” in that they are really just intended to be entertaining placeholders for the more sophisticated Worlds that will (hopefully) be created with more advanced software in the not too distant future.

Athena’s Knowledge Palace
Alston in Second Life & Kuula (2020-Present)

Another experiment with “parallel places” has involved building a special version of K-Palace at the old K-Point in Linden Village. It has two rooms that are semi-identical to two Toy Worlds. Both rooms have many Magic Posters and Magic Objects that link to Web content. Click this image to teleport there and explore it.

Knowledge Palace@Knowledge Point

One of the two rooms is called Athena’s Office. Click this image to explore it.

Athena's Office in SL

Here is the Toy World version of Athena’s Office.

You can also explore this Toy World on Kuula.

The other room is the Muse’s Playroom. Click this image to explore it.
Muse's Playroom in SL

Here is the Muse’s Playroom Toy World.

You can also explore this Toy World on Kuula.

The degree to which Second Life and Toy World versions are different, and the reasons for that, is the main point to the experiments. However, the conclusions drawn from this exercise are a topic for another time. You can find out more about the ongoing experiments in creating “Parallel Places” on the Worlds Challenge page.


1.   Much of the content on this page was originally developed for two presentations at MIT.
The first presentation in April 2007 was attended by Cory Ondrejka (SL Alt. Cory Linden, Chief Technology Officer@Second Life/Linden Lab) and John Lester (SL Alt. Pathfinder Linden, Second Life Lead Evangelist, Market Development, Boston Operations Director, Market Development in Education@Second Life/Linden Lab).
Hopper, M. E. (2007, April). The Knowledge Gates to SecondLife. Media in Transition 5 Conference: Creativity, Ownership and Collaboration in the Digital Age, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Hopper, M. E. (2009, April). Cosma: Constructing a Kingdom of Knowledge. Media in Transition 6 Conference: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

2.   Dr. Hopper was near the end of her Postdoc at MIT in 2002 when she saw Mitch Kapor give a demo of Linden World (only had a single region/sim at that time). Then she saw a demo of Active Worlds a few years later. Standards for the 3D web were starting to mature as well. It was becoming clearer that one of the three would probably be the software platform that would allow her to finally fully implement the project she had envisioned for decades. She continued watching the three platforms develop over the next few years. Hopper knew for sure which platform she would use after attending the demos of them at SIGGRAPH 2006 in Boston. The answer was crystal clear and shortly after that serious development in SecondLife began.
3.   Knowledge Places and Knowledge Objects were developed by Dr. M. E. Hopper while she was President of Knowledge Foundry, a small company that developed traditional Web, social media, 3D, eBook and mobile sites. Remnants of the original website are still online. online