21st century technological advancements have metaphorically shrunken the world and allowed for global transpatiality. The introduction of virtual reality (VR) has intensified this phenomenon, augmenting two-dimensional social media platforms and providing an alternative to physical gathering spaces.

Screenshots from BTUniverse (Sim & Hoo, 2019, p1)

Through the process of research, experimentation and observations, #ALTLIFE seeks to answer two major questions: the extent to which virtual and non-virtual realms feed into each other; and how the design of virtual spaces can be optimized to facilitate gatherings undertaken by existing it communities.

VR Chat (VRC), a free-to-play massively multiplayer online virtual reality social platform built on user- generated ‘worlds’, was used as our medium. Phase 1 was a pictorial documentation of VRC users over the course of 1 month, informing Phase 2, our creation of BTUniverse, a ‘world’ where calculated modifications were made over the course of 2 months to better understand the relationship between virtual design elements and user behaviour. Phase 3 was the final creation of a design ‘guidebook’ to aid designers in the creation of virtual alternative spaces.

A Guidebook for Virtual Alternative Spaces (Sim & Hoo, 2019)


Virtual alternative space
| An online space where a person with an interest in a particular person (s), object (s), or topic gather to meet other people sharing the same interest. Such a space is three-dimensional multi-player platform and is solely accessible via the Internet.

Non-virtual space | Any form of space that does not exist as a three-dimensional multi-player platform. This includes offline spaces that are not accessible via the internet, as well as any two-dimensional virtual space. Examples include online chatrooms and social media platforms, such as Discord, Facebook, or Twitter.

Existing communities | A group of persons bound together by the same interest in a particular person (s), object (s), or topic. This group does not have a limit on the number of persons within, and may or may not be a solely virtual entity.

Adaptable Avatars (Sim & Hoo, 2019, p.51)


(A) Non-virtual to virtual feedback
| A summary of human behavioural tendencies typical in the non-virtual world being observed in the three-dimensional virtual multiplayer
1.1 Borrowing from real-life social activity/norms/protocol
1.2 Community creation based on geographical location
1.3 Reciprocal movement/gestures
1.4 Attraction to one’s own reflection
1.5 Maintaining non-virtual relationships
1.6 Two ‘time zones’
1.7 ‘Sitting’ to rest

(B) Virtual spatial characteristics | A summary of user behavioural tendencies observed in the three-dimensional virtual multiplayer space, which do not take reference from human behavioural tendencies in the non-virtual world space.
2.1 Dynamic objects influence location of group activity
2.2 Spatial hierarchy affected by location of mirror

(C) Virtual to non-virtual feedback | A summary of human activity in the non-virtual world, as a development from user activities taking place in the three-dimensional virtual multiplayer space
3.1 Social aspects
3.1.1 Monetizing VRChat shared experiences
3.1.2 Learning new languages
3.1.3 Users meeting up in real life
3.1.4 Social media platforms
3.2 Spatial aspects
3.2.1 AFK (away from keyboard)
3.2.2 Respawn point

If you would like to read the ALTLife, A Guidebook for Virtual Alternative Spaces, do drop us an email at

Hall, E. T. (1990). The hidden dimension. New York: Anchor Books.
Hayward, S. C., & Franklin, S. S. (1974). Perceived Openness-Enclosure of
Architectural Space. Sage Publications, 6(1), 16.
Lee, J. H., Ostwald, M. J., & Lee, H. (2017). Measuring the spatial and social
characteristics of the architectural plans of aged care facilities. Frontiers
of Architectural Research, 6(4), 431–441.
Lynch, K. (2005). The image of the city (Nachdr.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT

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