The Metaverse, Gaming and the Metabolism of Cities

Building connection across boundaries

Bernelle Verster
Talk lives here:

Ashashyou [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

A talk in three parts

  1. What I want to do and why
  2. How I plan to do it
  3. What I've learnt so far

Part 1: What is the issue, and why did I choose this approach?

Cape Town total dam levels, 2013 - 2018 By Discott - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

#DayZero 12 April 2018.
Level 6b restrictions:
50L/day per person

More info: Cape Town drought

Where does your water come from?

Even in the most severe stage of the drought, enough rain fell on the metropole to provide everyone's reasonable needs.

Cape Town Sao Paulo
Population 4.5 million 12.8 million
Water use (ML/day) 1000 1320
Water use (M3/year) 365 *10^6 481 *10^6
Average annual rainfall (mm) 800 1000
Annual rainfall in worst drought year (mm) 340 (2017) 500? (2013)
Surface area of metro (km2) 2400 8000
Total rain in metro during worst drought year(m3) 816 *10^6 4000 *10^6
Enough water for people in city? Yes, DOUBLE! Ten times more?

A different way of doing things:
Water Sensitive Design (WSD)
Water Smart Cities
Sponge Cities
Low Impact Developments

Expertise discovers its limits when the predictables are no longer predictable.

Expertise that is based on the patriarchal and militaristic “command and control”, is based on the idea that expertise has no limits.
Lesley Green, Environmental Humanities South

By imagining that we and our peers have the necessary expertise to solve problems we limit the experience, wisdom and insights that we draw on in finding solutions, thus hampering innovation.

By assuming we know best, we break the all-important connections and relationships that integrated, systemic planning is built on.
Stuart Waters, The Source Magazine, "Letting go of the need to know"

OK, so...?

Vanessa Barragao world tapestry via This is Colossal

A big issue

We do not have the data to facilitate bottom-up decision making.

We do not have a good way to communicate and work with different groups of professionals and everyday people to manage our urban resources.

ESRI ArcUser article about Citizen Science

Part 2: How do I plan to address the issue?

Item Icon Generating Data Verifying, Organising Data Using Data
Information Design support, communicate, generate income :)
Game people data build game physics
Metaverse geographic data probably
Magicverse definitely
Metabolism of Cities academic data main purpose policy, traditional research

2.1. Information Design

2.2. The game

  • Fight zombies, and/or build things, and or plant things (you can choose)
  • But based on real data, real resources. Real cities, real challenges.
  • Higher levels can start messing with physical constants, change gravity etc
  • Level/bonus incentive for gathering, verifying real world data
  • Cross platform, freemium, mod-able, FOSS
Useful guide to make these graphics

Game mechanics like Township, SimCity

Township Godus

Aesthetic, modify natural laws (higher levels) like Godus


Augmented reality aspects like Pokemon, Ingress


Papercraft quality, real-life campaigns like Luminocity

2.3. The metaverse

“ A collective virtual shared space that’s created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and persistent virtual space. ”

Metaverse ala Epic Games's (Fortnite) Tim Sweeney

Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash

…the concept of the Metaverse means forging connections across and between numerous platforms, content and experiences: allowing a player to literally walk through a door as a Fortnite character and be in another world (and using a character custom to that world)

Imagine if we can integrate models between different disciplines – hydrologists, geologists, whatevers, and make it into the experience, and gain knowledge from players back into those models, bottom-up.


2.4. The magicverse

"The Magicverse is an Emergent System of Systems bridging the physical with the digital, in a large scale, persistent manner within a community of people." - magicleap op-ed, Feb 2019

2.5. Metabolism of Cities

Volunteer academic initiative,

Paul Hoekman, Introduction to Urban Metabolism

Paul Hoekman, Introduction to Urban Metabolism

Paul Hoekman, Introduction to Urban Metabolism

Paul Hoekman, Multiplicity Initiative

Paul Hoekman, Introduction to Urban Metabolism

Info Design


Metabolism of Cities


Part 3: What have I learnt so far?

Tools for Information Design

Aquent Gymnasium course on Information Design and Visualization Fundamentals

FOSS Tools for Information Design

Data Handling Charting Programming Mapping Illustration
Python R .js QGIS Inkscape
more Python Python more .js Grass Blender

Successes so far

  1. Manage presentations in reveal.js - YAY!
  2. Getting there with d3.js
  3. Busy with the 3D Modeling for virtual reality creation short course of Aquant's Gymnasium, and can almost model a coffee mug in Blender
  4. Learning how to work with QGIS next week

What's next

  1. Learn all the stuff
  2. End 2020: have mock up / prototype / video / animation illustrating idea
  3. Build portfolio, define my niche, do work in information design to survive
  4. Then, apply to initiatives, competitions, e.g.
  5. If successful, gain funding, build a team, else write it off as a fun sabattical.

Why Debian?

  1. Fit things together reliably
  2. Good for cross-platform initiatives
  3. Strong culture of bottom-up building

Ultra noob!

First, learn to package.

Then start with a package related to information design

Combining the joy of gaming, the beauty of information visualisation and the rigour of urban metabolism studies to better understand urban resource flows at an everyday level.

Thank you!

This talk lives at

Reach me at or IRC (indiebio)

This presentation was built using reveal.js