The art of ‘universal language’

Dear Reader (as Charlotte Bronte would have said had she been a blogger) I have recently been taking a lot of ‘happy snaps’ in Second Life™. These photos record visits to the NPIRL ‘Garden of Delights’ and my avatars (by Flea Bussy) have posed like tourists on vacation for my virtual camera. This has been both an entertaining and thought provoking exercise. I have found myself thinking a lot about imagination, and the social presence of avatars and place within virtual spaces.

Darkle Sands \'Gravity\' and Flea\'s Bronze Sigil Knight (female)

Darkle Sand’s ‘Gravity’ and Flea’s Bronze Sigil Knight (female) (1). NPIRL Garden of Delights. Second Life

One thought is that virtual worlds are successful as communication platforms because they have social presence, and this is achieved by applying real world metaphors to the virtual space. I heard Chuck Hamilton, IBM’s virtual world mastermind, suggest in a talk to the Gronstedt Group, that virtual worlds provide a ‘universal language’ to people of the real world. We can have a meeting of many nationalities in Second Life and everyone will understand what a chair, table or door might be used for. This shared understanding saves a great deal of time and helps people move into deeper discussions where translation is used to address more complex agendas.

Darkle Sands \'Gravity\' and Flea\'s Bronze Sigil Knight (female)

Darkle Sand’s ‘Gravity’ and Flea’s Bronze Sigil Knight (female) (2)

Now the fun begins in virtual spaces when this ‘universal language’ is exploited to communicate on other levels of perception. NPIRL explores its ‘not possible in real life’ paradigm by selecting creations that could not be realized in reality. This is a conscious play on the metaphor of reality that we use to exist within the virtual world. After all, virtual worlds are simply 3D spaces that employ the metaphor of the real world. We move through this 3D metaphor using avatars (a metaphor for ourselves).

Darkle Sands \'Gravity\'

Darkle Sand’s ‘Gravity’

The laws of physics in these representations are based upon the laws of physics of the real world. For instance, we desperately require the metaphor of gravity to help us orient ourselves to the virtual environment (otherwise we might all throw up?). But once we have gained our bearings we have a lark breaking these bonds of logic!

Darkle Sands \'Gravity\' and Flea\'s Bronze Sigil Knight (female)

Darkle Sand’s ‘Gravity’ and Flea’s Bronze Sigil Knight (female) (3)

Virtual art installations, the mini-virtual worlds we can visit in Second Life run a close parallel to books and movies (see ‘Lost in Other Worlds‘ ). They establish logic systems of their own by creating a story-telling space that adds drama! Through emotional interpretation of both real, and virtual, realities another dimension (the fifth dimension?) infiltrates our imaginations and fills our hearts and memories.

For more thoughts on the role of narrative in art, both real and virtual, visit Alpha Auer ‘s blog where she writes:“What I want is unselfconscious narrative, someone getting totally carried away with the story that is inside of them and spilling it all out as visual form. Something that is not just of the “now” but carries embedded in its being a “past”. A personal mythology.”

Darkle Sands \'Gravity\' and Flea\'s Bronze Sigil Knight (female)

Darkle Sand’s ‘Gravity’ and Flea’s Bronze Sigil Knight (female) (4)

The deeper the artist or 3D designer goes with their exploration of their own personal mythology, the more universal symbols they will discover. Art uses ‘universal language’ and has the potential to communicate far beyond the basic ‘chair, table and door’ mentioned earlier. Art, in both the real and the virtual world, can transcend language barriers to communicate complex thoughts and emotions; conveying the social presence of the artist, whilst also touching upon universal truths both magnificent and utterly trivial! It may even be the case that IBM can learn something from the artists of NPIRL about how to use the virtual spaces of Second Life.

If Twitter had been around, Ludwig Wittgenstein might have used it to say: ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my worlds’ but today, we could twitter back ‘no longer is that the case Ludwig!’

To see more of Flea Bussy’s avatars visit Grendel’s Children in Second Life™

This is the entrance to the NPIRL Garden of Delights! (Only just found it!) Links to this location from inside the garden don’t seem to work! But it makes sense to start here!

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