Q: Second Life – Why would you go there?
A: “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
– Kurt Vonnegut (Quote taken slightly out of context.)
Cyberloom is returning to Locus in this post, at least that is where I begin. The truth is DB Bailey showed me a glimpse of the underworld… There is a special place to stand high up in the mountain tops of Locus, and once you have located this perch you can use your camera to zoom down through the pixel thin rock crust to see a great cavern reveal itself below. DB explained to me that this is a place that can be glimpsed but never visited. My first attempts to use the camera disoriented me and I fell off the cliff face into the cold sea far below. On my second attempt my avatar eyes were able to penetrate the rock wall.
The underworld looked a friendly enough place, there were swirling gas clouds and strange abstract shapes moving through the steam and/or smoke. DB said this location was his favorite place in Locus, he said he liked the ‘painterly effects’ conjured by the gaseous haze. After DB left (to move furniture around the tepidarium and check the large naked giant was sleeping peacefully) I took the opportunity to pan my camera around the underworld of Locus. I discovered I was able to swing the camera around and peer out from the underworld into Locus.
You must go to Locus and seek out the underworld for yourself and I know that it will look quite different for you. I imagine that is part of the mystery that constitutes the underworld? That is, it is some form of mirage metamorphosing into different hallucinations for each of us? The most intriguing aspect of this strange journey is that DB Bailey invited me to examine the furthest extremes of his avatar-made island. He designed the space in 3 dimensions, it is a space we can venture into and explore yet it is all an illusion. The virtual world of Second Life invites us to indulge ourselves within the illusory space, it coaxes us into its very center and we oblige by operating our avatars so that they accord with the illusion. Now, the intriguing invitation handed out by DB Bailey is for us to travel with our virtual cameras to the extreme edges, or limits, of the illusion to see what happens next. At the very least we see the illusion begin to fracture…
Speaking for myself, I keep returning to wander this illusionary world of Second Life because it shows me ideas in visual forms, and juxtaposes those images with their accompanying thoughts, in random fashion. This process (a visual version of the die game in The Dice Man) reflects each individual player’s own mind and preoccupations. It can also generate new insight and understanding into ourselves and others in both our First and Second lives. In other words ‘playing’ Second Life can be a thought provoking process for some of us because we hover around its seams chasing some philosophical insight or other. Mind you, I end up with more questions than answers and feel very much an amateur trying to play the game of another book. I am referring to Herman Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game “a game which is an abstract synthesis of all arts and scholarship. It proceeds by players making deep connections between seemingly unrelated topics.” (Wikipedia)
On the other hand, perhaps a simpler way to say all this is to describe this shared virtual space as a consciously shared dream? But then, what is a dream? It could be described as the ‘join’ between our conscious and unconscious worlds. But the dream analogy feels too easy and dismissive because the surreal vagueness of dreams can be like a drunk having a profound turn of thought. (Difficult to credit dreams and drunks with too much attention because they so easily slip away later with a ‘did not mean it’ or ‘forgotten it all’ message). I am joining DB Bailey now and encouraging you to intentionally stand at the very brink of the virtual world with (relatively speaking of course) a fully functioning conscious mind, and see how far you can go with your camera before the scene before you begins to disintegrate.
There is a group on flickr called ‘Bug Hunters of Second Life’ that helps people figure out what has gone wrong with their display when the Second Life illusion breaks unexpectedly. I once found another flickr group that invited people to submit their photos of random SL aberrations but I cannot find it now (there are 3,682 flickr groups with the Second Life tag after all!) This invitation from DB Bailey to balance on the edge of what is visually possible in the virtual world, then deliberately pan out of world with your camera is like being given the Subtle Knife. The subtle knife can cut portals through the boundary fabric of different worlds thus enabling the characters (of Philip Pullman‘s ‘Dark Materials’ trilogy) to walk through to alternate realities.
There is something poetic about seeing my virtual camera as a subtle knife… I am off to cut another portal… see you later aligator…in another reality crocodile.