Yesterday I added a post to Cyberloom, and I realized that it is three years since the last post was added to this blog! All I can say is time flies when you are preoccupied! Today, I have been reviewing some of my 190+ earlier posts. The reason for this review is that my friend Suzanne asked me to send her the link to this blog. Gosh, I thought how to guide someone through a blog about a peculiar hobby visiting the Metaverse? Well, Suzanne, I hope that this post will help.
I began writing this blog in 2008 when I was an Adult Education student looking into online education for my Certificate in Advanced Studies. One of the first things that hooked me into the virtual world was the discovery that I could interact with it. In an early post, I wrote about this in a piece titled: Living in a Painting: Introducing Second Life and Windlight. I had discovered I could take photographs and adjust the lighting in a virtual 3D space reached by my computer. Strange that this machine of glass and metal and tiny computer chips could open up such a vast and visually imaginative realm.
I have a few preoccupations when traveling in the virtual world. The first is an ongoing interest in adult learning in its various manifestations:
Another recurring theme concerns a stack of sketchy questions about who we are as we connect with each other across the room, across virtual space and multiple time differences? Here are some of these posts:
Virtual Art is another area that fascinates and my approach to the work of Metaverse Artists stems from when I was a photographer working in London, and I would help artists by photographing their work for publicity purposes. I soon found that Second Life was teeming with incredibly thoughtful and talented artists. I also saw that there was a problem in that if you did not enter the 3D online space via your computer, you could not see and experience the work of these artists. This lead me on a mission to record the work of virtual world artists, here are just a few: Archetypal Robots and Giant Donuts
InWorldz put in an appearance at SXSW the music, film and interactive conference held in Austin, Texas every year. The virtual world categorized itself as a game developer at the convention and simultaneously showcased itself within InWorldz. In effect, they connected the conventional with the virtual with their “Welcome to Our World” exhibit.
For this post I collected together some photos I took on the Arts & Literature sim. There are other sims, each devoted to displaying different topic areas. These areas include: Education, Entertainment, Technology, Physics, Fantasy & Roleplay, Transportation plus Harbor – Boating & Nature. There is much to see and explore as InWorldz very cleverly invited their most talented citizens to show off recent or favorite works. This is certainly a very good idea for it means the pieces on display have a depth and maturity that can only be the product of hours of thoughtful work and personal skill development. It is also worth pointing out that many of these artists cut their baby avatar teeth in Second Life before being drawn into InWorldz with its generously sized building spaces and atmosphere of calm. The other observation worth sharing is that in practice many artist avatars have bi-world passports. That is, they work in Second Life and in InWorldz as interstellar traveling artists and troubadours. (Some probably travel even further into the OpenSim firmament appearing in multiple worlds.)
Above you can see a detail from Sy Celina’s ‘Dreaming’ exhibit which was originally built as a Christmas display. The exhibit, a comfortable living room and child’s bedroom is housed inside a giant blue Christmas ornament. The room conjures up an atmosphere of childish excitement with idealized Christmas memories and presents stacked high by the perfect roaring log fire, yet the furniture in the room is strangely transparent. I opted to avoid taking a ‘Christmassy’ picture as I found myself drawn to the pipe holder and photographs perhaps the two most solid and ‘real’ memory items in the strange room?
soror Nishi is one of my favorite artists. Her work is always full of color and humor. Her exhibit ‘The Steampunk Tree – a mechanical marvel’ (above) was in 3 sections, with the tree itself linked by a series of pipes to two other peculiar machines. She had placed 5 goats on a high platform at a feeding trough where they seemed to be eating colorful gourdes at one end whilst regularly emitting spherical droppings at the other. These droppings were then carried along a watery chanel to a filtering chamber filled with giant amoeba/octopus type creatures before being sent into the steampunk tree and thereby feeding its ability to deliver flourescent spores into the air. Smelly virtual worlds have yet to be invented but I am positive that soror Nishi’s tree smells like new roses growing in a farmyard.
Finally, I have featured Alizarin Goldflake’s display, an unusual black and white exhibit based upon Kay Ryan’s poem ‘The Niagara River’. This exhibit makes full use of the three dimensions available with virtual spaces and also employs sound effects. As you wander around the exhibit the black and white photographs of trees are constantly scrolling slowly around the walls, at your feet water is steadily running over your toes and in the background you can hear the sounds of a river and distant human voices. Alizarin wrote about this installation in her blog post ‘The Niagara River’
Because the poem uses a dining room melded with a river as a metaphor for the passage of time, life, or maybe the constant stream of consciouness, my installation has a sound environment that mixes the sound of rushing water with steady stream of people talking. The people have long departed from the room, from life, but their voices linger like ghosts and their names float in hover text.
The ‘Welcome to Our World’ exhibit is still open in InWorldz. The best way to visit is to go to InWorldz.com and register before simply downloading their viewer. A display board at the landing area will provide a teleport straight over to the exhibition sims. They always have helpers at the landing area who can direct you as you take your first steps in Inworldz. For more photographs of the InWorldz SXSW exhibits visit Rig’s Photos and scroll down through his posts (he has 5 InWorldz photo posts).
I think of avatars as vehicles, a means of travel within virtual worlds. They are frozen fragments of our kaleidoscopic self-image(s). Avatars as vehicles cost a lot less than a car and are capable of taking us to outer space one minute and far beneath the ocean in the next. Mosaic pieces of self spinning through the electric hum of cyberspace.
Visitors to different virtual world locations often adapt their avatars to blend in and belong. (Avatars tend to be rather conformist, but don’t tell them that.) Creators of both whimsical and educational locations in virtual 3D worlds encourage tourists to kit out their avatars according to the relevant theme. By encouraging visitors to ‘dress’ appropriately they can become more fully immersed in the experience of their visit. For example, if you visit the *1920s Berlin Project in Second Life it is suggested that you wear the (free) 1920s clothing provided. This helps avoid the faux pas of wandering around pre-war Berlin dressed as a medieval knight or a Nasa astronaut (basic considerations for experienced time travelers).
To my mind, this shows how we wear the places we visit in online 3D worlds (just as in our physical apparently–more–real–world). With this in mind, I have recently been entertained by the idea of donning a Second Life avatar and then giving myself the task of seeing what place the avatar might wear… Hence the post where Lady Fog is liberated from a framed picture in the Meta_Body exhibition and carried away by mechanical flying boat to the island of Cocoon.
Avatars are playing an ever greater role in our online lives. You do not have to visit virtual worlds to have one. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and a multitude of other social networking sites use avatars nowadays. In fact, at Gravatar.com you are encouraged to zip up your ‘Globally Recognized Avatar‘ and prepare it for travel across the internet where it can be used on (as they say) a ‘kajillion websites’. These gravatars are colorful cubes that we can stick in the comments box on sites (strangely parallel to sending letters with a postage stamp on an envelope). WordPress provides free patterned squares of color to those who lack a gravatar thus enabling them to leave a little decorative stamp of individuality in the comments area below posts. (Try it and see, you will be given a colorful cube with a geometric design (that looks surprisingly like a quilting pattern) should you decide to leave a comment below this post… Theoretically, once you have experienced a Gravar first hand you will be so stirred with the hunger to establish your own virtual identity you too will set out to establish your very own cube of portable social presence.
In a way, a gravatar is our digital portrait. The poor person’s land grab in the digital void. The rich and famous commission paintings of themselves; these are highly controlled portrayals designed for posterity, destined to be the lasting record of their lives, forever posed in a good light. Well, whether you use the term avatar or gravatar, these pictorial signatures are cost cutting self-portraits and part of their economical use derives from the fact that they acquire significance from their surroundings. That is, you are saying something about yourself not only from how you depict yourself in your image cube but also in where you place your avatar/gravatar. The location soaks into your little avatar stamp and flavors it with peripheral information about your tastes and sensitivities.
This seems a good place to finish this post with an important statement about myself. I leave you with a picture of Cyberloom wearing borrowed avatar clothing, traveling through digital space seated upon a comfy cushion on a flying elephant. It really does say a lot about me.
Happy Space Traveling.
Post notes & credits:
*1920s Berlin Project in Second Lifeis actually a role playing sim in Second Life. This means site-seers are welcome but it is important that they wear the clothing of that period and allow those who are actually role-playing (i.e. imagining themselves in Berlin at this time and exploring their stories) are not interrupted. See the interesting article about this sim written by Jo Yardley, make sure that you check out the comments section as there is additional information posted there as well.
A tale about a woman who escapes from the trap of a painting where she was held like a dead moth in a dusty case. Where was she from? Where was her home? Who was she? What dastardly magic had caught her and imprisoned her in art ?
There is a very special art gallery in Second Life, it is a huge shadowy room filled with paintings that glow in a dark cavernous space. It is intriguing to learn that all is not as it seems at the Meta_Body Exhibit found in the Petrified Gallery, for here we discover that these paintings can be brought to life. We the viewers supply that ‘life’… With just a few simple mouse clicks that lightly touch upon the canvas we can become the strange and mysterious beings of the paintings. (Truth be told, if we should ever pause long enough for thought, such activities could be seen as some form of arcane magical practice.)
I selected the image titled ‘Fog’ and before I knew it I was the lady known as Fog! It was almost as though the woman in the portrait had jumped down from her gilded frame and was making a run for the exits with my soul in her possession. Her shoes were very thin ballet shoes and they made a light swishing sandpapery sound as she ran across the dusty floor. Her dress was rough to the touch and she smelt of hessian sacking, garlic and hair spray. The next thing I knew I was trying to yodel like an Alpine shepherdess but found (rather sadly) I sounded more like a cheap imported fog horn. This ululating caused a fabulous mechanical flying boat to materialize, the astonishing machine then lifted me right through the gallery roof and high up into the dark skies overhead.
The flying boat flew across the electric night of virtual space and I wondered where Lady Fog was heading as the stars flew past us and I concentrated on not falling out of the flying contraption. As dawn broke across the digital heavens the flying boat began to descend to a land I later discovered was known as Cocoon. To be continued
The virtual experience of the body is not exactly an experience of the flesh. These sensations, albeit having a physical sensorial aspect, continue to be experienced in our bodies behind the screen, not in our avatar body. The virtual body is a metaphorical body, all language, therefore open to experimentation and possibility.
In this new project, Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu invite you, once again, to rethink your bodies through your avatars, making available all kinds of skins, shapes, body parts, clothes, etc. All these items will be fully modifiable, shareable and copyable, thus challenging the audience to become creators and also share their derivative work with us, in the All My Independent Women RL exhibition. While the avatars will be available in the Second Life Sim Delicatessen, the pictures and machinimas of the derivative work will be displayed at VBKOE, Vienna, giving a glimpse in RL of the new creative flux, beyond the concepts of author and work of art, happening online.
The computer could be described as a ‘Black Mirror’.
The black mirror is a device apparently used by sorcerers and made famous by the witch in Snow White when she chants ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’ When the witch was asking her question of her (black) mirror she was ‘scrying’:
Scrying (also called seeing or peeping) is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals, stones, glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke. Scrying has been used in many cultures as a means of divining the past, present, or future. Depending on the culture and practice, the visions that come when one stares into the media are thought to come from God, spirits, the psychic mind, the devil, or the subconscious.
soror Nishi has created a gorgeous island within Inworldz. I believe I read somewhere that InWorldz provides a 10,000 feet height allowance to builders, soror takes full advantage of her height quota and has placed in the center of her island a strange giant bean stalk / elevator type structure, this inclines at a gentle angle and allows you to ascend through many levels of soror Nishi Island. The photos below show just the first level, the water gardens that house fabulous giant lily pads. My avatar is squatting on one of these lily pads having managed to single out a particular pad and ‘Set as Home’ on an earlier occasion. So far soror has shown no signs of evicting me and I wonder whether some of the other lily pads have become homes for other itinerant virtual world wanderers?
Inworldz Landmark: Rainbow Country, soror Nishi Island (36, 90, 21).
Here are a couple more photographs from my quick visits to alternative virtual worlds (see previous post for more information). Of course, it is quite arbitrary what pictures I come back with. I just point my avatar and jump into the new world then wander around. I have no guide books, and if I see a green dot lurking in the nether regions of these new worlds I find am far too shy to go and say ‘hello’ I come from Earth etc. I clearly need to re-visit these worlds and afford them a decent amount of exploration time. However, for now the fun is simply finding it has become pretty easy to hop off into new worlds.
Mind you, this could be the start of a new sport. Jump into an unknown online 3D world and look for certain items in each world… You must return with a flower, a hat, a work of art and an animal, sounds more fun than stamp collecting don’t you think? It certainly is a worthy challenge for Grid Ninjas. Anyway, for now I have two images to share. One is a sun shaped island I found whilst lost on the German Grid (see above) the other is a rather charming view of Fleep Grid’s Chilbo.