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
I watched a fascinating TED Talk the other day, it was given by Sebastian Seung, an MIT scientist who is mapping the human brain. He is focusing on the mass of connections that span the spaces between our neurons, and calls this mass of cerebral wires the ‘connectome’. Seung suggests that our personality and memories may lie within these connecting cerebral threads. This got me thinking about memory and how our brains are like sieves; I am not thinking about what the sieve loses rather than what it seeks to keep. That is, our brains are dainty filters capturing useful little thoughts from the torrent of information pouring through our minds. The best way to remember things seems to lie in finding connections, by linking items to each other we increase our recall quotient. One way of connecting ideas about the Web is by using the Web for memory capture, and though blogs require effort they are wonderful tools for building all manner of connections.
Those quick ‘Bookmark‘ and ‘Tag This’ buttons provided by various applications embedded on my browser tool bar mean I can store links to all manner of articles while expending very little effort. In turn, the less thought used to record the link, the less useful the bookmark finally ends up being to me… not to mention the fact that I bombard myself with so much information I end up bookmarking items instead of reading them.
However, if I mention an article in a blog post it helps me to recall it years later. I usually add in images to illustrate a post and this helps to glue the ideas and articles into my memory. In effect, the activity of blogging helps me remember things. Blog tools such as tags, categories, calender and archive provide additional mental hooks. Categorizing and tagging encourage me to clarify my ramblings whilst also providing routes and connections which help retrieve those same thoughts later. Now, those who travel in the 3D web of virtual worlds know these worlds provide wild and wonderful images which they can fly around and explore, images that are far more interesting than clipart and Google images. In other words, Second Life, InWorldz and other blossoming digital realms provide us with an extraordinary 3D sketchpad if we so chose.
Of course, writing is also an important part of blogging, though oddly enough expressing yourself in words does not have to be the priority. Bloggers blog in many different ways; blogs can be a list of links, a store of images, short pithy paragraphs, bunches of quotes etc. Still, for me writing helps me discover what I am thinking as sometimes I have only a vague notion when I start typing. I hand write notes to myself, scrawling with such horrible handwriting that sometimes I can’t even read it later. These notes save ideas in their early stages i.e., the idea is outlined but it is not fully explored. When I return to read it (or at least try to read it) I often find I have lost the original insight and energy that prompted the note taking in the first place.
Blogging makes these rambles available for viewing by an unknown audience of strangers, awareness of this shadowy crew is enough to encourage me to tidy up my thoughts. Ultimately, the person who writes the post writes to themselves in the future. That is, the anonymous others who might read a blog post includes the writer as well.
I admire R.B. Wild’s Great Map blog, he keeps things very simple generally just using quotes and links to items that have attracted his interest. He is fascinated by maps and his blog is his map through cyberspace. This blog is called Cyberloom because I see myself as a space weaver. This is a little tongue in cheek, it comes from the days long ago when I was a recently graduated graphic design student in the UK. The professional designers I was in contact with (at that time) viewed self expression as self indulgence, and they called artists ‘basket weavers’ (and not in a complimentary tone). This blog weaves together a trail of thought threads, and virtual world photographs, to create a small personal memory mind map of the vast, ever growing, digital vacuum known as the World Wide Web.
It would be fair to say that some of us are wondering whether the White Witch has vacated Narnia and moved into the North East of the US? At least, our endless winter was temporarily interrupted by a frugal Christmas Day. Narnia, under the spell of the White Witch, may never have Christmas, but it does have clean sparkling snow (unlike the grubby gray stuff by the side of the road in real life). I went to visit the Chronicles of Narnia, as re-created by TP Fizzle in Second Life, to escape last week’s bad news about the groundhog seeing its own shadow on Groundhog Day. Another six weeks of winter? Where is the Turkish Delight?
It seems wise to apply virtual lip balm, scarf and mittens to your avatar before stepping through the wardrobe. The snowy scenes awaiting you will have you turning up the central heating at home. That said, the views you will see are beautiful as TP Fizzle has an excellent eye for synthetic scenery! The photographs below show mainly Fizzle’s Narnian landscapes (because they impressed me so much). To enter Narnia: find your way into Second Life, then teleport over to the Chronicles of Narnia, if you want to sit inside Tumnus’s cave or have tea in the beaver dam.
TP Fizzle takes a few departures from the C.S. Lewis’ books, and one of these flights lead him to create the Grand Ballroom of Narnia. Fizzle manages to create a floor that looks like reflective glass, or shiny marble in this epic sized room. You will be intrigued to see how the effect was achieved. And finally, another nice touch was the addition of Tai Chi pose balls in Care Paravel! I feel sure that C.S. Lewis would have approved these flights of Frizzle Fancy! (More images below.)
Thanks to the Not Possible IRL Group for providing the landmarks to The Chronicles of Narnia.
I am writing this post in my college library and that seems very appropriate as I want to share my theory that librarians will inherit the earth. Why you ask? Because they know how to manage information; they know how to store and label it, and even more amazingly find where they put it! (I speak of these skills in a hushed and awed tone.) The ability to manage information is becoming an ever higher art form as we move deeper into the surging tide of words, numbers, and pictures.
And another thought, as I sit amongst the book stacks, is that much of academia is floundering through an identity crisis. The golden crown has slipped awkwardly over the eyes of the emperors of knowledge. Academics are falling behind the curve as they struggle to maintain traditional learning environments where matters move at a controlled, slow pace. Take a look at Fleep’s Deep Thoughts where she describes waiting for the peer review process and publication of her paper to take place. My university is struggling under financial burdens (like most universities nowadays) but here things have been made more complicated due to the building of a huge new dorm, and a giant commuter’s car park. Both buildings represent the old world of higher education. That is, dorms and car parks are not necessary when students are opting to save fuel and environmental costs by working online. I am not saying that online education is better, not yet anyway, as it is going through its own identity crisis/teething problems. Many educators don’t dare to be imaginative online, but then, were they imaginative in the classroom either? Educational management systems, like BlackBoard, and to a lesser extent Moodle, are restrictive mediums making you feel as though you are teaching, and learning, wearing horse blinkers.
Today we need to know how to access relevant information quickly, while simultaneously applying critical thinking skills to determine the legitimacy, and relevance of the information once it is located. We also want to be able to return easily when we need it. Everyday we hear of new software designed to help us manage our masses of digital data. But, the trouble with all these data storage systems is that they deteriorate in efficiency after a certain amount of data has been entered. Its not the software’s problem, it is a human problem. When things drop from view (as they do when archived) they drop from being vivid and alive in our active memory.
I think that we cannot cope with more than 5 items of information before us. Why five? I chose that number because I have five fingers on one hand. My brain can manage 5 ideas, or pieces of data, without great effort. We can then expand upon each item with new sub-items and perhaps comfortably manage 10 of these sub-items (all our fingers). When we move to 20 (i.e. bringing in toe digits) we start to slip in efficiency of thought! (Our toes are below eye level, wrapped in shoes much of the time.) Nature’s portable abacus is efficient in its simplicity after all. If I was a flower I would go by the number of my petals, if I was a spider I would use my legs. Don’t take this too seriously though! The point is that we cannot manage reams of facts, ideas and data efficiently that’s all!
With computers we access everything through a flat screen. In a way this computer screen is like the slit of a letter box attached to a vast library that has a museum, sports stadium and shopping mall attached. Everything is seen through this tiny narrow window and we move the information around remotely, as though it was attached to an old typewriter’s silver golf ball. We don’t move, we spin the world around before us. This makes information management trickier as everything must always be accessed from this one narrow perspective… Well, that was until the 3D virtual world popped up on the other side of the window!
Now, we have the potential to arrange all our information spatially as well as logically. The buzz for cyberspace travelers, interested in virtual worlds, is the idea of virtual desktops. We will one day be part of a huge peer networking system where we can travel to each others desktop worlds for virtual meetings etc. I wonder though, when this information management revolution takes place, will we be so short sighted and stick to the desktop metaphor? I plan to have my very own virtual library. Forget the front door step give me the universe!
The Librarian daemon looks like a pleasant, fiftyish, silver-haired, bearded man with bright blue eyes, wearing a V-neck sweater over a work shirt, with a coarsely woven, tweedy-looking wool tie. The tie is loosened, the sleeves pushed up. Even though he’s just a piece of software, he has reason to be cheerful; he can move through the nearly infinite stacks of information in the Library with the agility of a spider dancing across a vast web of cross-references. The Librarian is the only piece of CIC software that costs even more than Earth; the only thing he can’t do is think.
“Yes, sir,” the Librarian says. He is eager without being obnoxiously chipper; he clasps his hands behind his back, rocks forward on the balls of his feet, raises his eyebrows expectantly over his half-glasses.” (p99.)
Links to locations mentioned above. (All locations to be found in Second Life™)
His grand theory posits parallel worlds in multiple dimensions of space and time, infinite realms where our doppelgangers live alternate lives. (Adam Frank)
This is one of those far-fetched imaginative places where we can all play with ideas alongside the likes of Einstein. Multiverses, with their realms of space and time have something in common with dinosaurs. That is, we don’t know what color dinosaurs were, or how they sounded, or what they did everyday. This lack of information allows imagination to be unleashed yet contained within what is known. A happy paddling pool where what is imagined can also be considered possible.
Multiverse First Level – All you need for a level 1 universe is an infinite universe – go far enough out and you will find another earth with another version of yourself. (Tegmark)
It is intriguing to contemplate how creative minds influence each other. Creative writers inspire mathematicians, philosophers and cosmologists inspire composers and artists etc (there is no order or sequence to who inspires who of course). All dip into abstract thought and return with new ideas. Tegmark suggests the ‘universe is really nothing more than a mathematical object’. And ‘Every mathematical object is in a sense its own universe’.
Multiverse Level 2 – This level emerges if the fundamental equations of physics, the ones that govern the behavior of the universe after the Big Bang, have more than one solution… There could have been ‘other Big Bangs. These would be parallel universes with different kinds of physical laws, different solutions to those equations. This kind of parallel universe is very different from what happens in level 1. (Tegmark)
A few years ago I found a little exercise book that I had used when I was about 8 years old. Scrawled in the back of this book in blue biro ink was a table: 0+1=2, 0+2=3, 0+3=4 etc. This was then followed by another table: 1+1=3, 1+2=4, 1+3=5 etc and 2+2=5, 2+3=6, 3+3=7 etc. Underneath these tables I had drawn some basic diagrams representing zero with a dot and I had written ‘All sums are wrong because 0 = something.’
You will not be surprised to learn that I had a few problems with mathematics at school. I was put into a special class with three others who were also ‘bad’ at maths. This class was taught by our Latin master who had a big, black, bushy beard that held samples of his meals all day long, cornflakes, grains of rice, odd sticky substances etc. One day our food strewn teacher said he was leaving to become a missionary in Africa (where there was apparently a shortage of Latin teachers or was he going to farm his beard?) I have wondered, once or twice, whether we were responsible for his turning to religion? But of course that is pure ego-centric thinking, seeing cause and effect through the very narrow lens of my remedial maths class.
Multiverse Level 3This is a radical solution to the measurement problems proposed by the physicist named Hugh Everett in the 1950s… Everett said that every time a measurement is made, the universe splits off into parallel versions of itself. In one universe you see result A on the measuring device, but in another universe, a parallel version of you reads off result B. After the measurement, there are going to be two of you. (Tegmark)
As it turned out no teacher showed up to funnel equations into our brains at the next class. We waited, and waited, and began to realize that the school had overlooked our small class of arithmetical disasters. We made a pact to keep quiet and not draw attention to ourselves; when it was time for our class we discreetly disappeared to an empty music room and read magazines or did homework. The shocking thing is that we did this for over a year! By the time we took our final exams the school must have realized the oversight but also opted to say nothing! So, when I read that Tegmark suggests that we live in a mathematical universe I feel a little nervous. I prefer to think of it this way: the universe is really nothing more than an imagined object and every imagined object is in a sense its own universe. That works don’t you think?
Multiverse Level 4 – The mathematical universe. ‘Galileo and Wigner and lots of other scientists would argue that abstract mathematics “describes” reality. Plato would say that mathematics exists somewhere out there as an ideal reality. I am working in between. I have this sort of crazy-sounding idea that the reason why mathematics is so effective at describing reality is that it is reality. That is the mathematical universe hypothesis: Mathematical things actually exist, and they are actually physical reality.’ (Tegmark)
Perhaps I am a doppelgänger that got lost? I am simply applying the laws of the wrong universe to my sums! Easy to do and completely understandable. Now, is Second Life a doppelgänger multiverse? After all, if we can have parallel universes and parallel selves, then perhaps we can have parallel Second Lives too? Maybe I am more real in Second Life because I am generated by zeros and ones? Maybe my avatar is more real than me? Maybe it is good at maths?
How we think about ourselves effects how we interact with the world around us. We can easily accept that there is a link between how we feel and how we behave. Now, for those of us opting to enter virtual worlds, there is a new dimension of self-perception available for exploration, our avatar.
How do we perceive ourselves when we use an avatar? Our symbolic self-representation can carry out actions, and conversations, whilst being simultaneously observed by ourselves. We do not see a mirror reflection of our physical self we see instead an idea of ourselves. This visual idea of self is strangely powerful even though we do not quite understand it. What we see, and how it makes us feel, is of huge interest to bloggers and researchers alike.
Virtual Meditation (try it!) Meditation cushions available at Buddha Art
Take a look at The Center for Connected Health site which reports on research examining the dynamics of avatars, and the ensuing impact they have upon our self–perception and physical world behavior. Connected Health links to a Time Magazine report that covers a number of intriguing studies carried out by Stanford University researchers and quotes Jeremy Bailenson (of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab)who says “When we cloak ourselves in avatars, it subtly alters the manner in which we behave,”
Connected Health also links to a Boston.com report on neurologist, Dr. Daniel Hoch who is researching the effects of teaching the Relaxation Response in Second Life. As he observes, ”There are an awful lot of people creating their own meditation spaces”. This is true! There are many, many virtual cushions with meditation scripts embedded in them waiting to trip up un-mindful avis! All these cushions point to people seeking inner peace, even if only on the level of watching their avatar help land aircraft while seated in the lotus position.
Exercising by moonlight (Sports equipment available on Virgin Island)
These studies examine how our avatar’s appearance and actions affect us later when we are ‘off-line’. It is intriguing to read in the Time magazine article that people who observed their ‘look-a-like’ avatars exercising on tread mills in Second Life, were more likely to exercise later in their physical life compared to those who just observed their avatars lounging around.
Falling demo angel (the closest I will ever get to being angelic)
I am now sending my avatar off to exercise in Second Life to encourage me in my first life. I wonder about the effect of wishful thinking here? When I was at school I tried sleeping with my French verbs under my pillow in the hope I would wake up knowing them. (Sadly, it did not work! I suspect a lot of English school children have tried this approach, perhaps this explains why the English are so bad at foreign languages?) Still, it is worth considering the subtle levels of how our avatars affect our self-perception. At the very least this puts a whole new spin on the saying ‘fake it till you make it!’ Maybe it should be ‘Rez it, watch it, do it?’
Blogs are like lumps of damp malleable clay. We bloggers bend and shape our blogs into little idea carrying vessels, then we display our wares out on the Internet. The Internet is more like a giant car boot sale where people can wander about aimlessly picking up shiny, eye catching objects here and there. This blog is a simple thumb pot (with pictures on its sides), there are cleverer, more highly glazed pots (some could even be termed fine bone china vases) to see out there.
I like to get one idea into my blog and then put it out to be read by the web wanderers. These unfocused ramblers flitting here and there, according to their passing whims, have extraordinary influence. Their gathered searches, funneled by search engines, become geo-systems moulding the shape of the World Wide Web itself. (A chicken or the egg situation, which came first, the searchers or services?) Google Images for instance funnel hordes of dragon-seekers to this blog. Never mind my stunning pearls of insight, my thought provoking reveries into Social Presence Theory or the nature of virtual worlds, my blog visitors are hungry for dragons.
Out of respect for these mythological beast hunters I am posting some more dragon images. Now, I wonder who influences who here? I myself am a lump of squidgy clay, never mind my thumb pot blog. I am feeding dragons to my readers, and I have some gorgeous dragons too, more avatars created by Flea Bussy of Grendel’s Children in Second Life™
Now I am starting to wonder if this blog should be re-named ‘Thunder-breath’? I will have to think about that, but then, ‘thumb-pot’ has a certain something.