[NetBehaviour] Phenomena, Phenomenology, and Objects in Second Life

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sun Jul 6 05:43:13 CEST 2008

Phenomena, Phenomenology, and Objects in Second Life

In the current installation, effectual boundaries are rendered problemat-
ic; through the use of .pngs with emptied backgrounding, objects are by
and large deconstructed into partial outlines. This is also extended
thorough partial transparency. In addition, there are phantom objects that
are totally invisible but 'felt.' It is possible to create an invisible
non-physical object that is present but unaccountable and unaccounted-for.
Particle emissions also deconstruct boundaries, depending on the strength
of the emissions - number of particles, speed, size, frequency of release,
transparent or default rectilinear boundary, and so forth. Can particles
become physical? Can they reign/rain terror? Can they exist invisibly and
reign physically as well? Where is the subject in all of this? The sub-
ject, viewer, has two modes - standard from within or slightly behind hir
avatar, and mouselook, from the position of the avatar itself, with or
without the rest of the body visible. The viewer may or may not zoom the
view; the view as such is set by default to a standardized visual field.
Visually, if not physically, entanglement occurs a fair amount of the
time, the result of object with partially-transparent textures whose
surfaces render the normative boundaries problematic. Entanglement reduces
the possibility of coherent movement. In addition, there are concrete
issues of scale; the textures are most often panels or tiling of images of
body or remappings of the body - the bodies most often, but not entirely,
cyborg or avatar or sheave-skin. In other words sheave-skins are mapped
onto sheave-skins; mobility is only in terms of the substrate, and that
only if the object is physical, i.e. can be 'bumped.' Now what this tells
us about the true world, the world of inscriptions within and without
physical reality, the virtual, and so forth, is that perception in the
broadest phenomenological sense is not only determinative in viewing and
viewpoint but also struggles with an alienness that countermands the laws
of physics as realized in everyday life. Further, it tells us that the
three classical states of matter - liquid, gas, solid (never mind the
other exotic states) - are also determinative; the world is divided just
as the game 'twenty questions' divides the world. Particle emissions, in
particular 'heavy' or geometric emissions, break this down, as do self-
intersections, physical but invisible objects (with standardized weight),
etc. The result is somewhat related to 'virtual reality sickness,' a form
of veering as the world appears both imminent and senseless; even when
sensed, it remains a struggle to get about. From the viewpoint of an
emitting avatar, the situation is compounded; as such, without mouselook
the avatar flies or moves blindly; even with mouselook, extensive particle
emissions effectively block the visual. Think of these emissions as plasma
and their condition and phenomenological apperception as that which is
applicable to the fourth, and universally most common, state of matter; in
this sense the very inscription (through scripting) of particle emissions
contradicts, on the level of lived reality inscription itself; one has no
space and no time to circumscribe or circumambulate them - they appear
everywhere - their source is anomalous - they respond to invisible weath-
ers - they seem to be a form of 'stuff' or 'stuffing without containment'
- they're close to the phenomenology of brute or idiotic substance. Thus
they compound and confound space from above, as it were, just as the
broken or partially-visible deconstructed objects compound and confound
space from below. Now the museum or gallery within and without (on the
grounds or precinct) that presents and contains all of this - and hardly
contains as emissions escape through walls, viewpoints move underwater,
the building itself appears to falter - is a representation of what has
been termed liquid architecture, or at the very least it holds within it
the semblance of liquid architecture. Think of this as malleable space;
with the use of slowed emissions and teleportation, it is also malleable
time  always already vectored, as time is, both within and without
Second Life, i.e. within the true world. For one is framed by logging-in
and logging-out, the emissions are vectored and controlled, they respond
in depth to a universal clock or clocking based simultaneously on the
speed of the viewer's computer and the speed of the servers and cycles of
Second Life itself or themselves. This is in other words, all a setting
and background - malleable space governed and governing + and -, as well
as malleable time governing +, feed-forward. One can quickly see how
functions may be applied across these, for example f(t), t > 0, which may
or may not get us anywhere; certainly with emissions, for all practical
purposes one is reduced to statistical analyses of fuzzy and intersecting
(if not interacting) ensembles. So we might say that the digital always
moves forwards but spatially may or may not occupy any conceivable con-
fluence, as well as a confluence of the plasma which psychoanalytically is
related both to abjection and defuge; in other words, within the human
organism at the very least, plasma exhausts and 'ruins' - corrodes, or
dissolves, or decays, or corrupts, and so forth. Here the masquerade of
the coherency of the subject is called into question as it is in Lacan and
elsewhere; here the very exact and astute boundaries that constructed,
through code and protocol and software, Second Life itself, are psycho-
logically 'ruined' as well - it's as if one looked at mold and the coding
of mold on a molecular level and phenomenologically or culturally tried to
conflate the two (which of course is possible but a difficult extension).
So in short we might think of the space or spacing within Second Life as a
laboratory of sorts, software and hardware (issues of bandwidth and memory
internal and external to the viewer and the viewer's computer and connec-
tion) in relation to psychological and psychoanalytical issues, again in
conjunction with clear or fuzzy considerations of code, the sensorium and
the vast but problematic and most likely fictitious masquerading of the
regimes of the analog/ic and digit/al themselves.

Eidetic reduction? - impossible, too parasitic, noise. Quietude - gone,
emptied space - non-existent. Emptiness, replete, fecund emptiness. The
natural attitude - always within reification processes. Too many signs and
insufficient generators. To mean is to speak. To speak is to speak among
local sound sources; others speaking or listening; overarching sound
configuration. Everything is slot or slotted; slots are mobile, futile,
fuzzy. Psychoanalytical entities are dispersed from origin; there is no
thing seeing, no thing looking or looked at, a theater which is always a
mess, never has been anything but a mess - a theater which is under the
sign of masquerade or constriction, because it is only with constriction
that plot develops, that characters speak, that one lives in the true
world, that one inscribes or is inscribes, creates and exhausts meaning,
tending always towards abjection, defuge, death, almost in that very
order. The blanket origin of death puts an end to it all; it's on the limb
or hinge of death that Second Life carries on, and who knows how many are
logged in under how many borrowed or originary names?

http://www.alansondheim.org/project.mp4 gives a summary of the above in
terms of a traveling camera; unfortunately this is an untoward or large
file but at the very least it conveys what otherwise remains in text and
oddly stillborn. (It uses H264 compression; some of the darker scenes are 
messed paralleling their content; skip about the room, dance w/ them.)

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