[NetBehaviour] Dreams of Better Worlds Concrete

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sun Jul 27 06:07:06 CEST 2008

Dreams of Better Worlds Concrete

| http://www.alansondheim.org/ bild jpgs
| http://www.alansondheim.org/bild.mp4
| http://slurl.com/secondlife/Odyssey/48/12/22

| Images from intractive avatar game in The Accidental Artist exhibition,
| SL; avatar movement deconstructs architecture, frees the space. No
| score, no wins or losses; continuous play produces continuous
| deconstruction. The video is in black and white; color from the site
| refuses to compress properly.

Think of it: Second Life (or similar virtual spaces) as a simulacrum of
humanity's dream of flying, of malleable space and time; think of SL as a
laboratory for the practical/theoretical phenomenology of space and time.
What occurs in human flight, in the presence of strangers, in weight=
lessness, in sudden weight, in anonymity, in exposure, in agoraphobia or
clausterphobia? I work daily and nightly in the exhibition space, trying
things out, not primarily for the aesthetics, but for the cog-sci, psycho-
logical, psi-a comprehension that may or may not occur. Lacan or Minsky
might not be at home in these spaces, but they exist on the periphery of
theory. It's far too easy to dismiss virtual spaces in relation to what
might be considered the other, in terms of community, politics, political
economy, information economy, religion, etc. But first there is community
in SL, ideological struggle, etc., although not played out against the
scarcity of necessary resources; bandwidth and prim number are irrelevant
compared to lack of food or sleep. On the other hand it's the very absence
of noise that makes SL more like a savanna than an urban center, and a
savanna that at times allows one to speak and perceive with a clarity
bordering on the uncanny. While it may be slightly difficult learning to
move smoothly through SL, it's no more difficult than learning a sport or
board-game, and the results are equally enriching.

I don't want to sound like an advertisement for SL or virtual worlds in
general - but I do want to indicate their potential for psychological and
phenomenological experimentation. What one sees can be seen from one's
home; there's an established intimacy that the heavy cultural institut-
ionalization of museums and galleries doesn't have. The economy is on a
far smaller scale as well; over the years I've been on SL for example,,
I've paid eight dollars and eighty cents in real money for uploads to the
SL server - a small price, given the potential. Most of what I construct -
animations, textures, sounds, texts, prims, are created with open source
software outside SL.

To fly, to make objects disappear and appear at will, to revolve or
otherwise motivate them, to ignore or stress gravity, to move among the
problematic of things, to move through them, to court invisibility, to
view oneself from one's body or alterity, to speak or write (courting both
phoneme and grapheme), to operate within or beneath erasure, to create or
annihilate, send objects into or out of the world - to do any of these
things, and more, in any combination - within the limits of the computer -
limits which are perhaps far too often emphasized (instead of seeing
potential and the potential for expansion) - this is what, for the moment
while the net is up and running - this is what we can work with, in how-
ever limited our physical off-world conditions might be - and this is the
promise, holding for the slightest while - for the premise of communica-
tion or its lack, analogic inert and digital coded and their intermingled
limits. It continues to surprise me, how many complaints there are about
these worlds, from lambda-moo and earlier, and how little joy is expressed
over their current possibilities - what they can do _now._ Forget the
holodeck; there are already (what would have passed for) miracles afoot.
This isn't arguing against the need for deconstruction and critique of
SL's and other virtual worlds' political economy - just that one can
proceed in addition from the bottom up, seeing for example what happens
when a prim is grounded or sent elsewhere, say, into another physics, with
a shape-rider upon it, another shape-rider perhaps desperately controlling
the action, such as it is.

Then again, what constitutes a prim, a thing, a thing-in-itself, a proto-
col, a code, an atom, a table of elements or fundamental particles, a
resonance or plasma sending material worlds askew, exhausted, towards the
defuge of potential (but never complete) annihilation? And what better way
to think these things through, than to try them, on however distorted or
miniscule a scale. -

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