Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
The blog has suffered with my return to teaching, and some of my attention has been focused over at my Technology, Self, & Society course blog. I have also been pretty busy, with the Burning Life festival. Here is the slurl to the theme camp joyously and wackily built by Maya Paris and myself, Fembot EggBounce & Pangirl Fries.
My part of it is called "From the Frying Pan into the Fire," which sums up my SL experience! Actually, it is about a character I created called Pangirl, who is kind of a golem maybe created by Lucille Ball or Lucy Ricardo.
That is the Pangirl avatar, which my friend Uzzu made for me out of my Pangirl sculpture, so people can wear it and BE Pangirl.
Here is the story:
A moonlit night on the playa in 1959: a tall-red-headed woman with bright blue eyes raced through the desert in her big shiny car. Suddenly, a frying pan glinting in the moonlight on an abandoned campsite caught her eye, even through her tears of fury, and she screeched to a stop, dust obscuring the car's tail fins.
She flicked her cigarette into the ashes, flames jumped. She picked up the pan, and dropped if fast--somehow it was hot! What she didn't see was the little piece of the pan that chipped off, nestled into the flame and the ash, started to change as she walked away.
Thus was Pangirl created, glinting in the playa moonlight. She staggered out of the embers, made her way to a town, then a city. She tried so hard to fit in, to play nicely in the domestic constraints of American culture in which she found herself, but her fire nature, or maybe her iron nature came out, and she could not. She tried to have it all, to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever, let him forget he's a man, but instead she grabbed her rolling pin and purse, burned the house down, and lit out for the playa again, back to whence she came. There she stayed alone for a long time, growing ever bigger and harder, until one day a space ship hovered, and the Fembots joined her. She had a lot to tell them.
Inspired in part by finishing my book on media history and I Love Lucy, and in part by my desire for Maya Paris's Fembots to have a friend when they landed on the playa, I created Pangirl. In the late fifties, Lucille Ball and her real-life husband were portraying a happy couple in their hit television show while all hell broke loose behind the scenes. I imagine the gap between reality and illusion, always an intriguing theme, must have been hard to bear. Maybe she even wanted to burn some stuff down.
It made me wonder what kind of golem, a magical Yiddish folklore creature made of clay, might have arisen out of women's experiences of the gaps between how the media portrays their lives and how they experience them, whether they are involved in the kind of large-scale public charade Ball was, or just their own. On the one hand, I think a lot has changed in fifty years, but then I look around at the images of women in Second Life and then I wonder. Maya created her Fembots because she didn't see images of female robots that she could relate to, and perhaps together our installation calls attention to how we choose to image ourselves and others in here. Oh, and out there, too.
The way I made this one is kind of interesting, because I improvised with the Freud chatbot at The Theorists Project (slurl) as well as having some scripted lines that I shot there. I shot some of Poid Mahovlich's fires at two of my favorite beach sims, Monkey Cove and Knowhere, and intercut those with the "session" with Dr. Freud.
Monday, September 7, 2009
SABBATICAL FINAL EXAM
Part One: I learned . . .
I learned how to do a lot of things, including how to make machinima (a slow process, and like any kind of filmmaking, one that is never fully mastered), to build the objects I wanted to build in a virtual world (and how to find the ones I could not build myself), to get to know people in a different way than I had previously, to make my own particular kind of virtual art based on an evolving criteria of what I think is distinctive about virtual art, how to find other like-minded and also incredibly different-minded people, and to amuse myself and others seemingly endlessly. I tried a lot of things as ways of being or thinking through the virtual world, like taking metaphors seriously, or following coincidence and synchronicity to see where it led me, with mixed results. Oh, and I learned how to make a whole array of new social faux pas in the new country of the virtual world, without ever really learning how not to repeat them.
I learned that I really liked meeting the people I had met first in Second Life in the actual world, and that even when there were big differences between their avatars and their physical embodiments, I still enjoyed interacting with them more in the virtual world after meeting them in person. Even when the gender didn’t match up, I could still see or hear the person in the avatar, and “toggle,” my term for moving between the virtual and actual image in my mind’s eye, sometimes so fast as to blur the two. I met some of the people I am closest to in SL in person, but not all of them, and some I have “met” through telepresence on Skype or google video chat, in addition to the phone and voice chat. All these forms of communication, connection, interaction, and ways of knowing are incredibly interesting to me, and I look forward to extending these explorations with my students. I am very curious about interacting with people who I know first in the actual world as avatars; I do some of that, but maybe they are too close to me to be good experiments, or often they are with me in the same room, and we can just talk to each other instead of being together only in the virtual space. I also learned about myself that I do not ever really take the avatar as only an avatar, a virtual presence, but always think of the person on the other side of the computer, and make all kinds of assumptions about them, and sometimes those assumptions are way, way off. Botgirl finally taught me that one.
I also learned something I already knew, but maybe had forgotten a little, and really is the take-home lesson of my sabbatical: that in order to be creative, one has to be open and receptive, even vulnerable, make mistakes, explore and experiment. I could see this most clearly in the inworld art I made, particularly in the installation I did for SL6B, the 6th birthday celebration of Second Life. I was in way over my head, and luckily have friends who helped me. I was able to learn enough new skills to make something that expressed the ideas and images I imagined, and even imagery I hadn’t quite imagined, but made as I worked on the sculptures, experimenting with shape, movement, color, line, space. As I explored SL, especially going to the places suggested by Bettina Tizzy in her Not Possible in Real Life blog or inworld group notices/notecards, the creativity, innovation, and wild unleashing of the human spirit in Second Life never stopped amazing me or inspiring me. I feel incredibly lucky to have made friends with whom to trade ideas and collaborate, with whom finding our ways in the virtual world as artists, thinkers, designers, and builders is serious play, of the best kind.
Here are some conclusions I have reached.
1) Everyone is in Second Life for their own reasons, and there is no point in generalizing. That said, I will! In a way, SL reminds me of the Peace and Justice Center I was involved in when I was a graduate student in Bloomington, Indiana, because people came to it for a lot of different reasons, and often found other ones for staying around. I do think that, as I have suggested with the fourth aspect of virtual subjectivity I formulated, "virtual agency," that so much depends on what a person chooses to do in a virtual world; as one discovers or develops new skills and interests, reasons can change. Because of the highly individualized nature of a virtual world, because virtual subjectivity is so, well, subjective, even as it is intersubjective and we create that virtual sense of self and place in our interactions with others, no one's experience of a virtual world is like another's. I have also seen quite a few people leave or drift away from SL, and that is interesting to think about, too, as I end my research time and wonder how my relationship to the virtual world will change now that it is not my primary focus. Is there a threshold of time spent that makes a difference to one's experience?
2) Although I am no Freudian, I found myself thinking a lot about Freud’s categories of id, ego, and superego, and wondering where the hell the superego is in SL. At one point, in the screwball comedy, that is what the heroine is looking for! Maybe it is the game-like environment, or the relative anonymity, or the intense visual stimulus, but people act in some pretty interesting ways, unencumbered by the internal censors that ruin so much of everyday life/keep civilization intact. At the same time, the “emotional bandwidth” of communication, to use Pathfinder Linden’s supersmart concept, is lower than in face to face communication, whether in the narrower pipeline of text chat or the wider one of voice. It is absolutely true that a great deal of actual world interaction is now computer-mediated, but in a virtual world, that’s all you got, and somehow, when combined with the relative absence of the superego, people’s interactions and actions take on a different flavor altogether.
3) A virtual world can be an extension of the actual world, and I think it will be increasingly so. It used to be that making a telephone call was a big, huge deal, involving stationary machines and an operator. Now we stop talking on the phone because we are walking up to the person we are talking to on our cell phone. The transition feels seamless. I believe that in the future, we will move in and out of virtual worlds like that, seamlessly, and our avatars will be another aspect of who we are. Combine this prediction with the observation noted in #2 above, and the future might be kind of fun!
4) There is an aura in a virtual world, and it is in the object of the avatar. I am working this up in a more detailed way, but that is the conclusion of L1AURA Loire. (Add this to #3 and #2, doing some weird insight math.)
5) There are great possibilities for both music, education, and new ways of being in virtual worlds, and Berklee should get in there!!
And here are some highlights of things I did during the sabbatical:
"Having But Not Holding: Consumerism & Commodification in Second Life" Journal of Virtual Worlds Research [Online], 1 10 Nov 2008 https://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/view/355/265
“The Falling Woman Story,” machinima http://blip.tv/file/1838833
“TOGGLE,” machinima, published on the PBS Frontline Digital Nation website http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/participate/ & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRX_bt99xgs
with additional commentary on: http://www.tricksterproductions.com/toggle/
“Virtual Art, Virtual Aura.” Presentation for Panel Discussion, Brooklyn Is Watching Best of Year One Festival. Jack the Pelicans Presents Gallery. Brooklyn, NY, July 2009.
“The Future of Virtual Subjectivity.” Inworld presentation/discussion, SL6B, Sixth Birthday Celebration of Second Life, June 2009.
“Boston Is Watching: Virtual Subjectivity.” Presentation, Boston CyberArts Festival, Boston Public Library, April 2009.
"Virtual KinoEye: Mutability, Kinetic Camera, Machinima, and Virtual Subjectivity in Second Life." Paper, Media in Transition 6: stone and papyrus, storage and transmission, MIT, Cambridge, MA, April 2009.
"Keynote Presentation, "Digital Transformations and Conversions in Art- Web 2.0 and Beyond: Virtual Subjectivity," NMC (New Media Consortium) Symposium on New Media and Learning, March 2009.
L1Aura’s EduGolf: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Boga/211/45/44
The Future of Virtual Subjectivity, Fiteiro Cultural
Podcasts for Brooklyn Is Watching: http://brooklyniswatching.com
Professor Loire’s Second Life blog: http://ll2ndlife.blogspot.com/
Rough cuts of the screwball comedy and a music video
Machinima piece for Journal of Virtual Worlds Research on virtual goods and services
Multimedia essay on virtual subjectivity
Bouncing on my toes in preparation for the Burning Life land grab
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I have been working on my course syllabi for the Fall semester, and looking at the description of the take-home final exam, which explains that it is important to sit down, reflect, and be forced to perform a synthesis of what you have learned, even as you have one foot out the door and you are running around busier than ever (well, it doesn't use that language exactly). It occurs to me that I should have to do such a thing before I rush off into teaching and committees again, put the seat of the pants in the seat of the chair (as my professor Susan Gubar always said was the only way to get work done) and answer the question: What have you learned this year, studying virtual subjectivity on sabbatical in Second Life?
I post this here and now I have to do it.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
L1Aura Loire & Sage Duncan talk about about some pieces in the fabulous SLon des Refusés, part of the BIW Year One Festival, curated elegantly by Mab MacMoragh, Moncherrie Afterthought, Dekka Raymaker, and Arahan Claveau.
See the SLon show here for an extra extended week, until August 30: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Magoo/128/128/2
We discuss pieces by: Azdel Slade, four Yip, Man Machinaga, and Robin Moore.
Friday, August 21, 2009
It is unprecedented to see an image like this in Second Life, not just because of the hyper-realism (a topic that came up tangentially in the panel discussion I was on with Rezzable's Paviq Lok and Stacey Fox last week, see previous post), which I see as one of the ways virtual worlds will develop, not because of the skill it must have taken to make the sculpties for this piece. We don't see this kind of non-idealized image, especially of the female body, because most people are not interested, and in fact as I stood in front of Grand Odalisque with a few of my friends, the crowd shifted dramatically, from a quietly appreciative one (mostly in Instant Message, I think), to a rowdy bunch making fat jokes and using local voice chat. Yes, the virtual world is impermanent, ephemeral--that is its nature. But the way it is superficial and false is a choice, the consensual hallucination we create, that makes something like Grand Odalisque so unusual to our eyes, so out of place.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
This video clip is the piece of my talk that ended up on my camera, and so I post it!! Audio of the entire panel discussion is available here, from the Brooklyn Is Watching blog.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 6pm at Jack the Pelican Presents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there will be a panel discussion as part of the Brooklyn Is Watching Year One Festival! With me on it! Details here.
I will be talking about virtual art, about the criteria I use for evaluating it and making my own. I'll frame my presentation with Walter Benjamin's concept of the aura, because that's what happens when you get an avatar named L1 AURA to do something.
Can't wait to see THE gallery, especially after being in the Final 5 virtual spaces of it. I am also wildly excited to meet Pavig Lok, big fan of Greenies that I am, and, of course, to meet Sage in the actual world.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Clever botgirlq tweeted, "Avatars are like costumes we wear to the perpetual masked balls we call Virtual Worlds." I like this. There is hardly anything I like more than a masquerade ball, the way people behave in slightly different ways as they don the mask, even, or especially, when you already know each other. I had a masquerade ball for my 40th birthday, or rather for my 40.5 birthday, because when I turned 40, the heavens opened and there was a record snow storm, canceling the party. It took 6 months for us to get it together to reschedule, and it was no longer a birthday party, just a masked ball, but a good time was had by all, and there was waltzing.
I ponder the differences between the actual and virtual masked balls as I perform some triage on the mountain of machinima footage I have amassed during the past year of my sabbatical. (See pic of Kino and L1 reviewing footage.) I can see how L1 has changed physically, how my interests have shifted, how the people and places I have filmed have shifted and persisted. And what to do with it all?
One piece, the screwball comedy, has been particularly elusive to me, starting out as one idea, becoming ever more complicated, and suffering from a serious lack of denouement. I never shot an ending!! Tons of footage and no ending! I did make a trailer for it back in the Spring:
Somehow, as I worked on it, I got lost in the details, lost the narrative. Suddenly there was a crowd scene to shoot, a first for me who had pretty much only worked with my own alts before, but what did that scene have to do with the story, and what was the story at this point? I am into going with the flow of things, tend to have the experimental approach of: I wonder what this will be like, but I am not sure this is the way to get a movie done. Maybe what I wanted to say shifted around, more than once. Whose story is it anyway? Kino's? The leopard's? The leopard has the voice over, but I found the purring damnably difficult, and only let a few people hear it, who said I sounded sleepy. Not the tone I was going for.
Now I am faced with trying to make something out of what I have, or shooting some more, writing a new voice over . . . starting again really in order to end. It makes me think about the making of Bringing Up Baby, of course the inspiration for my screwball comedy, way over budget and schedule, with Howard Hawks' improvisational style, screenwriters on the set rewriting constantly, much confusion and hilarity, frustration, but also great creativity and sparks. Someplace there is an intersection of my interest in the conventions of the screwball genre and in SL, but I am still not sure where that is. I can only hope it will emerge in the edit.
Botgirl showed me her comedy about SL romance, which you can see (warning, R-rated) here. It is cynical and funny, with a really good ending, and is slick, savvy machinima, with outstanding use of sound. And knowing that she has commented with characteristic insight and wit on this pattern, I will turn my attention in a different direction, maybe back to computer-mediated communication. Now there's a topic for comedy!!
It is cynical and funny, with a really good ending, and is slick, savvy machinima, with outstanding use of sound. And knowing that she has commented with characteristic insight and wit on this pattern, I will turn my attention in a different direction, maybe back to computer-mediated communication. Now there's a topic for comedy!!
One piece I know I want to nail down is the footage of my SL6B build that I took at the SL6B gloom sim, on the very last night before they took the sim away, a dramatic ending, really, complete with a mysterious visitor who didn't want to leave, just to stay there in one of my sculptures as the sim vanished. Whatever! I'll use that footage for a tour of the installation and as an explanation of some of my ideas about virtual subjectivity. I can film an intro at the installation at Fiteiro Cultural, and use that machinima for a presentation on my sabbatical work.
So my endings are really masquerades of endings, because the footage lingers, needing to be cut, maybe reshot, simulacra of closure, with a window left open off on the side of my screen, in case.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Things change a lot, and fast, in a virtual world. This was one of the themes in The Falling Woman Story, and it has continued to amaze me. The SL6B celebration of Second Life's sixth birthday is long over now; that was my first installation that went up, and then had to come down. I had been dreading dismantling it. Not only did I grow to like it, and enjoy being a part of the larger project and group who exhibited there, meeting some talented and interesting new people through that experience, and learning so much about building, installation, etc., but I just hate endings. I don't know whether the moving date you have marked on your calendar that you can see all the way across the room is preferable to the date you look back on later, that swells with significance only in retrospect, the shudder later when you remember the swiftness with which that event snapped you out the door, forced an ending, when you look back and realize that that was the last time you were someplace, or with someone, but you just didn't know it at the time.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Wanting to make the boundaries between the virtual and actual worlds more permeable? Itching to toggle just a little more between them? Then Sparkle is for you!! Sparkle is the delightful name of the iPhone app that lets you log into Second Life and use instant message with friends, participate in local chat wherever your avatar is (although you can't see the space visually), accept inventory offers, and teleport friends to you so they can participate in your local chat.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
My former chair sent me a funny comic strip, as he does every now and then, and this one really made me laugh. It gets to the heart of one of the issues around computer-mediated-communication, which is the way we establish and maintain friendships and relationships in online communities and within virtual space. Certainly, one of the fascinations for me in Second Life is the social engagement; in such a rich visual and imaginative environment, where does my subjectivity end and that of the real people on the other side of their computers begin? It is a moving line, and maybe a liminal space that we share, at times, at the best times. That is my utopian vision, at least, and has been my experience sometimes, with some people, and so that is my story and I am sticking with it. It is the theme of TOGGLE, the piece I made for the Frontline Stories from your Digital Nation project, which you can see on their site here or if you want HQ, on youtube here. Mine is the top right bubble. I made the piece specifically for an audience not familiar with Second Life.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
by: Robert Frost, 1936
Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.
The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.
And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
L1 has been clicking from poseball to poseball to get around the SL6B build, sort of swinging on virtual vines. This time she went from the waternap chair to the snowglobe, and ended up just lying down in the snow instead of creeping around. She worked hard at the presentation/discussion event tonight, so I just let her be.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Here on the meteor, it is 2499 and we hurtle through space, bereft of sun, with barely enough water to keep us being civil to each other. Sometimes I think if I bang my head on the edge of the dome one more time when I'm cleaning up, I'll really scream. The gloom persists. But not too long ago, we found some fragments from a non-quite forgotten past, and they ignited our imaginations. Images, a poem, some sounds, a fragment of video, pieces of text, pulled off an ancient disc that somehow survived in space and floated to us.
What an archeological find! The motifs invigorated our design, infiltrated our dreams, shaped our virtual environments. The sun, the flower, the ripple, the snow. A poem that speaks to our experience here on the gloom meteor, my own desert place that I call home. But then of course I toggle into the virtual, and my eyes drink in the water, my skin sears with the heat of the sun, I am enveloped by the petals of the flower, and I turn my face and part my lips to taste the falling snow.
Part of what we found has made us think about the long ago past, how quaint it must have been when the virtual was so split from the actual, when it was not so effortless to shift between, when not everyone was moving between realities. On that disc, maybe corrupted because it doesn't all make sense, were some ideas about virtual subjectivity written by someone named Lori Landay in the year 2009, a primitive time of computer screens, something very bad called lag in an early virtual world named Second Life, and also I think a time of great hope and invention.
LINK TO SECOND LIFE LOCATION http://slurl.com/secondlife/Dimension/215/182/22