Thursday, June 4, 2009

Actual/Virtual Gazebos, Memories, & Home

I've had this gazebo as the entry point to my virtual land in Boga for some time now, and on my computer desktop, a different picture of my family in this gazebo in the little beach town where my grandparents lived when I was a kid, which we visited last summer.  They are both "home" in the spatial metaphors through which we inhabit technology: the desktop picture, and the teleport point in SL. 
But it took me a while of having both as "home"--in the ways that we make the impersonal technological spaces we inhabit our own, infusing them with meaning and resonances--to see that they were the same.   I knew I had replicated the one in my memory from my childhood by putting my kids where I was at their age for the photograph; that was deliberate and conscious.  But that I  had already put that gazebo in Second Life eluded me, until I saw the desktop behind the SL window one day, finally saw they were the same, even though they had been juxtaposed so many times before.   How does something like that escape someone, especially when they are so consciously in SL to explore issues of virtual experience?  I am quite aware that my virtual couch is the same as my actual couch, the one that is now on its last legs, literally, after being such a proud purchase when I bought the floor model on my way out of Bloomington and to Macomb, IL.  First I made one in SL, then bought a nice one with sitting animations, same teal color, and it will remain pristine, long after the kids and cat have really done the actual one in.  
I am sentimental in SL, or nostalgic, perhaps, infusing my house and land with little references to my past and my virtual experiences that are meaningful only to me.  Those visual cues pepper my machinima and pictures, blending memories of both realities, and are private, at the same time that they function as imagery and background, like any artist.  That is inescapable, but I have embraced it, mostly consciously, but, as the example of the gazebo shows, also subconsciously.  There is something evocative about the virtual space, about building within it, that necessitates a dip into memory even when it seems like that is not what is happening.  In shaping one's land, it is not just land, but an extension of the self, in the way that anthropologist Jason Pine talks about "self-design" (An Emergent Second Life, Video. [28 min] Paper Tiger TV.  Co- Producer and Director, Bianca Ahmadi; Associate Producer, Juan Rubio; Editor, Juan David Gonzalez; Content Director, Jason Pine.  Watch at  
The actual gazebo is still in the town center, but even as a kid, it wasn't actually being in the gazebo even though it was the place to eat cotton candy, but its locus in my girlhood imagination, first of fairies and the like, then of romance.  Now that I think about it, I see the gazebo as a symbol of possibility, of where fabulous things could happen, and it is interesting to me that when I was hurriedly getting my land ready for my first group of students, I chose the gazebo as the gathering place before we headed back to the EduGolf course.

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