[-empyre-] Welcome to the Bastard Space!
first of all: thanks, Melinda, for your initiative and invitation to
There are not many forums that discuss Second Life "beyond the hype"...
It is obvious that 3D technologies SL are multilayered. So to keep
life simple - or at least trying hard - my contribution to this forum
will focus on architecture....
Aesthetically SL seems to be a mirage of reality.
Psycologically it may appear as a stageset filled with digital puppets.
In sociological terms SL seems as if it is only about "playing"
Architecturally SL appears as a fusion of different spatial concepts
- "The Bastard Space"(...).
In terms of technology SL may appear as a "3D telephone" or maybe
even a new kind of internet-interface.
If one imagines a combination of SL (or something like SL) with a GPS
navigation system, Google Earth or Microsoft Maps, one could also
imagine, that this could create a new topography of our real cities.
At the end of the day we realize, that all of this "virtual matter"
swaps back to the first world, and somehow fuses, creating something
So, as for a kick-off, I want to put forward a few thoughts on Second
Life, that I summarized in a text entitled "The Bastard Spaces".
It was written for the (not yet pblished) catalogue of the Ars
Electronica Festival 2007, where the "1st Architecture & Design
competition in SL" will be held. (www.aec.at)
Apart from that, I also want to invite everone of you to submit your
projects to this competition...
Please find all details at: www.sl-award.com
1st Annual Architecture and Design Competition in Second Life.
Why are so many people fascinated and at the same time alienated by
the virtual world in *Second Life* (SL)? Is a deceptive alternative
to physical reality, to so-called “First Life,” being suggested here?
What if this metaverse (1) is an eerie mirror of reality?
Could it be that Walter Benjamin’s 1929 commentary has become the
central metaphor of our basic cultural situation?: “When two mirrors
look at each other, Satan plays his favorite game and opens the
perspective to infinity.”(2)
I initiated this architecture and design competition because through
my artistic work (3) I have become convinced that computer games like
*Second Life* no longer merely replicate the world, but that instead
an insidious process of reversal is taking place. The aim of the
competition is to explore new trends in architecture and design on
the electronic soil of the MMOG (massive multiplayer online game) of
In SL we encounter a space that is more than only a metaphor of
reality. It is both: metaphor and reality. Apart from players’ self-
dramatization through avatars and buildings as alter egos, it is
about communication and the skills involved in social adaptation. The
connection between fiction and reality is bewildering and often
brings up questions that are elementary for contemporary architecture:
Where are you actually when you make a call on your mobile phone? In
which reality do you find yourself when you have your iPod in your
ear, when the acoustic space is uncoupled from the physical one? In
which space are you located when you are playing a computer game,
moving through the Internet or using SL as a 3D telephone? It seems
as though everywhere where physical and media spaces cross, new
spaces come into existence. These are spaces that are sometimes
present and sometimes absent, but are usually mobile, moving like
vagabonds at different speeds over the continents, until they burst
like a bubble – at the end of a long-distance call on the highway.
Let’s call them “Bastard Spaces”!
Even what we call the public space is a Bastard Space. It is largely
a construct of the media because it is about a radical economy
measured in purchasing power, circulation numbers and television
ratings. People are transformed into consumers there; they become
target groups and “eyeballs.” With MySpace, YouTube and SL, people
write their own parts in this multimedia show – only to subsequently
reclaim their right to existence as individuals ...
In the course of this process, stage settings are created in SL for
an absurdist theater reminiscent of Robbe-Grillet’s *Last Year in
Marienbad* (4). Self-portraits in 3D, buildings full of yearning and
“dream houses” are revealed when, like Jeff Bridges in *The Big
Lebowsky*, you fly over a landscape that is situated aesthetically
somewhere between Bob Ross and *The Sims*. A flowering landscape of
iconographic formations. When you first wake up and find yourself in
the architecture of this virtual exile, you automatically think of
David Lynch’s surreal scenario in *Lost Highway*.
On the other side of Benjamin’s mirror, we gaze at contemporary
architecture which, as architectural theorist Anthony Vidler
describes it (5), summons a feeling of the uncanny, seems restless,
not capable of creating a feeling of home, an architecture that
manifests the alienation of modernism. We see an architecture that,
as Michel Houellebecq (6) criticizes, is occupied with setting up
“the shelves of the social supermarket.”
The competition will demonstrate whether the ideas in SL are capable
of escaping the radical economy and aesthetic that Excel (7) has made
into the most important architectural program of our times.
(1) “The term metaverse comes from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow
Crash, and is now widely used to describe the vision behind current
work on fully immersive 3D virtual spaces. These are environments
where humans interact (as avatars) with each other (socially and
economically) and with software agents in a cyber space that uses the
metaphor of the real world, but without its physical
(2) Walter Benjamin, *Pariser Passagen*, 1929; Benjamin, Walter:
*Gesammelte Schriften*, ed. by Rolf Tiedemann, Vol. 5, Suhrkamp,
Frankfurt am Main 1989.
(3) Cf. Stephan Doesinger, *Learning from Sim City*, Revolver Verlag
Frankfurt 2007: “Die Welt ist ein Computerspiel und dein Herz pocht
(4) Cf. captions for images from Second Life taken from “Last Year in
Marienbad” by Alain Robbe-Grillet, quoted from: *Last Year in
Marienbad*, John Calder publishers, 1977, pp. 50-51.
(5) Cf. Anthony Vidler, *UnHEIMlich - Über das Unbehagen in der
modernen Architektur*, Edition Nautilus, 2002.
(6) Cf. Michel Houellebecq, *Die Welt als Supermarkt,
Interventionen*, DuMont, Cologne 1999.
(7) Cf. “Excel has had a greater impact on contemporary architecture
than Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and Frank O. Gehry have managed
together.” Tor Lindstrand in “Architecture's Second Life,”
*Archinect*, Jan 9, 2007.
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