Re: [-empyre-] Welcome to the Bastard Space!

Hello Stephan,

I have been patiently waiting for this discussion for a few months now. Allow me to introduce myself first then I hope to address some issues and maybe pose some thoughts. I.R.L. I am known as James Morgan, mild mannered lecturer at the CADRE Laboratory for New Media at SJSU. I also have a not so Secret Life as Rubaiyat Shatner, director of Ars Virtua New Media Center and Gallery located in Second Life (on the border of Dowden and Butler).

I have been in Second Life for nearly 2 years now, and WoW for probably about a year. I consider myself a gamer and have played in other immersive environments in the past.

I welcome the discussion "beyond the hype."

Aesthetically SL is a 3d cartoon, a low resolution rendering of a vast small place.
Psychologically it is a game or a first person shooter.
Sociologically it is liberating, anonymizing, and egalitarian.
Architecturally it is no different, the laws of physics and materials differ.

The first show that we did in Ars Virtua was titled "The Real." I curated this show and was deep in the process of patting myself on the back for coming up with something so clever as a "real" show in a "virtual" environment when in the process of collecting the work and laying out the gallery I realized that despite my desire to see the work as "virtual" it was in fact as real as any other art that I had experienced. That is to say that the experience was real, the objects had reality, and the engagement and writing about the work were also real. The simulation had become the simulated.

It is hard for me to see any mediated interaction as anything but a "Bastard Space." Along those lines though I am not certain that there is a non-bastard space, or that there ever was.

The quality of SL (and WoW) that I find most compelling is the immersive social quality. It is difficult for me to explain the difference that I feel between a phonecall/IM conversation and one in SL, but it centers around a difference in the medium. I have found that in SL there is a common experience, one that contributes to a sense of presence.

So if the space is not fundamentally different from another mediated space and the primary function is social, what does that mean to "native" art in SL? It becomes a question of the mediation and the nature of the social content and context.

Consider Brad Kligerman's Architectural/Sculptural/Mapped/Visual space that would have a hard time existing anywhere else and I think we start to see a partial answer, but what is it? Truly there is no simple answer, though I would not dare to claim it is new it is an amazing extension that begins to illuminate the corners of a new medium.

So what role then does architecture have in this space? What is the purpose of architecture IRL? The meaning of a building is completely without context in an environment where distance is deprecated. There is no need to move from point A to B when you can teleport, and there is no necessity of a floor when everyone can fly. Architecture becomes a magnificent barrier, an inconvenience and a governor of experience.

Imitation of functional forms from other media creates an inherent uselessness. Mind you I think this can be compelling and illuminating but I have classically railed against this sort of transliteration.

James Morgan
Rubaiyat Shatner

On Aug 1, 2007, at 2:27 AM, Stephan Doesinger wrote:

Hi all,

first of all: thanks, Melinda, for your initiative and invitation to this discussion.
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" communication.
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 new...!

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. (

Apart from that, I also want to invite everone of you to submit your projects to this competition...
Please find all details at:



Bastard Spaces
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 Second Life.

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 limitations.” (**)

(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 wie Pop-Corn.”

(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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