Re: [-empyre-] Welcome to the Bastard Space!
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
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
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
On Aug 1, 2007, at 2:27 AM, Stephan Doesinger wrote:
first of all: thanks, Melinda, for your initiative and invitation
to this discussion.
There are not many forums that discuss Second Life "beyond the
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
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
At the end of the day we realize, that all of this "virtual matter"
swaps back to the first world, and somehow fuses, creating
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
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 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
(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.” (*Wikipedia.org*)
(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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