[-empyre-] SL resumé

Hi all,

I've had to write this email offline due to my current position somewhat
off the superinformation highway and down one of the darker, less
signposted avenues of the Internet. An interesting feeling, knowing that I
won't be able to send this post immediately.
Before the discussions close for the month I just wanted to say a few
things about my own opinions regarding Second Life and the current
brouhaha surrounding it, especially in relation to my upcoming exhibition
as part of the turbulence.org commission.

For reasons that Ana Valdes and others put forth I think artists for the
time being should be aware of the nature of the economic and political
forces that are at play in SL, along with all of the dark associations 
that spawn as a result. SL is heavily marketed as a utopia and although
the recipients of this list know better some people are swallowing the
hyperbole in an alarming way. I'm not just referring to the media circus,
I'm referring to educators, bank executives, travel agents etc people who
read the newspapers and may eventually exert some influence on the nature
and direction of our future virtual worlds.  I mention "future" virtual
worlds because it has already been demonstrated here and elsewhere that SL
is likely to become the first example of a series of open-ended 3D
networked environments that are not strictly game-oriented. While
traditional head-mounted 3D virtual reality has all but petered out and
died, the urge to flee to virgin, unspoiled worlds is deeply impressed on
the unconscious minds of current generations. Humans have an unnerving
ability to be able to immerse themselves in alternate worlds with the
slightest of assistance, and now with the technology at hand the desire is
too strong to suppress.

A tangential quote from Nietzsche:
"That which we experience in dreams , if we experience it often, is in the
end just as much a part of the total economy of our soul as is anything we
"really" experience: we are by virtue of it richer or poorer, [...] and
finally are led along a little in broad daylight and even in the most
cheerful moments of our waking spirit by the habits of our dreams."

I would also like to stop and consider the absurd title of this virtual
world we are dissecting: "Second Life". The hyperbole for me begins and
ends here. It almost appears that such an audacious proposition holds some
of the appeal eternal Paradise promised to the populace centuries ago by
the Christian faith. Second Life as a kind of secular spirituality?
Probably not, but its title suggests so....a very cunning marketing

The reason I think artists should be well informed before interacting in
SL is that in my opinion the role of the artist is partly to generate
those interpretations of the world at large that have been neglected or
undiscovered. Knowing the boundaries, structures and unspoken laws of a
culture are vital in making headway in this direction.

Over the course of this month at Empyre I've seen people that are either
overwhelmingly optimistic or strongly critical of SL, as well of a
majority of others who are curious and titillated but instinctively wary.
My position is one of productive resignation. I feel the trajectory of
technology is well established and nothing short of a major crisis will
stop it; so I'm along for the ride but I think it's important to critique
technology using the tools it offers us.  It is to the people who haven't
yet had their lives heavily perturbed by machines that I dedicate my
project Caterwaul (http://www.digitalstar.net/projects/caterwaul/ and
http://transition.turbulence.org/comp_07/awards.html). This work is also
meant to provide a humorous respite to the rest of us to catch our breath
and reflect before we take the next plunge.

In terms of a playground for audio-visual interactive work, I think that
SL is still very premature. This is nothing to be distressed about, I've
no doubt the infrastructure and possibilities will acquire greater depth
in the future, if not in this world, then in another. I also look forward
to the permutations and enervations that Open Source will have to offer to
such things.

best regards,
Pierre Proske

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